#SEO wiz turned #JAMstack and #blockchain n00b.
Growth hacks, usually not shared, that got us 1K subscribers in one month.
Not so long ago I did a re-launch of theKatapult a digital marketing newsletter, a side hustle of mine. The facelift or rather moving my side hustle to Jamstack was the first part of the story I wanted to share. Growing the newsletter more is the second part.
Brace yourself, this is the story about it.
My friend and I have run this newsletter for almost 5 years for folks interested in digital marketing in Serbia. As explained in our ‘making of’ post we got a bit lazy so the newsletter was stale for a couple of months.
Basically, we started from scratch, and even though we’ve had some presence we needed to rethink our approach. If we had time we’d take it slow with a carefully planned strategy based on content marketing and keywords… but we did not have the time and honestly, it is a pet project, a side hustle, an MVP. So we opted out to low-maintenance growth hacks we both use oftentimes in our everyday work to make it work.
As an MVP that’s not gonna bring us any $ (though we might get a beer or two), we needed to put the minimum effort for maximum results in a tight time frame. So, we laid out key points we need to take care of upfront ie before the official re-launch:
Even though we didn’t plan for this to be a business (but it can certainly grow into one) in order to make it happen we needed to treat it as one. This meant we’d have to define our lead generation channels so we know where and how to focus. We opted out to organic social (Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook) and organic search.
We decided to have a 4 weeks head start from the website overhaul. That should give us some time to set our social channels and start with setting expectations for the audience i.e. the quality we’ll be sharing.
All of the branding work is previously explained in that ‘making of’ post of ours.
In a small market such as Serbia and with a clear niche insight, our buyers’ personas practically wrote themselves. Broadly, anybody that’s into marketing. A bit more focused: marketing managers, business developers, and marketing agency CEOs, all in the mid-20s to mid-40s with a clear interest in tech and digital innovations and best practices.
Keyword research is there to help you find strategic keywords you ought to target with your website’s content and that are in line with your website’s ability to rank for them.
Usually, I choose a set of keywords that help me navigate and look for the ones that are the most likely target for a website/business. Then do competition research for their KWs and cross-check it all for a set of KWs that I’ll be using.
Now, we were considering making a blog page for each newsletter. For that reason, we needed to find keywords we could use.
However, that would also mean that the best approach would be to curate newsletters each week per topic i.e. the first week for SEO, second week for PPC, etc. That was not the original idea, neither we had time for such a broad approach.
Still, we needed this to be done before the website re-do.
With buyers personas and keyword research done, and with lead gen channels defined, finding hangouts was easy. For us, that meant Linkedin and Facebook groups with the general interest in digital marketing (focus on Serbia) + official Reddit Serbia channel.
Besides the hangouts, we needed to identify a number of influences in the field whose audience we should approach as well. Best and the fastest way to do that is to use SparkToro, an easy to use audience intelligence tool.
A simple search with our keywords by interest (Frequently talks about), profile KWs, and #hashtag usage gave us a nice list of influences whose audience, especially on Twitter, we could reach out to.
While defining the hangouts we were set out to make/own distribution channels as well. We made a Linkedin group on the subject of digital marketing and we were planning on the same approach on Facebook and Reddit.
All of this basically meant that the audience building would go through:
This alone is a huge amount of work and we needed it to be done, or at least start with it, before the re-launch. The growth hacks below explain what we did, why we did it, and how we did it.
Just as we updated/upgraded our website we needed to upgrade or facelift our newsletter as well. We use Mailchimp for new subscribers. Thankfully they provide you with the basic setup for forms and double-opt-in email automation + in our case much needed Serbian translation.
We wanted to take it a bit further. There are two types of email automation:
It is not a common practice with curated B2B newsletters but we wanted to give value to new subscribers upfront by providing them with a comprehensive and useful first email. So, we created a one email drip campaign that sends an introduction email one day after the subscription.
I guess most of you have heard of Gary Vee, right? You can love him, or not but you can’t say he’s not walking the walk. And one of the best things he preaches is his approach to content strategy. Basically, you make one outstanding pillar piece of content and then re-use it in many different shapes and forms adapted to the channels you are using it on.
With that in mind, we’ve created 2 re-launch emails (sent on Tuesday and Friday of the same week) packed with the best guides covering different aspects of digital marketing (SEO, PPC, email, project management, etc.) which we then used to create other pieces of content like email for drip campaign, keyworded blog posts, and a lot of different Tweets, FB and Linkedin posts all mentioning or pinging influencers (and their audience) we’ve gathered.
As I explained, we did not have enough time to set up a comprehensive strategy so we opted out to growth hacks that helped us reach a wider audience and ultimately grow our subscription base from original 2k subscribers to 3k in a month.
An important thing to keep in mind is that you always aim to keep the audience of a soc network on that same network first. Once you filter them out you can send them wherever you want.
For example, if you’re working with a Linkedin audience, try and keep them on Linkedin either by connecting with them or sending them to a group you run (rather than a business page). Once you are connected as 1st connection you can hit them via message or they can see your posts on their wall (it helps if you have someone to comment or link your posts since engaged posts get more visibility from Linkedin). In groups, you can use the Recommend option to share your message with all group members.
You can grow Twitter following by running an engagement ad campaign, sharing original and quality tweets, and engaging with the community or by simply following others.
To simplify Tweet posting as much as possible we used Buffer for scheduling Tweets (always 3 tweets within 5min as it raises your chances to show in Twitter feed).
Also, we used Tweepie to automate adding the users who follow known users, influencers, and communities/news we already defined.
Given that we’ve had 2 personal and official brand profiles you can imagine how much we’ve had to do.
Thanks to the group we’ve made the approach to reaching out to new audiences via Linkedin is a bit different. Since we already knew Linkedin groups of our interest we used Dux Soup to visit, connect with, and invite people in those groups to join our group.
We also used Phantombuster LinkedIn Group Members scraper on other groups to make a personal connection first then invite them to our group.
Finally, we used the LinkedIn Post Likers option to automatically extract all the LinkedIn users who liked a list of posts or articles we've gathered previous;y. Then automatically send invitations to the people previously extracted with LinkedIn Network Booster.
To grow page, group, and personal profiles on Facebook we used Pahntombster in pretty much similar fashion as for Linkedin. For example, we used their Facebook Group Extractor in combination with Facebook Message Sender most of the time.
All of these brought additional 1K subscribers in a little over a month. That is quite amazing when you take a look at how big the audience is. A simple Linkedin search of people in digital marketing in Serbia shows 13k results.
OK but what about newsletter results. Well...take a look.
While the open rate is up clicks are pretty much on the same level. Give the amount of time invested the results so far are better than we expected.
While there is a lot of work ahead this proved to be a working blueprint for most B2B businesses with actual growth hacks that you can use to grow your audience with a little to expenses.
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