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This Is How I’m Growing My Newsletter on Auto-Pilot to 200,000 Without Producing New Content

by | Jul 18, 2022 | Writing

Without an email list there is a Berlin Wall between you and your audience.

An email list is a sledgehammer that collapses that wall. If you choose not to have one then you’re reliant on platforms that can limit your reach to favor ads or that may even go out of business.

Followers mean nothing if the platform is bankrupt. Just ask Myspace users.

Growing an email list can be tough. One obvious way to grow is by writing an enormous amount of content — but that gets bloody exhausting, trust me.

So for the last year I’ve spent a lot of my time finding new ways to grow my email list.

One newsletter tool shocked me. Let me tell you more.

The newsletter secret Tim Ferriss, James Clear, and Morning Brew all know

In modern business the referral model is huge and creates automatic sales that don’t require the extra effort of human resources.

The same trick has now got applied to newsletters. Except most don’t know.

The way I’m going to explode my newsletter over the next 12 months is with a tool called SparkLoop. It’s the same one Tim Ferriss, James Clear and Morning Brew all used to grow their newsletters on auto-pilot.

I purchased it inside of my ConvertKit subscription, so it’s fully integrated and works like a dream.

SparkLoop is a referral tool. Your existing subscribers can share your newsletter and get rewarded with it.

How SparkLoop works (5th grader explanation)

  • SparkLoop is a small box you add into your newsletter. This box tells people to share your newsletter with their family, friends or work colleagues. When they do, you offer them a reward.
  • Each newsletter subscriber automatically gets their own referral link they can share without you having to do anything.
  • Every newsletter edition you send out shows the reader how many referrals they’ve made and how many more they need to qualify for the reward on offer.
  • The newsletter owner can decide what reward to offer and how many referrals are needed to get it. They can even add tiers of rewards.
  • Once a newsletter reader qualifies for the reward, the delivery of the physical or digital reward can automatically get fulfilled by SparkLoop.

Hidden gems I learned from SparkLoop directly

Implementing tools like SparkLoop requires a lot of trial and error. Let’s face it we just want to get results immediately. To save you time I got the best practices from SparkLoop directly. Copy them to get a headstart.

1. Don’t let SparkLoop distract from your CTA

The main goal of a newsletter is to have the subscriber make it to the bottom of your content and click the CTA (call to action).

The CTA on my newsletter is often used to sell one of my eight online courses. The last thing I want is for SparkLoop to stop people clicking it.

So the advice I got was to put the SparkLoop section towards the top of my newsletter. That way, it’s still seen but doesn’t ruin the most important section at the end where most high converting CTAs get placed.

I chose to place my SparkLoop referral section subtly at the top of my newsletter below my most shared social media post of the week.

Screenshot by author

2. Use a killer reward

The best referral rewards are ones that have broad appeal. If the reward has a story attached to it then it’s going to perform amazingly well.

The least effective reward, I learned, is a discount code or coupon. Readers prefer exclusive access or bonus material instead.

Popular rewards are eBooks, courses, webinars, exclusive Q&As and physical merchandise like t-shirts.

3. The magic number of referrals to ask for

I initially wanted to offer a course as my referral reward. But I was going to ask readers to refer at least 30 people to get it.

The advice I got from SparkLoop was to ask for 2–3 referrals (I chose 3) if you’re only going to offer one tier with one reward. Why?

Most readers will only share your newsletter once. They’re not in control of how many people will click their referral link to your newsletter. So 3 referrals seems possible whereas 30 seems a stretch.

4. Zero formatting works best

The problem with referral boxes and clickable links is they look like an ad in a newsletter. And humans are so well-trained these days to simply ignore anything that looks like an ad.

The advice I got was to try adding a referral section without any formatting. Simply use plain text, tell people to refer, explain the reward, and then provide a small link.

I got told to experiment with a referral link that’s either:

  • A clickable link
  • A non-clickable link you have to highlight, copy, then paste into a new tab
  • A link that’s a button

Often the non-clickable link works best because it doesn’t feel like an ad.

5. Change the referral reward every 6 months

Just like with lead magnets such as courses or books you give away for free to get a user to give you their email address — you should change your rewards often to keep them fresh.

6. Add shoutouts

You can also offer to give the readers who refer the most people to your newsletter each week a shoutout. Or even link to their work too which gives their content new eyeballs they’d kill for.

7. The right length of the referral section

Too many content creators make their CTAs way too long. They read like essays — not short, sharp bits of text designed to persuade.

The advice I got is to use no more than five sentences to describe your newsletter referral program, formatted like this:

  • Three sentences
  • One sentence
  • One sentence CTA

8. Add SparkLoop to your welcome email

Obviously every newsletter you send out should have the referral system in it.

If you want to amplify the effects and grow your newsletter faster, then add SparkLoop to your welcome email that’s sent to new email subscribers.

Example: Thanks for joining my email list. Share my newsletter with at least three people and I’ll send you my latest eBook (normally $20) for free.

The next level of newsletter referral programs

This space is evolving fast.

Recently, SparkLoop introduced a newsletter affiliate program. While a newsletter referral program offers rewards, an affiliate program offers money instead.

The use-case is this: imagine a creator with 100,000 email subscribers wants to earn more money online. With this new program, they can make money by referring their audience to another creator’s newsletter who pays them a flat commission per signup.

It’s almost like placing an ad in their newsletter, but it’s more organic and useful to their audience.

Bringing it all together

Instead of writing content every day like a rodent on a hamster wheel, it’s time to grow your email list effortlessly on auto-pilot.

Once you own more of your audience you can own your career.

A newsletter referral system with a tool like SparkLoop can organically create word of mouth for your work.

The network effects of word of mouth mean that even with a tiny audience, as long as your work is good, it can grow into something enormous.

Stop betting on platforms. Start betting on yourself. Let readers share your work, not biased algorithms and newsfeeds.

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