And this isn’t coming from shrinking our audience to increase engagement rates. Our audience has grown significantly since the beginning of the year.
✅ Could we get people responding to our emails?
This one really blew our socks off. We’ve started explicitly asking our readers to answer questions or give feedback to the
newsletter. Where previously we’d be lucky to get a handful of direct responses, we now get dozens of responses to every email we send.
So how’d we do it?
In my mind, this
positive change didn’t come from the switch from a digest to a narrative format, it came from treating our newsletter like a regular chore we had to put together to something we were passionate about and interested in.
Sean and I constantly push back on each other around 4 simple questions that you should use when evaluating your newsletter.
1 - Is this something we’d actually want to read?
This gets to the heart of our newsletter. Sean and I are email marketers and newsletter writers. Odds are, you are one of those things too. We want to write things that are actually interesting and useful.
2 - Does this teach something no one else could teach?
When we looked at newsletters we loved, one of the things that stood out was that the writers shared stories, data, and experiments that they had experienced or discovered themselves.
I call this test the “ChatGPT Test” because AI can do a lot of interesting things to support human writers; but it can’t
experience the world or easily generate novel data from experiments. We try to share lessons that come from our own experience in data (this whole email is a case in point).
3 - Does this leave readers with a dead end?
Assuming we’ve shared something interesting enough to spark your curiosity, we never want to leave you wondering what you should do next. We always include some sort of next step for readers who are excited to put what they're learning into practice.
4 - Is this boring?
We ask this question all the time. I asked Sean this question about the email you’re reading now, and he removed boring from this email in a bunch of ways (like removing too formal or buzzwordy words).
This is like our final check, the thing we ask to make sure there’s some magic in every email. Because you can fill a message with interesting data and useful tactics; but if it’s boring folks will stop reading it. This will show itself through decreasing open rates (which we saw with our previous style).
Take a look in the mirror.
The lesson we learned isn’t really about the format of the email (narrative vs digest). It’s about the fact that what really makes an email work is passion and curiosity about
If you’re sending a great digest email that people are reading and interacting with, don’t switch formats.
But if your engagement rates are declining, stop just doing the same old routine. Experiment with things like your format, tone, send frequency. Find the arrangement that actually energizes you.
If you’re going to send someone a message, send something you’d want to read for yourself.
What did you
think of this email?
❤️❤️❤️ Loved it. Can't wait to get the next one.
💔 I didn't really care for it.