A few days ago, we sent out the 100th edition of our fortnightly newsletter – The SME Wrap. So far, the newsletter has had over 2,00,000+ subscribers. It also adds at least 500 signups every month to Instamojo. If you’re wondering how to start and grow a newsletter business, this case study can help.
The SME Wrap – an origin story
Four years ago, a few people gathered in a particularly cold conference room in the Instamojo office to start something new. The team wanted to create something that would add value to our subscribers.
Problems we wanted to solve
We knew our users were looking for resources they could start using and implementing in their business immediately.
There was much to learn on the internet. However, it could get really cluttered out there. It could get extremely confusing to pick and apply the knowledge to their business.
Another problem point we wanted to solve was delivering contextual business news. It’s mighty important for an entrepreneur to stay updated about the market to stay ahead in business.
🔥 Reading the news and using it smartly not only helps a business get a dipstick of the market & latest trends, it also improves critical thinking.
And that became our USP.
When you start a newsletter (or create any content piece), it’s important to ask yourself these 3 main questions:
1. Why should I read this newsletter – what value will it add for me?
2. What makes me different from existing options for the reader?
3. Why am I creating this newsletter – the purpose
Before we started off the newsletter, we asked ourselves these questions and began crafting our strategy based on the answers.
We haven’t looked back since.
Our value adds:
Our goals were clear. The newsletter should help entrepreneurs think better and make informed decisions about their business. Be it decoding GST or just understanding the benefits that the annual budget allocated for small businesses, the SME Wrap had to simplify the concepts.
Every SME Wrap is thematic. Like a sitcom episode.
In every SME Wrap, you will find something unique and hand-picked from the Instamojo editorial team. We don’t just include our own content but also pick the best, most relevant content on the internet as per the theme.
Also, the newsletter offers occasional product discounts (25% FLAT OFF on PREMIUM ONLINE STORE), and partner offerings (FREE GST & COMPANY REGISTRATIONS).
Since our product is essentially free to get started with – all our newsletters have a signup button.
What made our newsletter stand out:
There are tons of curated newsletters in the market. But few catered to our userbase. Small businesses/entrepreneurs from tier II & tier III cities needed direct information about the latest developments in the business world. They are always on the lookout for new resources in topics like – digital marketing, finance, market regulations & laws.
Most news websites cover news as is. It is seldom explained how the laws, regulations, or new developments actually impact a business.
That’s where we came in.
The SME Wrap didn’t just simplify or demistify difficult, confusing topics; we did it in a way that appeals to our userbase. The newsletter gave our readers serious information in a fun way.
Here’s one of our most popular SME Wraps. Click on it to read the full newsletter.
Not to brag but people have called it the best email they’ve received about GST when we first sent it. (Why do people auto-delete tweets!)
Designing the SME Wrap
The name of the newsletter almost came instantly to us. Sitting in that conference room, when the name was brought up, all of us just agreed in unison that it had a ring to it. We have Alka Gupta to thank for it.
It is a fortnightly ‘wrap’ of all the business events so it made sense. To top it up, our then- designer Yatish Asthana conceptualised the logo to make it look like what it is today – a burrito/or a roll – a wrap!
Congratulations! On a lighter note the "SME wrap" design really cracked me up. Whoever designed these – kudos! 🙂
— Mriganka (@heymriganka) April 25, 2019
Yatish also helped us design the layout of the newsletter.
The layout of a newsletter can actually make or break it – literally! (I speak HTML).
We wanted to give out only the most relevant information so we decided to send a limited number of links. The newsletter had to have a personal touch, while also having a clean layout, so we went ahead with designing the layout and having it HTML coded into our email service provider.
After our rebranding exercise in 2018, we also changed the logo of the SME Wrap but retained its essence.
Setting up the SME Wrap
One of the biggest (and probably the trickiest) part of starting/setting up a newsletter is your email service provider and your IP. We wanted to ensure our newsletter is delivered to inboxes so we took it slow and steady.
The newsletter’s opt-in form was hosted as an exit-intent pop-up on the Instamojo homepage. It also had the form embedded in our “welcome back” landing pages, and other relevant spaces where we thought the user could benefit from it.
The SME Wrap was set up on Sendinblue and to date, we’ve been using it to power newsletters.
If you’re looking to learn more about email marketing, don’t forget to take this FREE course we built with Hubspot on mojoVersity.
5 things you can do to ensure your emails reach your subscribers:
Have an opt-in form on an extremely relevant landing page
Give your subscribers the choice to actually hear from you. Take consent to send them emails. While GDPR does not apply in India, it’s still the best way to communicate with your audience. For the SME Wrap, we exclusively promoted our opt-in form on a landing page and also used it as an exit-intent pop-up. That means whenever someone was trying to close the Instamojo homepage, our newsletter pop-up would show up so we could keep in touch with the visitor. Here’s a sweet guide to designing a nice opt-in form.
Send an email to the user immediately after they hit subscribe
A confirmation mail establishes legitimacy and also allows you to give more information about the newsletter. Getting a double opt-in is recommended. In your confirmation email, you can have another link that confirms the user’s subscription. Most email service providers have this option and recommend it too! At Instamojo, we give away the latest business eBooks for free on subscription to the SME Wrap. Subscribe to it here if you’d like.
Set up a dedicated IP for your newsletter
To oversimplify, having a dedicated IP (internet protocol) is like having a unique identification number on the internet. It brings you greater internet speed and allows you to send emails safely. Most domain hosting services will allow you to set this up. Email service providers can also help you set this up. When you set up a dedicated IP, your emails are sent from that IP. There is an option to send your emails from a shared IP too but that can impact deliverability. There is some debate on shared vs dedicated IPs – you can read this useful article to take your pick.
Clean up your subscriber list every 60 days
Running a successful newsletter is a lot like gardening or keeping plants. You prune them for better growth. Your newsletter can get a lot of junk leads and invalid emails. These emails can be categorised under soft bounces, hard bounces, and undelivered.
These reports will be available with your email service provider. Over time, your subscriber list also becomes old. People stop reading it or can generally lose interest.
Remove contacts that haven’t opened your last 3 emails. Here’s an easy guide to cleaning your email lists. Since we started our newsletter, we have had lakhs of people signing up. We keep cleaning out our lists every 2 months.
Keep it genuine
Mailboxes, just like customers, are becoming more aware by the day. Steer clear of gimmicks that don’t agree with what you promise to your subscribers. Sure, feel free to be cheeky but never be fake about your content. Also, it helps to keep a tab on your spam score.
You can use this tool to check your spam score before you send your email. The SME Wrap always ensures spam-free, quality content. Our subject lines are experimental and curated to pique interest. We even sent last year’s budget edition email from Nirmala Sitharaman’s name and increased our open rates by 220%! But we also got a lot of people to unsubscribe and generated some Twitter buzz about being cheeky.
Scaling the SME Wrap in numbers
In the first week, we had just about 100 subscribers. Week over week, we started seeing improvement in the number.
We were also very happy about our open rates and click rates. Our average open rates always remained at 27% and click rates hovered at 5%.
It took us 4 long years to build a loyal userbase. Today, we have 40K active readers on the SME Wrap. What’s most interesting is every month at least 500 sign-ups come from the newsletter alone!
How to get your first 1000 newsletter subscribers
Building a valuable and loyal userbase takes time. It’s a gamble of fast growth vs sticky growth. If you want to grow your newsletter user base, here are some pointers that can help:
- Collect leads before you launch the newsletter. Set up a landing page and promote it aggressively. Your landing page should talk about how exciting your newsletter is and what the subscriber is going to get out of it
- Join communities where you can talk about your newsletter and get visibility
- Do collaborations with other newsletter creators – give them a mention and get a mention in theirs!
- Add ‘forward to a friend’ links in your newsletter. Also, add share on social media links on it so people can show you the love if they really like it. In fact, about 20% of the SME Wrap subscribers are referrals!
- Add your newsletter subscription link to your social media bios, your email signature, your Telegram and Whatsapp status and more.
- Stay consistent with your content. If you add value, you will see your email list grow for sure
Benefits of running a newsletter
People have been saying email is dead yet, email takes the trophy for the most number of conversions. It is the most successful & effective channel for communicating with customers.
Running a newsletter on any platform (WhatsApp, email etc) has great advantages. I’ll just list a few of the most important ones:
- It allows you to build a community and the power of community cannot be undermined. It will brand you as an industry leader and help you connect with your audience better. What’s more, it will help you make more sales too!
- Speaking of which, newsletters are a money-making machine! To give you some perspective, Morning Brew – one of the most successful newsletters with 2 million subscribers – sold a majority of its stakes to Business Insider for $75 million!More recently, Twitter also acquired the newsletter platform Revue to get into the newsletter business. Soon after, Facebook revealed that it is developing a newsletter platform as well. Newsletters helped many businesses grow, yours can too!
Celebrating 100 editions of the SME Wrap
It’s been a hell of a journey authoring the newsletter for 4 long years. We experienced many ups and downs, some editions were sent at the wrong time and some editions had the worst open rates. Some went with typos (we’re only human).
Running a newsletter doesn’t just mean experimenting and testing your subject lines. It also means adjusting your eventual goals and expectations from the newsletter. A good newsletter demands having to deliver value to your subscribers every time you send them an email. It requires spending time on each edition and putting an extra bit of effort into it for your customers.
If you are already a subscriber, thank you for reading the SME Wrap!
To celebrate 100 editions of the SME Wrap, we included some special giveaways in the newsletter for subscribers. Feel free to subscribe to it and hit me up on LinkedIn to chat about newsletters!