How to use a newsletter to increase your blog engagement

Photo by Cookie the Pom on Unsplash

A newsletter is an act of service. It’s a way to provide even more value than what is found on your blog.

In today’s post I will share:

  • My formula for creating content that serves my audience.
  • Do you need 1000, 100, or 10 true fans?
  • Two additional secrets to easily create content.

Some quick stats

I have been blogging and shipping a newsletter since 2015.

I don’t mind sharing numbers, so here are my lifetime totals.

From what I understand I have high engagement.

According to MailChimp the average consulting email is opened at 20.13% and clicked at 2.49%. In education, the open rate is 23.42% and the open rate is 2.90%.

I beat both benchmarks in each category.

Why am I able to beat the average in my industry?

My formula is “Consistency + Value + Purple Cow.”

(more on that in just a sec …)

The last email I sent

The last email I wrote was “3 things I learned from Robyn Jackson.”

Here is how the email performed:

What I notice is that my open rate was lower than usual (but near the industry standard).

Looking back, I didn’t put much effort into the subject line.

This means that people who opened the email either:

  • love what I send and open most everything,
  • or know Robyn Jackson, love her work, and they were interested in what I learned from her.

With 5 more minutes of effort (and maybe an A/B test), I could have easily increased the open rate.

However, I am pleased with the clickthrough rate.

4.5% clicks translate to 120 people visiting my blog. And that is how you use a newsletter to increase your blog’s engagement.

Maybe those 120 people would have visited on their own. Maybe not.

Maybe they would have seen a post on social and clicked through. Maybe not.

Keep these 3 things in mind to create a newsletter that people love to receive and increase engagement on your blog.

Consistency.

Choose a posting plan and/or create a content calendar. Every Wednesday I share when a new podcast releases. Every Sunday I share my “Weekend Resource.” When a new blog post drops, I also craft an email to tell my community about it.

Typically I share at least 4 emails a week. I’ve also sent an email every day of the week. If I have something of value to say, I say it and ship it.

I haven’t missed a podcast release in six years. Emails have been delivered consistently as well. Being consistent builds trust with the community you serve.

Value.

Create great stuff. At first, your content will most likely suck. At best, it won’t suck, but it will need some polishing.

If you adhere to my first suggestion and consistently ship, then over time you will get better and better.

Much of what I create comes from understanding what questions my community is asking and where they struggle. Then I create content that solves the problem.

I always lead with value before ever inviting someone to purchase something from me.

Purple Cow.

This idea is from Seth Godin. Essentially, create remarkable stuff that will spread by word-of-mouth.

If you were driving through a rural area, you’d see brown cows and black cows.

If you were to see a purple cow, you would tell everyone that you knew about the experience. Make your content a purple cow.

The best way to do that is to be yourself and don’t try to imitate anyone else.

This I found to be the most difficult of the three steps I just shared. It was easy for me to be consistent. It was not so difficult to work hard and create value through my content.

Believing that people would want to hear what I had to say and to go all-in on that was much more challenging.

Now being yourself doesn’t automatically mean that you are creating a purple cow. But the more you lean into your idiosyncrasies, the closer you are to creating a purple cow.

How do I do that?

I write in an informal, “friendly” style.

People tell me I’m a good story-teller, so I weave story into many of my emails.

I also talk about making the education industry better by looking outside of education for inspiration. I’ll find inspiration and resources from a variety of resources outside of education. Then, my job is to create a bridge that shows how it applies to school.

One example would be reading Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal.

What can school leaders learn from a manufacturing plant?

The BIG IDEA from The Goal is to always test your assumptions. Assumptions are based on beliefs that direct our actions and words. If we build a concept of school (e.g. curriculum, discipline, teacher evaluation, etc.) on a faulty assumption … well, it’s no wonder there are a lot of issues in education.

From there I can create content exploring the assumptions we make in education. I can facilitate a discussion about those assumptions and what we commit to changing.

That’s how I create Purple Cow content for school leaders. There’s a lot of people making great content for this niche, but no one creates it like me, so I continue to show up and serve.

If you create consistently, offer value, and do something remarkable, then your newsletter will most likely increase your blog’s engagement.

One last note on the size of my email list and “1000 true fans.”

I don’t consider my email list huge by any means. I am able to live a great life and I subscribe to Kevin Kelly’s “1000 true fans.”

Kelly’s idea is that if you serve 1000 true fans well, you can have a very nice life. But my “True fans” number is far less than 1000 and I find that to be encouraging.

I use a “freemium” business plan. Most of the content I create is all free: podcasts, blogs, newsletters, and videos.

Revenue is generated through sponsors (TeachFX and Harvard’s CSML program), book sales, and mostly through my mastermind and one-on-one coaching.

So my “true fans” number to live a great life is less than 100. It’s about 70.

What’s your number?

Two secrets to easily create content

I mentioned that I had two secrets to share on creating content.

The first secret is to create multiple pieces of content from pillar content.

Robyn Jackson is a sought after consultant in the education space. She’s also a friend and I admire her work, so it makes a lot of sense to promote her.

I had her on my podcast. That specific show performed well in terms of downloads and also drove traffic to my website. My blog started ranking for the keyword, “Robyn Jackson.” So it made a lot of sense to create more content (“3 things I learned from Robyn”) from the pillar content (the actual podcast episode).

The second secret is to empower other people who believe in your vision.

I didn’t write the blog post, “3 things I learned from Robyn Jackson.” My friend Jesse wrote it. He loves and listens to tons of podcasts, including mine.

The other day he reached out to me with an idea he had to improve my podcast show notes. Jesse had many valuable ideas, but I eventually invited him to create supplemental content to original podcast episodes.

Why is that worth mentioning?

  • Someone who loves my podcast now has the opportunity to make the podcast even better by creating these articles. Jesse loves being able to do this and I am honored that he would want to help in this way.
  • Since I’m not writing the content, I can focus on other things that move my business forward and serves my audience at a higher level.
  • Speaking of serving the audience … These kinds of posts weren’t happening because I didn’t have the time to create them. Now they are happening because I removed myself from the process.
  • I am also attracting more people to my website. Since I already rank for “Robyn Jackson” as a search term, this piece of content will improve this ranking over time.
  • Which means … I will have the opportunity to speak to more leaders that I usually don’t speak to because of them finding me through organic search on the web.

So good luck with your newsletter. Make sure you follow the consistency + value + purple cow formula. Utilize the two secrets I shared. And figure out if you need 1000, 100, or 10 true fans.

Host of the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with over one million downloads 🚀