April 19, 2023

10 Powerful Tools to Boost Your Newsletter Growth

10 Powerful Tools to Boost Your Newsletter Growth
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E27: Three months ago, I decided to launch the First Class Founders newsletter.

Problem is, I had no subscribers, no list, and, essentially, no idea what to do or, even, where to begin!

Today, my newsletter has over two thousand subscribers. It has an open rate of 40% and a 10% click-through rate. In case you are wondering, yes, that IS indeed a high number. How did I achieve this? What did I do that was so effective? What's my secret sauce?

Get ready to take notes because I plan to reveal all my secrets to you today!

DISCLAIMER: Twitter just updated their API pricing plans impacting many of the tools mentioned in this episode. This is a fast-changing development so please check the individual websites for updates on how each tool is handling this situation.


Great Content is Not Enough (3:41)

Using Beehiiv to Swap Recommendations (5:42)

When Swapping Recs: Growth Rate > List Size (7:00)

In-Network Recommendation Engines: ConvertKit, SparkLoop, Substack (7:10)

How to Cross Promote Your Newsletter Using Lettergrowth (7:27)

How to Create Beautiful Snapshots Using Xnapper (8:25)

How to Design Your Newsletter Using Canva (9:12)

How to Use Twitter to Repurpose Newsletter Content Using Typefully (11:27)

Track Your Most Important Metrics Using ilo.so  (13:11)

How to Convert Followers on Twitter Using Birdy.so (14:54)

How to Engage with Your Twitter Followers Using Engagement Builder (16:05)

Using Auto-DMs on Twitter to Grow Your Newsletter (18:22)

How to Manage Your Twitter DM Inbox Using Inboxs (19:42)

Summary of Newsletter Tools (21:16)


Engagement Builder

Episode 22
Episode 23

Presented By Meco: Newsletter fans, rejoice! Finally, an inbox designed for reading newsletters. Enjoy your favorite newsletters in a space built for mindful reading. It's simple to use and completely free.

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Learn how to grow your business with the best growth tactics for founders & creators one week at a time. Hosted by serial entrepreneur Yong-Soo Chung.

Past guests: Kevon Cheung, Arvid Kahl, Justin Gordon, Jeremy Enns

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Yong-Soo is a serial entrepreneur bootstrapping his business from $0 to $20m over 8 years. Now, he's on a mission to help founders & creators build a loyal audience, create irresistible product offers, and grow their business sustainably.


Three months ago, I decided to launch the First Class Founders newsletter.

Problem is, I had no subscribers, no list, and, essentially, no idea what to do or, even, where to begin!

Today, my newsletter has over two thousand subscribers. It has an open rate of 40% - that is, (almost) every second person will open and read the thoughts that I send out every week. It also has a 10% click-through rate - that is, one out of ten people who get that email WILL click on a link I include in that email. In case you are wondering, yes, that IS indeed a high number. Most marketers accept 2 to 3% as the industry standard.

How did I achieve this? What did I do that was so effective? What's my secret sauce?

Get ready to take notes because I plan to reveal all my secrets to you today!

Hi, my name is Yong-Soo Chung and I am a first-generation Korean-American entrepreneur living the American dream. I started Urban EDC to cater to enthusiasts of everyday carry gear. I also own two other successful ventures: GrowthJet, a climate-neutral certified third-party logistics company for emerging e-commerce brands, and SpottedByHumphrey, an online boutique curating dog goods for good dogs. Through these three ventures, my business makes an annual revenue near eight-figures and I'm here to tell you how YOU can do the same!

In episodes 22 and 23 of this podcast, I spoke about the strategies I used to launch and rapidly grow my newsletter - called 'The Brief' back then - from a handful of subscribers to a whopping 400 unique subscribers in just under a month. It is now simply called the First Class Founders newsletter because I recently decided to consolidate all my content offerings under one single brand identity, namely, First Class Founders.

Anyway, in those two episodes, I discussed in great detail the strategies and techniques to help you launch and grow your newsletter. Today, I'm gonna reveal tiny little tweaks that will help you BOOST your growth and grow your newsletter even more quickly. Specifically, on today's episode, I'm gonna reveal a bunch of small tweaks I made at different stages of my newsletter-creation process. These tweaks may seem small but they helped me go from zero to two thousand subscribers in just THREE months! And, believe me when I say this, an exponential growth in the early days of your newsletter is a HUGE confidence boost.

So, strap in, because I am going to spend the next twenty-odd minutes telling you about ten different tools that you can use to take your newsletter to the next level. There will be a few tools in this list that you thought you knew but, I can assure you, you will still come away thinking, "I didn't know I could do THAT!"

So, ready? Alright, then "Let's get down to business!"

The rapid growth in popularity of newsletters in these past few years is a clear indicator of the fact that if you do them right, you can successfully leverage the old-school art of email-writing into a full-fledged business. Personally, I LOVE the thrill that exists in the knowledge that two thousand people are waiting to read the words that I put together week-after-week. That's why I always strive to ensure that everything I write is precise, perfect, and powerful.

But, over the past few months, I have come to realize something incredibly important

Great content is just one half of the equation. The other half of the equation is ensuring that the content reaches its intended audience. And that means focusing on the distribution strategies and making all kinds of tweaks and adjustments to make sure that the newsletter reaches the right kind of audience.

I wish the distribution strategy could be something as simple as 'set it and forget it'. But, as we will hear in a future episode with podcast marketing expert Jeremy Enns, gone are the days when you could do that. Gone are the days when you could organically grow your newsletter or podcast..And it’s getting more competitive to get discovered organically on social platforms like YouTube or TikTok. Now, you need to create and execute growth strategies specific to the kind of content you are creating. That means tinkering and tweaking the way you promote to various audiences.

That's why, in episode 23 I focused specifically on the various strategies you could implement to grow your newsletter.

Today, I'm adding stuff on top of episode 23. Specifically, I am going to share with you a list of TEN tools that I use to boost my newsletter growth. Think of it as adding nitrous oxide to your fuel to deliver an extra boost of power to the engine. Or like turning on afterburners for a smooth take-off on a short runway. Or taking an energy drink for that li'l burst of energy to keep you focused on your task. You know...

Anyway, if you haven't heard episode 23 yet, I would strongly recommend that you listen to that first and then come back. You could also queue it up in your podcast player and listen to it after you are done with this episode. The tools I am going to talk about in this episode are referenced in that episode but I am sharing very specific tweaks for these tools in today's episode that will supplement the general use of these tools as described in episode 23.

Okay, ready? Let's begin!

The very first tool that I want to talk about is Beehiiv. Back in episode 22, I said this about Beehiiv: " I personally use and recommend Beehiiv. You can also use other platforms such as Substack and ConvertKit but I chose Beehiiv because of how quickly they release new features focused on the creator space. Beehiiv is a new player but they’re growing very quickly."

So, yeah, Beehiiv is a great option for you to start a newsletter.

But that's not the only reason I recommend Beehiiv. The real benefit of Beehiiv is swapping recommendations. Believe it or not, I get 50% of my sign-ups through other Beehiiv newsletters!

Here's how it works: 

After you set up your newsletter with Beehiiv, your newsletter is added to a discovery list. Newsletters on this discovery list can discover - and be discovered - for recommendations. But, I highly recommend networking with other Beehiiv newsletter creators. Not only do you get to meet other newsletter operators who are also in the same boat as you, but you can ask them to swap recommendations if both of your audiences overlap. Such a collaboration, in my opinion, is a win-win for both parties. If you recall, I have advocated this multiple times - especially with newsletters that have similar subscriber growth numbers. Remember our golden rule about swapping recommendations? Growth rate is more important than list size.

I'll leave a link to Beehiiv in the show notes if you want to check it out.

Now, swapping recommendations can only be done in-network. That is, if you have a Beehiiv newsletter, you can only swap recommendations with other Beehiiv newsletters. ConvertKit has their own network in partnership with SparkLoop. And Substack has their own recommendation engine. If you want to promote other newsletters outside your own newsletter network, swapping recommendations won’t work. Instead, try cross-promotions - that is, look for other newsletters with audiences overlapping your own. Remember what I always say about content creation - it is not a zero-sum game. By collaborating with other creators everybody can win. I have a dedicated community section in my newsletter where I feature great newsletters every week.

And this is where Lettergrowth comes in.

Lettergrowth is a community of newsletters. You can list your newsletter and other newsletter operators can find you and reach out for cross promotions - that's it! Through Lettergrowth I have found other awesome creators for cross promotions.

As I always say, it is about getting in on the ground floor and boosting each other all the way to the moon!

The next two tools require you to look WITHIN your own newsletter.

The first of them is a screen-capture app called Xnapper - that is snapper with an X not an S. Xnapper is a native macOS app that takes a screenshot, then provides options for proper formatting across different social platforms, so it is ready to save and share in just one click.

Often, I find myself telling my readers to do something in my newsletter. Like, actionable things. A lot of these things require them to interact with apps and websites that they may not have used before. In these situations, instead of writing about the steps in detail I simply take screenshots using Xnapper and insert them at the appropriate places! The screenshots speak a thousand words and, what's more, it also helps my newsletter look slick and visually appealing!

The other visual-enhancement tool I use is something that almost everyone knows and probably uses - Canva. I don't think I need to tell you about Canva but, in case you are one of those rare people who hasn't stumbled across Canva yet, let me have the honor of telling you about Canva. Canva is a no-code design tool packed with features and is loved by almost EVERY creator on Earth. The only thing I will tell you about Canva is this - GET CANVA ASAP!

All of the visual assets of my newsletter were created using canva - my header, my logo, my infographics, everything! In fact it is so good that I paid for the Pro version and I haven't regretted it one bit! Every edition of my newsletter that goes out has at least one visual element that I created using Canva.

Again, I’ll link all of these tools in the show notes so you can find them easily.

If this has gotten you curious about what my newsletter looks like, you can check it out for yourself. In fact, let me take this opportunity to tell you about my newsletter!

The First Class Founders newsletter is a companion to this podcast. Each week, I add visuals and more context around each episode that’s released. For example, for this episode, since we’re talking about tools for my newsletter, I will share with you my workflow for creating each week’s newsletter. It’s not as simple as creating a new email campaign, writing the newsletter, then hitting send. There’s so much more that happens behind-the-scenes like managing a cross promotions calendar. I’ll share screenshots of my exact template using… you guessed it, Xnapper! The tool I just mentioned! Additionally, I reveal all my podcast and newsletter metrics like downloads and subscriber numbers inside the newsletter.

So if you are curious and want to see some behind-the-scenes content of this podcast, you'll love my newsletter. Go ahead and sign up at FirstClassFounders.com/Newsletter. I'll see you there!

So far we have looked at tweaking two kinds of things to boost your newsletter's growth - the visual appeal and the collaborative aspects.

Next let's dive behind the scenes and look at a tool that will help you get better at one of the most important aspects of your newsletter - the content.

The tool I'm talking about is called Typefully. It is actually a tool for composing Tweets and Threads. 

I'm sure you must be wondering, "What's a Twitter tool doing in a podcast episode about boosting newsletter growth?"

Well, I use Typefully almost every single day! All of my newsletters start out as tweets or threads on Twitter. I test ideas on Twitter and repurpose the ones that get good engagement. That is, I take the Tweets and Threads that perform well and flesh them out into newsletters and podcast episodes.

Typefully has a bunch of great features that I absolutely LOVE. It allows me to schedule Tweets and Threads in advance to post them when your audience is most active on Twitter. 

Here's how I typically use Typefully. I jot down potential thread ideas in Typefully as incomplete threads. Sometimes, I will use the curated writing prompt to generate other ideas. Then I will draft a Twitter Thread and schedule it. I have the auto-plug option turned on, so if the thread starts getting good engagement, Typefully will automatically reply to the first tweet in the Thread with a link to my newsletter. The auto-retweet feature helps me schedule retweets to reach audiences in time-zones different from mine!

Typefully has been an absolute game-changer for me in terms of boosting my engagement on Twitter. And that engagement gives me a great platform to test my ideas to see which ones I can re-purpose into more in-depth content such as a newsletter edition and, yes, podcast episodes too!

Another Twitter tool I use extensively is ilo.so. ilo.so brands itself as a Twitter growth companion and, according to its website, it provides "detailed analytics, helpful insights and engagement tools for easier Twitter growth".

Me, personally, I use ilo.so to look at how my tweets are performing. Their analytics are some of the best I have seen. I use ilo.so to study my tweet engagement carefully and decide which of the tweets or twitter threads warrants a more in-depth exploration of the topic. 

Here’s a pro tip: optimize your Tweets for profile clicks. If you imagine a funnel, you want to be discovered on Twitter, then have other users follow you. And the best metric I’ve found to optimize for followers is profile clicks. The more profile clicks your Tweets and Threads get, the higher chance that they will follow you after seeing your profile.

And if you are curious, yes, this episode began as a thread on Twitter that was drafted using - yup, you guessed it - Typefully! Then I looked at the engagement metrics on ilo.so and realized that this definitely warranted to be made into a newsletter edition and -drumroll, please, a podcast episode!

If it wasn't already evident, I'm sure you have definitely realized by now that Twitter plays a  crucial role in my content creation process. I tend to use Twitter as a major distribution and promotion channel for my content. Therefore, I often look for interesting tools that help me streamline my Twitter workflow better.

Okay, now that you’re Tweeting consistently and tracking metrics on your Tweets and Threads optimizing for profile clicks, how do you make sure your profile is converting visitors into followers?

The best tool that I found for this is birdy.so. Birdy does one thing and one thing only - it lets you create two profile versions A & B and alternates between them, updating your profile at regular intervals and providing real-time performance reports. The free version of Birdy allows you to test your profile bio for free but if you pay for the upgrade - and I absolutely recommend that you do - you can A/B test versions of your name, location, website, and photo as well!

Since I am already optimizing for profile clicks using ilo.so, I use Birdy to help me figure out which of the two versions of my profile converts better - that is, gets more people from just visiting my profile to becoming followers.

Birdy helps me get people from merely visiting my Twitter profile to becoming followers on Twitter, from where I can funnel them further to my newsletter and podcast. However, that doesn't mean I don't engage with anyone on twitter - I absolutely do! And for that I use a tool called Engagement Builder.

I am not lying when I say this: I cannot LIVE without Engagement Builder!

With rapid growth comes a rapid stream of replies and mentions. The slow trickle of replies suddenly becomes a torrent of users discovering your content and your profile, which is incredibly difficult to manage using the plain vanilla Twitter mentions tab. That's why I recommend using Engagement Builder to streamline your replies. It trims the fluff out of my twitter replies and helps me find relevant tweets in my niche.

Engagement Builder has helped me ensure that I never miss a single mention. It has even helped me expand your network, too. Engagement Builder not only finds trending Tweets, it will also suggest Tweets just outside my own network to engage with. I’ve started interacting with other creators simply by following Engagement Builder’s recommendations. It’s a fantastic tool and I cannot recommend it enough!

There are two other Twitter tools that I use extensively to boost my newsletter and one of them actually results in new subscribers THANKING me when I DM them!

I'll tell you about both of them PLUS a bonus tool that I recently discovered but first, I want to quickly tell you about the First Class Founders membership...

All billionaires have one thing in common... They master the art of decision-making. throughout their lives. They collect great frameworks and mental models and call on them when needed. And that is why First Class Founders exists.

First Class Founders gives you the tools to build your very own problem-solving toolkit so that you, too, can become a great decision-maker like Charlie Munger, and Jeff Bezos. By becoming a member, you'll also get access to amazing perks such as early access to podcast episodes, an interruption-free and clean listening experience, bonus episodes delivered to you via private, members-only podcast feed, the ability to Ask Me Anything, and much more!

To get the most out of First Class Founders, head on over to firstclassfounders.com/join - I'll see you there!

Okay, before that short detour, I promised I would tell you about the Twitter tool I use to get new subscribers to THANK me for DM-ing them.

It's called Hivoe, it is an auto-DM tool and it is my secret sauce!

Hivoe offers a ton of useful features to generate Twitter leads - ranging from welcoming new followers to setting up automated DM giveaways which are also effective ways to boost your followers. 

Every time someone new follows me on twitter, they get a DM from me, inviting them to sign up to the First Class Founders newsletter. And, you're not gonna believe this - 99% of the responses THANK me and subscribe to the newsletter! I estimate that each week about 10 percent of new subscribers sign-up through the signup link in the auto-DM.

These auto-DMs are a critical component of my newsletter funnel. This is how I personally use Hivoe. First, I thank each new follower for following me. This sets the positioning that they followed me first. I am not cold DMing them. Then, I list out 3 benefits of subscribing to my newsletter. Then, I reiterate that if you’re an entrepreneur, I literally write the newsletter for them. This should filter out anybody who is not an entrepreneur. Lastly, I send them the link to my newsletter mentioning that there is no cost to sign-up. 

Hivoe offers a ton of useful features to generate Twitter leads - ranging from welcoming new followers to setting up automated DM giveaways which are also effective ways to boost your followers.

The final tool - also used to enhance my Twitter workflow is called Inboxs. That I-N-B-O-X-S - no 'E'. Again, I will link all these tools in the show notes so you can find them easily.

With Hivoe set up and auto-responding to DMs, I get tons of people DM-ing me back. Sure, my first DM is automated but I still want to have a proper conversation with them! That's why I use Inboxs.

The marketing copy on their website puts it beautifully. It's a "conversation-focused Twitter DMs inbox". Inboxs is actually what Twitter DMs should have been like. Instead of the clunky, almost unmanageable user-interface provided by Twitter, Inboxs offers incredibly user-friendly organization of DMs with intuitive features such as marking messages as unread, pinning chats to the top, tags for users, categories for conversations, quick replies, keyboard shortcuts - and this is just the tip of the iceberg! 

But I particularly love Inboxs because it offers me a chance to connect deeper with each new follower without having to navigate the mess that is Twitter DMs. Building rapport and familiarity is key to keep your new followers engaged. And Inboxs allows me to do just that.

And that's the end of the list. These are my ten recommended tools to boost your newsletter growth with a side-benefit of enhancing your engagement on Twitter! Let me quickly recap how I have specifically tweaked them to meet my needs:

1. I use Beehiiv and swap recommendations offered by the platform.

2. I use Lettergrowth to find and cross-promote with other newsletter creators outside of Beehiiv.

3. I use Xnapper to capture screenshots when I want to teach my readers how to do something.

4. I use Canva to create all kinds of awesome visual elements for my newsletter.

5. I use Typefully to write and schedule my Twitter Tweets and Threads. 

6. I use ilo.so to track which of my Tweets are doing well, optimizing for profile clicks.

7. I use birdy.so to A/B test my profile and see which variation leads to higher conversions.

8. I use Engagement Builder to keep up with my replies and mentions on Twitter.

9. I use Hivoe to auto-DM new followers and invite them to sign up for my newsletter.

10. I use inboxs.io to track conversations in my Twitter DM inbox

And, because you listened to this episode all the way to the end, I have a BONUS tool recommendation for you! Well, it is a tool that many people already know about but, recently, it hasn't been all that hot for, uh, various reasons…

I’m, of course, talking about…Twitter Ads.

No, wait a second. Hear me out. I know that Twitter is... well, shall we just say, not in the best place right now. A lot of advertisers have pulled out because of the stuff Elon keeps doing. A lot of the bigger names have publicly stated that they won't be advertising on Twitter.

To me, that screams opportunity.

Think about it. You no longer have to compete against large companies, who would usually dump their massive marketing budgets. You now have the opportunity to get a bigger bang for your buck. I don't know how long this opportunity will last but, I suggest you make the most of it while it does. If you do it right, you have the opportunity to ramp up high-value followers for cheap...

...except, there's a smart way to do advertising on Twitter and not everyone knows how to do it. There is a very steep learning curve as I have found out. But, here's the thing, I also found an agency that seems to know exactly how to do advertising on Twitter and I can introduce you to them! If you are really, truly serious about your Twitter growth, hit me up on Twitter! DM me and I'll introduce you!

And that brings us to the end of this list - ten tools and an additional bonus one! Let me know which one of these is your favorite and how YOU plan to use it!

Oh, and do check the show notes of the episode for links to all of these tools - some of them come with special goodies so go ahead and grab those discount codes and perks in the show notes!

Alright, that wraps up today's show!

In the next episode of First Class Founders, we’re talking to Jeremy Enns, the Founder of Podcast Marketing Academy. Jeremy and I go deep into his EAR$ framework to attract and retain your ideal listeners. If you’re a podcaster, this is a masterclass in podcast growth. You don’t want to miss this one!

And, one last thing before I go... If you're a new listener and you enjoyed this episode, you can follow the show by going to FirstClassFounders.com and clicking on the link that matches your preferred podcast player - like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you are a repeat listener, I'd really appreciate a five-star review. I know every single podcast show asks you to leave a rating and a review but this is a relatively new show and your ratings and reviews really help new listeners find the show! Every single review matters and I really appreciate them! Please head over to FirstClassFounders.com/review and leave us a five-star review. Thank you so much!

If you wanna connect with me, I'd love to hear from you! You can follow me on Twitter @YongSooChung and let me know if you enjoyed this episode. I take feedback very seriously and would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve the show. You can find links to all my social accounts in the show notes.

I'll see you on the next episode of First Class Founders.