#41 – Laura Nelson on How To Create a Profitable Newsletter

#41 – Laura Nelson on How To Create a Profitable Newsletter

[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley.

Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case how WordPress can be the backbone of a profitable newsletter.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice, or by going to WPTavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to share on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you and hopefully get you all your idea featured on the show. Head over to WPTavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox, and use the contact form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Laura Nelson.

Laura is a content marketer at WooCommerce, where she’s responsible for creating and planning engaging content for their users. Prior to WooCommerce she worked at MailPoet, an email marketing plugin for WordPress, and before that she worked at Pragmatic, a UK based WordPress agency.

She’s on the show to explore her experience of how you can, and while you might want to set up a paid email newsletter.

When I hear the word newsletter, I’m typically thinking about the information which drops into your inbox on a daily basis. We’ve all surrendered our email addresses in return for some product or service. We agree to receive emails on the understanding that we can unsubscribe at some point.

Perhaps a few of these emails really resonate with you, but it’s likely that you unsubscribed from many as the content was no longer wanted. This kind of email marketing is not always viewed favorably, and it’s not the kind of technique that Laura is talking about on the podcast today. Her pitch is that email newsletters can themselves be a product? That people will pay to receive your emails, and she’s got data and examples to back it up.

I suppose that the closest analogy would be people who create an online course. You have an area of expertise. You do the hard work of creating the course and people will pay for a membership to have the benefit of learning from your expertise.

Laura is describing something similar to that. The only difference being that instead of a course, people will pay to receive your emails, knowing that you’re going to bring value to them regularly. I know that this can be done because as you will hear, I’m a ,subscriber to some of the emails which Laura mentioned.

This is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s hard work and you’ve got to cultivate your audience and give them something of value, repeatedly.

Typically when we record the podcast, there’s not a lot of background noise, but that’s not always the case with these WordCamp Europe interviews. We were competing against crowds and the air conditioning. And whilst the podcasts are more than listenable, I hope that you understand that the vagaries of the real world were a play.

One last thing to mention is that I’ll be attending WordCamp US next week. And as a result there won’t be a podcast episode. If you’re going to be there. I do hope that our paths cross.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the podcast, you can find all the links in the show notes by heading to WPTavern.com forward slash podcast. And you’ll find all the other episodes of there as well.

And so without further delay, I bring you Laura Nelson.

I am joined on the podcast by Laura Nelson. Hello.

[00:04:19] Laura Nelson: Hello.

[00:04:20] Nathan Wrigley: Laura did a talk yesterday?

[00:04:23] Laura Nelson: Yesterday afternoon. Yep. So I’m feeling pretty good today.

[00:04:27] Nathan Wrigley: You’re feeling happy. Yeah, she did a talk at WordCamp Europe, 2022. What was it entitled? What was it about?

[00:04:32] Laura Nelson: It was how to create a paid newsletter subscription in WordPress.

[00:04:35] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, and did it go well?

[00:04:38] Laura Nelson: I think so.

[00:04:39] Nathan Wrigley: So we’re gonna be talking today about newsletters. Obviously newsletters, they do seem to be all the rage.

[00:04:45] Laura Nelson: Yeah, every so often you hear like, email is dead, it’s all about TikTok and in fairness it is all about TikTok at the moment. But email marketing is amazing way to speak to your customers or your audience.

[00:04:57] Nathan Wrigley: Does the data back that up then? Reliably over the last 20 years, we can say email still works?

[00:05:02] Laura Nelson: Yeah, yeah. And conversion rates are far higher from email marketing than they are from like, if you tweet about your product or your services. Email marketing is golden in terms of conversion rates.

[00:05:13] Nathan Wrigley: That’s interesting. Just the interface is a little bit more, how to describe it? TikTok’s a bit more ephemeral. There’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot making you wish to scroll past all of the things. I think it’s the only thing that’s been with me for 20 years.

[00:05:26] Laura Nelson: Exactly. People are familiar with it. They know how it works, they know what to expect from an email. I think you’re capturing people at a good time, because generally they’re not gonna open their emails unless they have time to read your email. Whereas if you are like on Twitter and you’re like idly scrolling or you’ve got like two minutes, it forces them to stop, but they might not have time to take that information in. So email, it’s nice. It sits there. If you don’t have time to read it properly when you first open it, you can come back to it.

[00:05:53] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that’s a good point. I was just thinking about that. And if I don’t log into Twitter for a few days, there’s almost no chance that I’m gonna see the things from three days ago, because I’m gonna start at the top. Yeah, that’s a really good point.

So, when you’re talking about newsletters, presumably we’re talking about a piece where people have subscribed to a newsletter, and you are then offering content to them. Is that basically the model?

[00:06:16] Laura Nelson: That’s right, yeah.

[00:06:17] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, and you are talking about getting paid and generating revenue, and it almost sounds like it’s too good to be true. You throw together a newsletter and suddenly, you become incredibly wealthy. Of course that’s not the case. There’s probably a lot of hard work. There’s probably a lot of expertise required. Is that true?

[00:06:33] Laura Nelson: Yes. I’d say the hardest part of this is building your list. So if you don’t already have people in your community or your audience available, you probably have to put a bit more effort into marketing. But in terms of expertise, you can write a newsletter about anything you want.

The example I gave in my talk yesterday was a newsletter about cats, and that’s an interest. I’m not an expert on cats, I just think cats are cute. And so, you can use them in whatever ways you want. I definitely don’t think you have to be an expert in a specific subject. If you are good at writing, or if you have interesting or unusual opinions about things, you can easily make an email newsletter.

[00:07:11] Nathan Wrigley: Before we pressed record, we talked about the fact that there is a rival platform, which I think by now probably most people have heard of. It’s called Substack. And you likened what you were describing in the talk and probably what we’re gonna be talking about as a, kind of an alternative to that.

[00:07:26] Laura Nelson: Yes. That’s right. Substack is huge now, and I can’t remember the figures off the top of my head, but there are millions of subscribers across all the Substack newsletters, I guess you’d call them. And the solution that I’m gonna be talking to you about is an alternative to keep that in WordPress, rather than outsourcing that to a different platform.

[00:07:46] Nathan Wrigley: Is there a strong reason in your head why you would not wish to go with the, it’s the SaaS versus WordPress argument. You could have this about a thousand different SaaS platforms. But is there a strong reason in your head why you wish to do it in WordPress and not just pay Substack the fee and get on with it over there?

[00:08:00] Laura Nelson: I think WordPress, I mean, WordPress lends itself to content. Like WordPress is where you publish content. And we’re talking about sharing content in a newsletter. And I think like this method, what most appeals about it to me is the fact that everything is in one place, and it’s familiar.

So if you already have a WordPress website or a business that’s using WordPress to power it then you don’t have to learn something new, it’s already, it’s just there. It can be extended onto what you are already doing.

[00:08:27] Nathan Wrigley: The payment bit, we’ll probably unpick the payment puzzle, but is this basically a paywall thing? In other words, are you restricting content? Are you only sending out to people who’ve paid? Or is it that you embed other things inside the newsletters, you know, upsells and subscriptions that people might join and so on?

[00:08:44] Laura Nelson: No, no, you are only sending the content to those who’ve paid. So it’s like a subscription, like you would, sign up to like a, I think you can get them for like dog and cat food, where they get delivered regularly. Then you, yeah, just like that. But instead you’re receiving content in your inbox.

[00:08:58] Nathan Wrigley: So you are going to describe to us a system built where you go to the website, you’re engaged, you sign up, you begin receiving emails and if your subscription payment is cancelled, the emails fail, and it stops.

[00:09:09] Laura Nelson: Yeah, that’s exactly it.

[00:09:11] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, so what plugins are you using?

[00:09:13] Laura Nelson: Yeah, so in addition to like being on a WordPress website, so disclaimer, I mean, if you’re not on WordPress, I don’t know why you’re listening to this.

[00:09:19] Nathan Wrigley: No, that’s probably fair.

[00:09:21] Laura Nelson: You’ll need like WooCommerce, MailPoet, which is an email marketing plugin for WordPress, and WooCommerce subscriptions.

[00:09:28] Nathan Wrigley: So the basic WooCommerce to sort of bind the whole subscription thing together. You add the subscription thing on top. And then there’s MailPoet. Is there any cost to any of that?

[00:09:36] Laura Nelson: Yeah, so WooCommerce subscriptions is $199 per year. MailPoet is free to use up to a thousand subscribers. So when you get beyond that, there’s tiered plans. But I think the lowest plan starts at around $12 or $15 per month. It’s quite reasonable.

[00:09:53] Nathan Wrigley: I’ve heard, and I don’t know where this number comes from, but I’ve heard that if your email list is a thousand people, roughly you can become profitable. And what I mean by that is that you can become profitable enough for it to become an important part of what you do. And it always felt that that was like a really, quite a low number.

But then having tried to create email lists in the past, I quickly realized actually a thousand is pretty hard to get to. It’s difficult to get people to surrender their email address. So is there any advice that you give to people essentially to give you their email address?

[00:10:25] Laura Nelson: Yeah. I think what works best is honesty. Be upfront and honest about what you’re gonna be sending to them. That you’re not gonna pass on your, their email to somebody else. And when you’re going to, like the frequency that they can expect to receive emails from you.

And then it’s just a case of making sure that the content that you’re including in it is really valuable, offers something a bit different or unique that they might not be able to read elsewhere. I mean, that’s like solid advice for if it’s a paid newsletter or not paid. And then it’s just another form of marketing.

So I recommend including, including a link to sign up in all of your normal email signatures, like from your Gmail or whatever you use. Use your social networks. If you have a good community on Twitter, let them know about your newsletter. Basically, plug it everywhere that you possibly can.

[00:11:13] Nathan Wrigley: Does the MailPoet solution, does it allow you to create, so forgive me, first of all, I’ve not used MailPoet, so I don’t know how the UI works, but does it allow you to basically create a post in WordPress, which is then fired out as an email?

[00:11:25] Laura Nelson: Yes and no. So if you mean like a post in WordPress that you’d be able to go onto a WordPress website and see it in like the blog section. It wouldn’t work that way around. If you had published a blog post on WordPress and then use MailPoet to send an email, it’s a tick, like a widget, that you drag in and a tick that and you can include that entire blog post in your email.

[00:11:45] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. So you create a normal blog post. Tick a box. When you click publish, it is converted to an email and sent out?

[00:11:52] Laura Nelson: Yeah. Or you drag it into like your email template, and you can add other stuff around it.

[00:11:56] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, okay. So you could put a different header and a different footer in? Okay.

[00:11:59] Laura Nelson: And in the case of the paid news letter though, you’d probably, in order to get people to sign up and pay for this, you don’t want that content being available on your website for free. So you’d probably want to write the post within the email itself. So it only lives there and not elsewhere.

[00:12:16] Nathan Wrigley: Yes, that wouldn’t make sense, would it? If it was a paid newsletter, and the content was available on your website.

[00:12:21] Laura Nelson: But you could use WooCommerce memberships. You could guard that and make it a private post and then link to it it.

[00:12:27] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. So as with all things WordPress, there’s a way.

[00:12:30] Laura Nelson: Yeah. You can add another layer to this if you want to do that.

[00:12:32] Nathan Wrigley: If somebody was to begin a completely new website. You know, they wanna talk about, I dunno, volcanoes or something. Then would you be able to do this on pretty modest hosting? Because it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot going on. Basic WordPress, basic WooCommerce, a couple of extra plugins, maybe really cheap hosting?

[00:12:50] Laura Nelson: Uh, yeah. Really, unless you are planning on adding loads of other products to your store or adding loads and loads of other content to your website. You can keep this really lean and get away with really cheap posting. It wouldn’t take much, you just need a product page really.

[00:13:05] Nathan Wrigley: The difficulty I think maybe is trying to get people to find your newsletter in the first place. And then of course there’s the problem of getting them to separate their email and give it to you. Have you got any advice for how you market your newsletter? Anything around there?

[00:13:21] Laura Nelson: Yeah. It’s funny. Someone asked me this yesterday after the talk and I, I said I could probably do an entire other presentation on this exact topic.

[00:13:30] Nathan Wrigley: Go deep, it’s good.

[00:13:31] Laura Nelson: So, what I was saying earlier about being really upfront about what you’re gonna be sending, when you’re gonna be sending it. Know what you’re doing with their email address. And you just really need to show some value. So you need to make sure that the content that you are creating is unique or if you do have an expertise in a certain area, really let people know, like why that’s important to them.

Content is all about problem solving for people. So you need to find out what problems people have. And if you can solve that in content, then let them know.

[00:14:03] Nathan Wrigley: I’m guessing that some things are going to be more of a labour of love than other things. Again if you’re producing the volcano newsletter, I’m expecting in the low single digits.

[00:14:12] Laura Nelson: Well you know, it’s a niche market I imagine. Maybe that would be more successful because you know, you get people who are really into something like that. You know, there’s probably not a lot. I dunno, I’m not, I’m not familiar with the volcano market. I’m not gonna lie, but, um, I kind of imagine there will be those niche areas like that, where if there’s not content being published about that or at least readily available to you, then you probably would pay. It’s like, oh yeah, I love that, and I’m really interested in that. So I would pay to receive.

[00:14:40] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. It’s interesting because of course you’ve gotta think about the person reading the content and whether volcanoes are gonna be of any interest to them, but also your ability to sustain this, is directly related to how interested you think it is.

So, you know, if you genuinely have no interest in volcanoes and you embark on that mission, probably it’s gonna dry up fairly quickly, and so I wonder if often people in this chase the big thing, the big shiny, exciting thing only to discover, you know, what, actually on a deep, personal level, I’m not interested in this, and the newsletter dries up and falters and fails.

[00:15:16] Laura Nelson: If you’re thinking about starting this up, you need to remember, it’s not just one email. It’s not just two. It has to have like longevity to it. So whatever it is, whatever topic you’re choosing, obviously you can’t possibly know what you might like to talk about or write about in six months time, but you need to make sure that the topic is either big enough or is like new things are happening in that area enough in order to sustain a long term newsletter.

[00:15:42] Nathan Wrigley: I wonder if this is like a perfect extension to people who are already doing things. They might have got a YouTube channel. They might have a WordPress website and they’re producing things. Or in this case here we are on a podcast. It may be that you’ve got that kind of thing. It feels like a bit of a no brainer to just add this on as a kind of value add. So you could have, well, I don’t know, content that only subscribers get, or things like that. Is that where the market seems to be leading.

[00:16:08] Laura Nelson: Absolutely. You obviously can start from scratch and it, technically it’s pretty easy to do so, in that respect. But, you’re gonna have more success if you already have, you need to make sure you already have an audience. And if you already have a business, you already have a customer base or an audience that are, are listening to you, and you’re communicating with. So yeah, I think it’s an obvious, like an easy fit for established businesses.

[00:16:34] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So if you’ve got something going already. It’s almost like a missing piece of the jigsaw if you’re not doing it.

[00:16:39] Laura Nelson: It’s not to be used to like plug your products or services. It’s not like, I guess if you were to run a, an eCommerce store and you sell products, it’s not to be used like that. It’s like a highlight of, oh, we got these new trainers in stock etc. You have to be adding something of value, like an opinion or some content that they can’t get elsewhere. I think one of the, um, examples I gave yesterday was digital downloads. Like if you’re really good photographer, you could share your photos in an email newsletter and let have access to use your photos, you know? Like on a weekly basis like, 10 new photos every week or fortnight or something.

[00:17:18] Nathan Wrigley: So this is subscription, which means we must decide on a subscription term. Do you typically, would you say like go monthly? Is that, is that the easiest, least friction way to do it? Sort of asking people to separate money from their wallet, monthly, annually.

[00:17:34] Laura Nelson: I’d offer both a monthly option and then a yearly, maybe it would just slightly discounted. Because it’s great. If you have people signed up for a year or they’ve committed to that year, that’s excellent. But I’d always give people the option of monthly.

[00:17:45] Nathan Wrigley: My fear of offering an annual plan would be that I just dry up. You know, I’d be eight months in and I’d be, ah, I’ve got nothing else to say, and then I’ve got to think about the, the sort of refund process.

[00:17:58] Laura Nelson: Yeah. If you do that, you would probably have to refund people, but offering a yearly option is something you could consider after you’ve got into the groove of creating a newsletter and you think you can see it has a longer life to it.

[00:18:10] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah I know this, what we’ve been talking about is a WordPress thing. The piece that you described, the MailPoet and the WooCommerce bit is the way to get paid for that. Just briefly talking about alternative ways of doing that. The sponsorship bit, or the payment bit outside of WordPress. There’s things like Patreon and Ko-fi is that, an angle you’ve ever looked at or explored?

[00:18:30] Laura Nelson: Yeah, and like Substack. They’re all like really great platforms to use. But they’re outside of WordPress. So, I think the kind of unique angle here or for this approach is, if you want everything to be all in one place, if you’re already creating content in WordPress, don’t spend your time copying and pacing it over to a different piece of software. You can have it all like in one dashboard, basically. Ownership is a big part of that.

[00:18:59] Nathan Wrigley: Thorny question.

[00:19:01] Laura Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:19:01] Nathan Wrigley: Where are the email addresses stored?

[00:19:03] Laura Nelson: Right? So in MailPoet, no one else can see your subscriber’s email addresses. MailPoet takes, email best practices and security very seriously. We don’t even see the emails that get sent out via MailPoet. So they’re stored on, I think it’s like your server, they belong with you.

[00:19:22] Nathan Wrigley: Mm-hmm.

[00:19:23] Laura Nelson: They don’t come to MailPoet at any point. They are yours.

[00:19:26] Nathan Wrigley: That’s an interesting thing. And I guess you would need to be mindful of GDPR if you are storing people’s email addresses. Do you have any insight into whether those are in the database? Do you know whether they’re in an encrypted, in an encrypted form or not?

[00:19:40] Laura Nelson: This is a technical question that I am not able to answer, I’m afraid. At least not confidently. I think I know the answer, but I absolutely wouldn’t want to go on a podcast and tell everybody the wrong thing if that’s okay.

[00:19:51] Nathan Wrigley: That’s okay we could could look at that another time. And so have you got any good examples of newsletters where you could say, go and have a look at that one. Two or three that you think are really worthwhile where somebody’s done it just right. They’re doing really well.

[00:20:03] Laura Nelson: So the first one’s called Dense Discovery. None of these examples are actually of paid, well, actually I can give some paid newsletter examples. Let me start with Dense Discovery, which you can pay for, but they handle the payment a slightly different way. It’s more like a tip based system. Like if you enjoy this, you know, become a friend of the newsletter. But from a content perspective, I would pay to receive Dense Discovery.

If they offered it up as a subscription, I would do that. Cause I tip on a regular basis. It has a really good balance of the guy who’s created the newsletter called Kai, like his opinion, and his take on what’s happening in the world. There are some lovely resources for like design. He often shares like an illustrator and their work, as well as some like handy tools for like productivity at work.

So it’s kind like a nice, a nice blend of content. And it’s really regular. I know when I’m gonna receive it. It’s the same time each week, and I know the quality of the content’s gonna be really, really good.

[00:21:01] Nathan Wrigley: Can I just pause you there, and just go on a bit of a segue and we’ll come back to some other ones in a minute, because that just suddenly occurred to me. There’s something a bit meta going on there, because he’s not asking for a subscription, but what if you had an email newsletter, which was a, the sort of upsell for the paid newsletter?

[00:21:17] Laura Nelson: Oh yeah.

[00:21:18] Nathan Wrigley: If you know what I mean? So the newsletter itself contains a proportion of the content. Is that a thing?

[00:21:24] Laura Nelson: Yeah, absolutely. And actually the next example I was going to give. I’d like to like add to disclaimer it, this isn’t of my interest but’s I can see it’s done really, really well, which is why I’m gonna mention it. It’s called Daily Coding Problem. So it uses this paid newsletter technique really interestingly. It’s basically they send like a coding problem. It’s designed to help programmers prepare for technical interviews. And if you are only a free subscriber, you don’t get to see the answer.

[00:21:53] Nathan Wrigley: Oh.

[00:21:53] Laura Nelson: Uhhuh.

[00:21:54] Nathan Wrigley: That is intriguing. Yeah, that’s kind of like using the annoyance style isn’t it? Yeah.

[00:21:58] Laura Nelson: So I mean, if you’re really confident with these, maybe you don’t, maybe you don’t need to see them, like the mystery. Yeah, you have to become a paid subscriber to see the solution.

[00:22:07] Nathan Wrigley: That’s fascinating. So throw something out there. It’s a bit like if Wordle didn’t give you the answer.

[00:22:12] Laura Nelson: I know. How annoying would that be?

[00:22:14] Nathan Wrigley: Well, you’d pay.

[00:22:16] Laura Nelson: Exactly.

[00:22:17] Nathan Wrigley: And you’d get the answer every, every day. Yeah, that’s fascinating. So I mean that’s really unique isn’t it? But presumably most of it is about just the kind of stuff that you would ordinarily put on your website. You just make sure that the content’s really good, but you indicate they’ve got to the end of this newsletter, but there’s more.

[00:22:32] Laura Nelson: Yeah, yeah.

[00:22:32] Nathan Wrigley: You could find out more.

[00:22:33] Laura Nelson: Absolutely. And another example, um, which I mentioned yesterday actually was Jack’s Flight Club.

[00:22:38] Nathan Wrigley: Oh. I pay for Jack’s Flight Club.

[00:22:40] Laura Nelson: You’re newsletter subscriber.

[00:22:42] Nathan Wrigley: That’s fascinating. I hadn’t connected. I use the app.

[00:22:46] Laura Nelson: Yeah.

[00:22:47] Nathan Wrigley: But it is a newsletter, is and he got me through the newsletter. You’re right. Go on, tell them about Jack’s Flight Club.

[00:22:52] Laura Nelson: Yeah, so Jack’s Flight Club, as we just heard, is, it’s a really popular one, uh, in the UK and Europe. And it sends you like error fairs and cheap flight deals. But if you’re not a paid subscriber, you don’t get all of the deals. And when you get the free version of email, they tell you which deals that you missed. So it really plays on that, like FOMO, like, you know, you’ve missed these incredibly cheap flights to Canada. You didn’t get that because you’re not a paid subscriber.

[00:23:18] Nathan Wrigley: That’s right. And the interesting thing about that one is. That’s kind of opened my eyes up actually about where the price points may be. And maybe, maybe Jack is different, but it’s about if I recall, I think I paid about $40, something like that per year. So it was not really a lot. If you spread that over the, you know, it’s like $3 80 or a month

[00:23:40] Laura Nelson: Yep.

[00:23:40] Nathan Wrigley: That’s really not a significant amount, but presumably if Jack, I’m guessing there is a Jack, I don’t know, but presumably if Jack’s into the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. This

is incredible… a million.

[00:23:52] Laura Nelson: He’s got a million subscribers, million plus, yeah.

[00:23:55] Nathan Wrigley: We can work the maths out there. Okay Jack’s doing well from newsletters.

[00:23:58] Laura Nelson: Jack’s doing alright. Well, it’s the success of a newsletter that enabled him to take it to an app and, you know, grow this beyond just email content.

[00:24:06] Nathan Wrigley: I want to be Jack.

[00:24:08] Laura Nelson: Yeah, me too. I bet he’s on a yacht somewhere lovely, right. He’s not looking up cheap flights.

[00:24:12] Nathan Wrigley: He’s no longer looking, but that really illustrates it perfectly. So it was something most people probably don’t care about flights at all. They’ll just look the flight when they’re going on holiday but here’s me, I’m intrigued. I want if there is a cheap deal out there. So it’s got me on that niche thing. Like the coding chap.

And, I don’t know how long it took me. I think he was probably giving me the free one for six months.

[00:24:35] Laura Nelson: Yep.

[00:24:36] Nathan Wrigley: Do you know what he also did, which was curious, which was actually the hook. He offered a 20% discount in one of his emails. So that’s another interesting pricing strategy. He had his annual price and then he, for a week only, I think it was 20% off. That was the, the fishing rod that I happily bit on. And, and I think he’s got me for years to come.

[00:24:56] Laura Nelson: Yeah. You can do that with this, and I’d recommend exploring things like that. Just jumping back to your question earlier about how to get paid subscribers. If you already run a successful newsletter, you can drop in the bit about you having a paid newsletter too, give ’em a little taster of what they’ve missed or what they will miss if they don’t pay to subscribe and yeah, it got you.

[00:25:17] Nathan Wrigley: It works. And interestingly enough, I am pretty difficult to get, and yet he got me. So it is, it is about the niche I think.

[00:25:25] Laura Nelson: Yeah, yeah.

[00:25:25] Nathan Wrigley: Well, let’s talk about the actual email itself. So we open up the email. Are there any sort of top tips about the way you should present things? I mean, are we looking for bright and colorful? Are we looking for more words than images? Are there trip wires that prevent the email clients from opening things? Because there’s just way too much text and it truncates it. Just give us what the email actually should be looking like.

[00:25:47] Laura Nelson: Well, I mean, it does completely depend, like what you’re including in it. I wouldn’t be, if you are selling a like long form content style email, don’t be afraid of including lots of words. Because that’s what people are paying for. But in terms of spam filters, if you’re offering a paid newsletter subscription, I don’t think you’d have any issues because it’s usually things like the word free and like capital letters, lots of exclamation marks.

[00:26:09] Nathan Wrigley: Emojis in the subject line, yeah.

[00:26:12] Laura Nelson: Emojis in the subject line are okay, as long as they’re not overused. Yeah. Basically emails like don’t overdo anything.

[00:26:20] Nathan Wrigley: Okay.

[00:26:21] Laura Nelson: A good, combination of yeah, different things that works well. In terms of layout, I mean, just take a step back and think about what you’d like to read. If it’s a big wall of text, would that entice you to read it? I mean, some people maybe, but not no. So, and you can format the newsletter to look how you want. So you could add spaces, you can add some images, you can use columns if that’s better for your content, so.

[00:26:45] Nathan Wrigley: The last time I was fiddling with email, I think we’re still stuck in tables. Are there big constraints still about the way that you can present things? So obviously on the web, our own WordPress websites, we can literally put anything anywhere, pixel by pixel, more or less. Are we confined with emails still? I mean are we still thinking about email clients from the year 2004 as a thing?

[00:27:06] Laura Nelson: Yeah. Well, I mean email’s tricky because it will look different according to different email clients, and Outlook is forever a bug bear for those who create emails. But if you’re using email marketing software, I mean, I can only speak to MailPoet, and I’m not just trying to plug here. It’s just the one I’m most familiar with. Their templates are already fully responsive. Their templates are tested on all the different email clients. So you can kind of be pretty confident that unless you’ve gone in and really messed with that, they’re gonna work in most email clients.

Litmus is a great tool if you’re not sure. Email on Acid to test your emails, to see what they’re going to look like on Outlook, on Gmail, all the big email.

[00:27:47] Nathan Wrigley: And how do they work? You send Email on Acid an actual email and it then tells you, it gives you a rating or things to improve and so on.

[00:27:54] Laura Nelson: It will show you how they look across the different email clients.

[00:27:58] Nathan Wrigley: Tell us about the actual UI, about how you build email. I’ve logged into all sorts of services. Typically there’s a bunch of modules for want of a better word, a bit like in Gutenberg with blocks now. So you drag in a, an image and you could drag in a couple of columns and put the image to the left, and text to the right. Is it what you see is what you get kind of builder?

[00:28:18] Laura Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. It is a WYSIWYG builder. It doesn’t use Gutenberg but I know the MailPoet team are looking to explore that option. But the email itself is a WYSIWYG editor where you drag and drop.

[00:28:30] Nathan Wrigley: So it’s familiar? You’ll be right at home. Yeah.

[00:28:32] Laura Nelson: I don’t like describing things as easy because I think different people have different perceptions of what’s easy, but this is the easiest email editor I’ve ever used, because it is simply you drag it and you drop it where you want it.

[00:28:46] Nathan Wrigley: Do you get an opportunity to inspect it before you commit?

[00:28:51] Laura Nelson: Yeah.

[00:28:51] Nathan Wrigley: So it will send you a version you can inspect make sure the links are all working and so on.

[00:28:56] Laura Nelson: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:28:18] Nathan Wrigley: And does it check that stuff as well? So in other words, it will see that for example, you’ve overused images, Nathan. Stop with the images volcanoes. Or that there’s too much text typically. Does it give you any metrics about, what is that called even? Because I’ve seen that before, they do some sort of test in the background and give you a rating.

[00:29:14] Laura Nelson: Like a readability.

[00:29:15] Nathan Wrigley: Something along those lines, yeah.

[00:29:17] Laura Nelson: It doesn’t, no. I think because the way MailPoet’s built and we don’t see your email content.

[00:29:23] Nathan Wrigley: That’s interesting because it’s your WordPress site. So it’s your email. So it’s not phoning home any to any third parties.

[00:29:29] Laura Nelson: It’s not but that’s a pretty interesting idea. Maybe I’ll pass it onto the team.

[00:29:32] Nathan Wrigley: Oh okay.

[00:29:33] Laura Nelson: That would be useful.

[00:29:34] Nathan Wrigley: Can I take credit for that?

[00:29:35] Laura Nelson: The feature will be called email read, readability by Nathan.

[00:29:40] Nathan Wrigley: That’s great. Okay I’m happy with that. So Laura, just before we wrap up, where’s the best place to find out about, well, in this case, MailPoet, where do we go?

[00:29:48] Laura Nelson: MailPoet.com. If you head to the blog, there’s some really great articles there about email marketing in general. How to build your list. There’s even a blog post about creating a paid newsletter. Like what my talk was on yesterday. Fantastic resource for all things email marketing.

[00:30:04] Nathan Wrigley: Well Laura, well done for getting through your talk at WordCamp Europe.

[00:30:07] Laura Nelson: Thank you. Thank you.

[00:30:08] Nathan Wrigley: A nice relief and, very happy to have you on the podcast today.

[00:30:12] Laura Nelson: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Keep reading the article at WP Tavern. The article was originally written by Nathan Wrigley on 2022-08-31 10:00:00.

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