How writer Chris Craft uses ConvertKit to build his weekly newsletter

Case study Newsletters
10 min read
In this Article

Your weekly newsletter is a staple for your marketing efforts.

But how many weeks do you sit down, stare at a blank document, and wonder what to say? Coming up with a consistent cadence of content week after week can feel daunting, to say the least.

That’s exactly what writer and musician Chris Craft hopes to help with through InspireFirst, his website and blog dedicated to teaching the art and science of what makes writing great.

“I am very much a creative,” says Craft. “I balance my time between making music and blogging, and I’ve been at InspireFirst for over three years.”

His focus? Building a community of writers that can lean on one another. Every week, Craft sends out a newsletter to their small-but-mighty list of 183 subscribers through ConvertKit. “We use our newsletter not only to share recent content that we publish but also to be a source of inspiration for people on our mailing list,” says Craft.

Rather than spending time and energy growing his email list to hundreds of thousands, Craft instead doubles down on engagement, preferring to meet his community where they are, offer advice where he can, and start conversations through his email broadcasts.

“ConvertKit made me realize that the email inbox is an intimate meeting place, where people move toward a resolution,” he says. “Our most recent email open rate was 36.8%. Our audience wants to hear from us, and they open every week.”

Here’s how he puts together his weekly newsletter with ConvertKit:

Determine newsletter content-based goals

It’s important to think about why you’re sending your newsletter in the first place. InspireFirst revolves around their advice on the blog, so their goal with any email is to make their audience excited about recent topics and encourage them to browse.

“For us, the goal is to get people on the list who maybe aren’t engaged with the blog as much to click through, so we can increase our blog traffic,” says Craft.

Craft does this through the structure of their calls-to-action (CTA). While one-off email campaigns often have only one major CTA, the newsletter invites multiple calls-to-action since it’s a more relaxed form of communication. “We break the standard way of doing things for email marketing,” he says. “Some people believe you should just stick to a one-word CTA and that’s it. We go a little further.”

Craft puts multiple CTAs together to drive more traffic to the blog.

Craft plans his newsletter alongside his blog calendar, sending it at the same time every week on Tuesdays. Each week, the newsletter repurposes a given blog post (more on that below) and offers a set of additional posts to go deeper within that topic. For example, while promoting a new post on Google’s algorithm changes for search engine optimization, he’ll include three other SEO-focused articles.

Says Craft, “Based on the theme that’s approaching for the week, we’ll search through our blogs for keywords related to that theme. A recent newsletter we did was all around getting your SEO strategy ready for the new year. So we searched for all of our SEO articles to see which others to include to pique the interest of our subscribers and make it interesting enough to click through.”

The final CTA for every email is to join their community, where writers can get to know one another, ask more questions, and talk shop.

Make your marketing efforts easy by repurposing content

Instead of constantly trying to develop brand new ideas, take what you’re already doing and repurpose it into multiple channels. That’s how Craft rarely runs out of things to say — his email newsletter runs in tandem with his blog calendar, and each week, he repurposes a blog post to send out to his list.

“We use the actual copy from the blog and reformat it in a way that’s email friendly, so people can get the information they need without necessarily having to click through, though of course we hope they do,” he says.

This doesn’t mean that you should completely copy and paste, but find the bones of the message you want to send and make a consistent campaign across your blog, email, and social media. When it comes to creating their weekly newsletter, it’s about translating the key takeaways into something that makes sense for an email format.

“A typical blog post for us is around 1500-2000 words, which is designed to give you as much information as possible,” says Craft. “But when we reformat it for the newsletter, we average 100-200 words at most.”

Both the blog post and the newsletter walk through SEO best practices, but in slightly different formats.

In practice, that means breaking down your longer-form content into modules, pulling out the most important elements, and using that to build the copy for the newsletter:

  • Use your headline to form the basis for a few subject line ideas. You want to make sure it’s compelling and interesting enough to get your subscribers to open and shouldn’t be more than four or five words.
  • Take the first few sentences of your blog post and use that to introduce the newsletter content.
  • Then, evaluate each section of your post. You likely have multiple sections already, organized by H2s or H3s. Pull out those titles as bullet points for your email.

“There’s actually not that much rewriting,” he says. “We write our content in a modular, organized way with sections divided by H2s, H3s, and bullet points within that, so we can easily translate those key takeaways to populate the newsletter. What we try to do is make it a little more relaxed and personable in terms of the copy. Once we know what we're going to send the email about, it’s not more than 30 to 45 minutes for us to put the copy together and have it shipped out.”

This doesn’t just work for email, but the rest of Craft’s marketing mix as well. “We also repurpose our blog content into bite-sized takeaways for social media,” he says. “It’s really beneficial to do all the hard work in the beginning with a great piece of content.”

Test, test, and test again

Over the last three years, Craft has learned that you can always be surprised by what performs well. He relies on ConvertKit’s A/B testing feature to isolate which elements work best.

“We love to ask questions in our subject line, and we always leverage ConvertKit’s A/B testing feature,” he says. “It’s always funny which one comes out the winner! I trust that ConvertKit is going to give us the best recommendation.”

What ConvertKit’s A/B testing feature looks like in action.

By testing each time they send, they can learn a little bit more about their audience and what makes them more likely to open — and ultimately, click through to the blog. Slowly but surely, they’re creating more of a template for their newsletter that allows them to move even more quickly in the future.

Using email to grow their community

Beyond the blog, the 120-person InspireFirst community is where Craft focuses his efforts.

Craft always connects his email list to his community to encourage more people to join.

The community is designed to be small on purpose. It’s a private, invite-only group with a set of application questions so that each person is personally vetted by Craft and his team. It’s important to them that anyone who wants to join is super engaged with the site and cares about the writing community.

“Our community is for writers, by writers,” he says. “You would be surprised how many people we turn away. I want to make sure people care about what we’re doing. We’re pretty picky about who we allow into the group.”

That’s why he mostly promotes the community through his email list. That way he knows that if someone has heard about the community, they’re already connected and engaged with InspireFirst in some way.

“Our ConvertKit newsletter is our most successful channel for people to join our community, and that’s because those people already understand who we are and what we do,” says Craft. “The average blog reader is someone that’s random off the Internet, that may have found us through a search engine query. They’re there to get the information they need and then they’re gone. This way, we know these are people who want to have a conversation.”

Starting conversations and helping writers learn is what Craft does best. He takes his cues from the content they’re already publishing, so their entire marketing strategy is rooted in the most recent topics on the blog. Often, he’ll ask a question related to a post or share a few key takeaways to move things along.

Next up: Growing his email list

With an established weekly rhythm for his email newsletter, Craft says it’s time to turn his attention to expanding his audience. He’s started to experiment with ConvertKit landing pages and forms to encourage more readers and community members to engage with the newsletter.

“One thing I really like about ConvertKit is all the different ways you can grow your email list. We utilize both forms and landing pages right now.”

Craft keeps his email forms very simple, to encourage sign-ups.

In addition to forms placed around the InspireFirst website and at the end of blog posts, he’s working on building dedicated lead magnets that go deeper on the topics his community wants to learn more about, especially SEO. Offering more value in this way provides a great entry point for new subscribers to see exactly why InspireFirst does what they do.

“We use ConvertKit landing pages to host our ebooks, which are a great entry point for the newsletter content,” he says.

An example landing page designed to draw subscribers in.

Like the rest of his content strategy, Craft repurposes existing content to create these lead magnets, and then makes sure the landing page is super streamlined. In the example above, Craft uses eye-catching imagery and right up top, so you know exactly what you’re getting, with a few short sentences that talk through what the ebook is about.

“Webpage copywriting is very different compared to writing blog posts. With landing pages, you want to make sure people can get the information they need and that the form is simple and easy to fill out,” he says.

ConvertKit makes it easy to build your community

With ConvertKit, you can easily build newsletters, landing pages, and more to grow your community.

“I love ConvertKit because they inspire me,” says Craft. “ConvertKit doesn’t just see us as customers. Their dedication to their community of creators is what sets them apart, and it’s something I hope to take with me into my own writer community.”

Get up and running with your weekly newsletter with ConvertKit's creator marketing platform. Whether you’re looking to grow your email list with forms and lead magnets, calibrate your newsletter content with A/B testing, or just need your email list to work for you, we’ve got your back. Plus, we offer an easy path for creators to experiment with earning a living online—without needing to invest in another platform. Get started for free.

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Kayla Voigt

Always in search of adventure, Kayla hails from Hopkinton, MA, the start of the Boston Marathon. When she's not using words to help businesses grow, she's probably summiting a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Like what you're reading? Come say hi: http://www.kaylalewkowicz.com

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