Issue #31

5 essential newsletter automations to scale your growth

Newsletters Monetize Your List
17 min read
In this Article

“The show must go on!” And on. And on.

Running a newsletter is fun and rewarding, but the demand to constantly create can be a slippery slope to creative burnout. Plus, every moment you spend managing the newsletter uses up time you could spend on other business tasks. Or on sleeping.

The good news is there are ways to work smarter instead of harder. Email automations can give you the breathing room you need in your paid and free newsletters to grow your business—and automating your newsletter is easier than you might think.

Newsletter automations combat creator burnout

The vast majority of newsletters are driven by the unique voice and personality of their writers. You are the content, and the content is you.

The only problem? You can’t outsource individuality. You committed to a frequency, and you’ve stuck to it. But now you’re a bit tired. Or you need some free time to create your next product, promote your paid options, or strategize your business.

Depending on the paid newsletter platform you're using, you’ve got two choices. You could keep plowing forward no matter what and put yourself at risk of burning out. Or, you can pause subscriptions or writing while you take a moment to regroup and lose revenue and subscribers for every day you delay.

There’s a better way, though. Setting up email automations at key points in your subscriber relationship has a few benefits:

  1. Automations are … well, automatic. They work without input from you, freeing up your time for other things.
  2. Automations are timely. They make sure readers are getting promotions and content when it’s relevant for them, and not just when you remember to mention it
  3. Automations are scalable. They help you manage more subscribers since everyone gets the same personal experience automatically

You don’t have to start out with a bunch of moving parts and advanced segmentation, either. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it—it’s far too easy to become overwhelmed.

Start with one or two sequences, learn from them, and then grow your email program.

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The 5 automations every newsletter writer should set up

No matter the topic at hand, most newsletters can benefit from a core set of automations. The five automations below range from the very first moments a person is on your email list to the time some unsubscribe. In between, you’ll find automations to learn from subscribers and introduce them to more ways to get involved.

If you aren’t sure which one to start with, start at the top of the list. These automations are in the order that a subscriber is likely to interact with them, beginning with the moment they subscribe. Plus, the automations at the top of the list are the simplest to implement.

All of them have an automation template that you can add to your ConvertKit account in just a few clicks, which makes setting them up even more manageable.

1. Welcome sequence

First impressions are important, but you can’t spend your days staring at your subscriber count waiting to welcome the newest members. That’s where a simple welcome series comes in.

Your welcome sequence gives new subscribers an instant hello. Use this first message to introduce yourself, share top content, or let subscribers know what they can do next.

Not sure what to say in your welcome sequence? Brittany Berger suggests putting your best foot forward and setting expectations right away. Her “Greatest Hits Sequence” includes a few emails with her most popular content.

“For a brand that promotes kind of a radical way of thinking,” Brittany explains on Twitter, “it's been crucial for reducing unsubscribes. Otherwise people expect to sign up for productivity tips and are like WTF when I come in hot with questioning why we need to be productive anyway.”

Newsletter automations
Brittany lets subscribers know exactly what her newsletter aims to do in the very first email. Image via Work Brighter.

Bringing your best content to the surface like Brittany does with her sequence helps get readers up to speed with your philosophy and gives them information to apply right away.

Another option is to use a welcome email to kickstart engagement and conversation. Ask subscribers about themselves, their goals, and what they want to learn.

For example, freelance writer Kaleigh Moore asks new subscribers how long they’ve been freelancing and what business challenges they’re facing. “It's audience insight and content ideas in a single email,” she shares on Twitter, “plus it helps with deliverability because it drives clicks and replies.”

Asking even simple questions like these helps you learn about your audience and reminds subscribers that there’s an actual human on the other side of the email that’s willing to help.

How to set it up:

1. You’ll need to create a sequence of emails for your welcome automation. Start by clicking on the “Automations” tab on the navigation bar and then selecting “Sequences.” You’ll need to put at least one email in the sequence, but you could easily set up five messages to share your best content and get subscribers engaged across other channels or products.
Newsletter automations

2. Create a new automation for when subscribers join your list. The automation of the welcome sequence can start when a person signs up via a landing page or newsletter form, and you can add multiple entry points.

ConvertKit automation

3. Add an action to your automation that adds subscribers to your welcome sequence. When you have the automation set up, don’t forget to toggle it from “paused” to “live” in the upper righthand corner of the visual automation.

ConvertKit unpause automation

4. Once subscribers have completed the welcome sequence, they’re ready to join your regular newsletter. The way you handle what happens after the welcome sequence depends on whether your newsletter is evergreen or not. If you have a queue of evergreen content waiting for subscribers, add your newsletter sequence below the welcome series automation. If you prefer to send newsletter broadcasts, add a tag to subscribers who complete the welcome sequence. Then, you can filter broadcast recipients for everyone with the tag, such as “Completed Welcome Sequence.”
Newsletter automations

Get the automation:

Ready to get started with your welcome sequence? We’ve put together a handy welcome sequence automation template you can import into your ConvertKit account and start using today.

Get the Welcome automation

2. Self segmentation

As you grow your business, you might end up with content or resources for slightly different interests. Instead of guessing what people need, just ask them!

Setting up an internal survey in ConvertKit using Trigger Links is easy. Readers can click on an option that relates to them, or you can tag user interest based on what email content they interact with organically.

What happens after a subscriber gains a new tag is up to you. You could save the new segmentation to send relevant content in the future, without triggering any immediate sequences.

Of course, you can also use self-segmentation to kick off automated content. Amanda Natividad, head of marketing at content agency Growth Machine, added a link trigger to tag people interested in a webinar.

Newsletter automations
Adding link triggers to content helps you track who expressed interest in a topic. Image via Amanda Natividad.

You could also use a link trigger to automatically enroll a subscriber in a free email course or some other valuable piece of content. In that scenario, you would include a call to action that read, “click here to get the first lesson in your inbox right away.” Clicking the trigger link automatically tags subscribers that they want the course—you can then use the new tag to trigger a new automation to send them the first lesson in the course.

How to set it up:

1. Decide if you want to add a tag to use for segmentation in the future or if you want to use tags to automatically enroll subscribers in another sequence.

For either one, the first step is adding a link trigger rule. Go to the “Automations” tab and then click “Rules.” Then, add a “Trigger” rule for “clicks a link.” Each link trigger has three components—the destination URL, the name, and the action.

Your destination URL could be the free ebook you’re promoting, your website, or our preference confirmation page. The name would either be the segmentation tag or something like “Enroll in free email course,” and the action is to “Add a tag.”

Newsletter automations

2. Next you need to add the trigger to your email. To do this, simply highlight the text you need to link, click the hyperlink button, and then use the “Link triggers” dropdown. If you just want to add a tag for future segmentation, your work here is done.
Newsletter automations

3. If you want to use the link trigger to automatically enroll a subscriber in a new sequence, you need to navigate to the “Automations” tab. From there, either create a new automation or add onto your newsletter automation.

The entry point would be “is added to a tag,” and the email sequence would be your action.

Get the automation:

You’ll have the best chance of making a sale when you introduce the right product to the right person. Check out our self-segmentation automation template in the ConvertKit library to set up a custom pitch automation based on tags about subscriber interest.

Get the Self-Segmentation automation

3. Introduce your paid products

Free newsletters are the ideal place to build trust and authority with your audience since you’re consistently sending them valuable content. Once you’ve established the relationship, you can share snippets of your paid newsletter to promote the exclusive content. You can also use a sales email sequence to upsell paid newsletter subscribers to your high-price courses or coaching.

Automating your paid product pitches ensures you’re only selling to new subscribers when they’re ready, rather than relying on you remembering to talk about your products every now and then.

If you want to put pitching in the hands of the subscriber, you can use Jason Resnick’s “tell me more” campaign as inspiration:

A tell me more campaign [is] when someone clicks a link in any email that's to a sales page or specific piece of content, [that] automatically pops them into a campaign to pitch

Jason Resnick

With this automation style, you can use the action of clicking on a link to a sales page to automatically send subscribers more information. Simply including a link to your products or extra content at the bottom of every email can automatically trigger your pitch to subscribers whenever they get curious.

How to set it up:

1. If you want to set up a “tell me more” campaign, you’ll need to first set up rules that create a link trigger when someone clicks a link to visit a particular sales page or piece of content. You can add a new trigger rule by clicking on the “Automations” tab and then on “Rules” in the upper right corner.
Newsletter automations

2. Then, you need to create an automation with a delay. This way, additional sales pitches or information don’t send to the subscriber until a day or two has passed. You don’t want to overwhelm them with info about a product multiple times on the same day.
Newsletter automationsTo do this, go to your visual automations in the “Automations” tab. The first action will be when a subscriber is added to the tag from the link trigger from step one. Then, press the plus sign button to add a new action and choose “delay” from the dropdown.

3. After the delay, you can move subscribers into the sales sequence and then back into your main newsletter once the pitch series is complete. Just be sure to exclude people who ended up purchasing the item after clicking the original link that set off this chain of events.Newsletter automationsTo do this, go to the sales series under the “Sequence” tab. At the top of the email editor you’ll see a small funnel icon, which you can click to exclude purchasers.

Get the automation:

It’s easy to automate your pitches for your paid products using ConvertKit. Simply import our ready-made product launch automation template to your account and fill out the email contents. You can even send separate follow-up messages to buyers versus non-buyers!

Get the Product Launch automation

4. Referral program

If you ask subscribers to refer you to their friends, and give them an easy way to do it, they just might help you grow your email list. A referral program automation includes each subscribers' unique referral link to each email, along with a personalized prompt encouraging them to share and get access to exclusive rewards.

Newsletters that automate referrals with SparkLoop grow, on average, 35% faster than other newsletters. Adding an automation that encourages subscribers to use the referral program can help you grow your list faster without constant, hands-on effort.

Jay Clouse uses ConvertKit and SparkLoop to grow his newsletter, Work in Progress. There’s no shortage of creative reward ideas to use in your referral program, but Jay opts to use access to his paid newsletter as an incentive. Subscribers can either pay $5 a month for access or refer new subscribers and get invited for free.

Newsletter automations
Jay offers two ways for subscribers to get access to his private newsletter—refer subscribers or pay $5/mo. Image via SparkLoop.

Using a resource you already have, like a course or paid community, is a great way to incentivize referrals without making unique content or swag for the program.

How to set it up:

If you want to learn how to set up email sequences for your entire referral program, we recommend checking out this video from SparkLoop. It packs a lot of valuable information into a short and easy-to-understand video.

To get you started, here’s how you would set up an automation to introduce your referral program.

1. First, create a new campaign in SparkLoop. When you set up a campaign, you’ll automatically have custom subscriber fields added to your ConvertKit account.

2. Navigate to the “Sequences” tab and create a new referral intro email. This message should introduce your referral program, how to get involved, and what rewards are at stake. Make sure you include the subscriber’s referral link using the subscriber field {{ subscriber.rh_reflink }}.

Newsletter automations SparkLoop
SparkLoop merge tags make it easy to set up referral automations in ConvertKit. Image via SparkLoop.

3. You want to give new subscribers a chance to acclimate with your content before you ask them to refer you. So, you need to create an automation that begins when someone joins your newsletter but includes a delay. To do this, create a new visual automation with actions for a delay and then joining an email sequence.

Get the automation:

For those of you subscribed to our Creator Pro plan, Sparkloop has put together a comprehensive guide to setting up a referral program using ConvertKit. We want to make things even easier for you, so we also put together a pre-built referral program automation template you can import straight into your account.

Get the Referral Program automation

5. Cold subscriber re-engagement

When a subscriber stops opening your emails you have two options: reinvigorate their interest or remove them from your list. Luckily, you can make these tasks easier with a simple re-engagement automation.

Why bother removing cold subscribers? Well, parting ways with people who never open your emails could bring your average open and click-through rates up, which is always a mood booster. Plus, keeping only the most engaged subscribers around means you aren’t paying for a higher plan based on an inflated number of subscribers.

Andrea Bosoni, founder of marketing newsletter Zero to Marketing, shared that his must-have newsletter automation is a re-engagement sequence to clean his list:

It's a combination of segmentation and automation. Segmentation allows me to filter my list and group non-openers. Then this group gets sent an email asking them to click on a link to stay subscribed:

“Hey, looks like you're no longer interested in my biweekly marketing case studies, so I won't bother you anymore. But if this is a mistake and you're still interested, you can stay subscribed to my emails by clicking here.”

If they click the link they stay subscribed, otherwise, they either receive a second email (last chance to stay subscribed) or get unsubscribed (still experimenting with this part).

Andrea Bosoni

How to set it up:

1. Go to your Subscribers page and use the Subscribers dropdown to view only “Cold Subscribers.” Click the checkbox at the top of the list, and then use the “Bulk Actions” dropdown to tag cold subscribers as, well, “cold subscribers.”

Newsletter automations
Newsletter automations

2. Next, click on the Rules tab under the Automations section on the top bar. Here, you’ll create a rule that removes the cold subscriber tag if a person clicks on a link indicating they want to stay on your list. Make sure you name the rule with an easily identifiable name (only seen by you) such as “don’t delete me!”
Newsletter automations

3. Then, set up a re-engagement email sequence that’s triggered when someone is added to the “cold subscriber” tag. While you will have to manually go in and add the tag to cold subscribers periodically, everything else after that will run automatically. This re-engagement sequence should start with an email that includes a link trigger to stay on the list, using that “don’t delete me!” rule you just set up.

4. Finally, you can set up a Yes/No split path to unsubscribe people who still have the “cold subscriber” tag after a week. You can add a delay after the re-engagement sequence to give people a chance to respond but then set up a yes/no condition. If they do have the “cold subscriber” tag, unsubscribe the user. If the tag has been removed, they can go back into your newsletter.
Newsletter automations

Get the automation:

Ready to thaw even your coldest subscribers? Grab a copy of our cold subscriber re-engagement automation template today, follow along with our instructions above, and you’ll see your open and click rates rising again in no time.

Get the Cold Subscriber Re-Engagement automation

Automations can still feel personal

Just because your new newsletter automations will be mostly hands-off doesn’t mean they should be devoid of personality. Ideally, your automations will feel more personalized than broadcast messages at times since they’re usually triggered by a subscriber action or engagement. You can still write in your unique style and customize templates to match your branding.

Scaling your newsletter doesn’t mean setting yourself up for creator burnout. Email automations can give you the breathing room you need to keep your newsletter valuable and your subscribers engaged. Give these five automations a try in your ConvertKit account today!

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Steph Knapp

Steph Knapp is a freelance B2B + SaaS content marketer that loves educating and empowering curious humans. When she's not typing away, you'll find her volunteering at the animal shelter and obsessing over a new hobby every week. She shares marketing, freelance, and cat content on Twitter @ hellostephknapp.

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