Stephen: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the Digital Masters Podcast. Today we have on Nicholas Scalice from growthmarketer.co and we’re going to be going into newsletters. How do you make a successful one? How do you make one that people want to read? We’re going to go into how you create that.
How do you create a lead magnet to get people to sign up? Then how do you think through paid ads so that you can accelerate the growth of your newsletter? So let’s get into it, Nicholas.
Hey man. Thanks for being on the show today.
Nicholas: Hey, what’s up Stephen? Great to be here.
Stephen: Yeah. You’re my first TikTok guest. You’re the first friend I’ve made on TikTok so far. So I appreciate it. Yeah, I’m having fun on TikTok. I know you are, too.
Nicholas: It’s a great platform. Yeah. I’ve only been on there for I think two months now, but it’s amazing how much engagement goes on there.
I’m trying to get everybody else on there too right now. But it’s an uphill battle because everyone thinks it’s just a silly dance app for kids. Crazy.
Nicholas: It’s like deja vu because you remember when people said the same thing about Facebook and then the same thing about Instagram. Facebook’s kind of old hat, old news, but Instagram, that’s where all the businesses are now.
And you can imagine someone saying, ‘Oh, we don’t want to do anything on Instagram right now because that’s where all the kids are hanging out.’ Yet that’s exactly what they’re saying about TikTok.
Stephen: Yeah. And I always tell people, too, people are going there to get entertained and they’re not going onto LinkedIn to get entertained.
So yeah. Might as well go somewhere where people are going on purpose. Absolutely. Cool.
So then, I think you did two or three TikToks that covered newsletters. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to bring somebody on who’s doing a successful one and also because a lot of people think TikTok is for kids.
They think email’s dead and newsletters don’t work. Yeah. So speak a little bit about that. Maybe talk about the success of your newsletter and then maybe dispel the myth that email newsletters are dead.
Nicholas: Yeah. So I think the main thing is when people think of a newsletter, they’re probably thinking of going to some website and you see some box that says, subscribe for updates, get the news. And it’s something super generic, super boring.
And then you’re going to get something every week or more frequently, where it’s just a bunch of garbage that you don’t care about.
That’s not what I’m advocating for. What I recommend is finding whatever you’re passionate about. Whether it’s a hobby, or it’s something related to your work or whatever you’re experienced at, and creating some really good content consistently. It can be curating content from other sources and just packaging it up, or deep-diving into one specific topic.
Send it every week or every month. Focus on one specific niche, that’s the secret sauce. I think we’ve seen a resurgence of newsletters in this format over the past year and a half. So when this was starting to trend upward again, I said, ‘Hey, let me give it a go.’
Because I had done newsletters in the past, but they were more like that old boring style. And I said, ‘Hey, let me give it a shot.’ What I’m passionate about is growth marketing. Let me create a newsletter for all-around growth marketing. So I launched Growth Marketer Weekly, where it’s just one short email that curates the very best growth marketing news, tools, and insights every Thursday and it’s free. I was able to scale that up from zero to about 4,200 subscribers in about a year.
Stephen: Are you linking to a bunch of different articles or are you summarizing everything, or both, in your newsletter?
Nicholas: Yeah, it’s a little bit of both. I’ve seen great newsletters do both, I’ve seen somewhere it’s like, there’s one called Morning Dough. It’s a fantastic newsletter for marketers and people interested in business. I had the creator of it on my podcast a while back.
What he does very well is short little snippets, like one sentence, and he links out to 20 or 30 different resources, which is amazing. I’ve seen others where it’s maybe 10 links, but there’s a good paragraph for each one. So I’ve tried to do a blend of both.
I have three sections in the newsletter. I start with news, like what’s happening in the news? Was there a market company acquisition or a big change from Google or Facebook, which there always is. The second section is tools and the third section is insights.
For each of those, I have four links in each section. With the first link, I go into a little more detail and I’ll have a featured image and I’ll have one or two paragraphs about that resource.
And then for the other three links in each section, it’s just like one sentence. So I try to mix it up and do a blend.
Stephen: Got it. And so is it formatted, an HTML style thing where it’s not like just a text email, is it formatted?
Nicholas: I don’t use custom HTML templates cause I find those are hard to work with.
And so I’m using ActiveCampaign. I love ActiveCampaign. For my agency business, we do a lot of ActiveCampaign consulting, so it’s a really good fit for us. And it’s a fast-growing platform. It’s not the best fit for everyone because it is a little bit more on the pricey side. And it has some features that the average newsletter creator may not need if that’s all they’re using it for, but for us, it works well.
And they have a very nice visual sort of Wiziwig front-end email builder that is not the Rolls Royce of email builders, but it does enough where it lets us build something, without having to dig into the code, that looks pretty nice.
Stephen: Gotcha. Cool. Who is the target for this email?
Like what types of people are signing up for the newsletter?
Nicholas: Yeah, because it’s called Growth Marketer Weekly it attracts marketers. If a marketer knows what growth marketing is. I find that a lot of folks still aren’t familiar with that term.
We’re just talking about a more data-driven marketing approach, something that’s more about results in numbers and less about the creative side of marketing, more about driving results. That’s the type of target audience that I’m going after.
I also find a lot of agency owners like it, a lot of coaches and consultants and folks who may not consider themselves growth marketers, but they certainly want to learn, ‘How can I bring better results to my business using a very data-driven and results-driven approach?’
Stephen: Got it. Okay. These people that are getting this newsletter, I know some are and some aren’t, but are they potential clients, or are they people that you’re building a community around? Like how did you think that part through?
Nicholas: Yeah. This was something that I still go back and forth with because I have an agency, a consultancy business that I run called Earnworthy. When I launched Growth Marketer, I wanted to do it as a separate brand.
A lot of people said that was a mistake. I’m still not a hundred percent sure if it was the right decision or not, but the way I see it is I want to keep the agency business separate. I want to keep this as just a content business.
The goal is to continue to monetize it through one-on-one coaching and also through courses. I’ve already launched one course. I’m in the process of revising that course and then eventually monetizing it with a paid community.
I’ve stayed away from sponsorships for now, but I’ve done some affiliate marketing, which has worked out pretty well in some of the newsletter editions.
But yeah, to answer your question. So it’s a separate entity from the agency side. I try to keep it separate because I don’t think this audience is always the best fit for the agency services that we offer because our agency is very specific. We only do a few things. We do landing pages and we do email marketing.
And even there, there are only specific tools and types of businesses that we work with. So I didn’t want to open the flood gates and say we can offer marketing services to everyone. And so for that reason, I tried to partition it out and make the monetization route a lot different for the GrowthMarketer brand.
Stephen: That’s cool. But my guess is if you’re out there establishing yourself as someone that’s helping other marketers, people still probably end up coming to you through that. Like they’re like, ‘Hey yeah, Nicholas said that. What do you do exactly? Can we talk?’
Nicholas: Exactly. And the other way I’ve seen it help is people will find our agency just through the normal process that they would find the agency.
And they won’t know about the newsletter or my podcast or all my content, but then in the process of finding our agency, they’ll discover those entities and that’ll help make the selling process on the agency side so much easier because now they feel like they can relate to who they’re speaking with and they know what our style is.
We’ve also had direct clients come from the podcast and the newsletter as well. Sometimes it’s hard to track that stuff.
Stephen: One of the things I’m always trying to educate people to understand is the way things work online, that people can end up finding you in such random ways. People always want to know, ‘How is this person going to find you?’
Nicholas: It’s crazy.
Stephen: And it’s hard to convey. It’s hard to convince people of things, but it’s hard to demonstrate this concept to someone who’s building their business the very traditional way, through networking groups and all that kind of stuff.
Sometimes when I’m trying to explain it, it’s almost like a bridge too far for them to believe that these connections can be made. Even though you’re talking about another thing, somehow it ends up benefiting your business, even though the topics aren’t even directed at the same people.
Nicholas: Exactly. And I think a lot of it has to do with content, which, better than anyone you’re creating amazing content on TikTok, on other channels, and through this podcast.
All the successful agencies out there, have an aura of content around them, whether it be a podcast, a newsletter, a blog, social media, or events. And that’s going to drive those leads because without content, really? What do you have? You have a sales pitch and that’s not going to be enough these days to stand out from the crowd.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. The only way it works is if somebody just referred you and there’s already that level of trust. Everyone’s saying, ‘I’m the best.’
Stephen: You’ve got to prove it. You’ve got to show it. Everyone’s defenses are up. You’ve gotta throw stuff out there and just let people see what you’re all about, your personality.
And I still think the best part about it is that most of the time, the people who call already vibe with you because they know you. They’ve seen your personality. Then when they first reach out, they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve been watching you for a while.”
Nicholas: That’s especially why I like podcasts.
I think that’s where I’ve seen the biggest personal impact on our agency business because when someone tells me, ‘Oh, I’ve been listening to your podcast,” that is such an intimate experience that they get to know you because they listen to you every week. Or even if they’ve only listened to you a couple of times a month, it’s still such a consistent experience.
You know, you’ve got your headphones in, maybe you’re at the gym, maybe you’re driving. And so they get to know who you are. So much more than if they just did a 15-minute consultation with you. And it just makes the sales process so much easier.
Stephen: Yeah, for sure.
Okay. Let’s pretend we’re all bought in. Newsletters work.
You also did one on lead magnets. This is another place where people get stuck. It’s, ‘Okay, I know the concept of a lead magnet. I’m giving something away for free. I’m going to collect an email address and give the free item to them once they sign up.’ How does somebody start to think through what that lead magnet is going to be?
Am I going to create one of them? Am I going to create two or three? How do I just pick something? And if I’m not going to do paid ads, how do I even test to see if it works?
Nicholas: Yeah. Good questions. So I’ve always liked to tie everything together and try to benefit from one thing with another thing. So to answer the question of what lead magnet you create, I think you have to ask your audience, what do they need help with?
So for instance, if you sign up for GrowthMarketer Weekly, you’re going to get an email that’s going to say, ‘Hey, what’s your number one growth marketing challenge?’
And the responses I get. Oh, it’s amazing because you’ll get a, I get about a 40% response rate on that. This still amazes me because people know it’s an automated email, but they still reply, which is amazing. I reply to every single person. I try to give some insight if they ask an actual question. But the thing is not only is that going to help you from a deliverability standpoint, because now they’ve replied to your newsletter, which is fantastic, but you can then take all of those answers, put them in a spreadsheet, you can automate all this and you can start seeing trends.
I did this a long time ago and I saw that people wanted to know what are the things I need to do to get my landing page ready for launch. And I created a landing page checklist because of that feedback I was getting. Whether you do it that way, or whether you just have an audience in front of you and say, ‘Hey, what do you want to learn about?’
You just got to get your audience in front of you and figure out what are the challenges that they have, see where those trends are. And then that’s going to give you the insights as to what your lead magnet or lead magnets should be.
Stephen: That answer seems way too simple. Right after this, I’m going to do the same thing on mine. Just, ‘What is your biggest challenge?’
Yeah, it seems I feel like some of these answers, and it’s the same when I’m helping my clients, my answer is always super simple. But I think that’s good.
And then I suppose you can also just ask people on social media, ‘Hey, what are your challenges?’ And yeah. You might not get as many…
Nicholas: Notice the trends.
Stephen: Yeah. And then do you just start with one lead magnet or do you create a couple to try different ones out? How do you recommend people do that?
Nicholas: Yeah. That’s where the format is so difficult to figure out.
What’s the best format for something? Because when I knew I wanted to do a lead magnet about landing pages, I originally did an email course. It was a three-part course that you would get over the period of a week and that totally bombed.
And then I did this very simple checklist that took me a half-hour to create. And it did amazing.
So I do think a lot of it has to do with trial and error. So, asking the question to your audience is going to point you in the right direction, but then you still have to shoot a lot of arrows at the board to figure out what’s the right format. What’s the exact wording to use?
I have one lead magnet that’s a landing page framework. I have another one that’s a landing page checklist. The checklist is much simpler and it does a lot better.
In my opinion, the framework is more valuable because it took me a lot longer to create. I think it’s more strategic. That’s where you just have to test different things with your audience and test different formats.
Stephen: Yeah, I think that’s another major key. People don’t want to put in any effort unless they know it’s going to work.
Nicholas: Just give me the results. Give me the quick, short, cheat code. Yeah.
Stephen: Obviously, it’s never going to work that way and nothing in life does, but somehow, people just assume that there’s a magic formula for marketing.
When I got into marketing, one of the things that started making me interested in it is, partly what you were talking about in the growth marketing thing, it’s not just creative stuff like websites.
It’s an entrepreneurial tool.
That’s, yeah, you do make an assumption. You try it out, you see what happens and then you take that feedback and you improve what you’re doing from there. And to your point, maybe just trying the smallest thing, the easiest thing, and allowing yourself to do that and give yourself the freedom to do that.
Because people want to over-complicate it. And then they don’t want to invest and then they never figure it out. And then, it just spirals down from there.
Nicholas: Yeah. And the other thing is people often make their lead magnets about themselves, as the business owner.
And you just have to remember, nobody cares about you. Nobody cares about me. Nobody cares about anyone but themselves. And I know that’s so harsh and I hate saying it, but it’s so true. And so I have to over-emphasize it. You have to make every piece of marketing content about your audience. How are you going to help them?
And just always remember, ‘What’s in it for me, what’s in it for me.’ That’s what people are thinking. So I see these pricing guides. ‘Hey, download our pricing guide!’ And sometimes it’ll work, but it’s so much better if you just create something that is absolutely a hundred percent value-focused on what your audience needs right now.
Stephen: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Okay.
And then you also talked about paid ads that were driving traffic to your lead magnets. How many of the 4,200 that you have came from organic traffic versus you investing a little bit of cash to get people?
Nicholas: Yeah, I’d say it’s about a third of the list. So from the last time I looked at it, about a third is paid acquisition. A third is organic and the final third is by referral. Cause I have a nice referral system built in, which I don’t know if that’s technically organic or if it’s a hybrid because they probably originally either came from paid or organic, then they referred friends.
I have this nice tier system where you can get a sticker, you can get a t-shirt, you can get actual physical paperback books. Some of my favorite marketing books, depending on how many people you refer to GrowthMarketer. And I use a tool called viral loops, viral-loops.com, to run that program. But there’s a lot of other programs that do this as well.
And yeah, I’d say it’s one-third each split in those three different categories.
Stephen: Oh, that’s very interesting. I hadn’t even really thought about that. So how do you integrate that referral program? Does it say at the bottom of your emails that, ‘Hey, if you refer somebody then these are some things that you can get?
Nicholas: Exactly. Yeah. Your best opportunity is to promote it inside your newsletter, but you can also promote it externally as well. For people that might visit your site, if you know that they’re a subscriber, because now marketing tools are so sophisticated, it can tell if you’re cookied as a subscriber, if you’re clicking through from a newsletter going to the site, I know if someone’s a subscriber or not, so I can show them a pop-up, but I’d say most of it comes from within the newsletter.
There’s a section at the bottom. I think the headline I’m using right now is, ‘sharing can be rewarding.’ Which sounds cool. I have the little photos of, ‘Hey, if you refer people, you can get a pack of stickers. You can get a t-shirt and you can get books.’ And, there’s a cost to it, of course, because I mail out the stickers.
That’s, I dunno, a couple of dollars plus the cost of postage. For the t-shirts, I use a service called Printful where it’s print-on-demand. The books are the hardest because I have a lot of international subscribers and shipping books internationally, especially with COVID has been expensive. If they’re going to refer 25 or more people to the newsletter, there’s a value there to do it.
And there’s also the residual of once someone gets something they’re most likely going to share it on social. So there’s a nice little letter they’re going to get and ‘Hey, share it on social and post a picture.’ And so that creates some more viral attention.
Stephen: Yeah, that’s awesome. And I think that the main thing that I keep hearing is that you went pretty deep on this.
Not only are you creating good content, but then you’re doing this referral program. Cool.
So then tell me about the paid ads. How much does it cost to get someone to subscribe?
Nicholas: Yeah it’s always fluctuating. I would say a ballpark when I’m trying to target a North American audience, it’s like a dollar to three to maybe four.
So I’d say $1 to $4 to get a subscriber. And I’m still not happy with, ‘Do I want to pay $4 for a subscriber?’ No, but it’s like fuel that can then fuel some organic growth for the newsletter. Cause I do have that referral program built in, right? One subscriber to me is very valuable because they could refer others.
And I look at it as an experiment, so I’m willing to spend a little more because I’m able to test different things out and learn from it and stay up on what’s happening with Facebook ads and Google ads. I used to run a lot of paid ads for our agency, but I don’t do that anymore.
So now, the only time I play around with paid advertising is for my own content, so that’s why I’m playing around with it. But I would say for people just starting, I would not recommend focusing solely on paid because that is something where you have to keep shoveling money into the fire.
I didn’t start with paid. I started with organic and then I introduced paid after I had a nice organic list built up.
Stephen: Yeah. I think that’s another point, that if it’s not going to work organically, then there’s no point…
Nicholas: Yeah. I got to prove it first.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. That’s cool.
Are you able to track paid ads to see how many customers you get from them? How do you think that through? You’ve mentioned that you’ve gotten customers from it. Are you able to calculate the cost to get that client or anything like that? Or is that a little bit…
Nicholas: I probably could. I just haven’t focused on that yet. Cause you know, at the end of the day, all this growth marketer stuff I do because I’m passionate about it and I love sharing. I have not tried to monetize it beyond some affiliate marketing and a few courses. But I’m sure if I wanted to, I could always ask new prospects, if they mentioned the podcast, how’d you hear about us?.
But that’s an area I need to focus on when it becomes more of a priority.
Stephen: Yeah. From my point of view, I don’t do some of that stuff either because I have the same mindset you do. But I do know that certain people ask me those things.
Especially when I’m working with an accountant or a CPA. The first thing is that they’re so unemotional about this stuff. They just want to know ROI, just like that.
Stephen: Yeah. They want that final number, which is a fair question. But I think all this stuff is attribution.
Nicholas: Like an indirect ROI.
Stephen: I think if you understand how these networks work and how people interact, you can relax a little bit. You’re building brand equity all over the place. And I think if you’re understanding that, then you don’t have to worry so much about it.
Stephen: Cool, man, I think this was huge, honestly. Especially the topic. So many people are misled.
So I want to jump into underrated-overrated. I’m gonna throw a few words at you. Just want your quick opinion. If you want to go a little deeper on it, then we can.
Nicholas: Underrated. That’s where I met you.
That’s where I’ve been seeing the most engagement in just two months. I’ve been able to grow to 4,000 subscribers, which I know is nothing compared to what a lot of people have, but there’s a high level of engagement there. It’s fun. And I do think that the business opportunities are going to follow.
Advertisers are going to keep flooding the market and it’s going to get a little more difficult, but right now this is the time to jump on TikTok.
Stephen: Yeah, I think so, too. And you become a better creator fast. Yeah. You have the opportunity to grow fast but it is also pretty competitive.
Nicholas: You learn new stuff and new tools. I’m still surprised at how many cool tools I hear about, like marketing tools that I never knew about, just from watching a few TikTok videos. But you have to balance out the consumption side of it with the creative side. So make sure if you’re getting on TikTok, make sure you’re creating content, not just consuming content.
Stephen: Yeah. Whenever I’m consuming, I try to make it active, make sure my brain is engaged and I’m trying to learn something. Otherwise, you’re like, ‘Oh crap. 30 minutes just went by.’
Nicholas: YouTube is an area that I have made it a goal to focus on in the second half of this year. I hadn’t been putting a lot of attention into it. Now, I’m starting to post more, at least one video per week. I just put a video up there. Absolutely. And like I was saying before, I try to repurpose as much as possible and connect everything.
So if you’re going to create TikTok content with one specific idea that you’re going to share, that’s a short version of the idea. You can take that same idea and expand it into a YouTube video. Then you can tell people to go check out your YouTube channel for the full video.
So there’s a lot of interconnectivity around the same idea using these different platforms. But YouTube is the number two search engine in the world owned by the number one search engine.
So absolutely get on there if you have video content to share.
Stephen: I don’t have a big channel but I’ve doubled the number of subscribers by pushing my TikToks over there as shorts.
Nicholas: Oh, nice. You’ve been using shorts?
Stephen: Yeah. I push it over there and I get way more views from my shorts than I do for longer ones because YouTube is pushing them.
Nicholas: Are you just uploading the TikTok video without the watermark?
Stephen: I do. Yeah. I use Snapchat or one of those things to pull it off.
Stephen: And then I just started posting. One of the videos got over 10,000 views.
Nicholas: Oh, wow.
Stephen: And 300 likes and it had 90 dislikes too.
There’s a funny story about that one. It was one that I didn’t want to go there. I was going to tell my wife don’t publish. And she published it anyway.
Nicholas: Those are usually the best videos.
Stephen: It ended up being the one that jolted me. I was like, ‘Oh, okay. So there’s potential here.’
Nicholas: LinkedIn is like a thorn in my side. I feel like you have to be on LinkedIn because that’s the professional network. But the content there is atrocious. It’s getting worse. I follow some people on TikTok that all they do is make fun of LinkedIn posts and how sad it’s gotten.
So I think they’re going to have to do something to change it. It’s just not a culture that is unique from anything else. It’s just another place to put content. And so for the time being, I minimally engage on LinkedIn, but I’m not going to go all-in on LinkedIn until it changes.
Stephen: Yeah. And the main thing that I think they’re missing is they released this Creator Mode which for the most part just moves your profile around and lets you add hashtags. And my thought was, ‘Hey, instead of calling us creators, why don’t you give us tools to make better content?’
That’s why TikTok is flying because their algorithm is good and the app to create videos is cool.
Nicholas: Yeah. It’s easy. It’s fun. And they, yeah. They give you a chance to get your content in front of people.
Building a community.
Nicholas: That is super important and a newsletter can be a great way to do this.
Again, going back to that connectivity I’ve built a lot of Facebook groups over the years. I want to build a paid community for GrowthMarketer. Cause there’s the interest there. And I think that’s the next natural thing in the chain.
So if you are going to start a newsletter, don’t just think about it as a newsletter. Think about it as the first step into building a community. So an email list is a community of sorts. It’s just a one-way community because you’re speaking to that list.
And I think the next step is, if anyone listening out here already has a newsletter, to consider building a community, whether it’s on Facebook, on Slack, on Discord, on a paid platform like Circle, which is built specifically for this, there’s a huge opportunity there.
Stephen: Yeah. I’m going to start one on Mighty Networks. Have you heard of that?
Nicholas: I’ve been hearing a lot of really good things about them.
Stephen: Yeah, it’s cool, man, you should check it out. It’s integrated courses, integrated payments, paid, free, all these different options. There’s a couple of things that I’ve already told them that are clunky about it. But that’s the one that I was able to dig into real easily.
Nicholas: I remember when they launched years ago, looking at them, and ah, this is a joke. Nobody’s going to sign up for this.
Stephen: They’ve been around now.
Nicholas: They have. Yeah, but they did a huge rebrand a few years ago. And in the last year, I’ve heard so much. I hear about them and I hear about Circle, which is pretty popular.
I think the thing stopping me from Mighty Networks is I have my courses hosted on Podia. And so it just wouldn’t make sense to still use Podia as a course platform and use Mighty Networks for the community.
Stephen: Mighty Networks takes care of both.
Nicholas: So I just need to convince myself that I want to move everything over to Mighty Networks.
Stephen: All right. Cool, man. I appreciate you being on. Tell people exactly what you do and where they can get a hold of you.
Nicholas: Yeah, so probably the best thing to do is check out growthmarketer.co . That’s where you can sign up for my free newsletter if any of this stuff interests you.
I share marketing tips every single week. It’s free. It’s growthmarketer.co .
Stephen: Cool man. Yeah. And check them out on TikTok, too. He has lots of awesome tips. Dude, appreciate you jumping on here, man. This has been an awesome conversation. One of the best podcasts so far.
Nicholas: Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you, Stephen.
Looking forward to having you on my podcast shortly. Yeah. So yeah, this was great. Cool.
Stephen: Alright, man. I’ll see you later.
Nicholas: Take care.
Reach out to Nicholas: