My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week. I don’t go into depth about the finds, but I encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an […]
From Subscribers to Revenue: A Tactical Guide To Mastering Newsletters written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing
The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Russell Henneberry, a renowned digital marketing consultant, speaker, and the founder of The Clikk newsletter. Our deep dive into the world of email newsletters unveils tactical strategies for transforming subscribers into revenue-generating assets.
Russell shares invaluable insights on the resurgence of email newsletters. As the founder of The Clikk, Russell has witnessed the evolving landscape of newsletters, recognizing them as a powerful intersection of content marketing and direct response promotion.
In this eye-opening discussion, Russell mentions the significance of email newsletters as a prime platform for making direct calls to action. Highlighting the importance of engagement derived from content marketing, he guides us through the balance of providing valuable content while seamlessly integrating strategic calls to action.
[01:51] How have you seen newsletters evolve over the years?
[03:40] Do you believe putting newsletters behind pay walls will have sustainable longevity?
[04:53] What’s your editorial strategy to getting and keeping subscribers?
[06:15] Would you agree that a key approach in Newsletter writing is having a voice?
[09:34] Has a Newsletter writing career always been part of the plan or was it just another digital marketing tactic for you?
[11:18] What is your approach to monetizing?
[15:09] What are some of the metrics that showcase success in Newsletter writing?
[17:17] What approach might you recommend to somebody to build a list?
[20:36] Do you feel like you have a different relationship as an advertiser because of the relationship with your readers??
[21:34] Has AI impacted your thoughts on producing content?
[25:26] Where do you want to invite people to connect with you?
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John (00:52): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Russell Henneberry. He is a digital marketing consultant, speaker and co-author of Digital Marketing for Dummies. He’s the founder of the clikk an email newsletter about digital marketing. Russell also consults and trains employees of companies through his digital advisor program. So Russ, thanks and welcome to the show.
Russell (01:20): Hey, thanks for having me on.
John (01:22): It’s an honor. So do you go by Russell or Russ or Depends on who you’re talking to.
Russell (01:26): It doesn’t matter, but most people call me Russ, but Russ.
John (01:29): Okay. There are
Russell (01:30): Several people.
John (01:30): I just jumped right into it. Alright. I mentioned that you have a successful newsletter called The Click, so I thought we’d talk about newsletters. Newsletters have been around for ages. I’ve been putting one out at least for 20 years myself. How have, and I know that you’ve studied, we are alluding to some of the old timers before we got on the air here, how have you seen newsletters evolve? Because I think they were in sort of phase one of digital marketing. They were kind of a standard tool, but then social media came along and other stuff came along. They fell out of favor. Now they seem to be really back in favor. What do you see happening in the space in general?
Russell (02:10): Well, what I see right now is a return to email newsletters. They’re hot right now, and I think of email as this intersection of content marketing and sort of direct response promotion. Email is still a great place to make and probably the best place to make a direct call to action, which is sort of frowned upon most of the time in social. But when you can take the email and turn it into content so you’re not just continuously pounding your email list with promotions, you can get this sort of best of both worlds where you get that engagement that you get from content marketing plus the bonus big bonus of being able to make direct calls to action.
John (02:58): Yeah, I mean I started mine to share, educate, build, trust, all those things. But let’s face it, it was a way to build an email list. I literally remember people 20 years ago saying, oh, I got your newsletter. I’m so excited. I that was before we got tons and tons of email every day. So in terms of how, I mean I think I look at your newsletter, I subscribe to your newsletter and it is pretty classic format in terms of education. There’s not any new crazy technology necessarily that’s showcased there, but I know it works. I mean, just looking at some of your statistics, I know it works for you, but before we go into that, LinkedIn has newsletters now there are people putting newsletters behind paywalls. Do you see those as approaches that will be with us for a long time because it’s very curated content or do you think the classic approach that you take is still valid today, obviously?
Russell (04:00): Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve looked at moving my newsletter over to things like substack or moving into LinkedIn and publishing there. Personally, I want to be able to control that technology because I want to be able to do some other things with it, and I’m not afraid to mess around with that technology. But I think the barrier to entry into starting a newsletter because of things like substack and then the competitor, their beehive is also something to look at. If you’re looking at starting a newsletter, the guy who I believe was in charge of list growth at Marketing Brew or Morning Brew started beehive. So there’s some really great out of the box options there. I like to have more control over everything, so I end up with sort of that patchwork of tools. But yeah, I mean, getting into the newsletter business is easier than ever today.
John (04:51): Yeah, so getting subscribers is one piece of it, but then keeping them, because it’s worth reading is obviously a huge part of this. What’s your editorial strategy? I’m curious, how do you decide? I’m sure you don’t wake up on Monday and go, here’s what I’m going to write about.
Russell (05:11): Yeah, well, so the content marketing side of the editorial strategy, I’m always in all the top of funnel content and sort of mid funnel content that I produce. I’m looking to either educate, inspire, or entertain, and I do try to get a little bit witty inside of there, and I have some editors that do a pretty good job of helping me not tell too many dad jokes in there. But yeah, I mean my goal when I talk to my editors when I think about my own stuff is that I want to give you something educational, but I want to do it with a spoonful of sugar and that’s that entertainment don’t take myself too seriously angle. I think we see a lot of that because competing against other publishers like say Digiday or Adage or something like that, that are probably a little bit more buttoned up. And so if you like my style, then you’re going to read my stuff and you’re going to anticipate my stuff coming into your inbox.
John (06:12): So you didn’t say it as directly to this, but I mean I think certainly a best practice would be have a voice of some sort that’s going to either repel people or attract people.
Russell (06:23): Right. Yeah, I think a good way to think about this is an exercise you can do when you’re looking for a voice is you can say to yourself, I want to be the blank of blank. So if you know what niche that you’re in, let’s say you’re going to be creating a gardening newsletter, you might say, I want to be the
John (06:43): Seinfeld of gardening newsletter,
Russell (06:45): Jerry Seinfeld of gardening or whatever, of gardening. And that can help you start to box out what maybe you’re looking for from a voice perspective.
John (06:53): Yeah. What would Jerry say? So you threw out the terms top of funnel, middle of the funnel. Maybe explain how you differentiate your content based on maybe where somebody is in a potential buying situation.
Russell (07:08): Yeah. Well, and we were talking about this before you hit record. We were talking about newsletters are a great way to build trust and they’re a great way to connect with people. You’re right there in their inbox and you do that consistently over time. You’re going to build that know and trust, but it’s still making a really high ticket offer. It’s tough to do in an email. So I’m typically looking to get people to engage with my content and then I’m going to ask them to do, so. For example, last week I ran an article and then I said, if you’d like me to shoot you a little video to expand on this and show you some examples, click this link and I’ll tag you in my system or whatever. And so then I shot a Loom video and I sent that out just to people that were tagged and had asked for it. And then inside that video, I make a call to action for a service or a product or a horse or whatever that I’m looking to do, but I only want to do that with people that are really engaged strongest parts of my list. It’s sort of that whole, don’t ask somebody to marry you on the first date type thing. Where we want to kind of build up that know and trust with people over time.
John (08:20): And you make a great point because I think a lot of people they have, you just said a high ticket item, let’s guess at a price $9,700 thing. And the idea that somebody’s going to read a newsletter mean if they’ve been following you for years, they’ve decided time’s, right? But the idea that somebody’s going to click on a button and buy something like that, it really needs to be much more of a dance to get their, doesn’t it?
Russell (08:42): For sure. Whenever I’m talking to anybody in my consulting work about what they’re selling, I try to immediately put it in one of two buckets. I’m putting it in, I can close this deal on a webpage bucket or I put it in, I got to get this person on the phone bucket. And if it’s a phone bucket, which if you’re hitting that 10 K mark, that’s phone bucket for me, you’re going to need to get somebody on the phone. There’s going to need to be a sales process and so forth. You might be able to close that online depending, but probably not. And so those kinds of calls to action are difficult to make in a newsletter. And so what I like to do with that is you’re trying to nurture people towards a phone consultation, and that takes a lot of touch points
John (09:27): Unless you over promise something you can’t actually deliver.
Russell (09:32): There’s always that.
John (09:34): So we’re waiting into monetization. How do you think, actually, let me back up before I ask that question. I want to ask a broader question. Was there a point in time where you said, I’m going to go all in on newsletter, this is how it’s going to fit my business model? Or did it start more as, yeah, this is a normal standard digital marketing tactic?
Russell (09:56): So I kind of did go all in. So we are email first. So I like to think when I’m thinking content marketing, I think about where’s the genesis of this content going to be? And I think podcast, by the way, are a wonderful place to create original content and that’s where it’s born. And then you can hand that out to writers, for example, and have them chop that up into pieces and go out to social with it and cut the video up and different things like that. And my newsletter is that for me, so I produce original content only there in that newsletter, and then that stuff is then chopped up and cut up and put into different places. So the reason I did that is because I was spending a lot of time thinking, well, how am I going to get this person from social media onto my email list and how am I going to get this person from listening to this over here?
(10:43): And I’m from this YouTube video and from my website, and I said, well, why don’t I just start there? Why don’t I just start with them on the email list and focus all the attention there and then I can move them out from there. So just like you could do with a podcast, just like you could do with a YouTube channel is just where are you producing that original material? And then you can then kind go and do what you want with it from there. And a lot of times you can hire somebody to go do a lot of it from there.
John (11:10): So again, now as I alluded to monetization, maybe I’ll just let you much as you’re comfortable sharing about all the ways you think about monetizing, and I know there are some very direct ways that you do it, but I’d love to hear your theory on that.
Russell (11:27): Well, I like to keep it diversified because things go up and down. So for example, I sell advertising and it’s very easy to sell advertising in the fourth quarter because everybody’s fleeing Facebook and Google for cheaper clicks elsewhere because of all the retail ads are cranking up prices and things like that. For me, advertising can be kind of seasonal. So I also sell trainings and courses. I use it to fill my consulting work. If I need a consulting client, I’m going to start working towards that through that list. And so yeah, it’s advertising, it’s consulting, and some info products like courses and so forth.
John (12:14): So if I’m a potential advertiser, I’m guessing top of funnel ads, like list building ads, give away a great resource ebook, lead magnet kind of ads are really what work in a newsletter like yours. They,
Russell (12:28): I think it’s, when I speak to advertisers, I advise them to try to move people from my list onto theirs because people that are reading my newsletter have shown that they use email as a source of information. So it’s smart for them, in my opinion, to use a lead magnet offer or a webinar offer or something like that can move them into that person’s email list because that person is an email reader. But we do get a lot of advertisers that know we want to go straight for free trial or we want to go straight into an offer or something like that. And we’ll do that too, but absolutely love the, and we see great response from people that give out a solid high value lead magnet to my list.
John (14:57): Let’s talk about metrics. Again, going back to when I started, I remember 83, 80 4% open rates. Those days don’t exist for anybody today, but what are some of the metrics that, not just that you should be tracking, but that show you’re doing things right?
Russell (15:18): Well, so when you start to get involved in buying traffic to get subscribers, it becomes pretty important that you’re buying subscribers that are opening because especially if you’re selling ads, because think about it, you might be measuring, for example, your cost per lead and it might be let’s say at a satisfactory $4 per lead, but then you’re finding that these leads are only opening at 30%. Well, are they really only $4 leads when you’re only getting three out of 10 to open? So it really is important to be watching the quality of the subscribers that you’re getting and whether they’re opening, and it might be worth paying six or $8 for a subscriber that will open. And so I do love the idea when you’re running a newsletter of advertising and other newsletters, because again, that person’s shown the propensity to read newsletters and use email as a source of information. So yeah, I mean, it’s the classic ones. Open rates, click rates, cost per lead if you’re buying traffic. I also look at sort of the virality. How can I take any subscriber that maybe I’ve bought right at $4, $6 or whatever and turn that into 1.5 subscribers so I can get them to spread the word and get me. And that cuts. If I can get one every one person to bring somebody else, then I cuts my lead costs in half. And there’s some cool tools out there that can be used to do that
John (16:48): Referral tool. Yeah,
Russell (16:51): Up viral is a cool one that works really well to get people to share and using a unique link and then you can reward them with more content, things like that.
John (17:02): Let’s talk about list building then. Obviously a lot of your success, a lot of your ability to sell ads, a lot of your ability to have reach is that you’re getting subscribers. So what’s kind of your approach or what approach might you recommend to somebody to build a list?
Russell (17:21): Well, so when I started out, I said I want to build a list that advertisers will find attractive. So that’s kind of where my brain started. So that comes down to your ad targeting that you’re going to use when you buy traffic. So I was looking to build a list of people that are doing marketing work for other people. So they’re either agency workers or freelancers, because software companies and service companies oftentimes find these people very valuable, A software company especially where they can roll, if they can get an agency to adopt their tool and roll it to all their clients, that’s a big client for them. So we set out to build that list and that’s on this list, and it’s all comes down to your targeting. And that particular subscriber might cost you more. You might be able to go find other people that would want to read the same content for cheaper, but is that what your advertisers want? And I think if you’re going to sell advertising, you need to be thinking about building a valuable list, not just any old list.
John (18:26): Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, and also if the diversification you want to sell to that list, they should be people that are obviously interested in what you’re selling. So you do recommend buying subscribers, so to speak, or buying at least traffic that you hope to turn into subscribers?
Russell (18:43): Yeah, I mean, if you want to advertise, I think you need to hit that 10 K subscriber mark before they start getting interested. You got to remember that you’re dealing with advertisers that could just go into Facebook and access a limitless, nearly limitless group of people. So there’s an unlimited scale, in other words, inside these other platforms. And so you got to have at least some scale in order for them to take a look. So I do like the idea if you’ve got your advertising packages in place and you’re able to do it, but I don’t recommend that you start there. So with advertisers, your monetization model, I would encourage people to, especially if you’re just getting started to sell services or information products, until you can get to that because you’re going to want to, unless you’re funded and you’ve got a giant dumpster of cash that you want to burn, you’re probably going to need to be r oi if you’re buying traffic and you need to be r oi it a little bit faster. And so you can’t just sit here and build up until you hit 10 K and then start selling advertising. So I would recommend that you sell either even physical products, but physical products or info products or services until you hit that 10 K mark. Then you can add that, start adding in that advertising revenue.
John (20:00): So over the years, I actually sell sponsorships. It’s just kind of a package with our podcast and things like that. But I’ve always felt like, well, now I have a personal relationship with my subscribers. They really see it as me, and a lot of that is on the trust that I don’t try to shove stupid stuff down their throat. So do you sometimes find yourself really having to, we’ve turned away sponsors because we’re like, no, and I mean, they’re obvious ones, but even sometimes where we just don’t feel like that’s a very good tool or a very good resource, we’ll say No. So do you feel like you have a different relationship as an advertiser because of the relationship with your readers?
Russell (20:43): Well, I turn people down all the time, and it’s because it’s just, I’m the end decision maker on all that. But I can see how larger publications must have a battle between editorial and monetization, right? Because you do get people that want to just put your stuff in front and you could just take their money and put it in front of people. But I know that’s not the good long-term strategy for my business, is not to just shove things on their throat. And I can always, if I don’t have an ad to run that, I just run my own stuff. This is sponsored by this course or this whatever, this event that I’m going to or whatever.
John (21:22): Yeah. All right. So I’m going to end on the question that we could have spent the whole time talking about, but I’ve been throwing this into pretty much any conversation, especially about content, but ai, how has that impacted your thoughts about producing content?
Russell (21:42): Well, obviously things are shifting daily with this, so check the date on this podcast because it depends. But what I’m seeing now is every tool that I use is overlaying on top of chat GPT. And so I am using AI every day. The way I use it for content creation is typically for things that would’ve maybe taken me a half hour. For example, I, I won’t go into why, but I needed to have the details of Dwight Eisenhower’s career for a little article I was writing, and I just popped it into chat, GPTI was like, give me a bulleted list of Dwight, and it was done. And because it wasn’t completely crucial, that was even correct, a hundred percent, I just popped it in there. I didn’t even check the information. It all looked pretty, right. So I popped it in there, and if somebody would’ve come back and said, actually, he didn’t start the highway program or something, he did this, I would’ve been like, well, that wasn’t really the point of the article, but I’m using it for stuff like that.
(22:50): I do come down on the side right now that if you are, you’re not creating content that’s better than what CHATT PT can put out. You shouldn’t be creating content. You’re probably not getting any traction anyway. It does lack voice now. I mean, you can get some pretty incredible stuff out of it, but still, in fact, at the top of my newsletter, what I’ve been doing, just to be sort of cheeky, is today I just finished it up and I said, this newsletter was written by a human with real arms and legs and everything. And I do see a world where it’s going to have value for you to state that you’ve chosen to continue to write or produce your content yourself. I think there’ll be other places where people are going to be tolerant of what, I don’t care if that’s a bot that wrote that, or a person, but other places where we are going to find a lot of value in the fact that someone is writing this is a real human with experiences and memories and thoughts and all those things.
John (23:52): Yeah. Well, I’ve definitely am telling people that if you can’t ignore it or you won’t be able to compete, but we’re definitely a long way. In fact, I don’t even think it’s artificial intelligence. I’ve been kind of jokingly switching it around and calling it ia. It’s informed automation is what I really think it is. And just as your example, I mean, imagine if you were trying to come up with a killer headline and you had three or four people sitting around and you all brainstormed it. Well, that’s the way that I use Chad GPT is, it’s like, make this headline better. Give me 10 ideas. And it’s like, there might be one word that I go, yes, that’s the word, but that’s really how I use it almost as a research assistant.
Russell (24:31): Yeah, I mean, it’s open on my desktop right now, and I can’t see myself going away from using it anytime soon. It’s here to stay, so it can’t be ignored. But you and I have both been doing this a long time, so we’ve seen people try to take things like this and look for a shortcut built. I’m sure there’s people building giant content filled websites with AI content in them, and I’ve been doing it long enough to know that in the long run, it’s not going to be a sustainable business model.
John (25:05): Well, and what I love is the Make Seven Figures as an AI consultant courses that are being sold right now, too.
Russell (25:13): Yeah, they’re everywhere,
John (25:16): But such is life. Right. Well, Russ, thanks so much for dropping by and kind of sharing some of your knowledge on the newsletter. The Click we’ll have how to subscribe in the show notes, but certainly anywhere you want to invite people to connect with you,
Russell (25:31): Well, yeah, just come over to the newsletter, the click, CLIK k.com and the subscribe and say hello. You can always reply. I read all the replies to my emails, and then if you want to connect me on social media, I’m Russ Henneberry on LinkedIn.
John (25:46): Awesome. Well, again, thanks for taking a moment out of your day to share with our listeners, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.
Russell (25:53): Yeah, it’s been my pleasure. Thank you.
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