Last summer, I opted-in to an email newsletter called Morning Brew. It was a snappy business newsletter catered towards 25 year old’s. I could tell at the time they were a small group of young marketers, and they were using just about every trick in the book. They are blowing up. After just 4 years, they are:
- Generating $200,000 per week
- Running with almost no overhead
- At over 1 Million subscribers to date
- Currently expanding into 10+ verticals
I watched it all unfold, I’ve done a great deal of research, and now I’m spilling the beans on the reasons for their success.
Here’s How They Did It.
I’m about to list out every component of their success listed in the most logical order I could think of. Some of the components overlap, but I assure you that they each deserve to be called out and analyzed individually. Some of these you will easily recognize, others not so much, there’s truly something for everyone in this. Fell free to borrow any of these proven ideas and incorporate them into your marketing however you see fit!
1) Ultra-Lean Business Model
The idea of a lean business isn’t new, but it’s rare to find a business this lean. The entirety of the morning brew service is a daily email with short-format news highlights in a unique written tone. Their money is made with two specific ad placements that will be discussed in detail below on this page.
2) Single Product to Start
Since the entire business is just a single daily newsletter, that’s their only product. By keeping things this simple, it cuts out a lot of the maintenance and more or less busy work that keeps a lot of startups from getting anywhere. It should be noted that the now have plans to expand their product line by industry vertical, but only because they now have the money to safely reinvest.
3) Simple-as-Dirt Website
I’ve seen simple websites, but Morning Brew takes the cake. Their website is just a squeeze page and a thank you page. That’s it. No wasted time building out a full website on WordPress or maintaining an elaborate custom website.
4) A Single Marketing Funnel
As mentioned above, the website is just a squeeze page and a thank you page. Guess how much they are saving by not paying a team of digital marketers to constantly churn out new campaigns and optimize all of their funnels? A lot. Guess how much time they spend on this. A little.
5) Perfected Squeeze Page
If you’ve got one squeeze page to focus most of your CRO efforts on, that page will convert as high as 60% from icy traffic. Their page has all the elements dialed:
- Simple, benefit-oriented headline
- A great hero shot showcasing value
- A great list of bullet benefits
- A proven high-conversion template
- A lack of navigation
- A clean and provoking CTA
- A powerful testimonial
- No “urgency” (Millennial’s hate this $#!#)
6) Continued Attention Use
After opting in, many companies send leads to a thank you page. Morning Brew harnesses their new leads attention to, not up-sell, but encourage the word of mouth spreading of their newsletter. They do this using a combination of “initial opt-in excitement” and incentives, which will be discussed later on this page.
7) Hyper-Specific Messaging
In an interview, one of the Co-founders of Morning Brew revealed that they built an avatar or buyer persona or ideal buyer around an actual person. By doing this, they made the product hyper-relatable to anyone who was similar to this person, but repulsive to anyone else.
In 2019’s competitive landscape for attention, this is necessary to break through the noise and be heard by a dedicated group of like-minded people.
8) Clear Value Proposition
Headline: “Become Smarter in Just 5 Minutes.”
Sub-headline: “Join us and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley.”
There’s no way to misinterpret the value to be gained by joining their newsletter. If you want to be smart and “in the know” about key business happenings, you’ll join. Their single displayed testimonial is also worth highlighting here: “For the first time, I read news about business and didn’t fall into an unconscious daydream.”
It showcases the non-dull, won’t bore you with numbers angle of their newsletter. Not to mention, their hero shot is of a newsletter on an iPhone, and the newsletter illustrates that same tone.
9) Top-Quality Writing
There’s no doubt that the content in Morning Brew’s newsletter is incredibly well done. The news is thoroughly researched, deciphered and packed into a written format that feels more like a classic Nick at Night TV show than a news article.
10) Direct-Response Editing
Make no mistake, these Morning Brewer’s are from the school of direct response. They make sure you get drawn in, they make sure they hold your attention, they make sure their ads get seen, they make sure to get everything you want, and they make sure they get you to do everything they want… More on this from here down.
11) Bait and Switch Subject Lines
It’s reported that they maintain 45% open rate on their email list (although this is subject to how clean they keep it). You couldn’t say that they use clickbait for subject lines, but they ride the line on it. They know how effective it is to bait the open, but they know there audience would turn on them if they used straight clickbait. The middle ground is a bait and switch subject line, in which they peak your curiosity, get you to open the email, then lead with something else. They always make a point to answer what was addressed in the subject line, but it comes later, typically buried, in the email.
12) Format Disruption
In most email provider GUI’s, email senders have an icon or profile image that populates next to their name. In most cases, the image is cropped in the shape of a circle. When Morning Brew sends you an email, you’ll notice their icon is a vibrant branded logo (a coffee mug) with a transparent background. Against all the other circle shapes, the shape of a coffee mug is prominent in your email inbox.
13) Frequency Training
By sending an email every single business day (and some weekend days) without fail does something more than just provide Morning Brew with the opportunity to pump up their ad revenue…
It is a known fact in email marketing that if you establish a strong cadence from the start with your emails, customers will, more or less, expect your content at that strong frequency and be less irritated than had you suddenly ramped up. With approximately 250 emails sent in a single year, one can imagine the amount of ad revenue to be generated, even from just one engaged email subscriber.
14) Content Chunks
God forbid I say the content is snack-able. (Worst marketing jargon ever devised) But their content is broken out into chunks that are easy to consume as a reader. If one section bores you, it’s easy to move to the next. Each section is also prominently labeled so it’s easy to find which sections interest you the most.
15) In-House Native Ads
This is where Morning Brew really shines. They have ads, but they feel exactly like their editorial content… and no, it’s nothing like your stand advertorial-style ads that feel like they always end with a “gotcha.” That’s because they clearly mark the content as sponsored, and they actual write the ads for their advertisers in-house. In this way, they can ensure that the ads will never run a reader the wrong way, which goes a long way for elongating the lifetime of their subscribers.
16) Friction-less Sponsorship’s
Morning Brew also has sponsorship’s at the top of each email, a.k.a. “Brought to you by w/e.” Many times, marketers go overboard with this kind of stuff (like Mercedes Benz in Jurassic World). However, Morning Brew restricts advertisers to a single small logo at the top, which keeps it tolerable.
17) Sustainable Monetization
One of the hardest things to accommodate for in a start up (let alone any business) is cash flow. Often times, publisher-type business are forced to make ends meet by ramping up ad frequency. Do you know what happens when you ramp up ad frequency in your content? You generate higher returns in the short-term, at the expense of the longevity of your average customer lifetime value (which is infinitely more important. Morning Brew has never once sent an unwarranted batch of ads to its users in hopes of a short-term game, and that’s because they thought this through and accounted for it.
18) Cheap Channel Focus
Email is the cheapest channel that works. Yes messenger bots and SMS have high click rates, but those are channels which most feel are intrusive and spammy. Email is as cheap as you can go without crossing that line (if you’re careful).
19) Referral Incentives
You’re incentivized to refer friends on the thank you page just after opting in. Oh, and at the end of every email. That gives them dozens or hundreds of opportunities to get referrals out of their existing subscribers.
They incentive in three ways:
- General willingness to share
- Special Sunday newsletter access
- T-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc.
20) Culture of Statuses
Your progress in the referral program is tracked. Even better, the progress is shown in each email with a dynamic meter. This simple tactic gives off a feeling of status. Are you a die hard Morning Brewer, or are you not? This promotes sharing even more so than standalone incentives.
21) Humor, Done Correctly
You’ve probably seen a lot of attempts at humor in advertising throughout your life. Most of them leave prospects with a black face of boredom, or worse, leave them literally cringing at the ad and telling whoever around them how bad it was.
That’s because humor is hard, but Morning Brew does a pretty good job of it. You’ll notice after reading a newsletter or two from them that they weave a light-hearted, intellectual sense of humor throughout.
22) Subliminal Triggers
It’s no coincidence that the Morning Brew sends their newsletter around the same time that you’d be getting your first cup of Joe for the day. When you’re first sit at your desk with your coffee, open your email, and see a bunch of work emails, and one that’s called Morning Brew, which one are you going to read first?