[Substack #1] Planning the Go To Market

How challenging writing a newsletter can be: finding the topic, demonstrating expertise, developing a personal brand, etc.

[Substack #1] Planning the Go To Market

The only (personal) brand I launched from scratch is this blog, Merci Larry; and since and I didn't have any plan neither expectations to make it grow, I now want to build a new audience from the ground up and use the Substack's network effects to do so.

TL;DR

Objectives. My main goal is to target a niche audience from the ground up through a weekly Substack's newsletter and see how many subscribers (both paid & free) I can get. I want to explore Substack as a platform as well as the go to market process of a service.

What to expect from this Build in public series. I will cover the wins and fails of building a new audience through clear and transparent data sharing. I will also cover the writing side of the newsletter (do I respect the deadlines, content planning, etc.).


Finding a topic

I first looked at how topics were organized on Substack to figure out which category mine might fall into. The idea was also to make sure that the topic ideas I had in mind didn't already exist. Some say you can do better than what already exists but I don't want to start this new side project by duplicating something else.

I then read an interview of Lenny Rachitsky (author of the eponymous newsletter) to get insights about his journey as a writer on Substack and read his 2021's Twitter thread about niche topics. This is exactly where I got lost between the main goal of this side project and the desire to pick a powerful niche topic on which I'm not an expert on.

I already had a lot of ideas to start a newsletter:

  • Career path advices for digital marketers.
  • Data about soccer (I like stories that correlate both data and soccer such as this one about De Bruyne helped by Data Analysts to renegotiate his contract).
  • Intrapreneurship (will be merged in the chosen topic).
  • Growth marketing.
  • Chess (I don't even play chess but I'm sure it's a powerful niche topic for those willing to learn to play chess).
  • AI / neurosciences.

I wrote down these ideas and reflected on them for a few days. I already knew which topic would be the easiest to write about: career path. This is a topic I've been talking a lot in 1to1 meetings with my team. So I decided to introduce them to my side project and listed my ideas: by far, career path was the most popular. And voilĂ , my topic was chosen!

I had the opportunity to ask them about the format they would like to receive in their inbox, the questions they had in mind about their career path. It convinced me that career path was the right topic to choose and to plan the content easily.

Unlike data about soccer for instance, I knew I would be able to write advices and thoughts about career path without having to jump for hours into research and sources but use my personal experience instead.

Time being the main contrainst of this side project; it was finally obvious to choose an easy topic and above that; to have a lot of questions and ideas to answer to and write about in order to best plan the upcoming content.

Content structure

Now that I have the topic, time comes to think about the content structure of my newsletter. I don't want it to be something too long to read as I consider that inboxes are already saturated and that a long form content can discourage readers; especially with a newsletter being sent weekly.

So the question is: how can I best deliver the value proposition to readers and engage them week over week? Especially to paid subscribers as I want to explore this feature of Substack as well.

I will first start with a sort of template like this one:

  • Introduction to remind readers about what the newsletter is about and encouragement to sign up.
  • Detail around the question I will answer in the current issue.
  • TL;DR section for those who want to snack the answer.
  • Full answer with sections.

I also want to write content in advance as the frequency will be weekly but to date, I'm one week late and the first issue is not ready and I plan to publish it tomorrow (as time of writing). So let's see how this one goes!

Promotion

The main idea is to help people by answering common questions about their career path as digital marketers and to do so; the goal is to gain subscribers.

The perfect wheel for success would be recommendations from subscribers but I doubt it will be that easy neither the biggest growth loop. I then plan to promote this newsletter on Twitter by using hastags, answering relevant tweets and summarizing issues in short threads. I know it will be difficult; first because my current followers do not follow me to get career advices and second because the engagement on Twitter decreased a lot recently.

I will eventually post on Linkedin as well but I'm not a fan of the current trend of BS posts and I'm afraid of getting lost in the high saturation of those.

Promotion will certainly be the biggest challenge of this side project, but also the biggest source of learning.


In the next issue of this Build in public series, I will share the first stats and talk about the promotion process of the newsletter.