How these 5 creators use newsletter referrals to grow their business

Your newsletter is the gateway to growing your creator business.

As your subscriber count grows, you can make more money from your paid newsletter, charge sponsors, and sell a higher number of your products or services.

But as a solopreneur, it’s challenging to grow your newsletter and run the rest of the show. You only have so much time in the day.

That’s where newsletter referrals come into play for busy creators. By using the power of your audience’s network, you can grow your newsletter fast without needing to spend hours of your time hustling to get more subscribers.

Sound too good to be true? Here’s how creators grow their email lists 35% faster with a newsletter referral program.

What is a newsletter referral program?

“I’ve gotten so many referrals from sources I’d never have reached,” explains Corey Haines, the creator of Swipe Files, when asked about his newsletter referral program.

Creators like Corey set up newsletter referral programs to ask subscribers to let their friends and online audiences know about the creator’s newsletter. Anytime you’ve seen someone share something as simple as, “Share this newsletter with a friend by clicking here,” you’ve experienced a newsletter referral program. In return for sharing with 5 friends, Corey gives subscribers discounts on his products.

Use discounts to get your subscribers to share your newsletter with their friends and online audience. Image via Corey Haines.

“What I love most is that it gets buy-in from my whole newsletter list to help me grow with real, tangible benefits,” Corey continues, “I’m all for incentivizing the action that you want, and so even beyond the quantitative benefits of list growth, I feel good about rewarding subscribers who go the extra mile for me.”

Creators choose between different incentives to get subscribers to participate in their referral program. Corey uses discounts on products, but other options are:

  • Free products/merch
  • Credits
  • Donations
  • Cash
  • Early access
  • Exclusive newsletter content
  • Sponsored incentives

Newsletter referral programs help creators grow their email list, lower how much they have to spend to get customers and grow their creator business on a budget.

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Why do creators use newsletter referral programs?

Newsletter referral programs work so well because of networks. Every subscriber on your list has a network of like-minded friends, family, and followers who would love to read your newsletter. This turns each subscriber into a mini-sales person for your creator business.

If every subscriber you currently have helped you get just one more subscriber—you’d double your email list. Imagine if, on average, each subscriber could help you get 3 new subscribers? You could triple your email list without doing anything other than asking your subscribers to share your newsletter with a friend.

This is a simplified version of Metcalfe’s Law that shows the power of building out a network of subscribers or users for a product or service.

Every subscriber has a network of people they can share your newsletter with. Image via Explified.

Now, imagine that you *kept* asking your subscribers to share your newsletter. Your newly tripled subscriber count continues to grow faster and faster as your subscribers continue bringing in 3 more new subscribers. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, huh?

Depending on your creator business, newsletter growth has a different impact. Creators are generally looking to grow their newsletter for 3 reasons.

#1: Grow subscriber counts

Some creators focus entirely on getting more subscribers. Their end goal is to have a larger audience to sell their products or service to, have a paid newsletter that brings in a consistent income, and/or connect with sponsors that will pay for promotions. Growing your subscriber count is the most common reason creators set up a newsletter referral program.

Brennan Dunn’s referral program for his newsletter Create & Sell has helped him grow his list by 9.9%.

#2: Lower acquisition costs

Creators with products or services want more people to sell them to. They’re looking for ways to make it easier and cheaper to get more potential customers. Instead of using paid ads on social media or Google, they look to their email list to decrease the cost of acquiring a customer.

Louis Nicholls found that on average, it costs $1-$3/customer on other acquisition channels, but with a newsletter referral program, creators see a newsletter referral cost of $0.17/subscriber.

#3: Budget beating strategy for growing a small business

Creators don’t usually get VC funding. They’re bootstrapping their passion projects which means they have to find strategic ways to grow their business without breaking the bank. To get their creator business to the next level, they use a newsletter referral program to grow their online audience to get more paid newsletter subscribers, sell more products, or land those 4-figure sponsorship deals.

Get more subscribers and customers while spending less money—and all you have to do is spend 14 minutes setting up a newsletter referral platform? Creators are smart, and they know that a referral program turns subscribers into salespeople that can help them scale.

Here’s how 5 successful creators set up their referral programs (grab some inspo from them!).

5 examples of creators using newsletter referral

See how these 5 creators use a newsletter referral program to grow their creator business—and how you can launch your own.

#1: Creator Wizard

Every Thursday, Justin Moore sends creators brand deals in his newsletter Creator Wizard. He currently has 6,025 subscribers thanks to his referral program, “The biggest factor in the growth of my newsletter over the last 2 years has been my referral program through Sparkloop.”

Justin uses referral perks, like 1-1 coaching and free enrollment to his $2,000 course, to incentivize his subscribers to use the program. “I also made the first tier very easy to get (‘refer 1 creator and get access to my secret brand deal research!’). It’s been a game-changer!”

By giving his subscribers a quick win for referring a friend, he incentives a faster referral. For every subscriber, he can try to get a minimum of just one more. That can double his subscriber count in a matter of weeks!

Make it easy for your subscribers to get a quick win by referring a friend. Image via Justin Moore.

#2: The Pickler

The Pickler is a newsletter dedicated to the sport of pickleball. Subscribers use The Pickler to learn how to play the sport better without spending money on a trainer. Since pickleball is a group activity, Stacie Townsend, the founder of The Pickler, knew early on that each of her subscribers had to know more people interested.

“As a creator, your biggest supporters are those who have already subscribed to your newsletter. So, the referral program allows your subscribers to share their love for your content, which in our case is the sport of pickleball. Plus, the referral program incentivizes your subscribers and rewards them for sharing, which allows you to continue to engage on another level with your biggest supporters.” Stacie set up her referral program with SparkLoop so her subscribers can easily share their referral link with the rest of their pickleball team.

#3: The Pour Over

Jason Woodruff is the creator behind The Pour Over, a current events newsletter for Christians. In two years, The Pour Over has grown to over 100,000 subscribers. Jason turned his hobby into his full-time career through sponsorships and advertising, thanks to his referral program.

“It’s amazing what referrals can do for your growth. Even if you don’t have rewards, the simple act of asking your audience for referrals and giving them a mechanism to do so gives you a boost. There’s something about seeing their referral count tick up that lights something up in people… Of course, the rewards just boost growth even further.”

The Pour Over subscribers get free merchandise based on how many referrals they bring in (with SparkLoop this process is entirely automated, so you don’t have to worry about fulfillment).

Incentivize subscribers with free merch in return for using your newsletter referral program. Image via The Pour Over.

#4: The #SEOFOMO Newsletter

Aleyda Solis didn’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars promoting her newsletter, #SEOFOMO. Even though she’d seen good growth when she initially launched, she eventually found herself in a stall and knew she needed to be strategic about her next move. With her sights set on reaching 10k subscribers by the end of 2020, she decided to set up a referral program.

Her referral program has multi-reward milestones depending on how many referrals a subscriber brings to #SEOFOMO. Aleyda’s strategy is to target the two types of subscribers she has: SEO professionals who only know a few other people in the space and marketing influencers. “The first month after adding SparkLoop, I went from averaging 300 subscribers per month to more than 1000 subscribers per month.”

Using reward milestones, Aleyda creates a referral program that works for her two different subscriber avatars. Image via Aleyda Solis.

#5: The Lifespan Book Newsletter

Nicholas Platt had his eyes set on one mission when his team at Navigo launched a newsletter for Harvard Professor and newly published author David Sinclair. Get book sales and try to make it on the New York Times bestseller list. The plan was to grow the newsletter and use that list to drive book sales (since this would cost less than other marketing channels).

Navigo created referral rewards from stickers to a private tour of David Sinclair’s lab to incentivize subscribers to share the newsletter with their friends. The referral program boosted newsletter growth by 5-10% and helped add 50,000 new subscribers within 5 months. Nicholas says, “SparkLoop is my newsletter secret weapon. It took 10min to install, and my email list has added thousands of referred subscribers since. Absolutely a no-brainer.”

Newsletter referral programs help creators grow their email list, make more money from paid newsletters or sponsorships, and sell their products and services. And it’s all done by outsourcing the hard work of promoting their subscribers.

Starting Your Newsletter Referral Program

When a friend tells you to subscribe to a newsletter they think you’ll like, it’s an easy sell. You happily subscribe because if they like it, you know you will too. But the opposite is a bit more complicated. Getting people to subscribe to your newsletter takes more work because you’re not their trusted friend (yet).

That’s why creators lean on newsletter referral programs. Thanks to Metcalf’s law, they can turn one subscriber into two, three, four, and even more. That quickly adds up to a robust newsletter that can go from a passion project to a full-time gig.

Grow your email list with the newsletter referral program specifically designed for creators, SparkLoop.

Start for free here.

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