A playbook for growth marketing

Inside Buck Fifty: growing email subscribers from 2k to 50k in 12 months


I’ve always appreciated websites like The Hustle, Buffer Blog, and even Business Insider that shared their internal data and strategies.  In a similar way, I’d like to share my plans for Buck Fifty MBA with you today.

After a few posts back in 2015, Buck Fifty lay dormant for nearly eleven months before I decided to pick it up again a week ago.  Why? Mostly I miss the constant learning that accompanies writing.  I’ve been busy over the last year with a new day job (and accompanying move to a new continent), so I’m excited to spend more time focused on studying and writing about marketing.

The goal: 50k email subscribers

But no project is complete without a key metric.  For this website, I’ve settled on email subscribers as my key focus area. Despite the constant cries that email is dead, it remains the most reliable and direct communication method.  Even the kids still read email when their Snapchat feed runs dry.

The first 30 days are an experiment: to see whether people are interested, to see whether I can consistently make enough time to write 3x per week.

If the experiment continues, my primary success metric will be to reach 50k email subscribers within 12 months. From off and on writing over the last 3 years, I’ve already got 2,331 valued readers, and my monthly growth targets (roughly 30% MoM) would get me to the 50k goal with 1 month to spare.


The Plan

Ok, so I’ve successfully reached 2k subscribers in 3 years.  Now how do I get another 48k in 12 months?

Using a simple spreadsheet inspired by Noah Kagan1, I’ve brainstormed a couple dozen potential ideas – from running a giveaway to writing an Amazon ebook.  Most of the ideas are terrible, but that’s the point – without terrible ideas in the mix you’ll never have the creative freedom to find the real jewels.

Then for each possible idea, I’ve estimated the traffic (visits to this website), the conversion rate to email subscription, and thus the number of possible new subscribers that idea could generate.  Of course these numbers are estimates – based loosely on case studies I’ve read and past experience.  But they don’t need to be precise; the main purpose of this exercise is simply to rank the best order of attack.


So based on this exercise, I now know that a webinar and/or a giveaway are probably the best ideas to try first.  Rather than trying to do everything at once, I’ll tackle one thing at a time – probably trying a webinar2 or a giveaway3 in January.

The one component missing from this prioritization is the time needed – a webinar promises more results but also requires much more time than something like adding content upgrades to existing popular articles.  For instance, the article “7 Technical Skills All Growth Hackers Should Learn” routinely gets ~20 visitors a day, so I’ll probably add a quick content upgrade to boost conversion on that page.

Now given how limited my time is for this project (~2 hours per day max), it’s critical that I focus on the right things.  While these growth strategies have great potential, none of them are worth anything if I sacrifice the core value prop: articles that make you so excited to do marketing that you don’t need coffee. So the first priority always has to be writing those three weekly articles, but as time allows afterward I’ll start moving through (and adding to) this list.

Think It’s Possible?

If people are interested in this type of “insider” transparency, I’ll probably write update posts every month or two documenting both successes and failures. Even if you’re not building a content website, hopefully you’ll be able to take away something useful – the systematic approach, an interesting tactic, or maybe even a warning on what not to do.

And if you want to follow along, make sure to subscribe to my free updates! 😉

By Nate Desmond
A playbook for growth marketing

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