What SaaS companies can learn from Morning Brew

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We’ve all heard that “Every company needs to become a media company”, so we decided to study one of the most successful business media companies in recent years: Morning Brew.

Morning Brew is a newsletter-first media company that has attracted 6 million email subscribers since its launch in 2015.

Why email first?

Because nowadays, email lists are the only true marketing safe haven left.

Google’s algorithm might change, halving your website visits overnight.

Social platforms can turn down your reach, so you can’t even reach your own followers.

But creating and growing a newsletter that makes millions is not easy. 

Here’s what you can learn from the business that does it best.

How to Build a Safe Haven

Morning Brew founder Alex Lieberman talks about a concept called “The Audience Funnel”.

The funnel is divided into three tiers which go from ‘Rented Audience’ at the top to ‘Owned Audience’ below that and ‘Monetized Audience’ at the bottom.

I won’t go into detail on ‘Monetized Audience’ because we all know how we monetize our audience: by getting them to buy our SaaS. 

Let’s take a look at the other two tiers. 

#1 Rented Audience

Rented channels include SEO, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit, and virtually every other platform where you post your content.

What’s unique about Rented Audience platforms is that they give users free distribution and awareness. Typically, they also give users the ability to gain some kind of following, which increases your reach like a flywheel.

Lieberman gives a great summary of how you should look at rented channels:

I call it rented because you don’t truly…own the relationship with the consumer.  Your Twitter audience is Twitter’s audience, and you are renting that audience from Twitter.

Where does this shift in thinking lead you?

It follows that your main goal on rented channels should NOT be to build up a following on those channels, but to grow your owned audience using the awareness you are renting.

There are countless horror stories of whole companies being wiped out by algo changes. 

Don’t be one of them.

So change your KPI from “new followers gained on Twitter” to “new email subscribers gained via Twitter”.

#2 Owned Audience

Channels that are owned include email, podcasts, and communities. 

What’s unique about Owned Audiences is that you literally own the direct communication line to your audience without a middle-man. You can’t move your audience from Twitter to LinkedIn but you can take your email list with you. 

Once you own the audience, the goal is to build as much trust and loyalty as possible. That way, they will eventually become a monetized audience, aka your SaaS customers.

How to scale your subscriber base

Lieberman mentioned in an interview that using paid ads was what really pushed Morning Brew into hypergrowth.

But how can you justify spending ad-budget on growing an email list?

Once someone is on your list and reads your email, you have the ability to “re-target” them for free. So instead of dumping money into Facebook or Google ads, you create a lasting, trusted relationship with a loyal readership, while being able to market to them.

Pro Tip: Look at the way newsletters like Morning Brew include ads in every single email. Marketing to your list doesn’t need to mean spamming them with offers, just adding subtle reminders aka ‘ads-slots’.

Sure, Morning Brew did a lot more than just paid ads to grow their newsletters; from going around college campuses to a merch-driven referral program. But if your day-to-day is running a SaaS company, then I think going 80/20 is the way to go.

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