How Morning Brew grew their business newsletter to 2.5M subscribers in 5 years

Let’s break down the early growth tactics used to reach 20M in revenue in 2021

 In 2015, Founders Alex Lieberman and Austin Rief started the Morning Brew, an email newsletter with the purpose of making business news more interesting for young people. Students wanted something to keep them informed in a more engaging and fun way.

They noticed students felt the need to follow business news but found current media dry and difficult to read. Current outlets like the Wall Street Journal lacked the high level roundup that most young people needed to quickly stay informed. They read the news because they felt they had to, they didn’t necessarily enjoy the experience.

Today that focus on producing the most informative and entertaining content daily and have kept their rapidly growing subscriber base engaged as the company scales.

Strategy 1: Pure hustle

At 20 years old, Alex created a PDF newsletter (originally called the Market Corner) and sent it to 45 friends and family. He then got his first 300 subscribers by putting out fliers and spoke at lectures to fellow students at Michigan University.

They spoke at 50 business classes/clubs explaining what they’re doing, the problem they solve, and that it’s free to join. Students gladly joined and word of mouth spread fast. After 4 months the list grew to 1000 people, and by the time they hit 1M, 15% from word of mouth. Student had no issues signing signing up, and once they realized how enjoyable and helpful the content was, they never looked back.

Strategy 2: Referrals

Referrals account for 30% of their total subscribers today. This component was key to accelerating their growth flywheel and is commonly their most known driver of success.

In all of their newsletters, they have a section at the bottom every newsletter called “share the brew”, which takes the readers to the referral program hub.

Readers were incentivized to share the brew for prizes/exclusive content. This section shows how many referrals they had and needed to earn to claim the next reward (motivating them to take action). They also made it super easy to share right away via link, email, or social media

When a subscriber invited their friend, they saw a clean and minimal page intended to optimize for signup conversions. Once they signed up, they sent an email congratulating them, designed to encourage more referral by reminding them of their reward progress (maintaining viral loop going)

To make things interesting, they constantly change what the reader would see when they check their referral count. They showcased different rewards because people are motivated by different prizes. It also educated users about their prizes and encouraged them to take action. This kept the referral page interesting and fresh.

Strategy 3: Copywriting

For the initial email to be opened, they used enticing email subject lines that got noticed, while showcasing the brand's quirky personality.Their copywriting was key to their success, leading to a daily open rate of 45% (15% -25% considered “good” in most industries)

They continuously A/B tested email subject lines every morning by sending emails out to 4 groups of readers with different subject lines (but not all readers, a smaller portion). Whichever one had the highest open rate was used for the remaining (majority) of followers.

Strategy 4: Excellent Content

Morning Brew’s content was so good that people were already sharing the newsletter with friends before the referral program. Once they realized people were sharing their content without expecting anything in return, they had product market fit. Only after this was realized is when they made the smart move to create a referral program

Note: When it comes to creating a viral loop that guarantees long term growth, even the best incentives can only take people so far. Only when people share the product on their own without expecting anything in return, is when you are ready for a referral program

Morning Brew Today:

  • 2.5M subscribers in 2021

  • 20+M revenue in 2021

Keys to success:

  • Finding a unique niche and solving a problem

  • Created content people loved

  • Referral system with clear rewards and tracking

  • A/B testing Copywriting

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