The Distribution Advantage: How Anyone Can Quickly Grow A Newsletter or Podcast
The GTM Newsletter
Today we’re going to get a little meta.
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Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from founders, LPs, and subscribers about how to grow a newsletter or podcast.
Some are wanting to scale a pod/newsletter for their respective companies and some are wanting to grow one personally to help their career.
Folks have been waking up to the power of distribution…and it’s definitely not just founders.
I would argue that in the not so distant future, employees (specifically in go-to-market roles) will be evaluated on:
If “Candidate 1” and “Candidate 2” are equal but “2” has a strong social presence, a viral video series, a podcast or a newsletter - why wouldn’t you go with “2” so you can plug into their distribution channels?
A leaders ‘rolodex’ used to be part of hiring conversations and now that relationships can be infinitely scaled digitally, it’s only becoming more important and the gap is widening between the ones who have distro and those who don’t.
Especially as traditional B2B marketing distribution channels get more and more crowded.
Dis·tri·bu·tion - the way in which something is shared out among a group or spread over an area.
Distribution helps you:
Make new connections faster
Build trust without being in the same room
Learn things quicker
Create demand for a product/service
Educate the market
Create a category
Get a tight product/service feedback loop going
Increase brand awareness
Become perceived as an expert/thought-leaders
Accelerate deal cycles
Amplify new launches and feature announcements
In this week’s edition, I’m going to give you the playbook on how we were able to quickly grow The GTM Newsletter and The GTM Podcast to increase our distribution which in turn increases our deal flow, highlights our world-class LPs and builds demand across our portfolio companies.
So I guess it begs the question, can a newsletter on growing a newsletter grow a newsletter?
Let’s get into it and find out.
How Anyone Can Quickly Grow A Podcast/Newsletter
It’s never too early to start building up your distribution.
I learned early in my career that openly sharing my ideas with the world would allow those digital ideas to act as beacons for interesting people and interesting problems to find me. And that those beacons would stick around and do work for me far after I was done writing or speaking.
I originally started writing The Forecast (which later became the GTM newsletter) while I was still working at Outreach.
I was fortunate to have grown my LinkedIn presence which led to speaking opportunities, consulting gigs, advisory work, friendships, promotions, etc.
But I knew that I didn’t really “own” those followers, I was still at the mercy of the algorithm in order to reach the people that I wanted to with my message.
So I started writing more long form content about what I was thinking about in my personal/business life.
I wrote The Forecast for just under a year and then stopped as we pulled double-duty at Outreach and getting GTMfund off the ground.
As you can see above, consistency is key and I kick myself that I didn’t keep writing. If I kept it up, we’d be well over 10K by now but unfortunately my calendar just didn’t leave any time for deep writing.
Back then, there was no real aim to monetize The Forecast, I just knew that one day if I wanted to build a company, sell a course, do more consulting or find a new gig - it would help.
In the early days, it mostly grew from word of mouth and social proof.
The only promotion I ever did was take screenshots of actual comments or responses that I was getting from revenue leaders, make a little collage in Canva and post that on LinkedIn.
If I posted about my own newsletter telling folks to check it out, I’d maybe get 7 signups.
If I posted screenshots of actual comments, I’d get 50+ signups.
If someone else posts about the newsletter without me asking, I’d get 100+ signups.
FOMO is your friend when it comes to virality.
So fast-forward to late Oct of last year - my partner, Max Altschuler and I had now been full-time on GTMfund for a couple months at that point.
Things were going even better than expected on the fund side…but we’re builders and builders want to build.
So we got the itch to start layering on two more value pillars that would complement the fund:
2. Community (a topic for another day)
Each pillar would be part of a flywheel that made the other two other pillars more impactful.
We had both seen the power of media and community play out in our careers.
Of course, Max had built the Sales Hacker community/media company from scratch (which I joined later on in the journey) and sold it to Outreach. The SH podcast quickly grew to be a top 3 sales podcast, our newsletter subscriber list hit 170k+ and we threw conferences for thousands and thousands of revenue leaders.
Then post acquisition from Outreach, we used that knowledge to build up The Sales Engagement Podcast for Outreach to well over 500K+ downloads. I was lucky to host it and it was a powerful tool for networking, building pipeline and increasing deal velocity.
So we decided to do it again in October with the launch of: The GTM Podcast and The GTM Newsletter.
Here is how we were thinking about it:
We didn’t want to create “just another sales/marketing podcast” totting best practices and platitudes. If we were going to do it, we needed a unique angle.
We were both extremely busy with the fund so we needed to build them both in a way that we could provide the most amount of value for the least amount of time.
We didn’t want to be everything for everyone: our target would be GTM leaders, Founders and VCs.
The unique angle we came up with was to try to only speak through real-world stories (like this one). I don’t want to tell you what to do, I don’t want our guests to tell you what to do - I want them to share their stories: what worked, what didn’t and how sh*t actually went down.
And then you can pick and choose what’s relevant to you and your business.
With the pace of change accelerating so rapidly, it’s rare that there is one solution to a problem and that’s why most GTM advice kind of sucks...it’s missing the most important part: context.
Typically the solutions we need are hidden amongst multiple people’s lived experiences so that’s what we wanted to highlight.
Real war stories from the trenches like..
The next thing we needed to figure out was how we cut down the time commitment of running a podcast and writing/growing a newsletter.
At first it would take me hours to write these but thanks to a lot of ‘user-generated content’ from our Limited Partners, I can usually bang these out in an hour or two. In an ideal world, it’s more about aggregating content than completing re-inventing the wheel.
It’s a win-win-win: we get to put our LPs on a pedestal which hopefully helps them build their own distribution/achieve their career goals, our community gets to learn from them and our distribution grows.
It was easier for us to plug into our existing distribution channels then start from scratch so we re-branded and re-launched The Forecast (with very minimal churn) and used our LinkedIn following’s to spread the word.
For our podcast, we used Riverside.fm to make recording simple, Libsyn to push out to all channels and get analytics, outsourced our editing process to someone on Upwork, used Typeform to collect guest details/stories to cut down on research and had a contractor help with scheduling guests/creating promo clips for Linkedin, Twitter and TikTok (she now works with us full-time - woohoo Sara Delborello).
And similar to our thinking with the GTMfund community, we wanted to go with quality of distribution over quantity. And write/record for a very specific audience: leaders (or aspiring leaders) who are in charge of scaling or growing revenue at technology companies.
We might sacrifice a little growth by not being everything to everyone but it’s a trade-off that we were willing to make.
A smaller amount of the right eyeballs are more valuable than a large amount of just any eyeballs 👀
Don’t sleep on distribution.
I can see a path in the not-so-distant future where GTMfund could have a media business that generates a few million a year in sponsorships, a community that generates a million or so in membership fees and a white-glove exec. recruiting arm doing another few million/year in placements (maybe more on that in a future edition).
None of these things are on the immediate roadmap since we’re hyper focused on fund execution but as distribution grows - so do the opportunities.
And the same goes for you, your business and your career.
📈 How To Take Action/Learnings (newsletter):
Pick a niche.
Start now (build distribution before you need it).
Use social platforms to get eyeballs and push those eyeballs to platforms you own.
Use social proof/screenshots wherever you can.
Try to leverage community/network generated content to cut down on the time commitment.
Write as you speak to make reading it more enjoyable.
Get started on Substack, they make it easy to publish and they have built in discoverability (we get almost half of our new subscriber from the Substack ecosystem now).
Comment, follow and recommend other newsletter on Substack.
Drop in unexpected things that showcase some of your personality: songs, quotes you like, videos that had an impact on you, fav. non-business books, etc - people want to know the human behind the writing.
Create promotion packages for newsletter contributors to share to their networks.
Ask subscribers to share it with a colleague or friend if they are finding it valuable (I’ve A-B tested it and the simple act of asking goes a long way).
*upcoming growth tests: getting added to more “top 10 newsletters” lists, referral giveaways, cross-promotion*
📈 How To Take Action/Learnings (podcast):
Find a unique angle for your show - don’t just add to the noise. Reality shows are good inspiration for ideas.
Spend the time up front to get the sound quality right (I wish we could redo some of the first episodes).
The quality of your guests are your biggest lever for growth/listens.
Use Typeform to collect guest details, topics and takeaways.
Try to stack your recordings on a single day of the week so you’re not context switching too much.
The more specific the podcast title the better (we’ve slowly getting better at this).
Invest in some pod graphics, guest templates and cool intro/outro music. Details matter.
Transcribe the pod and post it on a simple website for better SEO.
Ask guests/listeners to rate your podcast.
Turn your episode into at least 2 or 3 thirty second clips for LI, Twitter and TikTok (I never thought we’d actually use the Tok of the Tik but it works!).
Ask your guests to promote using one of the clips you provide them.
Layer in audience engagement, we allow for listeners to ask Qs to future guests so they feel more engaged and part of the podcast.
*upcoming growth tests: full video version on Spotify, adding episode to Youtube, TikTok/Instagram ads*
👀 More for your eyeballs:
The backlash of people hating on Tech from the SVB situation was wild…a divide that clearly needs some repair and attention. Should we all band together a do a little PR campaign for the tech sector as a whole?
A great example of a founder building distribution BEFORE building a product. This will be the way of the future:
👂 More for your eardrums:
One of my fav episodes in awhile, Martin ‘Gonto’ Gontovnikas and I talk about making big marketing bets, restructuring an entire revenue org and where Gen AI will be in 10 years time.
🚀 Start-ups to watch:
Tavus is the only video personalization platform with the power to take what you record and automatically transform it into countless AI-generated videos, customized with unique voice variables to each customer to inspire loyalty and repeat conversions long after you hit send. One to watch 👀
🔥Hottest GTM job of the week:
Mid-Market Account Executive at Writer, more details here.
See more top GTM jobs here.
You made it all the way until the end.
I hope this sparks some inspiration to turn yourself into a micro media company to accelerate your career or make you invaluable to the company you’re helping to build.
Visibility creates opportunity.
Following my own best practices: if you’re enjoying this newsletter/getting value from it, please share it out with your friends or colleagues.
Here’s a good tune to to throw on if you’re celebrating St. Paddy’s Day:
Have a great weekend.
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