Business Ideas: The letter.ly Strategy

Image of Light BulbThis is the second issue of the Business Ideas series.

You can read the first installment here for a look at the initial idea I sketched out for you aspiring entrepreneurs out there.

Here’s the quick and dirty rundown: the Business Ideas series is a feature I rolled out where I lay down the foundation of an online business.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to run with the idea and improve upon it and come back here to share your journey.

Get it?

OK, this week we’re taking a look at letter.ly for your next business model.

What is letter.ly?

The letter.ly service is an easy-to-use email newsletter publisher. You set up a free account, submit your newsletter by email to an email account they assign you and the email gets published for your paying subscribers. There is also the option to allow people to read for free. More on that later.

Here’s a shot of their main page (also their sign up page):

Image of letter.ly Website

They showcase a few sample newsletter names and subscription prices right on this main page. On their About page (below) you’ll see that they handle payments via Amazon payments.

Image of letter.ly About Page

It’s lightweight. It’s user-friendly. And you get paid to write emails. What’s not to like?

Phase 1: Business Tool Kit

The following are my recommended pieces of the puzzle if you’re going to conquer this:

  • A letter.ly account. This is kind of important since the business idea revolves around letter.ly.
  • A Facebook Page or perhaps a Facebook Group so that your subscribers can engage in a community setting. This helps because their friends will see them actively participating in conversation about your newsletter. Free publicity! But we also all love being part of an exclusive community so this is powerful.
  • A WordPress website. I use the Headway Theme for WordPress here on JonAlford.com but you can opt to customize any free WordPress template. You know my view on paying for your site so try to avoid the free blogging platforms.
  • You or any Subject Matter Expert (SME). You’re publishing a newsletter so you’ll either need to have something interesting to say or have an area of expertise (eh, preferably both). If you have neither, then make friends with someone that does. The deal there is, you’ll bolt the pieces of this together and they’ll supply the knowledge.
  • Twitter account. Optional but could be another useful traffic source.
  • An email account and/or word processor (I won’t leave out the obvious).

Phase 2: Build Your Business

Go sign up for a free letter.ly account. Next, you will promote your newsletter on a WordPress domain so you’ll need to register a domain and find hosting.

My suggestions? Grab a domain at Namecheap and snap up some hosting at HostGator (no, those aren’t affiliate links). I’ve had experience with both and highly recommend them. You’ll have to resolve your Namecheap domain to your Hostgator servers and then install WordPress.

Don’t know how? Then hire me to help connect the dots for you.

Then you’ll have to put together some valuable content on your WordPress site and look legitimate. This isn’t about spammy backlink building or time to look cheesy. Put care into the aesthetics of the site but mainly write some quality content.

People will be paying for your writing, after all.

Write your 3-5 articles of cornerstone content all tightly focused around your newsletter topics. These will be the first articles posted to your new WordPress site. Link them to your letter.ly landing page but don’t go overboard with linking or get stuffy with keywords.

Below is the landing page on letter.ly for Everett Bogue’s newsletter (I picked his because $25.00/month stood out). They will all look this basic, so don’t go thinking that I picked a dull-looking landing page:

Image of a letter.ly Landing Page

So let’s recap so far. You have registered your domain, secured hosting, and fired up your WordPress website. Then you loaded it up with articles showing off your knowledge about “your topic” (and the articles link to your letter.ly landing page).

What about some sidebar advertisements on your site? Chris Brogan links out to his Blog Topics letter.ly newsletter from a 125×125 pixel ad; you can go see for yourself and come back. I’ll wait.

Pro Tips: You will want to split test your approaches when linking your sidebar ad. Here are some options to consider when linking:

  • Direct link to letter.ly  (relies on the newsletter description you write on letter.ly)
  • Link to an article on your site (the article romances the reader into signing up)
  • Send people to a page with a brief newsletter description and a full sample edition

If you try the last option, you’re going to let people have a sneak peek at an entire email. Make sure the sample is your premium, knock-out type of content. Not only will this increase your chances for conversion, but you’ll be challenging yourself to continue writing at that value level.

Also, if you’re wondering where on your post or page to place your newsletter ad or links then take a look at the image to the lower right. It’s a sample of where Google suggests to place their Adsense ads.Image of Google Ad Placement

Click on the image to read the full article.

There are all kinds of studies that you will easily find on page layout, heat maps, and the like. Do some research and test what works best for your offer.

You should also consider dedicating an entire page of navigation to the pre-sell page of your newsletter.

Phase 3: Promote and Scale Your Business

So, how are you going to get all these moving pieces to work together and promote your business?

Give away a couple seats to your show. What I mean is, let a few people in for free and start gathering their feedback on the quality and content of your newsletter. They’ll appreciate you and feel compelled to help you out.

You’ll appreciate them for singing your praises because your content rocks (don’t let them go telling everyone it’s free).

Got Twitter? Then tweet about your happy community. Tweet about some of the topics you’re covering and ask probing questions. Have fun promoting buzz and stirring up conversation about what your incredible newsletter has to offer.

Leverage Facebook sharing and form your own Group to bring your happy community around your offering. This is the ultimate social proof. The ultimate “green light” for anyone on the fence about signing up.

Then try to display a few testimonials on your site. Ask the free readers that you started with to write about their experience with your newsletter. Post their testimonials conspicuously on your website so your visitors can see you’re the real deal.

Yes, you can also try article marketing, blog commenting, and the usual site promotion to get the word out about your newsletter. There are countless ways to promote but choose only a strategy or two and master them first.

Your Feedback

So, are you off to set up your own letter.ly account?

Do you know someone you can work with who can deliver the content while you attach all the nuts and bolts of this business idea?

What would you add to improve this idea and do you know anyone trying this out? Please leave your comment below.

Photo: qisur


31 Responses to Business Ideas: The letter.ly Strategy
  1. Sarah Russell
    March 11, 2011 | 1:04 pm

    Huh – interesting Web 2.0 (3.0? 4.0? Can’t remember what we’re on now…) business model.

    I guess I have to admit to being a little old school in the Aweber + WordPress + Affiliate Links business model.

    Thanks for sharing these new tools and for reminding me to keep up with the times and the newest resources out there!

    • Jon
      March 12, 2011 | 11:09 am

      Let’s call it Web 4.0; makes me feel all visionary. Your approach is tried-and-true, Sarah, no harm in sticking to that and mastering it! But if you decide to try something new, remember this li’l gem ;) Thanks for your input.

  2. Adrienne
    March 11, 2011 | 3:39 pm

    Hey Jon,

    Learn something new when I visit your blog. This was interesting and something to really consider down the road for me. Now I’m going to have to go back and read your first post connected to this series.

    Thanks for this one and great suggestion. :-)

    Adrienne

    • Jon
      March 12, 2011 | 11:07 am

      Hi Adrienne. Tuck this one under your hat then! If nothing else, as I said to Marlee on the Fiverr Business Idea post, I’m using this as an archive of projects to pursue down the road. I’m glad it’s new information to you.

  3. Peggy Baron
    March 11, 2011 | 7:13 pm

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for this! I’ve been meaning to find out more about this letter.ly newsletter thing, and now I’ve found what I need to know, and then some, right here in your post.

    Thanks a bunch,
    Peggy
    P.S. Thanks for waiting for me while I checked out Chris Brogan’s 125 x 125 ad. ;)

    • Jon
      March 12, 2011 | 11:05 am

      Haha, sure Peggy. I guess I’m patient like that ;) It’s a lightweight approach to newsletter marketing; good for even the novice web entrepreneur. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. Samuel
    March 12, 2011 | 2:59 pm

    Love the way you speak your mind! :) To be candid, I don’t really know about letter.ly but after reading this post, I’ve learn a lot. I guess before someone can use letter.ly in order people to subscribe, the author must provide great content and it must be rich :) What do you think? Thanks so much.

    • Jon
      March 13, 2011 | 9:52 am

      Thanks, Samuel! Yes, you will absolutely need a premium newsletter offering. If you don’t already have social proof or vast knowledge of something then you could join forces with someone that does. They win because you bolt the strategy together; you win because you ride on the coattails of their knowledge.

  5. [...] Business Ideas: The letter.ly Strategy – by Jonathan Alford, jonalford.com [...]

  6. Stuart
    March 14, 2011 | 6:55 am

    Wow Jon, you sure know how to introduce something quirky and funky right before our very eyes!

    I’ve being thinking about setting up an e-mail newsletter, with MailChimp, that I haven’t got round to doing yet. I wonder, after reading this, that the time is right to make a bit of money from helping others?

    Perhaps some people will object, but I think that if you give, THEN you get, so by giving yourself to your readers/customers, you then get offered the rewards. So why not take them?

    Great read man :-)

    • Jon
      March 14, 2011 | 8:10 am

      Haha, I hope that this isn’t the last time I see “quirky and funky” describing something on my site. Kinda cool, honestly. I’m on the same page as you that giving before receiving is preferred. This is a direct sales approach but that isn’t to say people can’t lead off with a paid product OR tightly focus some freebie content around a paid product.

      I think it adds a nice complement to an existing site. It’s also a motivator for some folks that need to feel like they’re writing their free content and may be compensated for it near term. Thanks, Stu (I see you’re sticking to your commenting plan!).

  7. Jk Allen
    March 14, 2011 | 7:59 am

    Jon – Great Advice! I think it’s important for everyone to keep ideas like this within their radar and within strong consideration. There are so many opportunities out there, that many of us missing out on – so I love getting this info.

    I had never heard of letter.ly until now. Great idea and simple enough to implement. While currently I don’t have a direct need for this type of service – I know I will in some months to come. And, when that time comes, I honestly wouldn’t have known where to begin…and you’ve paved that way! (and I don’t just say that…I’ve starred this article in my Reader account).

    Thanks for the knowledge share Jon. Your promotion of business ideas is great. Can’t wait to see what you have lined up next! Who knows, it cold be my next big thing…
    PEACE

    • Jon
      March 14, 2011 | 8:13 am

      Hi Jk,

      It would intrigue me to see you or anyone take action on my ideas and improve them. We all have too many ideas and not enough time to implement them. So, why not openly share a few? Thanks for giving me a star on this one!

  8. Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion
    March 14, 2011 | 9:43 am

    Jon, dude, this was excellent. I hadn’t heard of letter.ly (I’m always a bit slower than the crowd) and this was perfect. The more I read your stuff Jon, the more I really appreciate your writing style.

    Well done bud, and a HUGE congrats for being mentioned on Ingrid’s blog! Sweet :-)

    Marcus

    • Jon
      March 14, 2011 | 11:16 am

      Marcus,

      I’m quite glad you enjoyed the read.

      To my surprise, it seems that a lot of people have not yet found the letter.ly service. It would be a neat and painless strategy for product creators that want a lightweight approach to offering subscription-based content.

      Thanks, I thought it was way cool to be listed in Ingrid’s round-up. Very sweet!

  9. Murray Lunn
    March 15, 2011 | 7:01 pm

    Jon, first time here on your blog – this is epic!

    Love the detail you put into the post. I’ve been thinking about doing some kind of premium content area on the blog because there are a lot of readers that have expressed they’d like a bit more personal-style posts and easier connection. I’m so busy that it’s hard to handle everything but I think a premium newsletter would be one of those things that could prove to be a great way to form a network of action takers.

    Love the simplicity of Letter.ly although I wonder if it would make more sense to still do something like a combination of Aweber and Paypal (since I have them already). I’ll have to dig in a bit and figure out if this is truly viable to my blog (based on the community response).

    Thanks for the overview!

    • Jon
      March 15, 2011 | 8:06 pm

      Hi Murray!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for the rockin’ compliment :) Yeah, you know this is one of those preference things. If you are savvy with Aweber and Paypal (I love both) and you’d rather stick to those; great! But the folks that are high on determination but low on cash can hit the ground running using this strategy. It’s one with a minimal financial outlay (domain and recurring hosting if you build a site).

      I’m glad you liked the post and I hope to see you around again. Expect to see me at Murlu!

  10. Bensito
    March 16, 2011 | 6:23 pm

    Thanks for the post. I’m a journalist working for a global news giant who had just found an idea I think can actually work for me to start out on my own with- so this is very inspiring. I work for a specialist, high-end subscription newsletter that proves very well that people are willing to pay for quality content (minimum $1,500/yr).
    So letter.ly appeals to me as I think with a limited and focused audience people are willing to pay if what they’re reading becomes essential for their job.
    Early days, so I’ll wordpress myself up a site and consider the letter.ly link.

    • Jon
      March 16, 2011 | 10:26 pm

      Hi Bensito,

      Thank you for chiming in on this. I agree, if the value is there and the knowledge is targeted then people will certainly pay for content. I wish you well with this if you do pursue it; feel free to share your journey!

  11. Janet @ The Natural Networker
    March 26, 2011 | 7:58 pm

    Jon, aloha. Thx for the solid content and clear actionable items. The way you write makes it so easy to understand the “why” behind the suggestion and then to implement the steps.

    With your podcasting and letter.ly you are bringing your “game” up several notches and leading the way for us. Thx so much.

    When I check out letter.ly I will be interested to see if we will be able to include links to our videos and now podcasts.

    Best wishes for a great weekend. Jon. No doubt, I wil be clicking through a few more of your links. Aloha. Janet

    • Jon
      March 27, 2011 | 3:09 pm

      Janet,

      You sure know how to make me smile. I appreciate you letting me know how my writing is coming across; I’m wide open to critique.

      I’ll continue to try new smart strategies and share any successes or speed bumps I encounter along the way. With this particular strategy, I haven’t delved too deeply into links within the emails. I can’t imagine there’s a restriction on URL’s; people are paying for the content and you’re giving them great resources. It’s sent out in email (you can type in URL’s in an email) from you to the inbox they create for you and your subs receive it. Let me go try it since I set up a dummy account.

      Thank you for continuing to check back in over here!

  12. Udegbunam Chukwudi
    March 27, 2011 | 12:27 am

    After being rejected by MailChimp ’cause they don’t accept make money niches, I’ll be taking a closer look at how letter.ly functions and if it’s got lasting power. Wouldn’t want to start a business with it only to hear diwn the line that they are shutting down just like Feemailpro did.

    Nice post anyway :-)

    • Jon
      March 27, 2011 | 3:03 pm

      Hi there and welcome,

      With letter.ly you’ll be collecting subscriber income and publishing premium content. So, you won’t have a delivery issue from what I can tell. People have to actively subscribe so everything you share after they’re “in” is what they’re paying to receive. With email marketing, you’re right. It’s more closely monitored by the service provider and some companies don’t allow direct linking to products from an email anyhow (such as Amazon).

      Thanks for sharing your experience with MailChimp!

  13. Jane | Find All Answers
    March 27, 2011 | 9:02 am

    Jon,

    Very informative post with applicable set of tips. I am hearing about letter.ly for the first time. Seems promising. I totally agree on your point about going for a paid platform and theme.

    Cheers,
    Jane.

    • Jon
      March 27, 2011 | 3:11 pm

      Hi Jane,

      Glad you learned something new from this. It is an easy-to-implement strategy and some people need to know they stand to get paid from day one. Yes, paying for your hosting gives you so much more control and peace of mind. The free hosting accounts are good for supplemental link-building but we can’t put all our eggs in the free basket.

  14. Devesh
    March 28, 2011 | 1:16 pm

    Hi Jon,

    Awesome post man. I didn’t know about letter.ly. Will going to check it out.

    Btw. Congrats on getting featured on ProBlogger. I read a lot of good things about this blog and that firpole marketing!

    Keep up the awesome work jon.

    ~Dev

    • Jon
      March 28, 2011 | 10:05 pm

      Hi Devesh,

      Thank you for reading and I appreciate you noticing the mention over at Problogger. I appreciate your encouragement; it helps keep me moving. I’ll be seeing you around for sure especially since we have some joined-community overlap :)

  15. Nanette Saylor
    March 28, 2011 | 2:51 pm

    Wow. I never cease to be amazed by the new tools being developed and used every day in Web world. And yes, I like the “Web 4.0″ moniker. Sounds very appropriate here.

    I’ve yet to master the few “old school” ones I’m using, so I’ll stick with those for now.

    But certainly, I’ll be back here often, looking for new, hip, cool stuff to try.

    Wishing you well-
    Nanette

    • Jon
      March 28, 2011 | 9:58 pm

      Nanette,

      Welcome and thank you! Ha, yes Web 4.0 just sounds so fancy :)

      The old tried-and-true stuff is just fine. But for the folks looking to supplement their “old school” methods (or web savvy newbies looking for new school) I have them all covered here.

      I enjoyed your recent post about Inspirations from Nature & Springtime. What a delightful read!

  16. eric
    March 29, 2011 | 11:48 am

    Good post! I am getting a couple newsletter series ready to go right now. I will look in to this one but currently I am using mail chimp. It is also free.

    I had plans to shift to aweber when my list got over 2k emails long.

    • Jon
      March 29, 2011 | 10:22 pm

      Aweber is great, no complaints here. At 2k emails you’ll be paying $29/month, I believe.

      Thanks for reading, Eric. Yes, I’ve seen a lot of MailChimp fans lately with mixed reviews. Glad you’re enjoying their service and free is a wonderful thing!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Trackback URL http://www.jonalford.com/business-ideas-the-letter-ly-strategy/trackback