Getting newsletter subscribers is hard. So don’t lose them.

You busted your ass to get that new subscriber. The last thing you want them to do is bounce.

It often costs more to get new customers than retain them — same goes for subscribers. Even without direct cost to getting new subscribers, it still takes time and energy.

So what are the best ways to ensure you retain your newsletter subscribers? Here’s the tl;dr…

  1. Give a proper warm welcome
  2. Set expectations
  3. Surprise & Delight
  4. Value first
(try to escape the cold embrace of a lost subscriber)

A Warm Welcome

Why send a Welcome Email?

For one, it warms people up to receiving your newsletter. Without one, the experience might feel disjointed or confusing. And that can lead to a quick unsubscribe — and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid here.

Welcome Emails help you introduce yourself (or your brand), your unique voice, and your content.

In fact, Welcome Emails are so important that Substack sends a default Welcome Email on your behalf whether you like it or not. (PS: customize your ESP’s default welcome email — even an image of your cat is better than their default option.)

How to write a great Welcome Email

According to Brian Dean at Backlinko, a great Welcome Email should offer the recipient 3 things:

  1. A warm welcome
  2. An idea of what to expect from your newsletter
  3. A Call-to-Action (ie. a reply, a link to follow you on social, or another piece of content)

Here are a few Welcome Email templates I’ve curated for you to use.

Your Welcome Email will be your most read email — so make it great and retain new subscribers.

Setting Expectations

A reader will have two main expectations when they subscribe to your newsletter. They’ll expect:

  1. the content to align with what got them onto your list, and…
  2. the content to live up to the promise made to get them on your list.

Here’s what I mean.

How To Set Content Expectations

In essence: don’t do a bait-and-switch.

Don’t bait a user with a lead magnet that doesn’t align with your newsletter’s content. The lead magnet might get a bunch of downloads and thus, a bunch of new subscribers.


But if it doesn’t line up with your content, subscribers will drop like flies.


So if your newsletter is about Graphic Design, but your lead magnet is a productivity checklist, you might be in for some churn.

Make Content Promises — but KEEP them.

Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. It’s really that simple.

If your Welcome Email is full of promises, you better deliver on them.

Don’t promise “life-changing growth hacks” and then share conventional wisdom.

Don’t promise unpopular opinions and then share common takes.


If you say you’re going to only appear in inboxes weekly — don’t increase the frequency without fair warning (skipping a week will go unnoticed: readers [sadly] aren’t waiting for each weekly edition with bated breath).

But email them more often than you said you would?


Make promises — but follow through.

Better yet: make promises, fulfill them — and then surprise & delight your readers. Which leads me to the next retention strategy…

The Surprise & Delight

Your newsletter is competing for inbox attention. More than ever.

Kinda helps to stand out. And one way to get into the “must-open” bin is creating killer content (duh!).

But topping your killer content off with a little “surprise & delight” is how you not only retain readers, it’s how you get some organic word-of-mouth growth.

Examples of Surprise & Delight

You can do this in a number of ways. Anything you can do to personalize the experience or add some form of value is going to go a long way to retain your subscribers.

The Personal Greeting. Espree Devora is known to take the time to send personalized video greetings and messages. It’s how she got my attention when I subscribed.

You don’t have to send a video message to every new subscriber. But you can do better than a “Hi|FIRST_NAME|” greeting. And you’re going to stand out. In a good way.

This isn’t the most scalable strategy, but it’s going to enrich the experience of your new subscribers, building a deeper rapport much faster.

The Bonus Gift or Offering. It can be a free trial or resource, database, template, workshop invite, 1-to-1 call, discount/coupon, or anything that increases the value of becoming a part of your newsletter.

They thought they were subscribing to an interesting newsletter — then BAM! they get a big ol’ surprise of a freebie they weren’t expecting. And they’re delighted.

People remember these gestures — and they tell their friends.

Give Value Upront

“What’s in it for me?”

Whether they realize it or not… it’s going through a reader’s mind as they open your newsletter.

So give it to them. Or they’re bound to leave — eventually.

Josh Spector says email newsletters are about providing value to an audience, while email marketing is about extracting value.

In other words, focus on giving away free information, education, or entertainment before asking for a sale.

The Justin Welsh Example

Justin Welsh executes this strategy near perfection.

Since 2019, he’s been providing solopreneurs with valuable knowledge and insights in his social posts, blog articles, and newsletter.

His content is top-notch. And he gives away 99% of it for free. You know you’re not going to get a sales pitch when you open his newsletter.

It’s all value.

When Justin launches a product, he’s built up so much credibility and trust with his audience, his audience throws money at him.


But what you don’t realize is Justin has simply kept you interested and engaged in his newsletter all this time by giving away his knowledge, experience, and advice.

So which one of these low-hanging fruit are you plucking?

Choose at least one and track your subscriber retention rate. If you need help, you know where to find me ;)

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