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Case Study: How The Soulful Entrepreneur Has Grown 61% Every Month

Have you ever taken a poll in an email or newsletter? They’re kind of fun, right?

Polls are a crowd favorite, and they get emails opened. In fact, they’re one of the secrets that Matt Gray used which allowed his newsletters to take the entrepreneurial world by storm.

Matt is no stranger to success. He has built, as he puts it, three profitable, soulful businesses in the past 12 years, a community of over 14 million people, and teams of 50+ people.

Matt founded Bitmaker, the wildly successful and first-of-its-kind Canadian technology bootcamp that has trained 2,000+ software engineers and got 90% of them jobs at tech companies like Shopify, IBM, and Facebook within one month after graduation.

More recently, in 2014, Matt started Herb - the pioneer of cannabis-marketing-as-a-service (CMaaS) and the largest cannabis community in the world.

People are hungry to know how he became so successful. They want to pick his brain. So alongside entrepreneurial coaching courses, Matt inspires and educates through his beehiiv newsletter.

Matt Gray’s The Soulful Entrepreneur newsletter has hit home with subscribers from all over the world. He has amassed tens of thousands of subscribers on beehiiv in about 100 days.

Let’s unpack what he did, and how you can do the same as you build your newsletter. We’ll take a look at Matt’s challenges, the beehiiv solutions that helped him achieve his goals, and his results.

Three Challenges That Matt Overcame to Build a World-Class Newsletter

Everyone who writes a newsletter imagines it will go viral. Most newsletters do not. Chances are good you’re facing the same challenges that Matt did when he started The Soulful Entrepreneur.

1. Platform Risk

One challenge Matt faced was high platform risk.

Social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn make it hard to control your voice, reach an audience, engage them, create relationships, and keep these relationships for the long term.

These are great top of funnel tools but not great to nurture your audience. You don’t own your subscribers on these platforms. But with email and building a list on a platform like beehiiv, you do.

2. Engagement

Matt wanted to have more control over his voice and how his message went out in the world - and the only way to do that is through email or SMS.

The Soulful Entrepreneur comes from the heart. It’s a “letter to my younger self,” says Matt. He calls it a chance to help new entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes he made via weekly tips, tricks, hacks, and shortcuts that he wishes he had known about before learning them the hard way.

But having a great idea and making sure people see it are two different things.

When most people’s inbox is flooded 24/7, how does The Soulful Entrepreneur stand out? How does Matt increase his open rates even among people who willingly subscribed, but now find themselves strapped for time?

To engage his audience, he chooses his “pick my brain” topics for future newsletters based on what his audience actually wants, not what he thinks they want.

Beehiiv’s poll function made the difference between an “okay” newsletter and one that speaks exactly to what the audience wants and needs. Polls support Matt’s people-centric philosophy as, above all, a community builder.

3. Functionality and User-Friendliness

The third challenge that Matt faced was finding the perfect blend of newsletter functionality and user-friendliness. Matt found himself in a bit of a conundrum. Some platforms, like Mailchimp, had huge capabilities, but were a migraine-inducing nightmare to navigate, requiring engineering, time, and a heaping dose of patience. Other platforms were simple to use, like Revue, but lacked sophisticated functionality.

A Way to Stand Out and Deliver

Matt had a large and growing audience on Twitter and LinkedIn, but it was time to convert this audience to email. Matt’s good friend Alex Lieberman of Morning Brew enthusiastically recommended beehiiv, but it wasn’t until Matt had spun his wheels on several other email platforms that he finally tried beehiiv for himself.

He was immediately hooked.

Matt credits part of The Soulful Entrepreneur’s success to the fact that beehiiv newsletters are different. They stand out in a cluttered inbox, just begging to be opened. And once the reader is in, the newsletters are not only value-packed but fun to build. Gamification, polls, and rewards are proven winners on any platform, and Matt found them incredibly easy to integrate on beehiiv.

Gamification makes the experience fun. We all know when we have fun, we’ll come back for more. But gamification doesn’t give you the intel to know whether you’re really giving the audience what they want - that’s where polls come in.

Polls feature prominently in his newsletter as a fun and non-threatening way of obtaining important information about his audience — the books they read, the music they listen to, the challenges they’re facing as entrepreneurs, and what they want to learn from him.

People take polls because they want to be heard. They want their voices to count. They really, really appreciate that someone has taken the time to ask some questions.

Matt has also turned polls into a business planning tool by openly asking his audience what they want. For example, Matt can think ahead several quarters and decide whether to prioritize the writing and publishing of an ebook on a single topic (marketing, community building, systems, or growth) simply by asking people what would help them the most instead of wasting time and resources writing four ebooks and hoping that they reach their intended audience.

The other feature that helped The Soulful Entrepreneur achieve a 61%/month audience surge is the referral function. Actively rewarding his readers to spread the word works like magic… if the newsletter delivers on value, readability, and let’s be honest - fun. And The Soulful Entrepreneur does just that.

Finding the perfect email platform, with the ideal mix of functionality and user-friendliness, isn’t easy. Matt says he tried a number of platforms. They all fell flat on some level. He says that his beehiiv experience has been a night and day improvement, with the initial experience being like a video game: fun, and easy to set up and customize. Like Matt says, “It kind of sucked me in.”

61% Growth Month after Month

Matt is impressed with the bells and whistles, but he credits the rapid evolution of the beehiiv suite of offerings for the flexibility to keep his newsletters fresh and engaging.

Matt has been on beehiiv for about 100 days as of this writing. His audience has been growing at 61% month over month. His average click rate has gone up 80%. Open rates are 50%. Matt says, “It’s exactly the kind of growth I want to be seeing as I share my emails with my community. beehiiv is a trustworthy platform to be collaborating with.”

Matt’s Favorite Features

Matt’s favorite feature by far is the referral program because it’s a way to give back and create a close-knit community.

Polls come in at a close second. The polls function allows Matt to come up with a fresh question each week and get to know his audience better. Knowing what’s on their mind and what they want lets Matt curate content around his audience’s immediate and emerging needs.

The Future: Coming to an Inbox Near You

Matt’s goal for The Soulful Entrepreneur is to create a highly engaged community of entrepreneurs that are looking to change the world. He envisions leveraging the newsletter and the community for retreats, a mastermind, courses, a SaaS tool, and other educational materials.

Most importantly, Matt wants to continue to grow the newsletter. Today, he has tens of thousands of subscribers. The goal is to reach hundreds of thousands of people globally, all united around inspiring each other and helping each other win.

Six months ago, Matt came to beehiiv with one mission: to grow his audience from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands, and positively impact entrepreneurs who want to change the world. And with a 60% increase in subscribers each month, he’s well on his way.

“I’ve seen a lot of other tools out there — and there are some awesome ones — but none that lean into the customer experience at such a quick trajectory and with so much traction and passion as the team at beehiiv. The level of customer service is unparalleled. We’re all bombarded with emails every second of every day, but there's something different about the ones being sent from beehiiv, and there’s also something different about the experience on the creator’s side that makes it somewhat pleasurable.”

Matt Gray, The Soulful Entrepreneur


Learn more and follow Matt here

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