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Growing A Niche B2B Newsletter with Jasper Polak

A beehiiv Creator Spotlight

Jasper Polak joined us for the latest Creator Spotlight to discuss his newsletter: The Minimum Viable Project.

Q: Thanks for joining us, Jasper! First question: What is your background, and how did you come to start your newsletter?

JP: Thank you for having me. My background is in business management, consulting, and project management, which I’ve been doing for about 14 years. Typically, I work with startups with 20-30 people who often feel like project management is something for the big companies of the world (like Google or Meta, for example).

These SMBs face challenges like CRM implementation taking much longer than it should or running over budget. But they often don’t realize that these are actually project management roadblocks. There’s a bit of a stigma or stereotype around Project Management, with people believing the only way to do it right is to have endless documents, memos, and processes that often over-complicate business initiatives.

The idea of “practical project management” was missing, and that’s where I have been operating. This is done in Oslo, where I am based, but I realized there might be a better way to diversify with new channels last winter. After all, Oslo is amazing but not necessarily the biggest market.

I first joined Twitter just to see where it goes. It exploded pretty quickly and opened many doors for me. In the summer, I realized there were some limitations or weaknesses with social media platforms like Twitter. That’s why I started a newsletter.

Some of the limitations included:

  • Twitter is “building on someone else's land” (which comes with platform risk). What happens if it suddenly changes in a way that negatively impacts me?

  • There are also creative limitations around character limits.

  • Monetization options are very limited.

  • No long-tail/SEO. Shelf-life of a good post is a day or two.

  • People may see a post of mine, but quickly forget about it (and me) because that’s the pace of the platform.

Social media is great for reach and distribution, but it’s not as warm as I initially hoped. So, I explored a newsletter in a way that does not compete with social media but sits underneath it in a typical funnel.

An initial audience/growth overview:

  • Started on Twitter in approximately January 2022 and now has 40k followers.

  • Around 3,000 newsletter subscribers now (doubled in October 2022 after moving to beehiiv).

Q: Where do your subscribers come from?

JP: Over the last month:

  • 45% comes from Twitter with a link to the newsletter in reply to a post or thread.

    • The pollinate feature to one-click subscribe is also active on my Twitter profile and contributes to this.

  • 10% from people forwarding emails to others, more word of mouth.

  • 45% comes from the recommendations feature in beehiiv.

Q: How does your content strategy balance the two platforms (the Newsletter and Twitter)

JP: The newsletter complements Twitter. The two do not compete at all, and it’s very much on purpose.

I remember seeing creators publish so much content and wondering how they did it. From the outside, it looked like such a high volume of material that it seemed crazy to me.

I started on Twitter and focused on keeping content a mile wide and an inch deep. Meaning I’d make things easy to skim, accessible, and bite-sized. This removed some of the pressure, in the beginning, made it easy to get started, and appealed to a larger audience because it was more general content.

The newsletter would then focus on a deep dive. People in the project management niche have commented that they enjoy the practical approach to the deep dives, which is a nice change for them compared to text-book style content that’s more common in this space.

I keep a backlog of ideas, write deep dives, and then share them in the newsletter. The separation between the newsletter and Twitter is in the depth of coverage of the same topics. Twitter is more general, while the newsletter is as I just described.

Right now I do all of this myself, no team at the moment.

Q: What are your most memorable growth milestone moments (specifically with the Newsletter)?

JP: I woke up one morning to 150 new subscribers from the recommendations; all overnight, and a complete surprise.

Turns out a friend of mine has a newsletter, also on beehiiv, and he posted something that went viral on LinkedIn. It’s incredible because I didn’t even realize he was posting something, and now here’s a spike. What happened was that people would see my newsletter on his recommendations (the next page they see after subscribing), which delivered a pleasant surprise.

Then a thread on something unrelated went semi-viral. It wasn’t necessarily about the same material on project management, so the conversions weren’t necessarily high. But because of the volume, it still delivered around 85 subscribers.

Growth on Twitter has been smooth, with sudden spikes when something goes viral. These spikes often translate into new subscribers, but what’s interesting is that when other Twitter accounts spike while recommending me, I also add subscribers.

Q: What makes your newsletter unique (from a content perspective)?

JP: My newsletter is about a very specific niche in b2b–project management. By default, it may not appeal to a massive audience like Morning Brew does. But in my case, the audience can be quite valuable because it’s all people in this space.

Q: What are your readers saying so far?

JP: Readers often mention how they like the practicality of the newsletter. This industry’s content is typically very vague, abstract, or textbook-style.

There’s a lot in project management that’s very practical, but it doesn’t mean you need a project plan the size of the Bible. There are many ways of sharing this efficiency, and my readers have commented that they like this approach.

Q: What have been some of the challenges (if any) with moving into the newsletter space?

JP: Writing in any new format is always a little tricky because it takes discipline and focus to commit. In the beginning, there are easy ways to procrastinate by focusing on design, headers, or pixels.

Every week it feels like it gets easier. I can say that now. But the first few times involved looking at a dauntingly blank canvas. No template, no guideline, and no one to hold your hand. It takes time, but at the end of the day we just have to ship it.

I’m a process/management guy, and I’d love to spend my time focusing on optimizations and processes. In the beginning, it’s tough to just write and publish, but it's so important.

The next challenge with a new medium is creating a consistent process and developing a rhythm. Building a successful newsletter is a long-term game, so creating a structure that allows us to remain creative and consistent is crucial after the first few releases.

Q: Do you have any plans to monetize the newsletter?

JP: I have plenty of ideas, but I’m not planning on doing anything with them yet. 2023 might be a good time to find a sponsor, depending on the numbers.

For now though, the focus is on building relationships without a direct newsletter monetization strategy. 

Q: What are your goals over the next year?

JP: I’ll be publishing the content regardless, so the larger the base, the more room I have to experiment with different strategies–whether that’s the sponsorship I mentioned, or something else.

I don’t have a goal that’s focused on numbers, like “25k subscribers,” or “a 50% open rate.” It’s more about having an engaged following in this particular space in a qualitative sense.

Q: Wrapping Up Now, Do You Have Any Suggestions For Creators?

I would encourage creators to seek out the conversation and other creators. Not necessarily to swap recommendations; those are a given.

Right now, beehiiv and creators on beehiiv are seeing a lot of momentum among a broad base of people. It’s a great opportunity to learn from one another. I think it’s a beautiful part of being active online and can really help new creators.

Final Words:

Make sure to subscribe to The Minimum Viable Project and follow Jasper on Twitter for more!

You can see two of his favorite posts here if you would like to read on for yourself.

Be sure to stay tuned for our next Creator Spotlight on Friday, November 11th.

Thanks for reading!

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