Episode 171: Talking Newsletter Glue with Lesley Sim

Show Summary

Rob Cairns sits down to talk about Newsletter Glue with Lesley Sim.

Show Highlights:

  1. What is Newsletter Glue?
  2. The one thing most people like about the product?
  3. Most requested feature.
  4. Product Roadmap.

Show Notes


Rob Cairns here with Lesley Sim from Newsletter Glue. How are you today?


I’m great. It’s the morning in Singapore. So I’m up and happy to be chatting with you, Rob.


Yeah, it’s a pleasure. I was saying before we went to record, I really like what you’re doing on social media, you’re bringing a lot to the community. And it’s really much appreciated.


Super happy to hear that. Yeah, it’s, I’ve kind of, I started out trying to tweet in a more formalised like, schedule way. And then I realised I liked doing it. chaotically. So at the end of my work day, I just kind of throw a bunch of stuff that I’ve done other day up there, and it’s been fun that way and a lot less energy.


Yeah, I’m sure. I mean, I know from my standpoint, I actually don’t do a lot of scheduling these days, if I can potentially avoided, I prefer to, to just kind of tweet when I feel like it. Or if I get 10 minutes in between a call or, or a client and it comes out a little more authentic. And, you know, I’ve talked to a couple of people in the community, and everybody seems to have your tweets. So please keep on what you’re doing.


Thanks, I will.


So let’s start with the story. How did newsletter glue come to being and tell us a little bit your background and how you ended up in the WordPress space.


So my background is pretty varied. I started my career over a decade ago, to age myself a bit in the government sector, and I worked there for probably too long, just because personality wise, I don’t think I’m a good fit as a government employee, and then I moved into the ad agency world. And that proved to be a much better fit. And I really enjoyed my time there. And then I went even more kind of left field, and became a free diving instructor for a while and was a partner in craft beer brewery for a while. And then I decided to move into digital marketing. Just because when we were doing the craft beer, I was doing the marketing side of things and got really interested in how all that worked. So the craft beer didn’t work out. But that led me to WordPress and digital marketing and building websites. And in 2019 Yeah, so at the end of 2019, I got kind of sick of running my agency. And I did the unorthodox move of firing a bunch of clients and started working on building a product instead. At the time, I met my co founder on indie hackers, he had built a membership plugin, and was looking to get some marketing help for that. So we teamed up and started working to overall I started working to market the membership plugin that my co founder achmad had built. And we realised really quickly like, you know, we hadn’t validated the product before we built it. We hadn’t been building in public, so nobody knew us. So when it came time to launch, it was you know, who are you? Why should we trust? You know, why should I trust my membership business to this new plugin, and we had all sorts of super predictable problems. And we were gonna shut down but I can, there was a add on that we had built to the membership plugin that allowed me to send my blog posts as newsletters. And I wasn’t too sad about seeing the membership plugin go, but I was kind of set if we had to close down and I couldn’t use that little add on anymore. And that was when I realised Oh, we could maybe pivot and make an entire business out of this, you know, separate add on. And that was kind of the genesis of newsletter glue. And that time around when because we had gone through all the mistakes of not building a public not validating. We did it very differently. So right from the start before we built anything, I wrote a long post at hackers asking people you know, if we built a sub stack for WordPress, where you can click a button and send out your blog post as a newsletter. Would anyone be interested and right away we got a whole bunch of people who were interested and I took that same post and I adapted it for Facebook groups and posted it there as well and kind of built up Small, like maybe just under 100 list of people who are interested. And as I reached out, you know, some people kind of fall off or they don’t reply and ended up. I think, doing video calls with about 10 people. And just through that process, it made me more confident that we were on the right track and that people didn’t want to use us. And yeah, so we finally built it, we launched. And it’s been going pretty well so far.


Great that that’s an amazing story, Leslie, I mean, we’ve all started different in different places. By the way, if you get bored with to craft beer, you can send it here because I, I’ve actually dealt in the marketing side, I’ve dealt with some beer companies before. And they’re a whole, they’re a whole new ballgame. So it’s tough. But I really like how you, you took a product and you pivoted and you stayed with it? How is your current? What’s your current? If you if you don’t mind sharing ballparking usage figures for newsletter go how many people would you say you have using at this point in time?


I think we have a few 100 users right now. Good.


That is really good. And what is the one thing would newsletter go that people seem to like the most being able to manage the newsletter within the WordPress dashboard? Or is it something else that comes to mind?


So I think it’s the, the ease at which they can now send newsletters, so a lot of our customers see that, you know, it saves them at least an hour or more per newsletter that they send. Just because previously, you know, people were having to, they’re already spending half the day in WordPress, and then they have to switch over to their email service provider, and reformat their newsletter or no turn their posts into a newsletter, change all the links, re embed all the images and all that was a real pain. And so just being able to do everything in the same place has helped a lot of people. And also just kind of doing it in the Gutenberg block editor. People seem to really like that as well. Because it’s easier to use than a lot of the built in email builders, from email service providers. And just in case people listening, are familiar with what an email service provider is. That’s kind of the umbrella term for companies like MailChimp, MailerLite, active campaign or Infusionsoft, which handle your email marketing.


Yeah, and that’s really good point. I know if I recall, right, and correct me if I’m wrong, Active Campaign is one of the services you do integrate with, correct? Yeah. And what and having done a lot of Active Campaign stuff extensively, I can see where it would come in handy, because I got to tell you, the Active Campaign built in interface is so 25 years ago. I mean that like, I mean, the product was fine, but trying to do anything in their interface is like I’m looking at stuff like the year 2000. And it’s one of the biggest knocks against Active Campaign. Is there interfaces old?


Yeah. And I think I mean, I think they’ve tried how to put a new glass of paint over the existing infrastructure. But it’s, it’s hard when you know, you’ve been around for a long time and a lot of the stuff that you’ve thought is already there. So I can I can see how like, everything is starting to look a bit nicer inside the software. But But yeah, like you said, it’s a little bit old.


Yeah. And there’s all kinds of issues with its responsiveness on mobile and issues like that, too. And I just, it’s a great product, it works really well, but I just I have a, I have a tough time with that interface. In terms of newsletter glue, what is the most requested feature that people ask you to build into the system at this


point? It’s tough to say because we have a lot of different types of users. And they all want slightly different things. The thing that I can say is that the most requested integration is ConvertKit. I think a lot of creators and bloggers use it, which are kind of like a huge market for us and So, we’ve we’ve been talking to ConvertKit for a while now. And they’re, they’ve got part of the API that we need built. And I think they’ll hopefully start working on the other part, either end of this year, which we’re already at or start of next year. So I hope that we will be able to integrate with them by maybe the end of the first quarter of next year. But we’ll see. Fingers crossed.


Yeah. And I, I’m in that camp, I wasn’t going to bring up to convert kid if you did it for me. I know I’m in that camp. I know. Several other big bloggers like I know Jocasta Bonas. in that camp. I know. Yeah, Matt, Matt madeiros is in that camp, or we’re all sitting there waiting, because we’re all Convert Kit users. And one of the big reasons is that combination of the three of us is we’re also all podcasters. And Convert Kit, has some nice integration with cast those which kind of makes our life a little easier. So you know, that nicely said, let’s get with the program and get Convert Kit after. And let’s, let’s get that done. Right.


Yeah, I mean, the the team has been super helpful. And I’ve been, like I said, I’ve been working closely with them. But I think it requires quite a lot of work on their end. So you know, we can just all we can do is wait on our site. Just by just with net Maduro. So he’s already using nouthetic Blue for his other project. The WP minute. Yeah, yes, actually. Yep. Yeah. So it’s been it’s been fun working with him on that. Yeah, he


loves it. And Matt’s a really great guy in the space. I mean, he’s one. He’s one of my go to guys with podcasting help. So ya know, he’s anything with Matt is, is is a great project at the end of the day.


Yeah, he was the first Sorry to interrupt. He was my first podcast interview. It was it was really nerve wracking, actually, to be on his podcast as my first ever one. Just because, you know, I’ve been listening to his podcast, before before I even started newsletter glue. So him asking me on was, was a real honour. And he’s been such a huge supporter of nouthetic Glue since then. So yeah, shout out to Matt.


No, no, no question. When I did my move to cast those, he was a big help, and the cast those teams, so yeah, he deserves everything he brings to the table. And, and he’s such a good community guy as well, that, you know, the WordPress space is funny. It’s the one community I know, where you can pick up a DM and send it to anybody. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a VP, if they run a company, if they’re, you know, in the middle, people are generally pretty receptive of getting back to you. Right. So it’s a big factor there. So newsletters, let’s just talk generally, for a minute, I had somebody say to me the other day, why should I do a newsletter in 2021? And this is old stuff in a waste of time. What? What’s your response to that one?


I think my response is, it depends. What What business do they read? I mean, it might very well be the case that they shouldn’t run a newsletter, right?


This particular business was a retail business.




online and offline. Yep. Right.


Yeah. I mean, if they if they run an online business, then I think they really should do newsletters. Just because conversion rates for newsletters, I think, I mean, this is one of those public publicly available and often quoted stats, so I’m not sure how accurate it is. But I think people say it’s like 80% Yeah, I’m gonna I’m gonna throw like these random stats out there. I think people say there’s like 80% or like, 200% more effective than other social media channels or something like that. And but yeah, the thing is, I think once you’ve built especially for E commerce, once you’ve built up large enough email lists, when you have those conversions, when you have a sale, you can just kind of blast it out to your email list. And that kind of guarantees you you know, depending on your conversion rate, you know, anywhere between two to 5% of conversions and it how do I put this like it It saves your sanity because you know that like, okay, with any SEO I do, I have this guaranteed conversion rate, because I’ve spent the time to build up my list. And you can’t really say the same for other social media channels, you know, like, with online advertising for a while Google and Facebook have, Facebook has been increasing their rates. And then with all of the privacy stuff, it decreases. Targeting the you know, the effectiveness of targeting, and you just don’t really know what your reach is going to be unless you’ve spent hundreds of 1000s of dollars perfecting that over time, whereas with newsletters, it’s going to be a lot cheaper. And, yeah, it’s just kind of, to me, at least, like a cheaper and like more guaranteed way to stay in touch with the audience. I when it comes to ecommerce,


yeah, I would agree with USA. I mean, in today’s digital marketing world, there’s two things young one is your website, and the other is your mailing list. And, and I, I say that quite a bit to people, I run before want to record I was telling I run a newsletter that’s got about 1000 people in it. And my open rates on a consistent basis are between 60 and 80%. So that’s way above industry standard. And and that’s, that’s come over time. I mean, it’s it’s things like managing your list segmenting your list, writing to your list, not to who you want to write to people who’s got to remember, don’t write for yourself, right for your list, right? Right for your potential customer, right for your client knew what, what you want to put out there doesn’t matter. So. So that’s what people need to think about. And I think products like newsletter glue, just help people get better at writing newsletters and make it easier. And I think that’s the whole key. One of the reasons people shy away from writing newsletters is it takes time, it takes effort, right?


Yeah, for sure. It does. Just like any marketing channel.


Yeah. And I think a lot of it is just getting into the right workflow. So if you had a crystal ball, what besides the ConvertKit? Integration? Where would you like to see newsletter Goo go in the next year.


Um, so there are so many things that I that we are currently working on, and that I would like to work on for next year. So one of our big projects right now is moving our, or other redesigning our admin settings, so that it’s more in line with what wordpress.com jetpack and basically, like automatic admin settings look like, I just like how, you know, it looks really modern and clean, super responsive. It’s all built using React, so it’s really snappy as well. So that’s one of the big things that we’re moving towards, and just kind of making like the WordPress admin look more uniform, I’m generally a big fan of that. I’m less big of a fan of plugins, which look completely alien to the WordPress interface with the exception of page builders, because I guess you have to understand that there, they really are kind of taking over. So yeah, with the exception of pH photos, I’m not a huge fan of plugins who do that, you know, come up with their own completely separate UI. So that’s one of our big pushes. And speaking of E commerce, one of the things that I would like to do next year, is have closer WooCommerce compatibility. So really basic things like someone can eat, someone can drag and drop one of their product blocks into a newsletter and just kind of have that look great immediately on email without having to do anything else. So if they were running a sale, since we were just talking about that, if they were running like you know 50% of Summerson swimsuits sale, they can just drag and drop, you know, five swimsuits straight into the block editor. It will look great on their website, and it’ll look great. As sent as an email, and the ability to do that I think is going to be huge just because you can’t do that. If you you know if if you are running your newsletter mailing list on anything else, right. Save your mail. And you wanted to drag you wanted to recreate this summer swimsuit sale, you would be spending five to 10 hours or maybe even hiring a designer or email developer to build these components. And make sure it’s all responsive, make sure it looks good in Outlook and Gmail and of the email hands. Whereas with us if you’re able to just drag and drop, and just send that out immediately, you know, you increase your sales, you significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to build any of these newsletters. So that’s something I’m really excited about for next year.


Yeah, and we all know the complexities of Microsoft Outlook, it has a tendency to screw up email coming out of newsletter services, like you wouldn’t believe outlook is, is a challenge beyond belief. And then vice versa. I if I had $1, for every time, I set something up for a company that was primarily outlook. And I’d be a rich man, right? Because the headaches, Outlook just doesn’t need here, this standard HTML standards or other things, and they they issue a whole new pile of complexities don’t take.


Yeah, we spent the first quarter of this year actually optimising for Outlook. And that was super painful. But we’re super glad that we did it. And then we’ve actually also spent the past two weeks optimising for Outlook. Again, just because we’ve been onboarding really large clients, decent 10s of 1000s of email newsletters every day, they have like multiple newsletters, multiple editors, multiple writers, and their entire company uses outlook. And so you know, when if something outlook looks wrong, like you’re going to get lots and lots of people complaining, and, and so we’ve spent the past two weeks kind of really perfecting how our emails look on Outlook. And so I’m really proud to say that I think we are super compatible with Outlook, and by extension, all other email clients. So emails breaking and stuff like that isn’t really something that you have to worry, that’s too much.


Yeah, congratulations on that one. That’s, that’s a big job. I, I know, I originally, before I got into marketing, I come from a healthcare background. And they were all


a whole bunch of custom blocks with which you can use to build your newsletter much quicker, and make it look cool. So we give you like, author, byline, metadata, post and bed blocks, and the free version doesn’t come with that. So what the free version lets you do is if you have like a text and image based blog post, you can send that out as a newsletter really easily. And that comes perfectly formatted in your subscriber inboxes. If you wanted to build something a bit more elaborate, you know, if you wanted to build sections into your newsletter, or if you wanted to create a curation newsletter, and a whole bunch of links, you can do that more easily with the pro version, because we come with, like I mentioned, the blocks that allow you to do that really quickly.


What is the current cost of a licence for newsletter go for the paid version.


The paid version starts at $79 a year for a single licence. But we are planning to change up our pricing structure a little bit, maybe the start of next year, so that it’s more so right now our licence is more sorry, our pricing tiers are more licence based, meaning you get the same things, the same amount of features for each tier, you just get more licences. But from what I’ve seen with talking to customers, it makes more sense to move towards a feature based pricing tier. So depending on what features you want, you get a different tier because, you know, for example, a large newsroom, they don’t they only have that one site. So they’re not going to need multiples, multiple licences, but they might need more advanced features in comparison to a smaller blogger who again only has one site, but maybe they need simpler features. Because the it’s just them. They don’t have authors and editors, you know, have to juggle user permissions and all that kind of stuff.


I would agree. A feature base licencing for me usually does better than a than just throwing more at the tears in my opinion. So I think it’s, I would tend to agree that’s probably the way to go. So it just takes it takes little bit of time sometimes to figure out the market and what the market wants and how they want it. Right was just, it’s just a case of figuring that out. And once you figured that out, you can go from there.


Yeah, for sure. That’s, that’s actually been one of my favourite parts about building the plugin, like kind of, like you say, like figuring out the market, learning what people want. And kind of juggling limited time and resources with giving people every single thing that they want.


That’s so true. If somebody wants to get a hold a newsletter glue, I take it for the free version, the best place to go was the WordPress repository at WordPress.org.


Yep. So they can head over there to trial the plugin. And if they want to get the paid version, they can head over to https://newsletterglue.com/. The paid version comes with a 14 day no questions asked refund. So if they want to kick the tires on the paid version, they’re welcome to do so as


well. That’s really great. Offering that guarantee. Have you had a lot of people come back to after and said, This isn’t for me, or is that been pretty good?


Yeah, we I think we’ve only had a small handful of refunds. And that tends to be when you know, either it’s completely not compatible. So we have some people who buy it thinking that integrates with the email service provider, and then it turns out that they didn’t check and we don’t, which is nobody’s fault, right. And, you know, sometimes that happens. And then some other cases where they wanted, they needed more help than they expected. And we were, you know, they wanted to have develop, like a developer come in and build something really custom for them. And, you know, we’re a plugin shop, we’re not a developer agency. And so I think they went somewhere else to go and get all of that custom work done.


Yeah, I think I think sometimes customers don’t realise the difference between a plugin shop and a full stack agency with a developer and sometimes they they truly don’t realise the two are not always the same. Right. So I mean, that’s, that’s the big issue there. If somebody wants to talk to us and find out more about to newsletter goo, where’s the best way to get ahold you?


So I’m really active on Twitter. As we talked about earlier, they can contact me they can either DM me or the newsletter Google account. So my Twitter is Lesley_Pizza


Thanks so much for having me. Rob.

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