🌲 Shadow Newsletter for Evergreen Emails in ConvertKit

For years I spent immense amounts of effort broadcasting one-off emails to to my newsletter.

Millions of them!

This is fine, a broadcast does the job of delivering your emails to the eager recipients at the other end of the wire. Mission accomplished, right?

yes and no. The problem with this approach is that if you are sending out really great content (and that is the key to a newsletter), folks that join your list later will never see those old broadcasts. They are one-shots, never to be read again. An entire new generation of subscribers will miss out on your delightful prose that was broadcasted out in the past.

One of my favorite solutions to this problem was introduced to me by Brennan Dunn in his Drip Mastery class.

The shadow newsletter.

I've also seen this referred to as the "evergreen newsletter" but the basic idea is that you add emails to an automated sequence instead of broadcasting them individually. The sequence is set to email at a set interval, for me it is every Thursday.

When you add the first email to the sequence, you can now add every subscriber that you want to add to the sequence. This might be a segment of your subscribers, or it might be all of them. That's a call you can make, but regardless all of these subscribers will get that first email.

With ConvertKit, subscribers added to a sequence stay in that sequence forever unless they are explicitly removed.

This means that if you add another email to the sequence, all of those subscribers will receive the email on the next scheduled broadcast timeslot.

This is great, you can keep adding emails to the sequence and it functions in a very similar way as a broadcast message to the crest of the subscriber wave that is riding the sequence.

But that's not the beauty of it...

When you add new subscribers to the sequence, they get the chance to receive your best, most badass content too! They start at the beginning and go through the sequence every Thursday receiving a new email from you like clockwork.

Custom Template and Unsubscribe

One thing that I want to make sure of is that people can opt-out of the shadow newsletter, and this requires a custom email template. I prefer the "plain text" template in ConvertKit, so I just copied the markup out of their template and pasted into a new template names "Shadow Newsletter" and included a trigger link:

<style>
.message-content {
max-width: 600px;
}
.message-content div {
padding-bottom: 10px;
}
.message-content img {
max-width: 100%;
height: auto;
}
p {
margin-bottom: 1em;
}
</style>
<div class="message-content">
{{ message_content }}
<br />
<br />
<small
>{{ address }}<br />
<a href="https://unsubscribe-link.com" trigger-id="RULE_ID"
>Unsubscribe from Thursday Newsletter</a
>
or
<a href="{{ unsubscribe_url }}" class="unsubscribe-link"
>Unsubscribe from everything</a
>
<br />
</small>
</div>

For this to work properly, you need to create a trigger link rule. I've set my rule up to add a tag to folks that click the newsletter unsubscribe link, and then in the sequence I add a global filter for anybody with that tag so they will never get emails again.

You could also set it up to just remove them from the sequence as an alternative. Either way, just make sure you honor their wishes.

The shadow newsletter assumes a few things:

  • the emails in the shadow newsletter are actually badass.
  • They are really good emails that people will want to receive.
  • They aren't going to contain time sensitive or in the moment topical references.
  • The shadow newsletter is evergreen 🌲

The single sequence acting as a shadow newsletter is a great way to start, and is relatively simple. Once you've got it running, you can be assured that new subscribers will be treated to your best work.

It's important to groom the emails in the shadow newsletter occasionally. I go back through them and tweak them, adjust titles, update content, add new information, and do other editing tasks on a regular basis.

If you want to get more complex, you can dig into automations where you pull people out of the shadow newsletter at the right times to pitch them an offer or deliver another sequence. By setting up a shadow newsletter for your email list you can relax a bit. You'll know that new subscribers are being taken care of.

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