How I'd grow Flow State

July 1, 2020

Flow State is a free newsletter that sends you 2 hours of working music every weekday, with background information on the artist and the genre.

It also offers paid membership that gives you access to custom in-house mixes, and a searchable database of songs.

I like how they kept their value proposition simple and clear. As soon as you land on their Substack page, you understand what it’s all about.

But I also think that, to be able to grow to the next level, they should seriously consider creating a full-featured website.


2 benefits: they can have a unique design that reflects the spirit of their brand, and host it on their own domain.

They don’t have to get rid of Substack. Just by linking to it in their CTAs, they’d still use it to handle their newsletter.

I’d use the About page to explain that playlists are curated by a real human with passion, and not cold algorithms.

Who is behind Flow State? What’s their story? When you’re a solo founder, you need to leverage this advantage to connect deeply with the audience.

I’d raise the monthly price for new subscribers grandfathering the old ones in. In my experience, the majority of people who’d pay $7/mo would also pay $9/mo.

A small increase would make a huge difference for their bottom line: a +25% boost in revenue (no extra effort).

Before promotion, one thing has to be crystal clear: this isn’t a music product. It should be promoted as a productivity tool.

The goal of marketing should be showing people how this product can improve their work performance.

After their launch they did a good job doing things that don’t scale, e.g. guest posts that attracted interested people.

But now that they got a decent number of subscribers, they need to start creating a more robust and predictable traffic system to go even further.

Firstly, I’d systematically leverage cross promotion and audience sharing with other creators in the same niche (and with a similar audience size).

This means scouring the web for non-competing products that Flow State’s subscribers would appreciate and find useful.

Create a collaboration plan that benefits both businesses and their audiences.

It could be as simple as linking to each other in newsletters and social media. Just one collaboration like this one in a month could significantly boost Flow State’s subscribers count.

One of the best ways to grow newsletters is through word of mouth. Motivating referrals isn’t new, but many do it wrong.

Make the goal easy enough to get the reward. 90% of the time businesses set too ambitious goals. Subscribers get discouraged, and almost nobody does it.

E.g. A newsletter says: bring 10 new subs to get 6 months of premium free. People give up - spending time finding subscribers isn’t their priority.

But if they say: bring 3 friends to win, people will do it. It’s easy to find them, and it’s a big win for the newsletter.

Another channel I’d consider is paid ads.

Since Flow State is not a unicorn startup that needs to acquire thousands of users, I’d give Reddit Ads a try.

It doesn’t have the scale of other social networks, but it can work pretty well for small projects.

Pro tip: Reddit Ads are pay-per-click. The system lets you choose the maximum price you’re willing to pay for each click (the bid).

Unlike FB and others, Reddit doesn’t have an inventory problem. Even setting the bid to $0.10 will be enough to drive clicks to your site.

They’re not using search at all. I’d start working on it ASAP. In the long term, it could drive most of the top-of-the-funnel traffic.

Start simple: write informative articles targeting low volume, high-intent keywords. They should get quality visitors in a few months.

They already have a number of good backlinks. They have to be careful, though: they point to the Substack domain.

To keep the precious link juice, once they set up a custom domain, they should use redirects to preserve good domain authority and thus improve their rankings.

Learn marketing from case studies

Every month I pick a new website and write a marketing case study explaining exactly how I’d grow it