I spent $750 for promoting my SaaS in a newsletter (indiehackers.com)

published on 05 October 2023

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The experiment

I spent $750 for ads. It was a one time newsletter link placement. An offer from indiehackers.com. I never believed in paid ads for SaaS promo. I experimented with Facebook Ads and Google Ad Sense in the past. And both brought near zero results. Maybe this time, I will be more lucky. No. It was a total failure again. Near zero results. I got 124 clicks and 0 sales.

The offer

Let's talk about the offer itself. Is it so bad? The Indie hackers sponsorship offer is a new thing. The guys are trying to fund themselves after Stripe stopped supporting the project. Small startup makers are not our exact audience, but it's still relevant. Besides it's always a good idea to support indie makers. They said the email will be sent to 80K folks with a click rate of 1.6%.

In theory that can bring 1,280 clicks, which is nice number for $750. But why have you got only 124 clicks? What went wrong?


I failed, like everything πŸ˜ͺ First I made bad copy. Really bad. Just look at this:

The copy of the email newsletter sponsored link.
The copy of the email newsletter sponsored link.

It's so self oriented, it brings near zero value to the reader. Plus there is no clear call to action. Second, I could negotiate the amount of clicks. If my link doesn't perform well they will run another newsletter to satisfy me. That sounds so fair. And it's a common practice. I didn't know that. However, corporate firewalls click links in emails to check it for spam. So if a newsletter owner doesn't clean their list the links will still not bring any result.

I was told that to make profits from a newsletter ad a SaaS must have an LTV of $250 and ARPU $40. My SaaS has less. So perhaps it was a bad idea from the math perspective too.

And the last one, I should have offered something people can grab right away. A landing page builder? What are odds a reader needs it at the moment of opening the issue. It could work better with a book, an article or a freebie.

So even thought I failed, like everything. I still consider paid ads a waste of money. Yeah, it's okay if you are a VC funded startup with unlimited money, you need to spend more to get another trench. It's okay. You can buy all the ads, all the placements in every newsletter.

But if you are a bootstrapped company which counts every penny paid ads are useless. You need to constantly inject colossal amount of cash. You need to buy every placement every month. Only, this way, you will get your brand to another level. I remember New Relic. They're buying ads everywhere back then in 2014. I never clicked on it. More than that I never understand what exactly that tool was about. But after eight years when you needed a server monitoring tool I clicked on New Relic and bought it.

Because they spent millions to make me see it. Even through my ad blockers.
So yes. Ads work. But only at huge volume. Let me know if I am wrong. That's my conclusion.

P.S.: This video was possible with the help of these five awesome persons, they sent valuable replies on my initial tweet about this campaign. Follow them on Twitter:

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