How Katelyn Bourgoin Built an Audience of 220k Teaching People “Why We Buy”

Katelyn Bourgoin writes the Why We Buy newsletter, where she shares fun and actionable tips on buyer psychology.

But these aren’t boring tips you’ll find hard to implement.

She takes high-level psychology concepts, and shares real-world examples of how you can use them to make your marketing efforts more effective.

The Growth Timeline

Katelyn’s growth timeline is really interesting. She’s been building her audience for a while, but around December of 2021, things really started to take off (more on that later).

Around mid-2022 she started focusing more heavily on building her email list and implemented some really interesting ways of growing it.

Let’s get into how she was able to grow Why We Buy into a newsletter with over 50k subscribers.

A Little Backstory

Katelyn is a 4x founder, and while she’s seen a lot of success lately, it wasn’t always that way.

She wanted to build a software product for women. She did over 300 customer interviews, telling people what she was building, and got great feedback.

That’s more interviews than most companies do…ever. She knew exactly what her customers wanted and was sure this was going to be a success.

Come to find out, telling people what you’re creating is the exact WRONG way to get customer insights. She ended up spending a ton of time building the wrong product for those people.

Sadly, she had to shut the business down.

But she’s been able to turn that failure into a multi-6-figure business helping people avoid those mistakes, build solid products, and get more customers to buy.

The Growth Levers of Katelyn Bourgoin

Here are some of the growth levers that Katelyn used to build this newsletter and grow her business:

🛠️ 1. The Tactical Methods. There are 4 big social tactics Katelyn’s been able to take advantage of to build her social following, and ultimately her newsletter.

🔥 2. Hyper-sharable content. People share things that make them look smart. And Katelyn has been able to craft her ideas in a way that makes them almost too easy to share.

🎁 3. Give more than you take. Katelyn has a super smart way of building raving fans after just sending a welcome email. And it’s one you can (and probably should) steal.

🏆 4. Branding & being a category leader. Design matters more than you think. And once you see how she does this you’ll agree.

🤝 5. Partnerships & other people’s audiences. If you’re looking for an untapped way to get in front of other people’s audiences, this is it. I haven’t seen other creators doing a lot of this.

1. The Tactical Methods 🛠️

The thing I love about this deep dive so much is that Katelyn just runs around implementing all of these buyer psychology tactics in terms of promoting the newsletter.

It’s really meta – she’s showing you in real-time how these concepts work, while also using them to grow the newsletter.

Katelyn has been able to build a following of more than 170k between Twitter and LinkedIn.

She uses those social accounts to grow the newsletter and learn more about her customers.

In a nutshell, it feels like Katelyn’s growth has been a combination of:

  • Learning new customer psychology tips
  • Implementing what she’s learning
  • Teaching those tips to people
  • The content is so good that other people share her posts

And the flywheel continues to spin.

Here’s Katelyn’s thread on this growth to give you some more insight.

Let’s dig into a few of the smart ways she builds her social audience and newsletter at the same time.

A. Sharing Reader Testimonials

Instead of trying to make her testimonials look nice, Katelyn screenshots them and reposts them.

The important part here is tagging the person who said that thing.

This strategy does a few things:

  1. People get excited to see their name and will feel even more connected to your brand
  2. Other people see this and think “I want Katelyn to shout me out, too!” and so they start leaving nice words around the internet about her brand.
  3. People start seeing these over and over and decide to finally subscribe to the newsletter.
  4. People trust referrals from peers more than any form of marketing. So if you recognize the person who Katelyn shouted out, you’re probably more likely to sign up.

All of these are tactics Katelyn teaches in her newsletter, so this is a great way for her to showcase how they work.

B. Tease the Newsletter, Twice

Katelyn has been using these testimonials as a way to tease the upcoming newsletter the day it goes out.

In 2022, she would post these testimonials twice, once the day before it went out and another one the day the newsletter would go out.

She told Nathan Barry she would get around 150-200 signups just from those tweets alone.

Anymore, I see her doing this once a week, but in the beginning, it probably helped drive more signups by doing it twice.

C. Threads to Drive Newsletter Subscribers

Katelyn has written a number of threads around buyer psychology, marketing, great uses of different marketing tactics, etc.

And at least a few of them end up driving email subscribers to her newsletter.

One of Katelyn’s most viral threads drove over 2,400 subscribers:

While you can argue that they don’t work as well as they used to, there’s something to be said about longer-form social content.

D. Twitter Inflection Point

If you looked at Katelyn’s growth timeline and thought “holy crap, what happened in December 2021?” You are not alone.

I’m calling this one, the Amanda Effect.

After doing some more research, I found out that Amanda Natividad posted a thread about the top “must-follow accounts” and she listed Katelyn first.

Here’s the full thread:

Katelyn posted that this tweet alone ended up getting her over 10k new Twitter followers…in 24 hours. 🤯

She went from around 24k to over 40k followers between December and January, and this tweet played a huge role in that.

This was definitely an inflection point in Katelyn’s Twitter following, as her follower count started growing at a much faster clip after that.

But is something like that all just a game of who you know mixed with luck? Well, maybe, but it also has a lot to do with this next growth lever.

2. Hyper Sharable Content 🔥

When she started the newsletter, she knew that she couldn’t just talk about market research and the nerdy concepts around that.

If she did, she’d end up with an email list full of market researchers.

These were not her ideal customers. So she had to find an angle that was more geared toward the everyday marketer, the people who were actually her customers.

Jobs to Be Done

Knowing this, Katelyn went back to the “Jobs to be done” framework that she teaches to her customers.

Essentially, you want to think about what “job” your customer is trying to solve with your product or service.

Sure, she could have created a newsletter about how to do market research, but the people who signed up for that would stop reading when their customer research project was done.

“We exist to help marketers to understand what triggers people to buy, so they can market smarter.”

Katelyn Bourgoin

Thinking about this “job to be done,” she realized that helping people understand buying triggers and concepts around why people buy would be a much more interesting topic for a newsletter.

With that, she hit on a newsletter topic that hits on a few points:

  • It’s interesting and fun to read about
  • It’s “evergreen” and not something people will read for a few weeks and then unsubscribe
  • It helps them do their jobs better and/or make more money
  • It has quick and actionable tips vs only explaining the high-level concepts

Make Your Readers Look (& Feel) Smarter

On the Send & Grow podcast, she said she doesn’t want people to come away from her newsletter thinking “Wow, Katelyn is so smart!”

She wants them to come away thinking “Wow, I’m smarter for having read that!”

And what kind of content do people share?

Content that makes them look smart. 🧠

By sharing quick and actionable tips people can use right away, Katelyn’s content is primed and ready for someone to share.

3. Give More Than You Take 🎁

Katelyn uses some really smart ways to make sure people feel like they made the right choice by signing up for her newsletter.

Secret Gift for New Subscribers

This is one of the things I have been thinking about for a while, but after seeing how Katelyn does it I’m going to implement this here soon.

When someone subscribes to the newsletter, she doesn’t promise anything special up front. But in the welcome email, she lets them know she has a “special gift” for them just for signing up.

How do they get it?

Well, she asks them to reply to that email.

And if you know anything about email marketing, getting replies to your emails can help make sure your future emails don’t go to spam.

This can be hugely beneficial for keeping your engagement numbers like open rate and click-through rate up.

In reality, she just delays the sending of that things for around 20 minutes, but it’s enough time that she probably gets quite a few replies from people.

Brilliant stuff right here. Surprise and delight mixed with tactical methods of getting people to reply.

Do you know what else this does? By giving them something of value up front, they might feel the need to reciprocate the gift.

Which ties in nicely with her referral program.

The Referral Program

Katelyn has a referral program for the newsletter that is really interesting.

If you refer 1 person, she’ll donate $1 to a charity. I haven’t seen that before, but I love it. It kind of tugs at your heartstrings to be like, okay, yes let’s help out a charity together.

The next 2 tiers are all about getting some serious value.

You can be entered to win a hot seat call with Katelyn – which she generally sells for around $750.

And then if you refer 12 people you get her Clarity Call cheatsheets, which are the main product she talks about these days, and people RAVE about them.

12 is a great number because it’s hard enough for the average person to reach, but if you really want those cheatsheets, it’s totally doable.

By the way, if you haven’t subscribed to her newsletter, I’d appreciate it if you used this link to do so – I’d love to get those cheatsheets 🙂

4. Branding & Being a Category Leader 🏆

In a past life, Katelyn ran a branding and PR agency, so she knows a lot about the importance of branding.

And she’s combined that with a super specific topic of the kinds of content she shares.

A Well-Designed, Memorable Brand

Katelyn is one of the creators that stands out for me as having an incredibly well-designed brand.

It carries through everywhere:

  • Her profile picture
  • The website
  • All landing pages
  • Slides for all of her presentations
  • Her lead magnets
  • Podcast artwork
  • All of the images in her tweets

Everything is purple and yellow. Oftentimes, people are outlined in yellow. There are lightning bolts everywhere, and emojis, too.

Sure, she might have a designer helping with all of the assets, but it’s an intentional strategy that is working really well.

And when Katelyn went to redesign her logo for the newsletter, she crowdsourced feedback on Twitter:

This tweet got over 200 replies from people sharing which one they loved and why.

It was also a clever way to share that she was getting close to 50k subscribers. This is a little social proof that probably got some additional email signups for her.

“The Customer Whisperer”

Her brand isn’t just about the colors and fonts, it’s also about the consistency in her messaging.

  • Customers
  • Buyers
  • Behavior
  • Psychology
  • Research

These five words show up everywhere in her messaging.

By honing in on a specific message, she’s able to share that over and over and become known for that thing.

Katelyn has become so well-known for this type of content, that people have called her “The Customer Whisperer” – a name she wears proudly.

5. Partnerships

Katelyn partnered with Neal O’Grady from the Demand Curve team and together they created the Un-Ignorable Challenge.

Remember how I mentioned her really recognizable brand? Even with this partnership, they combined the Demand Curve blue, with some of her branding assets:

  • The lightning bolts
  • The emojis and hearts
  • The yellow highlight text styling

Everything Katelyn does has a taste of her brand associated with it. Super, super smart.

This challenge was exciting, from the naming, and the way they teased it, to the marketing of it.

Katelyn and Neal really show you everything a brand should be doing and then they teach you how to do that.

Here are some more insights into how these two were able to build a successful program and sell it out in 6 minutes:

The best part is that you can tell these two really enjoy working together. And now, they’ve created another opportunity for people to share their content.

When I see Neal’s stuff I think about Katelyn, and vice versa.

It’s a really interesting dynamic that amplifies both of their brands.

6. Other People’s Audiences

I’ve talked about other creators like Codie Sanchez and Packy McCormick who have really smartly been able to leverage other audiences via podcasts and collaborations.

Katelyn has been on a lot of podcasts as well – there were more than 30 that I found, not including her own.

But she adds an extra layer on top of that.

Teaching Other Audiences

Paid communities and SaaS companies often bring in outside experts to help their customers learn and get better at specific skills so they keep using their software.

These might be monthly “office hours” or just regular guest speakers who come in.

Katelyn has done more than a handful of these types of webinars and co-presentations with brands in the marketing space.

Some of these include recognizable brands like:

  • Sparktoro
  • Hotjar
  • Wynter (Peep Laja’s company)
  • Forget the Funnel
  • DemandCurve

She teaches their audiences about smart ways to use buyer psychology to get in front of their customers, and why customer research is so important.

And while this might sound like a lot of work, you can reuse similar content each time.

Katelyn has a 30-minute presentation and a 60-minute one.

The content is generally the same, but she might tweak a few things depending on the audience or new information she’s learned.

The audiences for these aren’t always huge, they are often hyper-targeted and full of high-quality people.

At the same time, these are people who actively pay for software and/or communities to be a part of. They’re likely willing to pull out their credit card and buy something else if they resonate with her message.

So you gain new fans of your content, build relationships, associate your name with these bigger brands, and potentially make some sales at the same time.

Sounds like a win-win-win.

Not to mention, a lot of these end up living on YouTube, so they can be reshared or found by people later on too.

SparkLoop & Recommendations

Newsletter recommendations have become a really popular way for operators to grow their audiences without doing any additional work.

And it’s another way Katelyn has been able to leverage other people’s audiences.

You can implement recommendations with many of the top email marketing platforms these days.

Katelyn is using the ConvertKit Creator Network/Sparkloop to manage this. But if you’re on Beehiiv or Substack, they have their own recommendations platforms as well.

How You Can Replicate Some of Katelyn’s Success 🗺️

While Katelyn has methodically set her brand up for success, there are a number of things you can do to

Build a Recognizable Brand

While I wouldn’t go spending a ton of money to get a well-designed brand up front, having cohesive assets is a must.

Especially because anyone can spin up a Substack or Beehiiv website that all end up looking the same. You need to stand out a little bit.

A few easy ways to do that in the beginning:

  • Pick 1-2 colors
  • Decide on one main font and one font for the rest of your text

You might be able to skimp out on design in the super early days, but as you start to grow and find product market fit, I think it becomes more and more important.

Surprise and Delight Your Readers

Readers can be skeptical when they first sign up for something.

By showing them that you are giving more than you are taking, they won’t have the “buyer’s remorse” of signing up for yet another email.

Katelyn does this well with her “hidden gift” lead magnet. Getting people to reply to the first email is also really smart for newsletter operators to do.

And the way she’s set this up is fully automated, so you’re not adding a ton of extra work onto your plate.

I’m actually going to start implementing this here soon for Growth In Reverse because it’s a great idea.

Partner with Communities & SaaS Companies

Katelyn does a great job of collaborating with communities and marketing companies to provide value for their readers, while also getting in front of new potential readers.

Look for people in your niche who have YouTube channels, paid communities, or even SaaS companies that run live trainings.

These are great people and brands to start connecting with and see if they have a need for your expertise.

But there isn’t a ton of prep since the slides are ready to go and the content is there.

Again, you can have a few presentations ready to go so you’re not recreating the wheel each time.

These types of collaborations can bring in customers for your business, but also build relationships with people who might not have otherwise found you. They get to see your teaching style and that you know what you’re talking about.

You Don’t Have to Know It All

I found this quote while doing my research and thought it was really relevant.

This isn’t necessarily a growth strategy, but more of a little boost of confidence for those of you who might need it.

“Oftentimes the topics that we’re talking about in the newsletter are presented like I have a high-level understanding. But really, we’re just learning about it ahead of teaching it to others. There’s a lot that I’m learning about only weeks before I’m sharing examples in my newsletter or on social.”

Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn is essentially learning in public while she’s creating this content.

She doesn’t know everything about buyer psychology and she’ll be the first to tell you that. But, she is learning constantly and then sharing those insights with her readers.

How Katelyn Makes Money

Katelyn has a few different ways she makes money at this point.

Newsletter Sponsorships

While the newsletter initially was created to get more customers for her services and digital products. But Katelyn eventually realized that she was sitting on a revenue stream she didn’t even realize.

Why We Buy generates around $25k per month in newsletter sponsors alone.

Since they send emails 2x a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, there are between 8 and 10 spots depending on the month.

Backing into the numbers, they charge anywhere from $2500-$3,100 per spot, which is a great price, especially for a newsletter focused heavily on marketers.

Digital Products

Katelyn sells a few digital products as well.

These are all processes and systems she uses in her own business to get clear on customers and positioning.

Strategy Calls

If you’re looking for custom help and to jump on a call with Katelyn, she offers strategy calls.

Because the price is quite high at this point, she links back to her lower-cost products on the sales page. Super smart.

She’s making at least $400k (her words) but I’d guess it’s closer to $500k at this point.

chenell basilio

Chenell Basilio

Chenell is the head writer and reverse engineer at Growth In Reverse. She spends her days researching newsletters, audience growth, and generally figuring out how to help others create better content.

She has an almost useless Bachelor's Degree in Geography, enjoys running, listening to podcasts, and eating guacamole. 🥑

Where I hang out on social media: