In March 2020, I had 47,000 subscribers. A year later, I had over 250,000. If you’re wondering how to grow your YouTube channel, stick around. I’m going to tell you everything I did to 5x my subscribers in just over one year.
After 9 years of being on YouTube I decided to go all in, and I dedicated the whole year (and $200,000) to growing my YouTube channel.
How did we do it?
Let’s get into it.
How to Grow Your YouTube Channel & 5x Your Subscribers in One Year
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YouTube Marketing Strategy#1: YouTube Ads
Have you ever watched an ad on YouTube where no one is selling you anything?
At first, we tried to run those typical ads you probably see all the time…
In this video ad, I’m gonna convince you to subscribe to my YouTube channel! Why should you listen to me? I was #38 at Facebook and #4 at Mint.com…
But they just felt like an ad — and honestly, I wouldn’t want to subscribe either.
So we figured, why not advertise our best videos instead?
It’s the content people that watch our channel already love, so we thought if we showed those popular videos to the people who aren’t subscribed instead of a sales-y ad, it would get them more excited to join.
(Btw this is the video ad we first put out — it drove the most subscribers to our channel at the time.)
So we ran ads to that video, and we made it “unlisted” so it didn’t hurt our original stats.
- $4500 running the ad
- Got 3000 subs
- = $1.50 cost per subscriber
It really worked! So we did the same thing with the rest of our top-performing subscriber videos that year, too.
In total, we spent about $15,000 dollars gaining around 6000 subscribers. That adds up to about $2.40 a subscriber.
But even though this was really successful for us…
I don’t think you should do it.
Yep. I actually want to discourage you from doing this strategy
Unless you’re already making money — don’t run ads to anything.
Most people start doing ads without actually having a way to make a profit from it, which isn’t a smart strategy. Unless there’s an ROI from your advertising — do not do it.
The thing that you’re looking at when you do ads is basically two things:
- How long does it take you to make your money back?
- What is the cost to acquire the person vs. the LTV (lifetime value) of your customer?
If you can make your money back the same day from doing your advertising, you should spend unlimited money.
YouTube Marketing Strategy #2: Giveaways
We did a Dropbox giveaway years ago that generated 200,000 people checking out AppSumo and millions of dollars in revenue. So when I wanted to grow my YouTube channel, I knew that I wanted to repeat what’s already working in my business.
There were two big giveaways we did:
- I gave away a Macbook Pro & iPads
- I gave away my Tesla (alright, you may not be able to copy this one)
But the principles with these giveaways are the same — no matter what you’re actually giving away.
When AppSumo was doing a huge Black Friday giveaway and they were like, Hey Noah, let’s give away your car. I said Okay! And it was really fun.
So one thing to consider is you should be having fun in your business because your customers will respond to that.
And with the Macbook and iPads giveaways, we learned to collaborate with other creators to get the channel in front of a bigger audience.
One of the best ways to do marketing is if you’re trying to do Youtube, either make great videos or get on other people’s channels. If you’re trying to grow your email list, send out great emails and get in other people’s newsletters.
So what were the results?
The Tesla giveaway generated 3000 subscribers for the channel, but the next day after the giveaway ended, about half of those people unsubscribed.
So I was a little disappointed.
We spent $60,000 dollars as a company and we’re only able to get 3000 subscribers, so it’s about $20 dollars a subscriber.
But we did a collab giveaway with Ali Abdaal and gave away an iPad which cost around $329 dollars. And it generated over 800 subscribers!
So that works out to 41 cents a subscriber — which is phenomenal!
The other giveaway we did was for a Macbook Pro. The Macbook costs around $1300 dollars and we got 400 new subscribers, so it was about $3 dollars a subscriber.
And at the end of the day, it’s not about how much you pay for an audience or a customer, it’s about how much they’re actually worth relative to that cost.
YouTube Marketing Strategy #3: Collab Videos
On top of doing a lot of giveaways, we’ve also tried doing more traditional collaborations that you usually see on YouTube.
The pros are:
- They don’t cost anything
- You get to make cool connections
- You get insights into how other YouTubers make videos
(And btw, this applies to any type of business collaboration out there.)
The cons are:
- These videos take a long time to make and set up
- When you’re hiring a team to do this stuff, it costs time and money
But the key thing to think about when you do this is make sure it’s worth it for the other channel too. Don’t just expect them to put in all the time and effort — you have to make it worth their while too.
YouTube Marketing Strategy #4: Sponsoring Other YouTubers
Do you guys know Furious Pete?
He’s a famous competitive eater and he goes to countries all over the world and he binge eats huge amounts of weird food.
I love it!
The idea that we had was:
- I love tacos
- He likes eating a crap ton of food
- And I also know that he is very passionate about testicular cancer because he’s had it and he’s been cured
So I offered to help him fundraise for his cause — a challenge video to eat as many tacos as he could and I’ll donate $10 per taco, plus I sent him $5000 for him to actually make the video.
He ended up eating 71 tacos!!!
So I donated over $800 (a little extra) plus the $5000 for his time to make the video, so about $5800 bucks in total.
We got around 300 subscribers the day it went live, and probably more over time — so it was about $20 for a subscriber.
But it was honestly just a lot of fun and it was for a good cause!
So I think the idea of sponsoring other YouTubers is a really creative way to actually grow an audience and build fun relationships.
YouTube Marketing Strategy #5: Email Swaps
Email is literally one of the BEST ways to grow any online business — and even offline.
I recommend using SendFox because that’s a tool we built and it’s free. So try it out if you want to start growing an email list.
To do an email swap, just collab with another email newsletter! You email their audience and they email your audience and both your audiences get introduced to another email newsletter they might like!
The nice thing about it was that there’s no cost since it’s a swap, and we got about 100 – 400 new subscribers per swap.
YouTube Marketing Strategy #6: Making Great Videos Consistently
What was the MOST important thing we spent money on to grow the channel?
Making great videos every week.
At the end of the day, you could do all the marketing hoopla and YouTube strategies you want, but if people come to your restaurant and they don’t like the dish — none of it matters.
We’ve tried so many different YouTube marketing strategies, but a huge percent of our new subscribers still come from YouTube suggesting our videos to gorgeous people like you.
So by making great videos that you all enjoy, it helps get YouTube to do some of the marketing for us.
But don’t start thinking that making videos is free — unless you’re doing it by yourself, which I encourage you to start today — but putting out quality videos every week has a cost.
A couple of years ago I decided to build a team around my YouTube because I’m treating it professionally. I’m thinking long term.
We have someone who is our director of channels so he does partnerships growth experiments and marketing. Then we have another guy who is our lead producer so he does titles, scripts, and strategy for the channel.
We also hired a few other people like a thumbnail designer, video editors, a junior producer, and a social media intern.
So in 2020, we spent over $140,000 in salaries alone.
I think a lot of people think of YouTube like a hobby — but if you do, you get hobby results.
Even if you’re like, I don’t have a hundred thousand dollars, I don’t have two hundred thousand dollars you can also just start with your phone and build up to this point. Be like MrBeast and keep reinvesting all the money that you’re making from your channel back into it.
Let’s add it all up…
So let’s recap how I’ve invested my money into growing this YouTube channel. Hopefully this helps you with your own YouTube channel or whatever business you’re doing:
- YouTube Ads: $15,000 bucks
- Giveaways: $61,300
- Collab Videos: $0
- Sponsoring my boy Furious Pete: $6000
- Email Swaps: $0
- Making Great Vids & Hiring a Team: $140,000
Total: = $200,038
3 Key Takeaways You Can Learn To Grow Your YouTube Channel
Here are some key takeaways from all this experimentation that you can use for your own channel.
ABT: Always Be Testing
Most experiments don’t work and the most successful people I know have also had the most failures so go and try a lot of things out. When you find something that works, do a lot more of it!
Make Great Videos
At the end of the day, all that matters is that you put out great videos. Put out a great dish. You can do all the marketing to get all the people there, but if the food sucks, you’re probably not gonna last long. Make it delicious.
It Takes Time: The Law of 100
Growing a youtube channel takes time. Don’t even worry if you don’t have a lot of money, but commit to the Law of 100 and do 100 videos total before you even think of giving up. And each week, just try to get a little bit better at your videos and by the end of it, you’ll be surprised by how far you’ve come.
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