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Substack Is 3 Features Away From Being the #1 Email Marketing Tool Ever

And they know it

I’ve been running a Substack newsletter for 10 months.

It’s grown from zero to 700+ subscribers. Much of this growth can be attributed to Substack’s own discover and recommendation features. Over 100 subscribers have come from recommendations alone.

That’s the power of the platform.

You write and you will be found by readers. No other newsletter platform comes close to these internal growth features.

But Substack’s not perfect. What is?

Here are the 3 features that would make Substack the #1 tool for any type of newsletter creation or email marketing in the future, beating giants like ConvertKit or MailChimp with simplicity, ease of use, a free plan for unlimited subscribers, and a writer-focused business model.

#1 Email automation

Right now, it’s possible to write emails and send them directly or schedule them for a future publishing date. That’s about it when it comes to email automation.

For many, that’s not enough. And I know that this is the number one reason people eventually leave Substack for another email marketing platform.

Automation is huge.


Email automation is a valuable marketing tactic. You send emails based on user interactions and segmentation.

Easiest example: A welcome mail for new subscribers. That one, even Substack offers. You can customize the welcome message on any email marketing platform.

But sometimes you want more.

  • maybe you want to send an automated email sequence for different sign-up forms (one for visitors from your website, one for Medium people, etc.)
  • you might want to set up email sequences for customers if you own an online shop
  • or you just want to send out emails in a specific order to each new subscriber, from issue 1 to the latest issue

It’s all about email automation. And Substack provides none of that.

With a simple email automation feature, Substack would quickly become the #1 email marketing platform. It doesn’t even have to be as complex as ConvertKit’s automation features. For many, this is too much. It needs to be a simple, easy-to-understand, beginner’s version of email automation. Gumroad does that pretty well.

Those who need more will look for other tools anyway.

#2 Customizable embed form

Building on that first thought about automation, Substack lacks a proper embed form to sign up new readers.

An embed form is a code snippet that you can insert into a website or other web service to directly sign people up for your Substack newsletter.

What Substack offers at the moment is a very limited and functionally imperfect iframe embed that is neither customizable nor really useful for most users.

Screenshot by author

That’s a bummer.

All creators I know own a website and want to embed a simple sign-up form into it. That embed should fit the vibe and style of their website.

It’s an obvious feature too. Most other competitors offer a customizable sign-up form, even on their free plans.

There is one tool online that aims to deliver such a sign-up form for Substack users — you can find that here at — but in my experience, it’s not working reliably.

Substack, please just give us a proper sign-up form!

#3 API access

Lastly, Substack must give access to a developer API. It’s key to connect to thousands of other tools used by content creators every day.

What is an API?

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of protocols, routines, and tools used to build software applications. It specifies how software components should interact and provides developers with access to a set of functions and data that can be used in the creation of applications. APIs are used to allow applications to communicate with each other and share data, services, and resources.

In short, an API is what other tools need to communicate with Substack’s features.

Why do we need that?

Let’s say you want to integrate Substack into an automation workflow built with Zapier or Make. You can’t because Substack doesn’t offer API access.

If they did, you could connect Substack to thousands of other tools via Zapier or Make, like Notion, task management tools, to-do apps, and many more.

That’s powerful.

The bottom line

I’m certain Substack knows about these missing features. And I’m sure they have a good reason to not offer them right now.

But as competition rises and keeps getting better, they can’t rely on their writing-first model forever.

It’s great for full-time writers who just want to send their words to subscribers on a schedule. But for everyone else, it’s not enough. Yet.

Substack is a popular email marketing platform with strong internal growth features, but is missing these three key features — email automation, customizable embed forms, and API access — that would make it the #1 tool for any type of newsletter creation or email marketing.

Agree or not?

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