Experience is the best teacher.
Last year I went all out on a product launch. I had just purchased Jeff Walker’s new book, Launch, and devoured it cover to cover.
I HIGHLY recommend this book. If you are considering launching any kind of knowledge product, you are simply nuts for not reading this book cover to cover.
With that said, I followed the formula as well as I knew how.
I created a bunch of videos, and wrote a metric ton of emails.
I put everything into my fancy email marketing system.
In all it was a LOT of work, and after weighing the time I had invested, I really wasn’t that impressed with the results.
I had blown it somewhere, but could not figure out where.
My Latest Attempt at a Product Launch
I started over a few months ago.
I chose an entirely different market and took a totally different approach to developing the product.
I vowed not to spend a tremendous amount of time shooting videos and wrestling with email automation.
All of my efforts are going into rapid development mode.
Make a little, sell a little, learn a lot.
[Tweet “Make a little. Sell a little. Learn a lot.”]
On this launch, I’m doing everything differently.
I figured out that I blew it on the product development phase last time. I didn’t spent enough time with the customers first.
For the record, this time around…
- I didn’t expect to sell a bajillion dollars worth of stuff, and my list was only 23 people.
- The product I tested is a full-day workshop, and my research showed that it should support a $99 price point.
- I did this launch in the margins of my life between client obligations and family commitments.
If I followed any part of the textbook formula correctly, it was here in the pre-pre-launch.
Think of this as the market research stage on steroids.
I did interviews — lots of interviews.
[Tweet “Product Development: When in doubt, do more interviews!”]
I interviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 people — authors, coaches, experts, and a variety of people who had created online programs, and membership sites.
I had 4 questions that I asked each of them, and these came to me compliments of Brendon Burchard.
- What frustrates you most about your business (or the business you are trying to create)?
- What are you hoping to accomplish in your business in the next 12 months?
- What would double your income or double your happiness in the next 12 months?
- What have you tried that has worked and has not worked?
These questions are pure marketing gold!
I took copious notes during my 20-minute sessions with these experts, and then analyzed these notes for themes.
To anyone out there who wants to create some type of scalable knowledge product, I can’t recommend enough that you start here.
From here I begin to depart from the textbook formula simply because I just don’t have capacity to do all the steps.
So, in my new abbreviated launch I needed to warm up my audience. It had been 6-8 weeks since they had heard from me in the interview phase.
I warmed up my list by announcing guest speaker #1. Two days later I warmed up my list again by announcing guest speaker #2.
The day prior to opening the cart I sent my Get Ready for the Cart to Open Tomorrow email.
What follows is the day-by-day emotional account of how I felt at each step of the launch.
For those of you not familiar with a launch week, there is a LOT happening here. Many emails. New leads coming in from every direction. Lots of questions to answer.
Here is the series of emails that I had planned to send:
- Cart is open!
- Cart closing soon
- Final notice (early on the last day)
- Really the final notice (later on the last day)
My Day-By-Day Experience
The cart is supposed to open on Monday and close on Friday.
I would love to tell you that everything went according to plan, but I was off schedule from day 1.
I had time scheduled to write the Open Cart email, however, an unforeseen client demand erased my time.
My launch didn’t start until Wednesday.
Mentally I felt like I was launching with one hand tied behind my back.
Launch Day. Finally!
I’m happy to say that I sent the Open Cart email, and I’m eager to see the results of all my hard work that I did during the research stage.
By the end of the day I sold a whopping two tickets.
I don’t know what I expected, but I expected way more than two sales.
Don’t get me wrong. I was extremely happy to be on the board, to have scored some revenue.
During my interviews several people told me how excited they were about attending. I just couldn’t understand why I had only two tickets sell from the entire list.
Ok, I know, I know. I should not expect a lot from campaigning a list of 23 people.
But, truth is, I really did expect more than 2 sales on my first day.
I had done my homework and created the very product they told me to create at the very price point they told me would work.
I start kicking myself for failing to remember the most basic of product research lessons learned a thousand times over in companies all across the globe — what the customer says and what the customer does are two different things.
I felt my marketing plans come unhinged.
If I can’t depend on even the most basic of market research to come through for me, if I can’t rely on my hard work amounting to anything, then why am I investing so much effort here?
Am I about to repeat the failed launch I experienced last year?
No new sales over night. Not feeling great at this point.
Not time to panic, but certainly not running a victory lap here.
I get another sale on Day 3, and this lifts my spirits a bit.
I have lined up a sensibly-priced conference room at a hotel here in town, and with this 3rd sale I have just about covered my costs for the event.
Looks like I won’t go in the hole for this event after all!
I can’t say I’m in great spirits, but I’m not in the doldrums either.
Since I opened the cart so late in the week I’m feeling a bit behind in my timing.
Should I close the cart on Friday?
Doesn’t feel right to do this because I’ve only had the cart open 3 days.
I check my email on Saturday morning and instantly turn into a basket case.
I had hoped the Launch Fairy would send me another few customers Friday night as people took time to get caught up on their emails from the week.
I’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this event, and it looks like I’ll have 3 paying attendees, 2 guest speakers, and myself.
Emotionally I am not doing well, and at this point I start entertaining all options.
I strongly considered calling off the event, refunding everyone’s money, and burying my head somewhere.
I really thought I would be a lot further along than this.
I also had to wrestle with when to close the cart.
I know that I should close the cart on Wednesday of the next week to stick with the regular one-week launch window, but who closes a cart on a Wednesday?
My regular workload for the coming week is pretty heavy, and I’m really having problems making time to write the remaining emails for next week.
I decide to use my busy work schedule to my advantage by expanding my open cart window a few days to Friday of next week.
By mid-day Saturday I realized that I needed to get some emotional distance from all this because it has been consuming nearly every free moment for the past several days.
I let the whole matter drop till Sunday evening.
By the end of the day Sunday I am no further along than I was on Saturday.
While I haven’t had any more sales in the last 24 hours, I decide not to cancel the event.
I had resolved myself to the fact that I would be doing a 5 person event, and would barely break even.
This wouldn’t be a total loss.
Every journey has to start somewhere, right?
On Monday evening I realized that I had completely forgotten to include any bonuses up to this point.
This could be a game-changer!
I whack myself on the side of the head for forgetting something as basic as bonus stacking, which I have read about 30 times.
I made a mental note to come up with some bonuses on the fly.
I’m on the road today, so I can’t do much on the launch.
My extreme workload keeps me from creating the bonuses today, but I did manage to capture a few ideas in my journal.
Emotionally I slide back to negative territory. I hyperventilate at the thought of doing a 5-person event, and I am back to wondering how I will even remotely save face in this predicament.
Despite my quandary I draw a very firm line in the sand — I will not comp anyone a free ticket to this event or offer any scholarships just to inflate the headcount.
I already did this once this year during another one of my workshops, and I said I would not do it this time.
I need to grow my marketing skills, and feel that providing free seats is just a way to fool myself.
Announce Bonus #1 – Email Marketing Summit
My workload and client calls don’t provide much free time during the day.
I manage to make phone calls to 2 of my prospects, and both times I had to leave messages.
I do manage to create my first bonus — a free ticket to my upcoming Email Marketing Summit —and this feels like real progress.
I craft my Bonus #1 announcement and send it to my list.
At least for today I was able to beat Resistance. I showed up. I created. I shipped.
It feels good to fight back!
One new sale!
I can’t tell you if it was Bonus 1 or the phone call I made the day prior, and it doesn’t matter.
My inbox showed those magic words that I love so much “You’ve got money!”
With this newfound enthusiasm, I double down on my attempts to reach out to my prospects by phone.
I creating a phone list with the name and number for each person on my prospect list.
I rack my brain on what to offer for my second bonus.
I don’t have time to create a new information product, I don’t have time to shoot and edit videos, and I don’t have time to write a new report.
In addition to my workload, my daughter is starting swim practice, which takes some portion of my time 2 days a week.
I’ve been married for 20 years, and I really value spending time with my wife each day. She’s been very understanding with this launch consuming most of my evenings, but I know I can’t push this much further
I come to realize that I’m doing this launch in the margins of my life — with the leftovers.
I realize that my client load tapers off immediately following my AEPC Group event, so I decide to offer a few bonus coaching sessions to incentivize my prospects.
I created a quick “bonus coaching calls” calendar in my TimeTrade account, and created several slots of available times. It looks doable, and fits perfectly around my client commitments.
I draft my Bonus #2 email and send it out to my prospects.
Emotionally I’m feeling really frustrated.
Remember when I said that I had started the day with a phone list for my prospects? I only managed to call 2 of them. Like yesterday, I had to leave messages both times.
I end the day feeling good for having figured out my bonus #2 issue, but mixed because I really could use a few more sales.
Time is running out.
Friday morning. No new sales.
Part of me is ready to throw myself off a cliff, and part of me is ok with this being a 6 person event (including my 2 guest speakers).
I rationalize that I at least made progress.
At least I sold 4 tickets.
This is the most money I have ever charged for one of my events, and at least I sold something.
I sent my final cart closing email using my email marketing system (remember, I’ve just been using gmail this entire time), and include one of those fancy countdown clocks.
Looks really snazzy!
The Launch Fairy Arrives
By closing time on Friday my email inbox registers 5 more sales!
I can’t believe it!
Keep in mind now that I’ve broken so many rules and gone against so many conventions that it is a miracle I sold even one ticket.
This is the highest paid self-promoted event that I’ve ever run.
On my first fledgling attempt about 12 months ago I ran a workshop where I charged $25 a head, and sold about 10 seats.
On my second event I partnered with several affiliates, and made a little more. Had almost 40 people in the room, but had to scholarship several people to get head count that high.
In this, my 3rd self-promoted event, I had no affiliates and provided no scholarships. I had 9 paying attendees and was able to actually pay myself something for my time.
Emotionally I am over the moon now, and I feel I can hand-carve a hole in a mountain.
No obstacle is too big for me on days like this!
I’m ready to tackle the world!
But Why Didn’t You (fill in the blank)?
Sure, my list was only 23 people. Some could argue that I could have saved myself a lot of time by just doing a phone campaign for a few days.
Yes, I probably would have been able to accomplish the same results far quicker by just working the phones, but I didn’t want to turn this into a phone campaign.
I specifically wanted to grow my skills in doing a scalable launch.
You see, the same effort that I put into doing this launch for 23 people could easily be spread to 230 people or a list of 2300 people.
You can only scale phone calls so far.
What I learned here by doing this stripped-down version of a launch — a minimum viable launch — now gives me the confidence to invest more time and effort to follow the textbook more closely.
In fact, if you want to take a look at what I would do differently in launching my next product, just sign up to receive my updates. You’ll be the first to see the article where I do the postmortem on this launch.
The 5 Dips I Experienced During my Product Launch
- Launching in the margins of my life.
- Setting expectations too high for my first day.
- Failing to have my bonuses figured out ahead of time.
- Relying too heavily on email. I should have made more time to call.
- Under estimating the power of the final day.