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15 Little Life Hacks

Anatomy of a launch post-mortem: What went right, what went wrong

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A few months ago, when I asked if you’d be interested in learning more about the business side of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” over 400 people left a comment saying yes. So here’s a little inside scoop on what’s been going on behind the scenes on the business side.

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The Earn1k launch — for my new course on teaching people how to earn their first $1,000 on the side — was one of the largest I’ve ever done. Last week, after the launch dust settled, I did a post-mortem call with my team, and I thought I’d share some of the results with you.

Even though they sound dark and ominous, “post-mortems” are some of the most useful things you can do when launching a new project. A post-mortems is simply an analysis of what worked, what didn’t, and what you can learn to improve next time. Doing this helps keep you sharp and stay ahead of 99% of people who never do this (the Craigslist Penis Effect in action).

Here are some things we learned that might help as you try to earn more money or launch your own project.

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Costs matter — but not as much as revenue does. This is especially true if the costs are non-scalable, like a one-time fee for a support system. In other words, you can scrimp and pinch about paying someone $2,000 or $3,000. Or you can just make 10x more with a better product/marketing and make the point irrelevant. This is the benefit of releasing amazing content, not run-of-the-mill BS that anyone can copy.

Measuring is important, but pick your battles. I like to measure myself in a lot of areas. But it came down to deciding to measure something — or just make it better based on our intuition. We chose to improve the launch rather than measure everything. The downside is I don’t know exactly what caused some of our results. I hope to figure it out in future launches.

Lots of communication problems. Once you get above 2 people, communication starts getting very complicated. We used PBworks, Google Docs, Etherpad, email, and phone, and we still weren’t all on the same page. This is why there are so many collaboration tools. This is also why it’s such a hard problem.

Have ridiculously detailed backups. After a technical snafu that cost me over $10,000 in 10 minutes, we created an insanely detailed checklist, including…

POTENTIAL PROBLEM — SOLUTION

…with every conceivable technical problem that we could encounter. This was detailed down to the level that, if my home internet failed, my shoes were already on so I could run to a friend’s house, who was standing by so I could jump back on a webcast.

Again, I never cared about this in my early days, and you shouldn’t if you’re launching something for the first time. But now, after growing for years, even a few minutes of launch downtime can cost me a lot. (And I’m just a teeny tiny player. Imagine the resources a company like Amazon dedicates to this.)

There are red flags for users who will never become customers. At my last company, our head sales guy told me an interesting thing: He said, “When prospects call up and ask for XXX [specific word], they will never buy.” In other words, non-buyers identify themselves with certain phrases, and you need to learn to identify them. For Earn1k, whenever someone’s FIRST question was, “How much does this cost?” I knew they would likely never buy. That’s because they focused on cost, not value. The people who asked, “How much can this help me make — and how do I know it’s worth it?” were much more likely to buy.

People will pay for content if you demonstrate enough value. We sold out of our $2,997 tier in 1 hour because we spent a month showing people to focus on value, not cost. I never expected to sell out. Yet I now know I under-priced that tier. So next time it will go up — dramatically.

Blogs have extreme variability in the quality of users. Most blogs have 90%+ freeloaders, aka people who never want to pay for anything and get mad when a blogger charges for anything. I love driving these people away from iwillteachyoutoberich as fast as possible. While the blog will remain free, I’ve consistently showed you guys why paying for value is important, and we now have an audience of people who are willing to invest in themselves — and don’t believe in fixed-pie syndrome.

People like when you turn away business for genuine reasons. I turned down over $100,000 of customers. I screamed at people who asked if they should join while they still had credit card debt, and told them to get their debt under control before going back. We refunded a $1,500 customer who treated iwillteach staff poorly and sent her packing. And we didn’t serve a $75,000+ segment on purpose (see below).

We were surprised: People LOVED this. It caused them to sign up more. Why? Because they knew the focal point wasn’t to gouge everyone and make as much money as possible. As I told them, “I don’t want everyone. I want the right people.” People respond when they know something is tailored for them, not everyone.

Measure your projections to see where you were wrong. At the beginning of each project, I create a simple table/spreadsheet of the results I project. The first 5 times you do this, you will be terrible. (Once, I did a projection and forgot to include one conversion #…which meant my results were 90% off…in the “bad” direction. Oops.) But each successive time, you’ll learn small ways to get better. In this case, we created 3 projections — Low, Middle, High — and then compared the projections to the “actual” results. We learned some fascinating things, including areas that we totally forgot to factor in. Next time, we’ll be better.

The $75,000 problem: As I said, we sold out of our top ($2,997) tier. Here’s an interesting thing: I could have sold at least double the number of seats over the remainder of the launch. But I intentionally turned down $75,000 in revenue. Can anybody guess why?

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I know that’s different than most of the stuff I write on iwillteachyoutoberich, but I hope that was helpful. Let me know if you have questions and I’ll answer them in the comments.

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56 Comments

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  1. Every single person who spent $2997 to be in the top tier of your program not only paid you $2997 but also will be an advocate for future sells and probably the first ones knocking at your door, willing to pay the big bucks, when you launch another content-heavy course. If the content is as great as you say, which I have no reason to doubt it will be, then you have gained a literal army of affiliate marketers, and they are paying you!

    Beautiful.

  2. Am assuming the $75,000+ number is a lower price tier which you did not offer because you predicted that adding too many people would:

    1. Cause more administrative hassles than the money was worth
    2. The people likely to jump on the lowest price tier would be more likely to be
    i. the people least invested in the course BUT with the most problems with the course (can’t access webcasts, neglecting to do homework, etc.),
    ii. the people jumping ship mid-course because they hadn’t invested enough to actively seek the value
    iii. the people passively watching the course (but still needing the administrative back-end management), etc.

  3. You can also call a post-mortem a retrospective. Unless, of course, you just enjoy associating your launches with death. 🙂

  4. I really like your comment about people paying for content if you demonstrate value. Too often informational products are all hype. It is important to pre-sell by giving valuable free content away. This builds trust.

  5. My guess for turning down 75K worth of business is that the amount of time spent on these customers, would be better spent creating new products.

    Thanks for the tips on product launches. Very valuable information.

  6. Speaking from a programmer’s perspective, you have a scalability problem. You can’t clone yourself, so the number of customers you can host at a seminar is limited. There’s a limit to the degree with which you can delegate that work to others without diluting the ‘Ramit Sethi’ brand. And while the lead-up time of this project will probably pay dividends in the future, there’s a limit to how much you can gain by compressing that as well.

    While I’m sure this programme has been very successful for you, it’s not really going to bring you the ‘beyond avarice’-style riches usually associated with internet millionaires, is it?

  7. I think you intentionally made the decision to turn away $75,000 because this course has the potential to be huge, both for your clients and for you and your team.

    Since is the *first* launch of the program, it’s smarter to do a stellar job with a client base you can handle. You can use this launch to figure out how to improve your process and product even more, then consider scaling up, either just by price or by client load or both depending on what you’ve learned. The potential future returns on a first course done well will exceed $75,000.

  8. I’m guessing many of the people who would have paid 3k for the top tier but missed out will be willing to pay a higher amount if they get another chance in the future.

  9. Ramith,
    Great to sneak peak behind the scenes. It is also good to see the real problems: stuff that is usually hidden in the glossy mkt content usually made available.

    My take for the $ 75,000 is also scalability and natural restraint to attend, interact and fullfil the expectations of your audience. However, I assume this number does not grow from a bottom line potentical subscribers (it would be in the hundreds of thousands considering your number of blog readers) but in the top subscribers, who were SOLD out and NOT able to subscribe.

    You’d better turn down $$ from these leads – but keep them on your radar (emails, phone numbers, level of interest, etc), for future versions of your course.

    I could not subscribe to your course, but look forward to joining in a future version.

    Fábio

  10. I could have sold at least double the number of seats over the remainder of the launch. But I intentionally turned down $75,000 in revenue. Can anybody guess why?

    Scarcity.

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