What nobody ever tells you about a product launch: a diary
This is a post for all of the beginners out there, still honing in on your first product. I’m sure you have visions of your PayPal account filling up with orders as you sip cocktails by a pool somewhere.
But talk to any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you the reality is… much more complicated.
Product launches, like business, are messy roller coasters with moments of ecstasy and despair — despite what all of those Medium blog posts may tell you.
To show you the REAL behind-the-scenes, we decided to try a bit of an experiment: We asked Amanda Smith of Solace Lessons to walk us through her launch in real time with a daily diary. Amanda offers courses to simplify gardening for modern life, and this is her first ever launch for her course Garden Mastery Academy.
For context: Amanda is doing a two-week launch. The first week is a series of engagement emails to drive registration to a webinar. In week two, she plans on hosting the webinar and then making the direct offer to buy, with the cart closing at the end of the week.
Will she hit it out of the park? Or will this launch be more of a stepping stone to something else? We pick up her diary on Tuesday of Week 1, May 23rd. Entries lightly edited for clarity.
Tuesday, May 23 — Day 1 of 11: I’m the guy in the front row on the left — All in, hands up, watching the whole way!
I sent the email that starts the funnel for my course launch about two hours ago. I’ve only checked on how many people have read that email and clicked on the embedded Google Form once. I was a bit nauseous before I sent it, but now I’m feeling good. I’m really proud of this moment.
My expectations for this email are that I get a 35% open rate, a 5% click rate, and a 40% form completion rate from the 5% that clicked. I suspect that my open rates will increase through this first week leading up to the webinar on Monday night. I’ll let you know if I’m right.
Wednesday, May 24 — Day 2 of 11: I’m the person in the front row with the black shirt — We’re doing this…
Still tracking yesterday’s stats on the first email. In fact, I did that until 1:30am last night and then checked three more times today. Sigh. Then I went to yoga and I’ve chilled out a bit. Current open rate is 25%, clicks are 1.6%, and form replies are 42%.
Here’s the catch on the form: I incentivized them to fill it out each day to win a chance to get the course for free. They don’t really know what that means yet, but FREE.
The second email just went out. Still nauseous, but pushing forward.
Here’s what I’ve noticed about myself in launch mode (this is technically my second launch, but first online course launch): I don’t take great care of myself. I forget to eat. I get crabby. My husband becomes mom and dad. And I DON’T LIKE IT!
I’m forcing myself to go to a yoga studio instead of practice at home. Now I just need to force myself to stay there and meditate even though seven million thoughts of the things I need to do are swirling in my head.
Integration steps are almost complete. All copy is done for other pages on the site. I need to finish writing my notes for the webinar script. I need to sort through the 165 rebuttals to purchasing my product, put them in a logical order for when they will come up, and I need to create the bonuses I’m giving out at Monday’s webinar for fast-action purchasers. And maybe sleep.
Oh, and a Day 2 realization: THIS is why I do what I do! This is a map of the people who have opened my Day 1 email. THIS! Every continent but Antarctica!
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Thursday, May 25 — Day 3 of 11: Guy in the bright yellow shirt (can’t miss him) — Enjoying the ride.
Email went out early this morning. Instead of an engagement email, I gave everyone a heads up that the webinar is on Monday night on Memorial Day, right before they go back to work. This seemed like smart timing. I actually wasn’t planning to send it until Friday, but thought it better to change up the pace, give a shorter email, and get this in front of them before they head out on any weekend adventures. This felt really good.
Here are a few statistical things I haven’t shared yet: On my last launch, I had 228 purchases at a similar price point. I am hopeful to hit 300 purchases for my course. If I get 300 students, that will be about a 7% conversion rate.
I TOILED with the purchase price because I know what the value of this course is. I also know the data from my last launch, so I know if I want to create a lot of buzz around the product, I sell it around the same price because I know they can handle it. I also know that my price has nowhere to go but up and I will definitely be using that as a scarcity tactic because it’s VERY TRUE.
Another fact about this launch: I decided not to use it as a list building opportunity and test everything with my existing list. It also simplifies the launch immensely. I was thinking of doing a FB challenge. Instead I’m doing a “mini-email course” during week one leading up to the webinar that opens my cart and a live Q&A the day before cart closes.
Tasks to do: Queue the emails for this weekend and Monday. 165 rebuttals in order of when they will show up during Q&A for Q&A webinar next Thursday. And create the bonus materials.
Friday, May 26 — Day 4 of 11: I’m the woman in the 4th row on the right. She’s trying to hold her boyfriend’s hand while having a good time.
Today I finished writing an email, questionnaire form, and Soil Cheat Sheet (remember, this is all about gardening) and sent that out around 10am. I’m no longer nauseous when doing this. Improvement!
I went over my stats so far just to share with you. I think it’s still a little premature to call these “my numbers,” but it keeps things in perspective for me and I’m an enginerd that likes numbers. Email open rate is averaging 23%, click rate is averaging 3%, form completion is averaging 71%. A reminder from Day 1: I was expecting 35%-5%-40%.
The last number, 71% completion for the form, is a shocker to me. The links are at the bottom of these emails and they are not short emails. They average about 1,100 words. The people who are completing these forms are all in on learning.
Done today: A hike, the email, questionnaire, and Soil Cheat Sheet, and date night (back to the guy on front left for that one).
Tasks that still need my attention: Tomorrow’s email, webinar script clean up, rebuttals, and bonuses.
Saturday, May 27 — Day 5 of 11: I’m the woman in the 5th row with one hand up because I’m tired.
Why did I decide to do a two-week launch? I’m worn out. I keep waking up in the middle of the night thinking about what I need to do, how my stats are doing, and trying to avoid looking at those things at the same time. I need more deep sleep. I am at least getting to bed at a decent time now. It’s just that I’m waking up at about 1:30 with my head reeling.
The webinar is on Monday, so the emails got a lot easier. Engage today, engage plus reminder tomorrow, reminder only on Monday.
Stats: I have 80 people signed up for the webinar so far. Open rates continue to go up. Seems a lot of people like to catch up with their email over the weekend. The data I’m getting back from the questionnaires I’ve sent out so far are priceless. It’s like cheating at immersion, which is a perfect prep for the webinar. I know exactly where their heads are at heading into it. I don’t have to guess.
Things I have left to do that I will focus on after Monday’s webinar: rebuttals, course bonuses.
Things I need to do this weekend: Use survey results to refine webinar script, automate emails for the course.
Sunday, May 28 — Day 6 of 11: I’m definitely the woman in the front row holding on.
Today was a day of a lot of accomplishments that apparently I’d forgotten in the list of stuff to do the previous days. The Welcome Package for the purchasers. Kind of essential…
It started with me writing the Welcome Email and realizing there’s a bunch of stuff they need like the Dreamer’s Path Quiz that I started but hadn’t finished. This quiz gives me key immersion information about them and their garden.
It also tells me if they are tech savvy, because we will be drawing maps in this course. And do they already have a garden started or do they have an established garden that we need to repair? Things like that will help me better prepare for the live group calls. It will also help me adjust what I need to share based on their feedback so they are blown away by the course.
The goal of this round of the course is to learn more about my students, adjust my course based on their feedback, and get some rocking testimonials.
I now have over 100 registered attendees for the webinar, which is tomorrow. This is why I’m shutting my eyes on this roller coaster ride right now. It’s getting very real.
Things to do still: put all new “stuff” from above in front of my assistant to make sure I didn’t forget anything, finish tally on who finished all the questionnaires during the mini-course to gather list of entries for the winner of the free course (my prize for their work in the mini-course), review script for webinar, review sales page and integration with my web designer, breathe, host webinar, post replay video, gather data on purchases during webinar to send out bonuses to them, celebrate cart open after webinar with a raspberry sour beer.
Monday, May 29 — Day 7 of 11: I’m still the woman in the front row holding on as we head down this drop.
It’s the day of the webinar and I have a pile of things to do to prepare. I’m feeling overwhelmed and not certain I’m going to be ready in time for the show.
My web designer and I started the day by going over the sales page and making some pretty drastic tweaks to the cart options. I was planning to do an application for the 1:1 consultation option because I’m only taking 10 people and I want them to be committed to going through the process. He convinced me it was too confusing and to not introduce confusion at the buy button. I listened. We changed it so there are just two options and no application. I will shut it down when all the spots fill.
I’m still putting together the slides right up to the time of the webinar. I still needed to gather data on all the people who completed the mini-course challenge so I had some names to pick from for the final winner. It came down to the wire.
The webinar went off with a few hiccups: My collaborator, Pete, was not viewable. I remembered how to fix that after the webinar. The chat was not allowing others to see each other’s comments. I still am not sure why that happened. I have to figure that one out before Thursday’s Q&A webinar.
During today’s webinar, I offered some bonuses that were exactly some of the things that several people wanted. These were to entice people to take fast action to get in the program and get these bonuses.
And then the webinar ended…
I immediately went to check the numbers: 164 people signed up for the webinar. 32 showed up. 14 people went to the cart for the group coaching. 6 people went to the 1:1 cart.
I immediately went to the cart and tested to make sure all the integrations were working with the payment processors. Yep, they were working.
I went to bed with one thought in my head: what do I need to do next?
Wednesday, May 31 — Day 8 of 11: I’m the guy in the 4th row on the left with the disgruntled look on his face but my hands are still up.
Still no sales.
Time to do outreach to the people who were on the webinar to see where they are at in the process of deciding. I sent out the next email, which included the replay of the webinar, the link to the sales page, and the link to the Q&A on Thursday. There are a lot of people clicking to watch the webinar.
I will wait to see if any convert.
I am adjusting my game plan on the fly to see how I can still knock this baby out of the park. Cart closes Friday night and I’m not done yet.
Thursday, June 1 — Day 9 of 11: I am this entire picture. I am the collective emotions of every single person on this roller coaster in this moment.
Thank God for my yogi mind. It reminds me that I can have all of these emotions and all of these feelings about not making a sale and ride this roller coaster but not get entrenched in the drama. I can bear witness to everything that I’m feeling and everything that I want to scream at the top of my lungs and just bear witness.
Yes I’m frustrated and annoyed and sad and disgruntled, but I’m reminded by people that the majority of the sales come in the last two days. So I have these glimmers of hope and potential for happiness that eke in when I remember this.
I have a Q&A webinar on Thursday, my final day, that I’m hoping will crush any doubts that buyers might have. So I’m focused on that.
I sent out an email today asking for guidance. What are they questioning? How can I get them off the fence? The information that they provided me from this email I will use during the Q&A. I’m still hopeful.
Friday, June 2 — Day 10 of 11: Blue shirt, second row — can’t tell if she’s excited, scared, or pissed that she committed to this roller coaster ride. We all know the likelihood that she survives the ride is high, but that doesn’t mean it was either enjoyable or terrifying or both.
I got my first sale today. It came with an email relative to the Q&A webinar later tonight. She had four questions for me to answer. I put most of them in my slides and will answer the ones that aren’t relevant to everyone else in a reply.
I had three replies to my email asking for their questions so I could answer them at the Q&A. Two of the replies were to provide constructive criticism on the mini-course, Monday’s webinar, and then inform me that they won’t be buying.
I had 10 people register for the Q&A webinar and four show up. Two of the people who showed up had purchased before I opened my cart.
One more day…
Saturday, June 3 — Day 11 of 11: I’m the guy on the left in the second-to-last row. Neither excited or scared. Just along for the ride now.
The cart closed at 9:59 PM MST. I got my second sale from a friend right before the cart closed. Two sales during this cart open/close experiment.
I have seven students total, which becomes a fabulous amount of people for the first run of the course. We can make it exactly what we need it to be.
I will chalk this experience up to being a beta run and find out why my list didn’t buy tomorrow with a survey. Not what I was hoping for, but at this point everything is an experiment.
I’m looking forward to learning all I can from my students on how I can make this course even better. I am also excited for them to learn and grow and share their successes. That is what it’s all about! ***
So was the product launch a success? We asked Smith. “It sucked only getting two people. I’m not going to lie,” she told me. The final count was seven people: Two during the launch and five who signed up before the launch sequence. Since closing the cart, eight people have reached out and wanted in.
“Having seven people in the course is a good thing because I get to experiment with how long it takes people to do the course and tweak from there.” Consider it a beta.
But despite the optimism, there were real consequences to not hitting the numbers.
“Business is a little tighter. I had to let go of the assistant I was using. Money has to be there for me to afford him,” she says.
Smith attributes the soft launch to two factors:
- She went too broad. Making an all-encompassing garden course may not have been appealing enough. “It turns out most people want something about soil. I should have done a course there that wasn’t as extensive.”
- Seasons matter (for gardening!). By mid-summer in the northern hemisphere, most people who live there have already planted their gardens in the spring. “It wasn’t a burning pain in the moment,” she said. “I’ll launch July/August again. When the southern hemisphere is just past middle of winter. Those people will want it then.”
So if she could do it all over what would she do? I asked and it’s worth displaying her answer in full:
Honestly I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
It’s all mindset. When it comes to how you react to how things are going with your product launch, when you’re in the moment, it’s always about your attitude in that moment. Staying in that mental mindset of “this is going to be a success” is one of the only ways to get through it. You can see it in my notes, I started to doubt. I had two launch days go to spam because so many people unsubscribed, I had to ask my email provider to take me off the naughty list. I had the same thing happen to me before so I knew what to do.
It’s all lessons. It’s GROWING.
In your niche, your people should be teaching you stuff too. When you do a launch, marketing, webinars, you should be learning at the same time. You should learn and grow. If you don’t grow you’re going to give up, and that’s the sad reality. When you stop learning, you die.
If I would have had a stagnant mindset I’d be looking for a job right now. That’s not my mindset. I quit my full time job and I’m not going back.