During the last coaching call I did with my members the question of when is the right time to launch your product online came up repeatedly from different people.
The question isn’t about timing in terms of day or night, or what day of the week, or time of the year you should launch, rather what conditions need to be in place to expect a successful opening campaign. Here’s what we’re talking about…
- How many subscribers do you need on your email list?
- How many RSS subscribers on your blog should you have?
- How many unique visitors to your websites do you need?
- How many affiliates do you need?
- How many sales should you expect given certain numbers?
All these questions and many more make up part of the answer to the overall question of when you can consider yourself ready to launch.
It is difficult for me to answer this question with anything concrete because every market is different. However I understand the need for ballpark figures and some sort of reassurance from someone who has launched before, especially if they are your coach and mentor.
What Are The Benchmarks?
Inside Membership Site Mastermind I alluded to the number of around 5,000 subscribers as a good target to aim for before launching, which ideally should be email subscribers if possible.
You can include RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends and fans too, but generally these contact points are less responsive and less targeted than email. Email subscribers, especially when they come through from a targeted incentive like a free report or email course, are more qualified, hence more likely to buy.
Another metric you can look at that is relevant is the open and click through rates of the emails you send. While it’s nice to have 10,000 email subscribers, in most cases you are lucky if 25% of them even open the emails you send. If you’re getting 10% or more of them clicking your links, you’re doing very well.
Given that opening an email is easier than clicking a link, which is easier than making a sale, you can see why it’s important you understand the reality behind the numbers you currently get.
If you don’t track the open and click through rates on your emails, you should start. Outside of this data you can look at unique visitors to your blog or website as another estimate of how much traffic you can expose to your offer, but understand knowing how many people read your blog content is difficult to correlate to how many people will buy from you.
What Metrics Should You Analyze?
Let’s start with some common caveats, although these won’t be obvious to you if you’re new to online marketing, so it’s worth reiterating them -
- Your conversion rate (number of people who take action divided by the total number of people you make the offer to) matters most. Conversion is something you can test and improve forever.
- Some markets are “worth” much more than others. A customer who is buying a house is worth a lot more than a person buying a new shirt because of the profit margin per sale. It’s possible to have very low conversion yet still make millions because the value of each customer is so high.
- Conversion rates across industries vary considerably. In my niche, getting a 5% conversion rate for buyers is very good, while in other markets it might be terribly low. What’s “good enough” is dependent on how much you want to make.
- Conversion is also a function of overall traffic. You can do really well with a low conversion rate if you have access to millions of people. If you have access to very few people, then you either need a fat profit margin and/or a high conversion rate.
In an ideal world, your business would sell high margin products, you have a very high conversion rate and you have access to millions of people. That’s the holy grail of business, but it’s not possible in every market.
Some businesses rely on significant turnover of low priced items (like dollar discount stores), where others rely on high priced items with a low conversion and high margin, like luxury jewelery and watches.
Now you might understand why it’s so difficult for me to answer the question as to when is the right time to launch. Every market is different, every product is different, and every marketer is in a different situation in terms of their relationship and exposure to their market. There are just too many variables to consider.
So Here’s My Answer
Given the caveats I’m now comfortable to explain what you can expect and how best to make the decision of when to launch your product online.
My very first launch was conducted when I had approximately 3,000 email subscribers and the same in RSS subscribers. This was just my own lists.
I also knew I had some affiliates with access to lots of people, although most of them were bloggers so would not be using email marketing (most of the top bloggers in my niche weren’t making extensive use of email marketing back then).
To be honest I had no idea what to expect during my first launch, so here’s what happened.
I did my launch campaign, releasing the Blog Profits Blueprint for the first time. Lots of affiliates promoted the blueprint and my email list grew from about 3,000 to 10,000 people once the launch was done. Most affiliates sent me ten to fifty new leads, where my top five affiliates contributed close to 1,000 each (affiliate results always skew to an aggressive 80/20 rule).
The good thing about doing a launch is you build very targeted email lists. Before my launch I had my general blog tips newsletter with the 3,000 people. I then added an “early notice” list (the most targeted list of people who really wanted to join my membership site) and the Blueprint list for people who opted in for my free report (another targeted list since they were interested in profiting from blogs, which is what my product is about).
Not only did I expand my list, I attracted very targeted subscribers.
When my program went live I ended up with just over 400 paying members. If you do the math based on 10,000 email subscribers that is just over 0.04 conversion rate (about 4.15% was the number).
Since then I’ve conducted another five opening launch campaigns for different products and monitored the results of some of my top performing student’s launches, so I have a feel for what to expect given the variables, however as I said earlier, it’s very GENERAL.
So, to answer the very first question posed about when you can begin your launch in terms of the metrics, here’s what I tell people -
- Aim for 5,000 targeted email subscribers as a good ballpark figure before doing a launch
- Do the math based on a 1% conversion rate and see if you would be happy with that. That means for every 1,000 people on your list, you will have ten paying customers.
- Make sure you do the conversion rate based on the number of opt-ins to a prospect list, not your daily blog readership. Blog readers haven’t opted in to something so they are not prospects, they are suspects.
A suspect is someone who is engaging with your content, while a prospect has taken an action to commit further to you, like joining your email list or subscribing to your RSS feed. Conversion rates should be calculated based on comparing prospects to customers, not suspects to customers.
One percent is a low conversion rate, but it’s grounding. It makes you think realistically and if all goes accordingly to plan, you will do better and exceed your expectations.
Remember when doing calculations you should factor in affiliates if you have them. It’s tough to know how many leads (subscribers) an affiliate will send you, because they have their own conversion rate based on how responsive their audience is.
The very top affiliates in my market send between 1,000 and 2,000 leads. This is standard across the Internet marketing industry because I can usually send other marketers about this many leads when I do affiliate promotions. With that many leads I’m usually in the top 5 of lead producers in an affiliate competition (that’s not sales, that’s prospects/leads).
Some will send more and some will send less, but understand that just because an affiliate has 100,000 people on their list does not mean you will have even 10% of that audience join your list after the affiliate promotes for you. Again, err on the side of lower than expected when doing your estimations.
Bear in mind I’m quoting from my experience in the Internet marketing niche. This is not indicative of what to expect from any other niche. If you can get numbers for your particular industry that’s definitely helpful, but understand you can never be certain of what to expect.
What Else Do You Need Before Launch?
My free report, the Membership Site Masterplan goes into more depth about what you need to have in place in terms of content and traffic in your market before launching, so I encourage you read or listen to that if you want more details.
My coaching program Membership Site Mastermind covers all of this in greater detail, however it won’t be open again until 2010, so keep an eye on www.membershipsitemastermind.com/signup for the next student intake.
To put it simply, you will need the following before you launch -
- A product or the first part of your product for a membership site or coaching program to deliver to your customers after the order
- A method to take payment for your product
- If you are going to have affiliates, a system to track the sales and credit affiliates with commissions
- A means to reach people, in other words some form of distribution, usually an email list of your own, a blog or website, affiliates and any other traffic tools like twitter, facebook, social media, etc.
- Marketing materials to convert the sale, like a sales page or video, prelaunch content like a lead free resource and content like emails and blog posts that specifically promote your launch
For most new marketers, if I was to say where they go wrong, it’s spending too much time thinking about their CONTENT and not enough time thinking and about their MARKETING. Creating content requires only your time and energy. Generating traffic requires you get the attention and commitment of other people, like affiliates and potential customers. This is challenging.
This article should have helped you get a rough feel for what position you need to be in before you go into launch mode, in terms of the reach you need in your market. What I don’t want to see is people working hard to reach 1,000 email subscribers, expecting at least 10% of them to pay money and thus do a launch and end up with a much lower than expected result.
There are no guarantees, so don’t expect anything. Put in your best effort and focus on the positives and you will do well, and remember that each experience is growth, no matter what the result.
Even if you don’t make as many sales as you expect, there’s a very good chance your profile will increase, as will your subscriber base, each time you do a launch. Launches are the best business growth tool I know of today online, so if you want to rapidly increase all the positive aspects of your business, plan to make an impact every time you release a product.
A Launch Is The Best Test
One last point before I wrap up.
Almost everything I’ve covered in this article sits in the realm of the unknown. You can only make smart estimates about your results. Every launch is different, every situation is new and you can never know what to expect.
My most recent launch as I write this was by far the most relaxed and confident launch I have ever done. I feel like a veteran now with launches, having done so many in the last three years. I had a ballpark figure of what to expect given the type of campaign I was going to run and the product I was selling, and by the end of the launch I was almost spot on with my estimates.
My estimation was accurate, which is good, but the real difference this time was how I didn’t go through a roller coaster ride during the launch in terms of my emotional state. If you’ve never done a launch before let me warn you – it’s an emotional ride – and part of the reason for this is all the unknowns (if you don’t believe me, take a look at this video of me from my first launch – Yaro’s Bad Hair Product Launch Day).
You just don’t know how many people will buy your product. You don’t know how your marketing materials will gain traction. You don’t know which affiliates will promote, how often they will promote or how many sales or leads they will generate. As a result of so many unknowns, you tend to rapidly shoot through highs and lows, spiking up when something good happens, and crashing down when your expectations aren’t meant. At the end of it all, hopefully, you will feel exhausted, but content, and definitely wiser for the experience.
And that my friend is the real power of the launch.
A launch is one of the best marketing tests you will ever do. All the unknowns you had before you launched become answered. You know what marketing materials work best. You know what your conversion rate is. You know how many of your prospects are buyers. You know which affiliates are your leaders and what affiliates can do for your marketing.
You may or may not meet your expectations, but you will have a result. That in many ways is more important. One launch is not the be all and end all of things you will do for your business. It’s really just the beginning. You will do many launches, release different products and hopefully go on to much greater things.
Your success depends on growth, and growth depends on experience. Conducting a launch is the best marketing and business experience you can go through online, in terms of speed of results.
Too many people sit on the fence in fear waiting for the ideal situation to emerge to get out there and do something. This is the worst possible outcome because you are inert. Doing nothing guarantees a result – nothing.
If you are asking yourself all the questions I presented at the start of this article and more, the single best piece of advice I can give you is to get out there and just do it. Nothing anyone can tell you will ever make you feel completely confident about what you are going to do.
Learn to live with that feeling of unknown and understand that the people who reach a level of mastery are there not because they know everything, but because they have accepted that they will never know everything – it’s impossible – and acting within the mystery is the key to success.
Good luck and have fun!
Riding The Mystery