Before I tell you my story about some mistakes I made with my very first online product launch, I want to make sure you know that Jeff Walker, the father of the Product Launch Formula, is about to invite his annual intake of new students into his training program.
As part of the lead-up to the program Jeff always has great case studies you can study for free, and this time is no different. He’s gone and completed a brand new interview with the fellow who has had tremendous success launching a board game focused on medicinal herbs.
I know that sounds pretty strange, which is why you have to go to this page and enter your email to subscribe and gain access to the full video interview -
This case study is very inspiring if you are interested in selling a product online that has nothing to do with the make money online niche. You will learn how you can conduct ongoing launches to make six figures a year, which is exactly what the medicinal herbs guy did, launching a board game he sold on the Internet using auto-pilot launches.
What Went Wrong With My First Launch
It’s now almost four years since I did my first product launch, and over six years since I observed my first ever online internet marketing launch (for me the first one I followed closely was Butterfly Marketing from Mike Filsaime).
After a false start with an ebook that I only managed to 8o% complete, I decided instead I’d release a membership site as my first information product and I’d do so using a proper product launch process.
It was 2007 and in preparation for the launch I decided to put together a team as I was pretty sure I’d need the help. I’d spent quite a bit of time watching several million dollar launches over the previous years and I also studied Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula course, so I knew what I was in for.
My plan was to bring on a tech guy specifically for the launch to help me set up all the websites I’d need to sell my product and deliver the content, an affiliate manager to help recruit and organize affiliates, a customer support person to handle emails from members and potential members, and a copywriter to help with the sales page and email copy.
That was the plan, but it didn’t work out quite as I intended.
Although I had good intentions, as always when you do something for the first time you’re not really sure what is going to happen. All I knew was that I wanted to be prepared for better than expected success. Unfortunately not really knowing how much success to expect I had difficult figuring out how to bring on these people and remunerate them appropriately.
I remember sitting at a table outside a movie theatre surrounded by a bunch of guys I had brought together to help me with the launch. I explained what I was planning on doing, how I wanted them to be committed to making the project big and they would share in the profits if things went well.
That was my first mistake.
I didn’t really clarify what remuneration was going to be and we had no contracts. It was all based on that conversation.
Mistake number two was overestimating how much help I needed and underestimating how much control I’d want to have over the launch (that might be mistake number three!).
If you read between the lines I’m basically saying that I ended up doing most of the work except for the technical aspects. I wrote the launch emails, recruited and communicated with affiliates, wrote launch blog posts and coordinated most things. My tech guy helped with setting up the websites, but I still filled the membership site with content. Since content was such an important part of the launch process and I felt I was the only person who could create it, I ended up doing the lion-share of the workload.
It’s fair to say I was a bit of a control freak, but I knew how important it was that lots of “me” was present in this first launch and since it was the first, I’d be creating everything from scratch. It certainly became easier during subsequent launches, but this first one will always remain the hardest for me because of the learning curve and the need to build everything from the ground up.
Oh, and I left the copywriting for the sales page to the last week before opening. That’s mistake four.
I was actually knee deep in the launch campaign when I finally started writing the draft of the sales page myself, realized I was in over my head when it comes to sales copy and madly ran around looking for someone to help. I eventually found a copywriter who turned my draft into something usable. The fee of $3,000, in hindsight, was reasonable considering what I have paid for copy since, but at the time it was a huge expense, especially before I had made any sales of my product.
How To Avoid My Mistakes
If you’re considering your first launch, especially a big public one, here are some tips to help you avoid the mistakes I made.
1. You can manage a launch with the help of contractors who can be paid standard hourly rates.
I had this idea that my launch was going to be incredibly huge, way beyond my ability to handle myself, and I wanted to inspire my people with dreams of shared riches from a profit split. As it became clear I wasn’t exactly sure what I needed all these people to do, it would have been much smarter to simply hire per hour workers based on my needs.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t plan for a huge launch, distribute profits or use full time employees on your launch, but understand what you need these people to do and how they are motivated. Profit splits should only be used in circumstances where people deserve a share, like in a partnership, and make sure you are very clear how people are remunerated. Contracts definitely are a good idea, but it depends on your relationships.
Every subsequent launch I did from that point forward only required a tech person and a customer service person, both contractors who I work with for launches and ongoing business. It’s much cleaner and I’ve never had issues like I did with the first launch.
2. Plan your sales page or sales video well in advance.
In my case creating the sales video or sales page (or both) is the most painful aspect of the launch. The sales page is an important marketing tool and it’s no small piece of content. Because the sales page is about selling and has a very specific goal, there are strategies that help increase performance (see How To Craft A Compelling Offer In 7 Easy Steps). As a result this is a time when specialized skills come in handy and unless you come from copywriting background or you’re confident in your sales video skills, you will need help.
Whether this means you hire someone to do the sales page for you in advance, or you start working on it yourself well in advance is your choice. What matters is that you don’t underestimate the time required for this element of your launch and also the cost if you do bring on help. This can easily be an expense of thousands of dollars, so budget for it. I put it off because I don’t enjoy this part of the process, which is a telltale indication that I should work on it early. Deadlines are great for motivation, but staying up until 4am to make sure your page is ready the night before you open is not fun. Don’t let that happen to you.
3. Manage expectations.
To understand a launch you ultimately have to do one. However you don’t need to go into your first launch completely blind. You can study the work of other people and take courses, like Product Launch Formula, to become aware what goes into a launch and what you will need to prepare in advance.
By doing this research you can help manage your own expectations and create a framework of what you want your launch to look like (mindmaps are a great tool to help with this). After that, you need to manage the expectations of everyone else involved, including any people you work with (see point one above) and also your affiliates, your audience and your new members once they buy your product.
To manage expectations the key is good communication. This is why I ended up handling so much of my launch. At the end of the day because it was my first launch I felt that only I had the necessary knowledge of my product, my offer, my audience psychology and the relationships with my partners, so I needed to handle all the communication. I knew what to say, when to say it and had the attention of people who cared about what I was doing.
If you’re not comfortable right now that you know what to expect going into a launch and you’re unsure of the people you need to communicate with so you can manage their expectations, then as a next step you must have a listen to the case study I recommended at the start of this article from Jeff Walker, who interviews a person who set up multiple rolling launch campaigns.
Here’s the link again to subscribe and gain access to the video -
Learning what worked for other people helps you put the pieces together for your own launch. That’s exactly how I put the pieces together for my launch, which as I’ve written about countless times before in this blog, was the breakthrough that took me above $100,000+ a year online.