As a digital strategist who has been in the online marketing space since 2004, and who has worked in the backend of over 300 online businesses, I’ve been intimately involved in a lot of launches.
Some launches go really, really well and others fall flat and more often than not, I can tell exactly how it will go before we even begin.
There are a few key markers in a business that determine how well a launch will do. Some of those indicators are:
- E-mail marketing list size and age of the list
- “Newness” of the product or service
- How transparent the business / brand is
- The systems that are in place already in the business
- Size of their social network / business network
- And most importantly… BUDGET
If someone comes to me with a small list (under 3,000) and a super small budget and the offer is brand new to their list and they haven’t spent time nurturing their list or bringing them along for the product story… I often tell them to work on some of the foundational pieces before dropping cash on a launch.
Or, I reorient them to a softer launch whereby they push it out into the world, without the great expectations of a six-figure launch, while also working on building their list, their network, creating stronger content and telling the stories that matter.
If a client is ready for a BIG launch, the steps below outline the launch process. This has all been taken from one of my more recent client launches, which ended up generating the client $250,000 in a single launch for an online program.
If you are just starting out, you can use some of these principles to build a strong foundation from which to launch from. If you are a veteran in the industry, some of these pieces may help your next launch be even more successful.
Listen to this Post Instead
Prefer audio? Listen to this post instead.
Grow, Grow, Grow Your List
If you see a Facebook ad in your news feed that says anything along the lines of, “Have your very own six-figure launch… even if you don’t have a list!” keep scrolling as it’s just not true.
Having been in the online marketing space for a long time, and having been involved with over 250 launches, I can tell you that not having an e-mail marketing list will lead to a very unsuccessful launch.
The very simple question becomes: if you don’t have a list of people who know, like and trust you, who is going to buy what you’re selling?
An e-mail marketing list filled with people who will buy what you’re selling is also not something you can simply “plug and play” with, either. It takes time to build a relationship with folks and building a responsive and engaged list is often a long game.
It’s also worth remembering that the people on your list are real human beings who spend a large portion of their day being sold to.
Since these individuals appear simply as names and e-mail addresses on a cloud-based program, it’s easy to forget that there’s a human on the other end of that e-mail exchange and it’s equally easy to forget that they, like you and I, buy from those they know, like and trust.
So, even before you think about doing a launch, start growing your list and move your subscribers through a well-designed marketing funnel that introduces them to who you are, what your company is about, why THEY matter, how you can solve their problems and how they can engage with you / your company without having to spend money.
The goal of list building is to bring in people who are interested and then nurture them so that they get the opportunity to build trust with you. If they don’t have time to do that, they’ll unsubscribe during your first few launch e-mails and you’ll lose them forever.
It’s also worth noting that building your list is an all-year, on-going process. Trying to build your list quickly at launch time won’t work. 99% of the time, in the client launches I’ve been a part of, brand new leads don’t convert to sales for three to nine months from the time they subscribe.
The Launch Calendar
The first step in any successful digital product launch is a solid marketing calendar that outlines the most important dates and who is involved with each step. The easiest way to populate this, without going into total overwhelm, is to start with your launch date and work backwards from there.
We typically use a basic Google Docs spreadsheet to track the launch as it’s easy to share, easy to update and changes are reflected instantly. If you can swing it financially, hire a launch manager — you will NOT regret that investment.
Once you have your calendar document set up (don’t spend a lot of time on this — all you need is a few columns to track things like dates, items, etc. — because we’re going to move it to an official project management tool later), you’ll want to chunk it down into phases.
Here are the typical launch phases we use:
Pre-launch refers to the time before you point people to a sales page or before you really direct them to something that they need to buy. Here, your main focus is on list building and on giving them some juicy free content.
Launch is the period of time when you’ve opened registration / the shopping cart and your sole focus is on conversions and answering frequently asked questions and handling objections.
Post-launch is the period after you close the cart. Some people re-open the cart again for a 24-hour period whereas others close it and get ready to deploy the program or deliver the digital product.
Once you have it chunked into sections, go back to your marketing calendar and begin populating it with all the actionable to-dos that need to happen.
Here are the pieces that you’ll want to make sure you capture at a really high level (your launch may not have all of these but I’m including those that we used for my client’s $250K launch):
- Delivery dates of free content in pre-launch
- Discount deadlines
- Live Q&A or webinar dates
- Cart open dates
- Cart close dates
- Affiliate outreach dates and reminders for different launch phases
Once you have the big picture view outlined, schedule in the finer details. Things like:
- Specific e-mails that need to go out to your list and when
- Content deployment dates for blog posts, etc.
- Sales page creation deadlines
- Landing page creation deadlines
- Set up and testing of e-commerce and buy now buttons
- Set up and testing of autoresponders and welcome / delivery e-mails
- Live call / event reminder e-mails
- Social media deployment dates
- Deployment dates for Facebook ads (or other paid ads)
This list is by no means comprehensive — nor will every piece suit your business’ launch — but it will help you to get the ball rolling and allow you to see what sort of tasks are required for each phase. It’s much easier to start with the bigger deadlines and milestones first as you can then chunk those down into smaller bits.
Remember, this process — the marketing launch calendar — is an ever-evolving one. Put forth your first best effort and understand that you’ll add and remove things from this list as you go. Stay flexible and be willing to pivot hard if you notice something isn’t right or when something doesn’t work. The marketing calendar is meant to be a guideline, not a set-in-stone list of demands.
Once you have your base template in place, it’s time to start planning, preparing and discussing the other moving parts of your launch. We’ll get to that in part two of this series, which will be posted soon.
Stay tuned for part two, which will be released on my blog and on Medium. Subscribe to either to be notified as to when it gets published.
Also published on Medium.