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Rebuilding My Business

Lessons from a failed launch

I may be *this* close to hyperventilating. I just checked our stats, and since its release we have sold 40 copies of the e-course. In total, $880 USD.

I find this hilarious. We “launched” on May 8th and it flopped in just about every way possible. It hurt at the time but was so important to the growth of our business.

I was uncomfortable with all elements of selling and starting a mailing list. I decided that I was going to have an anti launch and take the internet marketing world by storm by showing that you don’t need a huge strategy to rock the sales.

Despite my defiance, I knew there was a good chance I would fail. I knew this was important for learning. It wasn’t enough for Dave Navarro to repeatedly tell me I needed a list. I needed to experience a launch cycle without the list and learn how to sell without it making me feel physically ill.

This post deals with some of key lessons we’ve learned.

High Profile Coverage Will Not Lead to an Influx of Sales.

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Photo by reintjedevos

I already knew this as I had done several product reviews on Problogger and TwiTip. I am friends with Darren and usually knew the product creator so I was able to get an insight into how it converted.

I recently did a Problogger guest post called The Unmissable Secret of Long Term Blogging Success. I included both a link to my email list and the course in the footer of the post.

We’ve had a significant increase in the newsletter subscribers but only one sale. That’s cool, and expected. Part of low key marketing is that it is low key. I had a couple of people email me saying that they’d been told to check me out, but the guest post cinched it.

I’ve always done guest posts for the networking benefits and this was the first one I did for potential sales. It didn’t convert but that was just part of my experiment. I could have done many things to improve the odds including providing a tighter call to action or making it the sole focus of that section.

I have this technique convert rather well for other bloggers. They usually include a custom discount code for that audience and include a call to action. I had planned to do this but had made a number of errors with discounts and decided that it didnâ’t fit with my marketing style.

I’m going to continue guest posting but won’t seek out high profile blogs. I’ll seek out blogs of friends which allow me to experiment with my style. Sales are now a secondary goal but I find the less I focus on them, the more I make.

What I’ve learned:

  • Make your first priority helping people. If people feel like they are being used, they will ignore your message. No matter how awesome it is.
  • If you really want to increase sales, give the readers a reason to buy. Provide an incentive and a compelling reason to buy.

A Mailing List Isn’t Necessary

half-closed mailboxImage by s-t-r-a-n-g-e

None of these sales have come from the mailing list. Some have come from interviews and guest posts. Many are people those that I have helped via Twitter and email and are looking for ways to support my work. However just because its not necessary, doesnâ’t mean that you aren’t leaving money on the table.

The problem with ignoring a mailing list is that you are missing out on that initial boost of sales. This isn’t just good for the pocket – its good for the ego AND it’s good business. More buyers results in more potential affiliates. More people who could opt into other sales messages.

Selling, and mailing lists, doesn’t have to be sleazy. It is scary but I recommend getting over the fear. I just hit 110 newsletter subscribers and love the level of engagement I get with you guys. I’ll be creating and releasing more products via the list. My primary focus will be to help but I will start drawing attention to my paid products.

What I’ve learned:

  • Mailings lists aren’t scary. However, there is nothing wrong with avoiding a mailing list altogether for a launch. You will limit potential income but you will earn so much more just by taking action. If it is the list that is preventing you from taking action, then focus on it post launch.

I Didn’t Ask People to Write About It.

When most people launch a product, they coordinate a group of people to talk about it. They provide incentives, review copies and suggested tweets. I didn’t have anything like that.

I intentionally tried to avoid the “buzz” element. When other people do this, they usually have a significant price rise that encourages people to buy. I didn’t want to make people feel rushed so stood clear from these methods.

I chose not to do this because I didn’t have the energy to coordinate something that huge. I felt that if someone wanted to talk about it, they would. People are now starting to talk about it but it took a lot of time to build up traction. And, rather than talk about the product, people are talking about my personal approach to blogging and how they resonate with what I’m doing.

Now, this isn’t to say these techniques aren’t worth doing. Many people are able to do this tastefully and, along with a mailing list, it does lead to a significant influx in sales. I chose to go with my gut rather than what the industry was doing and I believe this worked for me.

What I’ve learned:

  • Stories sell. I didn’t see it, but there are a number of elements to my story that help improve my authority. Pushing through the anxiety disorder is one of them.
  • You can empower other people to  create the buzz. I did a brutally honest interview with Ije Ude about my struggles, and a really casual podcast with Catherine Caine. Both were talked about in blogs and forums during a time when I was unable to be online much.

Don’t Touch Discounts Unless you Know what you are Doing

Step right up...Image by camkage

I assumed that since all the retail stores offline used discounts that it was ok for me to do so. And it is – there certainly isn’t anything negative about it. The problem is that in a retail situation there are multiple people selling your product. They can do whatever they like to attract customers.

As soon as you start offering discounts, you devalue your product. People buy because of people and will be upset at the particular person if you knowingly let them purchase a product when they have a promotion elsewhere.

I did discounts as an experiment and they worked. People responded to them on the twitter landing page and in forums. They are useful as an incentive.

I had one lovely person contact me, kindly pointing out that they’d bought the product on good faith and asking if they could take advantage of the discount I provided after they had bought the course. I had felt uneasy about discounts for a while and this cinched it. I removed most of them and will be researching them heavily before using them again.

What I’ve learned:

  • If you are going to provide a discount, make it no more than 5-10%.
  • If you have a promotion planned with a significant discount, let your list/readers know in advance.

How are things now?

We make a couple of sales a week dependent on my promotional activities. I haven’t done many guest posts this year, nor do I really publicize what I do. I feel that the sales will increase as others start to talk about me more.

I know I made a lot of mistakes during my launch process but I am very glad that I did it the way I did. My goal was to get as much practical experience as possible and this was achieved.

I’ve changed my style somewhat during this process. I plan to offer products that target a small group of my readers covering topics that no-one else has heard of. I’m not sure if they will be as successful as a generalist product like this one but, well, you only learn by getting out there and giving it a go.