14 Lessons From A $2.3 Million Product Launch
Alright, before I say a word, I need to make some extremely clear….
I hate this.
I hate putting a dollar amount in the title of anything. It screams, “LOOK AT ME!! CHECK OUT HOW AWESOME I AM!!”
This post is not about bragging. It’s not about padding my ego or convincing the world about how great I am.
That is my own personal launch gameplan. The results, the findings that I recapped for a mastermind group a few weeks after this whole 8-month launch was over.
But here’s why I’m writing this post: I’ve always learned the most by studying other people’s examples.
Back in Middle School, I would record MLB games on VHS tapes. Remember those days?
I wanted to study Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds. And I spent hours pouring over my tapes, playing them back again and again. Meticulously searching for some nugget that would give me the edge on the field.
Since I hung up my spikes, life hasn’t changed.
I have terabytes of screenshots, video recordings, podcasts, and every in between from my favorite copywriters.
How’s this for nerdy: I used to purchase Ryan Deiss’ products while Screenflow was recording. I’d go through the entire upsell funnel, recording the whole time.
Then I’d go back and watch it over and over, seeing what I could improve about my own upsells.
I never miss an Apple keynote (although lately they are begging me to skip). Love them or hate them, Apple sells a lot of stuff. And their events are their sales letters.
You want to write good sales copy? Play back a few Apple events from the iPhone 3, 4, or 5 days. That was some damn good sales copy back then.
Look, my point is some people spend their time watching sports. Some people love hiking. Some people cook for fun.
I like to study great sales copy.
That, and my slow pitch softball team is pretty good…
This is an actual picture from the SamCart kitchen. My wife didn’t want them in the house. I think she’s afraid of my success.
But this is how I spend my free time. And I always get the most out of seeing “behind the curtain”. Case studies, interviews, recaps.
So wether you’re selling info courses, tennis rackets, golf lessons, or Bird-Watching Adventure Packages (not a joke, guy uses SamCart)…
My hope is that this post gets bookmarked & shared with a friend. And it helps your next big promotion do that much better.
And with that said, let’s get right to it…
14 Lessons From A $2.3 Million Product Launch
In September in 2016, SamCart did it’s first public promotion. Some call it a “launch”. Some call is a “sale”.
Whatever you want to call it, September 19th through the 22nd was SamCart’s coming out party. The first time we ever promoted SamCart to more than just our own subscribers.
But where everyone else sees a few videos and a 4 day sale, my team and I see months of planning, writing, recording, editing, developing, and publishing.
The memories of the last year of my life have been running together. I swear if I had tried to write this a few weeks ago, it would have been 2,000 words of straight nonsense.
But we’ve emerged from the fog, gotten some perspective on what happened, and are in the right state of mind to break it all down.
Here are 14 lessons from SamCart’s September launch…
1) Plan Months Ahead Of Time
Flashback to December 2015. SamCart had been out of its paid Beta for about 6 months, and we were growing.
That’s when I started planning this launch. SamCart had proven it was more than a pet-project. Our customers were killing it, and there was a need for this thing.
Which meant it was time for a public launch. The only question was when…
Over the next 9 months, we moved our launch date 3 separate times.
Between lining up our calendars with key partners, working to get the right features into the tool, and scripting out our message to a big audience, it took a few tries to find the right date.
Each part was a crucial piece to the equation. You don’t get to launch twice, we had one shot to get things right.
We needed the right tool, with the right message, in front of the right eyes. And if I had to ballpark it…
I would say I spent well over 500 hours just scripting, writing, recording, and publishing our launch’s videos.
All the hard work we had put into SamCart up until this point was preparing us for this one big week. I’ll get more into the nitty gritty as we go one, but let’s just say that this launch was the culmination of years of work, and 9 full months of execution.
2) Launch With The Right Partners
It’s entirely possible that you heard of SamCart before September 2016. We ran ads, we emailed our own list, other customers recommended us.
But this launch was going to be different. We were aiming to have some of the biggest thought leaders in online marketing promote SamCart to their own audiences.
And that was a first.
I was extremely intentional about who I approached, and how I approached them. I only promote stuff I love, so my “recruiting” always started with getting people setup on SamCart.
If you run your business on SamCart, promoting is a pretty easy next step. My pitch was simple, “Run one sale on SamCart, and you’ll see what everyone is talking about…”
So I hustled my butt off. Lots of Skype calls, text messages, late-night voxers…
But it was worth it. People gave SamCart a shot, and time after time they fell in love with the simplicity, the time it saved them.
And that personal experience would pay huge dividends when it came time for them to share the word. More on that in a minute…
Just as a personal note, every time I think about the group of people we had supporting SamCart, I am floored.
It is a huge honor to have such an accomplished, respected group of people on our team.
3) Invite Power Users To Get Involved
Now we didn’t have to convince everyone to promote!
The “low-hanging fruit” for this launch was SamCart’s Power Users. We already had a huge pool of people who were killing it on SamCart, many of them with followings of their own.
Asking them to promote SamCart was a breeze. This group even accounted for a big chunk of our sales in September, and produced some surprise finishers in our Top 10!
All we had to do was ask. Shout outs to Cody Lister & Logan Crockett!
4) Record Testimonials & Endorsements
Remember earlier, when I talked about the time we invested getting people to test drive SamCart?
Well here’s why that was so important…
Those phone calls & late night text threads turned into real endorsements. We were fortunate enough to get case studies & endorsements from some of the most successful thought leaders in online marketing.
Amy Porterfield, James Wedmore, Pat Flynn, Stu McLaren, Ben Adkins, Jeff Walker, and the list keeps going.
Again, I’m not bragging. I’m saying that to attract this caliber of person, it took time, effort, & attention.
The end result was some of the best social proof we could have ever hoped for. Our launch videos were full of top-shelf thought leaders talking about their own results with SamCart.
5) Incentivize The Hell Out Of Everything
We actually changed a long-standing policy specifically for this launch.
Instead of offering 40% commission for promoting SamCart, we moved to 50% commission across the board. My thinking: if you want to incentivize the best people, give them the best offer.
Software is tough, because we have hard costs.
We have a big, awesome office. We pay a ton of money for the best hosting, security, and tech for our users. And we have a team of really talented people in the office every single day, who appreciate getting paid.
Here’s about half the team in our latest family pic. The horse actually quit last week…
But selling a SamCart account is not a “We keep 50%, you keep 50%” sort of deal.
But in the end, it came down to wanting to attract the best partners. And offering someone 50% commission made a big difference. So now we pay 50% commission for every customer you send our way.
We like to say that promoting SamCart is like having your own software side-business. You can make good money, and we do all the work.
We’ll take less to attract the best.
6) Offer Awesome Launch Prizes
Here’s sort of out of the box one. It’s pretty normal to offer prizes to your affiliates who finish in the Top 10, who send the most leads, who make more than X sales, etc.
The problem is, the prizes that get offered almost always fall into two categories…
1) Totally lame stuff no one really wants.
2) WAAAAY too expensive stuff.
In my humble opinion, people either think too small…or think way too big.
“The top affiliate at the end of my launch gets MY WIFE AND KIDS!!”
I wanted to do something a little different. I happen to really like my wife. My 2 year old daughter…she’s alright.
Our prizes were outside the box. Bunch of stuff from Uncrate, and sites like that.
A tortilla maker. A self-folding laundry machine. A personal “Sam Cart”.
Our affiliates loved the crazy prizes, which is really all you want, right?
And we weren’t at risk of handing away some enormous chunk of the entire launch.
7) Focus Attention With Your Pre-Launch
I’m going to bet you know what the Product Launch Formula is.
If not, check out Jeff Walker sometime. Great dude, even better marketing mind.
“PLF” is his invention, and we subscribe to this strategy when we put together a big launch.
Short version: we released 3 “Pre-Launch” videos in the two weeks leading up to the launch. These videos were designed to engage new visitors, and focus their attention towards a common problem.
For anyone who’s curious, here’s our exact Pre-Launch schedule…
- Wednesday, September 7th: Video #1, “The New Way To Sell”
- Monday, September 12th: Video #2, “2 Ways To 4X Sales”
- Thursday, September 15th: Video #3, “The Blueprint To Freedom”
We had our own subscribers, Facebook Ads, and affiliates sending traffic to our launch squeeze page throughout the pre-launch. So customers were asked to optin to see our pre-launch videos.
I am actually pretty sure you will need to optin to see those right now.
But the hard work paid off. By 3:00 PM on the 7th, our first video had over 10,000 views.
When it was all said and done, we were able to build a list of 25,000+ leads during our Pre-Launch. Our launch videos amassed just under 100,000 views.
Which are both just symptoms that told us the Pre-Launch was doing it’s job. We had the right message, and people were responding.
Here’s the lesson: never release a product to an empty room of people. Use strategies like PLF, and release to a crowd of people who are ready to act.
Just two other really quick notes. We’ve done launches like this before, but we did two things a little different this time…
1: Our Pre-Launch Pages Were Almost Entirely Blank
I mean seriously, look at this thing…
That’s not a partial screenshot, that’s the whole page. No navigation. No comments area. Just a video.
From what we can measure, this actually increased our engagement.
The end goal is to get visitors to watch the video, and we got a much bigger chunk of our launch list to digest our videos by getting rid of other distractions on the page.
2: I got in front of the camera (for like, two seconds).
Not sure if there’s any way to measure how this worked. But my brother wanted me to include this on the list.
I HATE being on camera. Hate it.
Scott is always the one on stage for us. But he finally convinced me to step in front and, in his words, “give the people what they want”.
We went all out of our launch videos. First time I had a video that wasn’t just entirely keynote slides. And for what it’s worth, our engagement was higher across the board.
Take that info however you’d like.
8) Make Everyone Watch The Videos
The dream scenario is each visitor watching every second of your entire pre-launch. Anyone who does that is on track to become a customer.
But of course, people get busy. They get distracted. It’s your job to help them out by sending them back to any videos they haven’t watched yet!
Best way to do that, some good old fashion automation.
But before we go into that, time for a quick rant…
I can’t stand overly complex stuff. And launches are always the “time to shine” for people who just like to make things complicated, because they can.
“I have 43 different automated sequences for my launch leads depending on the visitor’s country, experience level, income, date of birth, default web browser, favorite color, wether they own a bike, how much they liked Avatar, if they’re left-handed, their gender identity, and how they eat Kit-Kats…”
Which by the way, if you bite all the sticks of a Kit-Kat at once, you’re a monster.
But there are people who sit back, look at this pile of crap they’ve created, and think “This is going to kill it.”
Keep things simple. Here’s a picture of my MOST complicated sequence from this launch, compliments of the fine people over at Drip.
I made the switch to Drip just a few weeks before the launch. Talked with Clay Collins, and he convinced me to give it a shot. Not sure why I switched tool so soon before the biggest event of my professional career, but hey it worked out.
I can go more into that some other time. But after several rounds of overly-complex nonsense, we kept things simple and here’s all we did…
The goal was simple: get all these new visitors to digest our Pre-Launch videos.
People who watch each video are locked in. Get more people to watch each video, sell more stuff. Simple as that.
We connected Wistia + Center + Drip.
Inside of Center, we setup a rule that said, “When someone watches at least 20% of Video #1, add them to a Workflow in Drip.” Nothing too fancy.
Then, we added a tag called, “Watched PLC 1” to the visitors record in Drip. Pretty simple stuff really.
We repeated the process for each of our Pre-Launch videos (aka “PLCs”). So we knew exactly who had seen each video, and who hadn’t.
Which gave us the opportunity to email visitors back to videos they hadn’t seen yet. Boom. Done.
Not overly complex. But gives us all the benefit we are looking for. We had a bigger chunk of visitors go through each of our videos, and it paid off when the cart opened.
9) Smash Objections: The Launch Facebook Group
Have you ever read Topgrading?
Awesome read, lots to learn if you’re building a team. But the premise is all about finding your “A Players” (as in, your top people). And turning your “B Players” into “A Players”.
But my favorite nugget goes something like this, “Surround your ‘B Players’ with ‘A-Players’, and turn your Bs into As.”.
We took that to heart and decided to create an entire Facebook Group around this launch. It’s called The SamCart Customer Mastermind, and it’s sole purpose was to put our best customers in contact with all of these new visitors.
Throughout the pre-launch, our new visitors got sent towards the Facebook Group to ask questions, download cool resources, and hear from real customers.
And we struck gold.
Objection after objection got blown out of the water. Conversations like this one happened over and over again…
Customers stepped up and helped new visitors understand what life as a SamCart customer was like. They offered free advice, answered tons of questions, and made big objections seem a heck of a lot smaller.
Not to mention, this probably 10X’d interaction on the launch. New visitors were constantly getting Facebook Notifications about our launch, on top of the emails, Facebook Ads, and more.
10) Shorten The Whole Launch
If there’s one item on this list that might make people go, “Ok, that’s just dumb. I would never do that”, I think this is it…
We opened our cart on Monday the 19th, and closed it on Thursday the 22nd. 4 days total, that’s it.
I have been shortening my “cart open” time with every new promotion I run. After looking back over our numbers, I can’t find a single shred of evidence that 4 days hurt our conversions/sales at all.
If I thought I could get away with 24 hours open to close, I would do it.
Shorter period of time means getting people off the fence and making a decision. It means less emails burning up the good will you work so hard for during the Pre-Launch. It means a much more real sense of urgency.
In my experience, a shorter cart open does away with the “lull” that usually sits in the middle of a longer promotion. Instead of losing momentum for two days, the entire launch is just a runaway train speeding downhill.
Test is out. I have friends that think I’m crazy for condensing everything into such a small window, but someone prove me wrong. Until I see it hurt sales, I’m going to keep pushing the limits with this one.
11) Inject Real Scarcity Everywhere You Can
As with any promotion, scarcity is a big deal. This launch had more actual scarcity than anything I had ever done before in my life.
This launch was everyone’s last chance to get grandfathered into SamCart Premium for just $99/month. SamCart Premium now costs $199/month.
But during launch week: get 1 Year of SamCart Premium, 4-5 of my best training courses, and a FREE second SamCart Premium account for just $997.00.
After the first year, pay just $99/month for life.
If you go to buy the same SamCart Premium account now, it’s $199/month. No bonus courses. No free second account for life.
So the scarcity was, and still is, very real. Those customers are locked into a honey of a deal.
And the conversions reflected that. Any time you can find a way to make your offer truly scarce, you will sell more products.
12) Announce Exciting New Stuff During Launch Week
On top of the scarcity aspect, SamCart had a ton of new features to announce during the launch week.
We kept a lot of updates quiet, waiting for the momentum of a launch to announce exciting new features like our integrations with Zapier, Drip, and Kajabi. A bunch of new templates. Language translations. SamCart’s beautiful new design.
Bunch of stuff. The point is, having new stuff to talk about made an exciting time more exciting.
We grabbed the interest of both new visitors and long time customers. And it added to the wave of excitement that any launch creates.
Anything you can do to add to the excitement is a very good idea.
13) Go All Out For The Close
I really love to see a well-executed close. The “open” of any promotion is usually flashy and gets all the attention, like when a big movie is taking up every commercial break the week before it hits theaters.
But the close is where the magic happens. As that timer ticks down to zero, people get off the fence and make a decision. And that’s really what you want.
The close of this launch did exceptionally well. And here’s what we did…
We emailed everyone 3 times on closing day. Affiliates & the launch list. In the morning, around 5 PM, and about 10 PM.
We updated the Affiliate Facebook Group just about every hour. Letting everyone know which prizes were still up for grabs, and affiliates responded. Oh ya, we had an Affiliate Facebook Group too. That did great for us.
As a result, we did almost a full 50% of our sales from the entire launch in the final 12 hours.
Just about our entire team was up until 2 or 3 in the morning. Answering questions, helping people get setup, and just generally busting our asses.
Live chat, in-app messaging, the whole 9 yards.
Every single question we answered helped another person say “Yes”. If there was ever a time to put in the extra mile, it is during a close.
14) Build A Waiting List
Ok so what do you when your launch closes down?
If you’re answer is anything but, “Build a Waiting List!”…go take a lap.
The moment your offer is gone, start building a Waiting List. After our deadline passed, we replaced our sales page with an optin to join our Waiting List.
A few days after the launch, we had a limited re-open exclusively for our Waiting List. And they jumped on the opportunity.
The offer wasn’t the same, and it didn’t have all the same bonuses and everything from before. But it was good enough. And we picked up another good chunk of happy customers.
When It Was All Over…
When the dust cleared on the 23rd, SamCart had changed forever.
This launch was a huge turning point for the entire business. Exploding our list of subscribers, creating a truck load of new customers, and creating a wave of organic traffic that keeps growing and growing.
To sum up the month of September, 5,000 new business owners now call SamCart “Home”. And our customers are on pace to sell $250+ Million of their own products & services in the next 12 months.
Our Affiliates worked their butts off, and we will be gladly be paying them commissions every month from now through the end of time. Their EPCs are still going up, without them sending an ounce of traffic since September.
By any metric, this launch was a success. I am extremely proud of my team, the awesome affiliates who helped share the love, and of all the hard work that went in behind the scenes.
This launch cost me 9 months of my life, untold hours of my own time, and about $1 Million in hard costs. If it had flopped, it would have been bad news.
Not the end of the line, but like I said before, you don’t get to just “try again”.
Coming Soon: “7 Mistakes That Almost Cost Me $2.3 Million”
Look, as nice as the big numbers might sound, the reality is spent about a year of my life sweating bullets.
On Monday morning, I’ll be publishing Part II of this story (which is where “Part 1 of 3” comes in). People are always all too willing to share the good stuff, but in my next post, I want to share the bad stuff.
The mistakes I made along the way that cost us big time. And I think that deserves its own post.