How We Survived 10 Launch Pad Disasters
Alright, we've done the fun stuff. The stuff that makes us look like smart, competent people who understand how to grow a successful company. If you want to read Part 1 of this 3-part series, click here to read "A $2.3 Million Product Launch: What Crushed, What Flushed". That post covers the 14 big lessons that helped make our latest SamCart promotion such a success. It's a good read, plenty of solid stuff in there that I hope helps your next launch do that much better. But let's be honest, this is the post you really WANT to read. And I don't blame you. Listen, everyone wants to be the genius. The respected, revered individual that wakes up under a rainbow, has perfectly behaved children, sleeps 8 hours every night, and hasn't touched carbs since 2003. But that's just not me. I love carbs too much. I'm a decently smart guy, sure. In fact, here's some old-cell-phone-quality proof that I did indeed graduate from college...
I'm the insanely good-looking one in the front there. Me and my 3.3 GPA were destined for greatness... I'd love to convince you that the September launch was a run-away success and there wasn't a single detail out of place. While this launch did outstanding, we left plenty out on the table. So let's get right to it. The stuff that could've easily sunk my entire launch.
In true Letterman fashion, here's my... "Top 10 Things To Do To Make Sure Your Launch Totally Sucks".
1: Pick Your Dates Last Minute
If you remember, the very first point of our last blog post was “Plan Months Ahead Of Time”. Good advice, right? Well, I should have listened to it myself. Because my launch almost didn't happen, due to an extreme lack of planning. A good promotion becomes a great promotion with great partners. And great partners required planning, and a good loooooong heads up. I made the mistake of assuming some of the biggest names in online sales were just open and ready to go whenever I decided to launch... What the heck was I thinking.
Originally, I wanted the launch to be in April. In February, I told everyone the dates were good to go, April it is. And 3 of my top partners told me they were booked in April. No problem, let's do June. But here's the problem: I waited until April to tell everyone we wanted June. Once again, 4 of my top partners said June was a no-go. So what did I do now? Surely I learned my lesson... Nope. I wanted August, waited until June to tell everyone. And guess what? More partners told me they were booked up. At this point, I am freaking out. Instead of rationally trying to understand that I was the problem, giving these extremely busy individuals absolutely no advanced notice of MY plans, I started worrying that this would never happen. I'm not a smart man.
It took a slap in the face (figurative) from one of my advisors before I figured it out. Give people MONTHS to plan for this stuff. Everyone has their own priorities, their own schedules. And if you want the best people, you need to give them months to clear their calendar, prepare their audience, etc. The funny thing is, if someone came to me the way I approached them, I would have laughed and said, “Maybe next time killer.”
2: Switch Tools Last Minute
We've switched email marketing tools plenty of times. For the majority of SamCart's beginning, we used Hubspot. But moved off it about 8 months ago. Too big of a tool, far too expensive, just really not what we needed. After Hubspot, we went back to AWeber for a while, sort of the "Old Faithful" of email marketing tools. Just my two cents here, but it doesn't get much better than AWeber. Always works, always fast, great deliverability. From AWeber we were on ConvertKit for a while. Awesome tool as well. There's this whole new breed of email marketing tool that makes me wonder why people bother using bloated, complicated tools like InfusionSoft or Ontraport anymore.
Here's a life hack: if you need to pay an "expert" to use a tool, find an easier tool. I'm looking at you InfusionSoft. But I digress... A few weeks before the launch, Drip caught my attention. I had heard of them before, but LeadPages had just acquired them, and that's really what made me give them a second look. I liked the tool, and “Voxered” (this needs to be a term) Clay Collins to see if he thought we should give Drip a try. Of course Clay was all for it, and he kindly setup us up with a few people to help answer questions along the way. Now this is all well and good, except for one thing... Our launch was in 3 weeks. We were going to be using a brand new tool to run our biggest promotion of all time. I am happy to report: it all worked out. In fact, we are big on Drip now. BUT...we ran our entire launch emailing people from several locations.
- Existing Leads: ConvertKit
- Launch List: Drip
- SamCart Customers: Intercom
Do you see the problem here? Now, we have since moved everyone into one place. But to be honest, I'm still really not sure why I decided to make such a big change, right on the cusp of such a big promotion. This one could have burned us. Thankfully, it worked out.
3: Don't Use SamCart For Your Own Launch
In the next few weeks, SamCart will finally be switching all of its own operations to SamCart. Let me be more clear, as of right now SamCart doesn't use a SamCart account to sell SamCart accounts...
Wait, what do you mean you still don't understand? How could I be more clear? Poorly used memes aside, we currently use a custom checkout process to sell SamCart accounts. Due to the heavier tech things we have to do to create a SamCart account, we've had to build our own checkout process. Which really means we have been wasting time building stuff twice... We had to build SamCart's Affiliate Center for our users, and then our custom affiliate center for ourselves. Had to build SamCart's Dashboard, and then our own custom dashboard. That's all changing soon, and it's about time. SamCart will finally be using a SamCart account of its own.
But as far as the launch is concerned...
Custom checkout processes are just not the way to go. And the irony is not lost of us at all. Our entire business is about making the whole “checkout page” thing really simple. But because we weren't using our own tool, our checkout process was complicated. I feel so dumb typing this right now. Any changes needed a developer's time. And as with any launch, time is scarce. We changed our offer several times leading up the launch; add in a new bonus here, tweak a benefit there. And each little change meant we were taking time away from other features, other tasks to get done.
And don't even get me started on the Post-Launch stuff.
Because we couldn't use SamCart's built-in Affiliate Center, we were stuck counting up Affiliate commissions manually. Don't get me wrong, every affiliate sale was credited perfectly, but we found out after that our custom affiliate center had some trouble accounting for refunds, and some cancellations. Where SamCart's Affiliate Center would have had perfect numbers, our custom Affiliate Center caused us to overpay affiliates by almost $20,000. Woof. More wasted time to fix stuff that would be perfect if we had been using a SamCart account the whole time. Happy to say that with SamCart's API almost finished, you will see SamCart using SamCart....to sell SamCart. And the days of wasting time building things twice, are over.
4: The “Email”
Of every item on this list, this one has to be the most embarrassing to me personally. The night before we opened our cart, a few of us we were quite literally up all night. Working away at the office, testing & re-testing everything. Well a few minutes before 6:00 AM, Eastern Time, I was fiddling around with some rules in Intercom, the tool we use to send out “Welcome!” emails after someone becomes a customer. Let this be a lesson to everyone, double check your work. I saved some new settings, and fired off an automated message that told almost 2,250 people they had successfully purchased SamCart's Launch Special Offer...
2,000+ of our BEST potential customers were congratulated on buying, 3 hours before we were going to open the doors and ask them to buy. It took DAYS to sort all of those people out. Between people being SUPER excited, SUPER confused, or SUPER upset (some thought we had run their card for $1,000), it's quite literally a miracle that the launch did as well as it did. Don't fidget with this stuff hours before you open, and have been awake for longer than 24 hours.
5: Write A Confusing Offer
Geez, these keep getting worse as we go. No excuses for this one. The “Offer” for your launch should be locked in months ahead of time. And I mean LOCKED IN. We had tested our offer a ton, and it went a little something like this... “Get 4 amazing training courses for $997.00, and we'll throw in 1 Year of SamCart Premium for FREE!” I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist. And it absolutely bombed on the opening day of our launch. We got MOUNTAINS of questions from confused readers, who were excited about SamCart but needed clarification about what the heck we were offering them.
I realized there was a problem after about 5 seconds of reading a few of these emails. So before we sent out the second email at the end of Day #1 of our HUGE launch we planned MONTHS for...we changed our entire offer. Luckily, the change paid off big time. The first offer was great for our own subscribers. We had tested it for months, and it worked great. But this launch was not our own subscribers... 90% of these folk were hearing about SamCart for the first time. They were expecting “Pay $XXX for SamCart”, and the way we explained our offer just flat out confused them. So we moved quickly. I was terrified that this mistake would cost us big time, that it could sink the entire launch. That all our affiliates would drop off and leave after a slow first day.
Thankfully, the moment we simplified our offer, visitors responded. In the end, we got notes from Affiliates who felt Day #1 was huge, and I slept a lot better after that.
6: Confuse Your Existing Customers
A big portion of this launch was existing SamCart customers upgrading to the special launch offer. During our entire Pre-Launch, we constantly asked visitors to open a free trial to SamCart. So between the 1,000s of free trials, and existing customers who wanted to upgrade, almost a full 50% of our launch customers were upgrading an existing account. But here's the problem: the signup process for customers SUCKED. Now upgrading was supposed to be awesome! Let me show you...
Customers were supposed to be able to click on that button, login to their account, and then confirm the upgrade using the card they already had on file. But man it just didn't work out. It was a mix of people missing our tiny little button, and a few legitimate issues. First it was customers getting charged more than 1x. That was "fun". Then it was customers upgrading successfully, but being redirected back to SamCart.com. So they weren't sure if it worked. Then customers kept getting shown an error message that said, “This Email Already Exists!” please try again. Well, of course the email already exists. They already have an account! Bottom line was, we did test this process. But somewhere in the last few hours before we opened the cart, the customer upgrade flow went from “quick & easy” to “I need help”. Not good. Our support team is a bunch of rock-stars. They worked their asses off to get everyone squared away. But undoubtedly, this cost us sales.
7: While You're At It, Confuse Your Best Leads
Along the same vein as the item above. Our pre-launch was wildly successful at getting people to grab free trial accounts to SamCart. We had affiliates who had hundreds of SamCart customers before our launch even opened! A huge benefit. And we were so excited that so many people were falling in love with SamCart in the days before actually opened the cart for the launch. BUT...we left too much room for confusion once the cart opened. These free trial customers considering themselves new customers, and we didn't make it clear enough that they were considered “Existing Customers”. So we had this tidal wave of our BEST POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS, who were completely confused about how to buy. So they wrote into support asking for help, but by that point we had lost the initial excitement of it all. This could have been much easier. A simple explanation for this group of people could've captured tons more sales. I am sure of it. A launch is good because of the wave of excitement it creates. And this is just one example of many things that we did that put a damper on that excitement. Who knows what it cost us in real dollars.
8: Understaff Your Support Team
This on has actually been well documented. Anyone in our Facebook Groups knows that we have been extremely open about the fact that we totally underestimated what we would need to support all of these new customers. The fact of the matter is, we went into our big launch having just hired one new member to our support team. But we could have used two more. We thought we were set, but that just wasn't the case. Just take a look at the spike in messages just for that one week...
And this one picture doesn't even tell the full story. Our increase in messages per day was double than we had planned for. Which meant that wait times were way longer than our normal standards for a while. Now our team worked like crazy for weeks afterward, and all the while we were looking for new team members. Thankfully, after about 3-4 weeks, we were back down to under 24 hour turnaround on messages overall. And less than 30 minute turnaround during normal business hours. But the fact remains, this was a pain point, and it absolutely cost us customers. Happy to say that since our launch ended, we have brought on two more full time customer support team members, and looking for more. We're dedicated to providing the best support you'll have online. And for anyone reading this who maybe had issues on this front back in September/October, that one is completely on us.
9: Don't Update Your JVs
Early in the launch week, we weren't on top of letting our partners know how everything was going. Partly because we were swamped. But that's a good excuse at all. In an ideal world, you should be emailing, texting, skyping, and sending smoke signals to your partners throughout the entire launch.
No one should be out of the loop. But that's exactly what we did early on during our cart open period. I got so busy scrambling to get things working, answering questions, and hopping on webinars that I left affiliates in the dark. On Day 1 I only sent a single email in the AM telling them everything was open. Not a single text. No calls. Nothing. And that hurt us in the long run. Now, Day 2 was better and days 3 & 4 were rock solid from a "talk to your affiliates" side of things. But stay on top of your partners! Let them know how things are going, ask them what you can do to help, see what their plan is to promote, update them on where there are in your rankings. People want to compete. And they will want to kill it for you. Just give them the chance.
10: Trust GoToWebinar
Pretty self-explanatory. Don't trust GoToWebinar. The day before our close, we hosted a Live Q&A webinar. Affiliates promoted it. The entire launch list was geared up for it. And we were excited to use GoToWebinar's newest tech, the live stream. Definitely not the official name for it. But whatever it was, it was a nightmare. We logged onto a call that had thousands registered for it, which was the whole reason we were using the "live stream" stuff GTW now offers in some accounts. You could have more than 1,000 attendees on a live call. Pretty sweet pitch for someone doing a huge launch with 25,000+ subscribers. But it went south immediately. We ended up having to scrap the call, email everyone a fresh link to a new webinar we made right there on the spot, and hope people showed up. I have no idea how many customers we lost just on that one call. We still packed out the live call with 1,000 attendees, but who knows what could have happened if GTW's tech delivered on their promise. It's time for a better webinar tool.
The "Simple Launch" Alternative
If you've ready these two posts, you have a healthy appreciation for the time and energy that goes into these behemoth product launches. It's not hard to see how this one promotion consumed my life for the better part of a year. With that said, I have a strategy to condense this work down. And I mean way down. It eliminates the risk, but keeps all the profits. Same winning formula, but a fraction of the time. If you’re looking for a quick win, then this could be exactly what you need. And the beauty of it is, all you need is an email and a checkout page. Anyone who has been paying attention to my stuff lately has seen this in action. If you want the easy way to launch new products or put together marketing funnels that deliver customers on autopilot…you need to check out our brand new ‘1-Page Funnel’ program. Just click the banner below now…
If you think you would like to test out this condensed launch model, pull off a quick win, then click above right now. You’re going to love this because it will be the easiest money you ever make online. Have you put together (or thought about putting together) your own product launch? Tell me your story below…