For the past 18 months, I spent 100% of my time and attention to building SamCart. I spend my days hunting A+ developers, overseeing new features, and talking to customers.
But allow me to take a few steps into the past, and shoot back to 2014.
SamCart’s Beta was brand new. Everyone still loved Pharell’s new song, “Happy”. Guardians of the Galaxy was blowing up the box office.
To be honest, didn’t care for it. I thought Interstellar was way better.
But this post will focus on what happened between July 1st and August 3rd, 2014. During those 34 days, I ran the first million dollar product launch in SamCart’s history.
And after almost two full years, it’s time to share how it all came together. Buckle up, this is not a short story. But here is everything I can remember about my first million dollar product launch.
1.) Months of Prep…
In March of 2014, I was on the hunt. My secret pet project, a shopping cart tool named “SamCart”, was going public soon. On top of that, the dates for the launch of my crown jewel, “The Fan Page Funnel”, were on the calendar.
The Fan Page Funnel (aka “FPF”) was the Facebook Marketing course I had always wanted to create. For those of you who haven’t followed me too long, I own and operate a brand called Get 10,000 Fans. It’s all about using Facebook to reach your target market.
I started “Get 10k” after realized I had a knack for Facebook. Running profitable Facebook Ad campaigns, getting fans, growing my email list. All that good stuff.
FPF was my masterpiece. The biggest, most comprehensive course I had ever created. It was the “start to finish” course I had always wanted to sell. And it was finally ready.
After the in-house launch of FPF exploded (in a good way) a few months earlier, I knew it was ready for the big show. I spent weeks recruiting affiliates. I cleared our promotional calendar for months leading up to our July launch dates.
If an affiliate needed us to send a few emails for their launch, I was the first to jump on board. I knew that every extra bit of support I offered would come back when it was time to launch FPF.
2.) Insiders Secrets…
I had a sense this launch was going to be huge, so I went all out. On March 17th, 2014 I joined Jeff Walker’s Platinum Plus Mastermind.
No small price for admission, trust me. Following Jeff’s strategies had already made me millions in sales to this point. With SamCart’s Beta right around the corner, and the FPF launch on the books, I wanted to join “the club”.
I wanted to be close to the action.
So I got to studying. I watched every version of Jeff’s Product Launch Formula, new and old. I printed every past email thread. I took endless notes at our first group event. And I pestered every single group member with as many questions as I could think of.
I’m still not sure why they keep me around.
But the point is, I was a sponge. If there was one tip that was going to help my July FPF launch, I had to know it. I was in a room full of people who expected launches to top one million in sales. And I was there to learn everything I could.
I would dedicate the next few months of my life to preparing, recruiting, scripting, tweaking, writing, networking, and testing.
When July rolled around, I was going to be ready.
3.) A Pre-Launch Video Series…
I opened my first piece of pre-launch content on July 1st.
Following Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula to the letter, we sent all traffic to our Launch Squeeze Page. My goal was to use this page to build a Launch List of 10,000 subscribers. Traffic hits the launch squeeze, opts into our launch list, and gets sent to our videos.
Traffic from my own list, affiliates, and Facebook Ads funneled to the squeeze page. At the end of the first day, we had 4,000+ subscribers.
Our pre-launch period centered around a standard 3 video launch. After someone opted into the Launch List, they
- July 1st: Video #1, “The $15.42 Facebook Fan”
- July 7th: Video #2, “The Funnel Revealed”
- July 10th: Video #3, “A Sneak Peek”
You can see our Pre-Launch pages by clicking right here. I archived these pages a long time ago, so they don’t look or function exactly as they did when they were open. We migrated the comments away, locked the product down.
But you can get the idea.
By the time our cart opened, the Pre-Launch had done it’s job and then some.
- 20,000+ Launch List subscribers
- 100,000+ views on the Pre-Launch Videos
- 3,500+ comments
I could talk about the Pre-Launch stuff for days. The whole point of a Pre-Launch is to build anticipation around the product release. And we definitely hit this one out of the park.
To save us both some time, I want to pick out three specific strategies that worked best for us this time around. So remember, the whole goal of a Pre-Launch is to build hype. To grow a list of excited people who can’t wait to see your product.
And with that in mind, here’s why I believe this Pre-Launch was a knock-out success…
4.) Endless Social Proof…
Ok so this one needs some explaining. When I joined Jeff Walker’s Plat Plus Mastermind, I met a woman named Susan Garrett.
Susan is a genius. She owns Say Yes Dog Training, a site that teaches dog-owners around the world how to train their dogs. Now I’ve used the training on my own dogs before, and it is outstanding. But her mind for marketing is her real gift.
At my first Plat Plus meeting, Susan revealed a new strategy for gathering overwhelming amounts of social proof. The entire group immediately followed her lead, implementing it into their own promotions. The rest is history.
This strategy is now just called the “Susan Testimonial Thing”, or STT for short. STT changed the entire fate of this promotion, and here’s how it works.
A few weeks before our Pre-Launch began, I emailed past customers and asked them to do one thing. Record a quick video talking about how Fan Page Funnel changed their business.
Each submission counts as an entry into a big contest. Winner receives one-on-one time with me, free products, the whole 9 yards. We requested that they upload to video to Youtube, and we took each video and put it on a single page for the world to see.
We emailed our entire list, sending them to that page to vote for their favorite submission. And there lies the genius.
The whole thing went mini-viral. As soon as the thing turned into a public contest, the submissions came pouring in. We collected dozens of videos, and the buzz around FPF was already starting.
5.) A Custom YouTube Playlist…
Remember those video testimonials from before? Of course, how could you forget. Well here’s why we wanted them…
When it came time to open up our pre-launch, we wanted to overwhelm visitors with social proof. So we did some extra work with those testimonials.
We did follow-up Skype interviews with the best entries. Which created 10x the content, more quotes, and more in-depth answers. Then we took those videos and put them everywhere.
And I mean everywhere.
These testimonials covered our pre-launch pages, pre-launch videos, sales video, and even the checkout page.
But there’s more to it than that. We took each of the video testimonials we had collected, and uploaded them all into a single Youtube playlist. Each video’s title took aim at a specific objection someone might have to buying FPF.
During each pre-launch video, we asked viewers to leave comments with their biggest questions. Guess how we answered those questions?
We were able to reply to each comment with a video targeted to their specific objection. The result was pages of comments with hand-picked video testimonials for each common question.
And it didn’t stop there. Remember how these videos were on a Youtube Playlist? What happens when you finish watching one video in a playlist? The next video begins playing automatically.
The result was our Youtube Playlist receiving 35,000+ views during our launch. That’s 35,000 separate times a viewer was being confronted with real social proof. Likely with a video targeting their biggest objection to joining FPF.
Did it take some work to get those videos together? Sure it did. But being able to combat big objections with targeted video testimonials did wonders for us.
6.) Facebook Ads…
The Pre-Launch videos are there for a reason. The entire pre-launch is about building anticipation, addressing a problem, and providing the solution.
But if no one watches the pre-launch content, there’s no anticipation. Your audience might not feel the itch you are trying to scratch. So for our FPF launch, we wanted to do everything we could to get our launch list subscribers to go through our pre-launch.
So we did some simple retargeting with Facebook.
Now Facebook Retargeting was super new back in July of 2014. It’s gotten a lot easier since. But here’s how we had it setup…
We had a bunch of different Facebook pixels created. Each pixel would drop people into a specific Custom Audience inside of our Facebook Ad account.
- The Launch List Subscribers
- People Who Visited Video #1
- People Who Visited Video #2
- People Who Visited Video #3
We ran a few different retargeting ads using a combination of these custom audiences. So our campaign looked something like this…
- Ad Pointing To Video #1
- Include Launch List, Exclude Video #1 Visitors
- Ad Pointing To Video #2
- Include Launch List and Video #1 Visitors, Exclude Video #2 Visitors
And round and round it goes.
We did everything we could to help people take a few minutes and watch our pre-launch videos. I knew whatever small amount it took to run these retargeting ads would come back to me 100x.
The retargeting ads were a huge win. We spent less than $1,000 on these ads, and our engagement was way up. An engaged launch list is a good launch list.
The Fan Page Funnel cart opened on Monday, July 14th. Our sales video went live, the checkout pages opened, and we were in business.
Every ounce of traffic was now pointing to the sales video. No more launch squeeze page, it was time to sell. We sent our affiliates email swipe copy the night before, and we told everyone that the doors opened at 10 AM.
7.) A Payment Plan…
As you can see from the sales video URL, we offered this course at two different payments options…
- 1 Payment of $997.00
- 3 Payments of $397.00
When we had done our in-house launch in December 2013, we tested only offering FPF at $997.00. We did not make a payment plan option available. One big payment or bust.
During that entire 5 day, in-house promotion we sold 223 copies of FPF.
By midnight on July 14th, we had sold 225 copies.
That was the first time I realized this launch had a shot to crack 7 figures in sales. I expected a big week, but that first day blew me away. Our conversion rate on Day #1 was an insanely high 5.2%. Almost a full point higher than our in-house launch.
Adding in a payment option turned out to be a great choice for us and our affiliates. More option help convert more customers.
A great first day of sales is always an indicator that you put together a killer pre-launch. You have the right audience, thinking about the right problems.
Next few days were somewhat uneventful. Anyone who has ever done a product launch knows that your middle days are slower, and we were no exception to that.
8.) Urgency and Scarcity…
By Thursday night, our emails started to highlight “The Close”.
Sunday night at midnight, FPF was closing down enrollment. All the bonuses, the pricing, everything was closing down. And we wanted everyone to know it.
Scarcity is a powerful tool. If you are not currently using hard deadlines and “close” offers, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.
Our ads, our emails, affiliate emails, everything was talking about the close. We wanted everyone to know it was time to act now or forever hold your peace. Both our sales page and checkout pages had timers counting down to the deadline.
You can take a guess what happened. We collected about 40% of our total sales in the final 24 hours. 2 out of every 5 sales came when we turned up the heat and let everyone know that FPF was not going to be around forever.
When the dust settled, and the offer closed, we sold 779 copies of The Fan Page Funnel.
- 513 Full Pays x $997 = $511,461.00
- 266 Payment Plans x $397 = $105,602.00
Thats a total of $617,063.00 collected in the 5 day product launch. With another $211,204.00 to be collected in the next 90 days from the payment plans.
The Cart Open & Close is critical, for obvious reasons. But honestly, there isn’t a ton to screw up. That being said, here are a few things I think we really nailed.
The 3 biggest things we did right during our cart open…
9.) 1-Click Upsells & Order Add-Ons…
Back in 2014, SamCart was still in Beta. But even back then, two simple SamCart features pulled in an extra $83,000.00 in profit.
After someone purchased FPF, we used a single 1-Click Upsell through SamCart. The upsell was a $500 deposit for a Live Bootcamp Event in our headquarters in Baltimore, MD.
49 people took that upsell, which produced an extra $24,500 in sales. Money we wouldn’t have had using other tools. But we didn’t stop there…
Everyone who put down a deposit scheduled a phone call with our team. We answered questions about the Bootcamp, talked about business, and made the pitch.
This event wasn’t cheap. Tickets ran at $5,000.00 per person. By far the most expensive single item I had ever sold.
But even at that price, our close rate was fantastic. That is all thanks to a simple little SamCart feature we call “Add To Order”. Right there on the phone, we could say the words, “Would you like us to use the card you have on file?”
When the applicant accepted, we added the ticket cost to their order using the card on file. All it took was one click of the mouse. Making the buying process so simple helped us cut out any useless back and forth.
We did not have to create a unique checkout page, email the link to the customer, and pray they would complete their order before changing their mind. Our applicants could make their decision, and buy their ticket right there on the phone.
And it worked like a charm.
We sold out our bootcamp, and the other applicants all received recorded sessions of the event. All in all, this one upsell and event brought in an extra $83,000.00 in profit.
All made possible with SamCart’s simple features.
10.) An Affiliate Competition…
Here’s one of my favorite take-aways from this launch. Our affiliates all knew each other. Most of them are good friends, and friends love competition.
Now, most big promotions have prizes for top affiliates. Some people even include leaderboard updates throughout the week in their affiliate email updates. But I wanted to take it a step further…
Being the competitive guy that I am, I created an “Affiliate Power Rankings” page. Anyone not familiar with “Power Rankings”, it’s an idea I stole from ESPN. Each week of say the MLB season, ESPN ranks every team. If my hometown Baltimore Orioles had a good week, they move up in Power Rankings.
I updated this page several times a day. My affiliates always knew who was rising, who was falling, and what prize they were in line for at any given time.
I had affiliates chasing me down to update the page! They wanted to see their face jump above someone in the standings. My top 20 affiliates would push harder when they saw someone gaining ground on them.
I’m guessing this page probably earned me an extra 100-200 sales.
People love competition. This page was just sort of a goofy idea I thought was fun. It turned into something my affiliates fell in love with. And it was a tool that got people to promote harder than they would have otherwise.
11.) An Affiliate Mastermind…
Almost forgot to include this one. But I told all affiliates that whomever finished in the Top 10 would be joining me for a mastermind.
This was a big win. Our affiliate partners all wanted to be there. To hang out in the same room as a bunch of other super sharp people. I had affiliates mention they were going to mail more because they wanted to be 100% sure they were in the Top 10 for the mastermind.
Here’s an awesome video we filmed at the mastermind event.
The mastermind itself was awesome. Had a killer day with such a freaking smart group, and then had a blast in a catered suite at an Orioles game. I’ll say this again, but it was a genuine honor to have such high caliber people in my corner.
12.) Live Chat on the Sales + Checkout Page…
Man oh man, live chat. I have such a love/hate relationship with live chat. At least I did before this launch.
The practical side of me hates live chat. Someone always has to be sitting there waiting around to talk to someone. And then you inevitably get dragged into some 30 minute time-suck of a conversation with someone who has zero intention of buying.
Waste of time. Waste of resources. But I did it anyway.
The numbers were so clear. I can’t argue anymore. During my in-house launch, I did not use live chat. During the July launch, I placed live chat on the checkout page. And here’s the difference…
- Conversion Rate Without Live Chat: 4.6%
- Conversion Rate With Live Chat: 6.7%
On a $997 product, that bump in conversion is a HUGE difference. Getting a shot to answer that one last burning question someone needs before buying is a big deal.
For anyone wondering, I used Zopim at the time. Still like them a lot for true live chat. But now there are plenty of cool tools on the market. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert at which one is the best.
13.) A Re-Open Period…
Ok, maybe this should go under the last category of “Things I Did Right”. But after thinking about it, I felt this deserved its own category.
My cart closed down on Sunday, July 21st at midnight. We had converted about 1,000 customers, a killer week. But that just meant we still had 19,000+ launch list subscribers who had not purchased!
That’s an opportunity, people. And here’s what we did about it…
On August 3rd & 4th, we had a 48 hour “Re-Open”. We notified our launch list subscribers, and our affiliates, that we were going to open up a few more spots inside of FPF.
And so we reset our countdown timers, fired back up live chat, and took in 48 more hours of enrollment. With one more trick up our sleeves…
My assumption was that anyone who did not buy already was scared off by the price. My job is find creative ways to convert more customers, for myself and my affiliates. So for the 48 hours re-open, we introduced a 12 payments of $97 payment plan.
Affordable enough for anyone to try it out. Made a big deal about our rock-solid guarantee, and pushed it out. The entire 48 hours was scarcity filled. We had another hard deadline to talk about, a bunch of affiliates jumped in. And it was a huge success.
We ended up selling 231 more copies of FPF.
- 231 x 12 payments of $97 = $268,884.00
I have done some sort of “re-open” in every single promotion I’ve ever done since. It’s too big of an opportunity to pass up on.
Here’s What I Did Wrong
Ok now let’s get to the good stuff. This is the stuff we messed up. Everyone wants to know how you goofed. And to be honest, some of these were pretty bad.
I’m not sure if any of these items cost me a ton of sales, but they sure cost me a ton of money. So here they are, the three things I got wrong during the July 2014 launch of FPF…
1.) Cake Affiliate Tracking
As I’ve mentioned, SamCart was in its early Beta. And it did not have the Affiliate Center, like it does now. In fact, you’re about to find out why we built the SamCart’s Affiliate Center. And worked so hard to make it the easiest affiliate platform on planet Earth.
So SamCart didn’t have affiliate tracking. I am busting my butt to recruit big affiliates. You see where this going?
I needed a tool.
I started shopping around for all the 3rd party affiliate/tracking tools. This launch was going to be big, so I wanted to go all out. I wanted to the best tool on the market.
After talking with everyone on the planet (at least that’s how it felt), I went with Cake.
Check that site out. Cool, right? It came recommended. The demo promised affiliate tracking, lead tagging, ad sources, easy reports, the whole 9 yards.
So we signed a contract, bad sign #1. And sent them a hefty deposit for our first 6 months of service, bad sign #2. And scheduled our onboarding calls with their team, bad sign #3.
Quick sidenote. Any tool that requires you to hire someone else for help, or schedule several hours worth of onboarding, is shit tool.
I’m looking at you InfusionSoft.
Cake went south quickly. Our on-boarding calls were a nightmare. The woman helping us get setup, who was very nice, had no clue what we were trying to do. She was trained to teach Setup A, and we were trying to Setup B.
We went to their support, even less help. We got sent to support article after support article full of technical jargon that we couldn’t understand. And the tool was not built for just anyone to use.
The tool was overly complicated, badly designed, and unthinkably expensive. Coming in at a cool $1,500/month, that 1 year contract ended up costing us $18,000.00.
Despite all that, we actually did manage to get Cake to work. It tracked our Affiliate Sales, and that was all we could manage. We hoped for a lot more. And Scott will never forget the hours and hours he had to spend manually updating stats. Anytime someone decided to refund, cancel, or buy other products, we had to update Cake by hand.
The moment that launch was over, we got to work on SamCart’s Affiliate Center. Never again, Cake. Never again. $18,000.00 down the drain.
Now you might be thinking, “Geez Brian, that is scathing.” Listen, I feel really strongly about this one. Bad tools suck time, money, and brainpower. And this was one of the worst experiences I’ve had.
Use simple tools people.
2.) Didn’t Incentivize The Full Pay
I wish I would have further incentivized the 1 payment of $997.00 more. Added some other bonuses, maybe made the payment plan more expensive.
I’m happy with how many people took the full pay over the payment plan. But if I had further incentivized the full pay, we would have made more money. Simple nature of anything recurring, you don’t always collected 100% of the future charges.
I’m thinking I left some money on the table. And the solution would have been simple. Make the full pay option more attractive.
3.) Improve Customer Follow-Up
I get focused on selling things. That’s not so bad, I’m pretty good at it. But our customer follow-up sequence suffered at the hands of my focus on the sales part of the launch.
Now that’s not to say we had some crazy refund rate. I’m proud to share that our refund rate was about 7%, well below industry averages.
But after the sale, our customers got a disjointed experience. We had weekly live Coaching Calls, but they were often not the same day and time each week. The recordings weren’t posted within the hour after the call ended. Just one example.
Looking back, here’s what I would have like to do…
- Schedule the weekly Coaching Calls for the same day and time, each week.
- Put more effort into delivering unannounced bonuses in the weeks after the sale.
- Dropped a handwritten note to each customer. We did this for our in-house launch, can’t remember why it didn’t get done this time.
- Spend more time talking with customers in support. This is something I do a ton of now with SamCart. Does wonders for customer retention, and staying in touch with what customers need.
When it was all said and done, we sold just over 1,000 copies of our highest price product. Affiliates made out like bandits, averaging ridiculously high EPCs as the recurring income kept rolling in. And we hosted our first ever live event.
I had the privilege of cutting some of the largest commission checks I have ever had the privilege to sign. And had the even better privilege of sending them to some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
Thinking back, I am so genuinely honored by the people on that Top 10 List.
Of course, we didn’t collect every single dime of the payment plans. We didn’t set the world record for largest product launch of all time. But we did pull off our first $1MM product launch, in the relatively tiny little Facebook market.
We did some things right, and some things wrong. But ultimately, it was months and months of hard work. It was tens of thousands of dollars invested in tools, travel, design, etc..
This article wasn’t written to brag. I am writing this down to give you a honest look inside the tent. I hope you take away one or two nuggets that help you snag that extra boost to your next promotion.
It would be the coolest thing ever to read an email from you, telling me how using Affiliate Power Rankings made the difference. Or how using the “Susan Testimonial Thing” helped fuel your biggest promotion.
Download This Exact Launch Funnel
If you would like something to keep with you, I have a quick sketch of this entire launch funnel. I draw everything out, remnants of 3 semesters of a Graphic Design degree. Changed my mind, after a paper cut-out of a toilet was my “most inspired work”.
But anyway, if you would like to download my Launch Funnel Mind Map, make sure you click below now. I would love to know it helped you out.
And just one last thought. You don’t need to crack $1MM to be a success. Always remember why you toil for months. Remember why you stay up burning the midnight oil. Remember why you willingly remove yourself from society for a while.
In 2014, I did it for my wife and our future children. In 2016, I do it for my wife and our very present 18-month old baby girl.
Whatever it is that drives you, keep it in mind. Makes the craziness that much easier.