Product launches are intimidating and stressful, but beyond rewarding.
A single product launch will teach more about business than 100 business books.
…And that’s being generous.
In this case study, I’m going to show you exactly how my company made $35,320 in 5 days with our most recent product launch.
What you will learn:
- How My Company Made $35,808 in 5 Days
- Product Development: Step-by-Step
- A Simple Tactic for Testing Membership Experience
- Pricing Logic
- How to Create a Sales Page
- Checkout Page Software (Plus Some Mental Triggers)
- Why I Didn’t Allow PayPal
- How to Market Your Product
- Launch Week Shenanigans and One Idiotic Mistake
- What Didn’t Go Well
- 10 Ways to Grow Future Sales
[yellowbox]Exclusive: Download the simple product checklist to keep the process of your product launch organized. And most important, to ensure that your product launch is a success.[/yellowbox]
What is the Product?
The product in this case study is an SEO training course. The course has over 100 videos and took a little over a year to develop.
How I Validated the Idea
Back in November 2015, I launched a “beta” version of this course. The goal of this launch was to see if there was any interest. I sent this offer to a very small list of people and made $7,000 in revenue. Since sales are the best form of validation, this was more than enough to go “all in” on developing an incredible course.
This guide will show you how I want all-in and how you can do the same.
Let’s jump in.
Product Development: Step-by-Step
I spent the majority of my time on product development. My goal was to create a course that actually drives results for every single member. The first thing I had to figure out was the battle between information vs. strategy.
Information vs Strategy
I had two options when creating this course:
- I could give a ton of information about SEO like: “What is SEO?”, “What is Google?”, or bunch of other in-actionable information
- I could give a strategy that the member can use and start seeing results. As you might notice on my SEO blog, I focus on creating ACTIONABLE content. I want people to read my content and take action on the advice, so they can start seeing results on their own. That was the same mindset I had for Gotch SEO Academy. Plus, this option is much more challenging for competitors to replicate
Because I’m explaining a strategy that I created based on years of experience in the field. Anyone can do some research and create a course based on general information.
But the only way to create a course that actually gets people results is through experience.
After I figured out how I wanted to structure the course, I had deal with the next big challenge:
How to Differentiate Paid Content from Free Content
My SEO blog doesn’t hold anything back. I give every reader the information they need to improve their SEO performance. The crazy part is that I have likely written the length of a book or more on my blog.
So, how could I create a course that gives more value and is different than the free information on my blog?
The first reason why a course is better than free information is because it isn’t scattered. Sure, you can read my blog and try to piece everything together. But this would be very challenging. It’s much easier to go from point A – Z.
That’s what a quality course offers.
The second way I differentiated away from my free content was by using 99.9% over the shoulder videos. My blog is text-heavy for SEO reasons. The other key differentiators are a private Facebook groups, templates, workflows, and other various bonuses.
After I figured out how to differentiate my course from my free blog content, I had to figure out the structure.
Course Structure (Simple is Better)
Simplicity is the best policy for most things in business. That’s why I used this philosophy for structuring my course. The course has four modules with over 100 + lessons in total. As I mentioned before, only one of those lessons was text.
Here is how the navigational structure looks:
After I figured out the structure and flow of the course, I had to do the hard part:
Basic Content Creation Workflow
As you can imagine, creating the content was the most time intensive part of this entire process. I won’t get too deep into this because it’s outside the scope of this article, but here is the workflow I used:
- Outlined every module (in Google Docs) – I used the table of contents feature in Google docs to be able to access each lesson.
- Wrote video scripts for each lesson because my ad-libbing attempts were brutal
- Recorded the videos
- Sent the videos to my video editor
- Uploaded videos to Vimeo
- Placed videos on website
Now that the content was all complete, I then needed to set up the site.
WordPress Theme and Membership Plugin Setup
At this stage, I spent most of my time setting up MemberMouse and the WordPress theme, GeneratePress.
For MemberMouse, I had to figure out the content drip feeding rhythm and how to protect my content. MemberMouse is excellent at protecting course material. But I’m not fan of their drip feeding functionality.
The bulk of my time on this step was messing around with GeneratePress.
At this stage, all the content, membership settings, and design were complete. I then needed to test everything using real people.
What I’m about to show you was one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had:
A Simple Tactic for Testing Membership Experience
When you’re creating a course, it’s challenging to critique your own work.
You NEED an outside perspective to review, analyze, and critique your work. This involves letting go of any sense of ego you want have and ramping up your humility.
You want people to be brutally honest. Your product will go from good to great if you allow constructive criticism.
That is why I decided to have my wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law go through my course. The initial goal was to see how they moved through the course. In essence, I wanted to analyze their behavior.
Watching someone else’s behavior is an excellent way to bring issues to the surface. The behavioral insights helped me improve the User Experience (UX) of the course. Each person also helped me improve the content and flow of the course.
I was super fortunate to have my sister-in-law review the course. That’s because she is a school teacher with 10 + years of experience. No one knows how to structure a class/course better than a teacher.
I recommend you consider using this approach if you decide to launch your own course. You can’t identify every issue by yourself. You need a fresh set of eyes. You an unbiased opinion.
Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism!
After I was confident in the course layout, I then had to explore pricing options.
Trying to figure out how to price the course was agonizing. I flip flopped at least 20 times, but landed on a price I thought was “logical”.
Here was my logic:
I sold the course for $998 in the beta launch. The reasoning for $998 was because so many other courses sell for $997. So, I figured I would step out of the mold.
This may or may not have hurt my results. I’ll never actually know.
With that said, I decided to move back to the status quo, and go with $997 for the second launch. I also didn’t want to go lower than the beta launch price because that isn’t fair for the original members.
Plus, a lower price would decrease the perceived value of the course.
Another feature I added to the launch was a payment plan option. After studying countless launches from top bloggers like Ramit Sethi, Derek Halpern, and Marie Forleo, it was clear that there needed to be a payment plan option. Trying to figure out a payment plan structure was challenging.
After lots of thought, I landed on these three options to choose from:
- Option #1: $99 for 12 months = $1,188 Total
- Option #2: $297 for 5 months = $1,497 Total
- Option #3: $397 for 3 months = $1,191 Total
I chose Option #2, but I tested Option #1 during the second day of the launch. But before I explain why, let me explain the rationale for our decision.
There are two reasons why we selected Option #2.
1. The side-by-side comparison between a one-time payment of $997 vs. $1,497 is substantial. In theory, the further the price gap, the more likely an individual would select the upfront payment option. Based on our results, that’s exactly what happened. Out of the 33 total orders, only 8 (~24%) selected the payment plan.
2. The second reason we chose Option #2 is because we felt it was a “sweet spot” from both a time and cost perspective. I felt that the 12-month commitment in Option #1 was too long. And also from a collections perspective, the longer the payment period, the increased likelihood that people wouldn’t pay the full amount. Option #3 was in great consideration for a long time, but I felt that $400 per month was too much. The last point is that both Options #1 and #3 didn’t have enough of a price gap. That means more people may have selected the payment plan option.
The Art of Price Anchoring
I learned about price anchoring from the book “Priceless“. Yes, believe it or not, there is an entire book written about pricing.
The concept of price anchoring is simple:
The perceived cost of an item is lower when it is next to an option that is noticeably higher.
Take a look for yourself:
- $997 vs $99 – this option is obviously the best price anchor. However, as I mentioned above, I didn’t want a 12-month commitment.
- $997 vs $297 – I liked the price gap of this option and the $297 “feels” much less than $997.
- $997 vs $397 – both numbers look large in this option (in my opinion)
But let’s be honest here:
You can hypothesize all you want, but you don’t know anything until people see your offer. Don’t spend a ton of time agonizing over pricing.
You will learn if your offer and pricing structure are effective based on your results.
After I figured out what pricing structure I wanted to test, I then had to create the sales page.
How to Create a Sales Page
Let me start off by saying that I’m not a newbie when it comes to sales copy, but I’m not “expert” status. The reason I’m saying this is because I want you to understand that you do not have to be a copywriting, persuasion, or sales guru to create a sales page that converts.
Effective sales pages paint a picture of the future for your prospect. The better your product solves a problem, the easier it is to paint that picture.
The first step is to understand who your ideal customer is. This is often referred to as your Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA).
The first thing you need to think about is where your ICA currently is at this point. This where you need to think about every possible “problem” your ICA might have.
Here is how I answered that question for my course:
Where is my ICA now?
The prospect is:
- Not getting results
- Not making money
- Not confident
- Can’t cut through the noise
- Doesn’t know what works
- Tried tons of different techniques and failed
- Not valuable in the marketplace
Now you need to envision where your prospect will be after they enroll in and complete your course. You need to articulate how their life will be different in the future. And of course, what that will look like.
Here is how I answered that question:
Where will they be after buying Gotch SEO Academy?
- Will be able to get new organic search traffic to any website (at will)
- Will be confident in their ability to achieve success.
- Will no longer need to read hundreds of different SEO blogs or suffer from information overload.
- Will make search engines become their personal ATM.
- Will understand one of the most specialized and in-demand skills of the 20th century. Businesses pay top dollar (agency or in-house) for people who actually understand it and who know how to get results.
I also created simple visualizations of the “problem” and the future result (after taking our course):
- Not making money ? making money
- Not secure ? secure (security doesn’t come from money)
- Not getting results ? getting results
- Not confident ? super confident
- Can’t cut through the noise/doesn’t know what works ? knows exactly what to do
- Tried many techniques and failed ? understands that there is no failure, only learning
This doesn’t need to be a long or complex process. But it is essential for understanding who you trying to persuade.
The answers you get from the exercise above will give you the mental framework you need to create an effective sales page.
After I felt like I had a strong understanding of my prospect, I then moved onto outlining, drafting, and editing the sales page. I chose a long-form sales page structure because:
- A) it’s a proven strategy and,
- B) my product was on the higher end of pricing.
The larger the price, the more persuasive you need to be. This guide isn’t about writing sales copy, so I won’t get too deep into it.
I will tell you that I used Google Docs to outline and draft the copy. And I used the book Cashvertising to guide me. Cashvertising might be the best sales copywriting book ever. If you invest in any book, it should be Cashvertising.
After I drafted my sales page, I contracted a web design company through UpWork to design the page.
Here is the exact posting I used (it’s not exciting or cool at all):
Here are some of the details of this sales page creation process:
- The copy was over 5,000 words
- The design cost was $800
- The time investment was at least ~ 50 hours
The next step was to develop the checkout page.
Checkout Page Software (Plus Some Mental Triggers)
For the checkout page, I used SamCart. I selected SamCart for a few reasons:
- They integrated with both Stripe and MemberMouse
- The “feel” and simplicity of their platform is amazing
Here is the checkout page I used:
There are only a few persuasion “triggers” I used on the checkout page:
- a picture of me: this makes the process feel more “personal”.
- the “Pay in Full” option: uses the word “only” and I also emphasize how much they will be saving by choosing this option.
- guarantee: the big “Money Back Guarantee” image is to make the buyer feel more “secure” in their purchase.
Why I Didn’t Allow PayPal
Not allowing PayPal payments likely hurt my sales numbers, but there is some rationale for it.
First, there are many scammers/thieves in the Internet Marketing space. They will buy a product, leak it, ask for a refund, and if you don’t comply, they open up a PayPal dispute. PayPal almost always sides with the buyer (even if the evidence of fraud/theft are obvious).
I decided to remove that element from this process. While I may have lost sales because of this decision, I may have prevented my course from getting leaked.
I also believe there is a stronger commitment (on the buyer side) when credit card payments are the only option.
It takes more effort get your credit card and enter your information. If someone is willing to take extra steps to get your product, then it may imply more commitment.
Commitment to your product or brand, will likely reduce refunds.
Does this mean I’ll never allow PayPal as a payment option?
No, but that was the route I chose for this launch (for better or for worse).
Okay, now that you know how I setup this course, let me explain how I marketed it.
How to Market Your Product
The main marketing vehicle for the product launch was my email list.
But before I sent out pre-launch content, I created two strategic content assets on my blog.
The goal was to build goodwill through giving a ton of free value.
The first content asset I published (45 days before the launch) was about an “SEO Strategy“. It outlined the exact strategy that was inside my course. The second content asset I published was on “How to Become an SEO Expert“. I published this asset about three days before the first piece of pre-launch content.
Before I jump into the pre-launch strategy I should mention that I used Jeff Walker’s model from his book Launch. I did not try to reinvent the wheel.
Let me start off by saying this:
If you use the launch model I’m about to show you, you are going to lose subscribers.
Please don’t lose a second of sleep over this.
The people who unsubscribe would have never bought from you in the first place. Your email list isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a marketing vehicle for growing your business.
With that out of the way, here is the simple pre-launch strategy I used:
Sent Pre-Launch Content #1 (10 days before launch)
- Emphasized the “problem” that my course is solving
- Said when the course is opening
- Briefly explained the 30,000 foot view of the course
- Asked a question: “What part of SEO are you struggling with the most?”
Sent Pre-Launch Content #2 (6 days before launch)
- Promoted my “SEO Strategy” article
- Emphasized when enrollment will open
Sent Pre-Launch Content #3 (2 days before launch)
- Synopsis of the first two emails
- Emphasized when enrollment will open
As you can see, there wasn’t anything too complicated in this process. While I did use the general pre-launch structure that Jeff Walker teaches, I didn’t use the sideways sales letter approach. The “Sideways Sales Letter” is a string of three video lessons leading up the launch day.
Launch Week (and One Idiotic Mistake)
The launch week was much less stressful than I anticipated expect for the first day of the launch….
That’s because all the links in my official launch email were broken.
All the links I thought were going to my sales page actually went to a 404 page.
My email inbox flooded with people telling me my links are broken.
Yes, it was my genius idea NOT to test the links before sending the email. Apparently, the tracking codes that Mailchimp added to the links, broke them.
TEST YOUR LINKS BEFORE SENDING ANY EMAIL.
I quickly sent out the same email, but with this subject line: “Gotch SEO Academy is NOW open (with working links ?)”.
Did this blunder hurt my day #1 sales? Maybe. But did I learn something? Most definitely.
After the two Day #1 emails, I sent out one email everyday except for the last day of the launch in which I sent two emails. One “Warning” email in the morning and one more “Warning” email at night.
On the technical side, the week was smooth except for the last day. About two hours before I had to send the final email, my website went down.
Fortunately, after talking to Bluehost support, I was able to send the final email out right on time.
Here is how the sales distribution for the week looked:
There were also two full payments made outside of SamCart.
- Day #1: $2,291
- Day #2: $2,291
- Day #3: $2,991 + $997 (PayPal) = $3,988
- Day #4: $1,994 + $997 (PayPal) = $2,991
- Day #5: $10,755
- Day #6: $4,985
The launch ended with a total of 33 orders. 25 of those orders were full payments and 8 were payment plans. Here is a look at the numbers:
Here were my expenses for the launch:
- Audio File: -$21
- Web Development: -$3,000
- Video Editing: -$1,300
- Studio Press Theme: -$33.71
- MemberMouse: -$239.40 (Per Year)
- WP Engine Hosting: -$587.40 (Per Year)
- SamCart -$1,188 (Per Year)
- GeneratePress Theme: -$39.95
- Sales Page Design: -$800
- Processing Fees (Stripe): -$792.26
Total Expenses = $8,002
These numbers might be interesting, but the true value comes from the work put into it.
Between my team and I, we invested well over 1,000 hours into this project.
Here is how time was allocated for this project:
- Content Creation ~ 1,000 + hours
- Video Editing ~ 97 hours
- Sales Page Development ~ 50 hours
- Sales Page Design ~ 20 hours
- Technical ~ 10 hours
Total Time Investment ~ 1,177 hours
Now that you know all the details of the launch, I want to show you what didn’t go well, so you can learn from my mistakes.
What Didn’t Go Well
Here are some things that didn’t go during the launch:
1. Had broken links in first promo email
I explained this above, but please don’t make this mistake like I did. Check your links SEVERAL times before sending any promotional email.
2. Lost too many email subscribers
Although this is inevitable, it’s still something that I could have done better.
The biggest mistake was sending the offer to subscribers who joined the week of the launch. For them, there was no value add, too many emails, and too many sales pitches.
In all future launches, I need to segment my audience to avoid sending offers to new subscribers. Most unsubscribes don’t leave a reason why, but the ones that did are most valuable.
Here are some of the reasons people unsubscribed during the launch:
- “I like your round up, but your promotional ones were annoying. Be better if you had a dual list.”
- “You started sending too many emails”
- “TOO MANY EMAILS”
- “Too many emails dude! I know you’re promoting your course but cmon.”
- “So many flipping emails!!!”
- “Far too often”
- “receiving too many emails regularly.”
- “No value. Just constant pitching”
One trend that I found was that many of the unsubscribes had low subscriber ratings on Mailchimp. That means that they rarely opened emails or clicked on links in the emails.
The conclusion here is quite obvious:
Subscribers with low engagement are most likely to unsubscribe. It makes sense.
3. Tested payment plans during launch week
You can interpret this as a good or bad thing, but I tested two different payment plan options during the launch. The one explain above ($297 x 5 months) was the first and primary payment plan offer. But on the second day of the launch, I tested a payment plan of $99 for 12 months. I left it on for an entire day and didn’t get a single bite.
4. Obsessing over my email
I could not stop checking my email for new sales during launch week.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but I checked my email at least 100 times a day. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure my unproductive habit as a KPI, so I don’t have the raw numbers.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to check your email during your product launch.. That’s because I know how hard it is.
5. Living in a hypothetical world
In addition to my awful email habit, I also lived in a hypothetical state of mind for the entire week.
Here are some of the things that went through my mind or that I expressed to my wife:
- “Maybe I’ll get more sales when people get off work…”
- “This is an expensive offer.. people need more time to think”
- Or.. “I’ll probably get more sales once scarcity kicks in”
Once again, it’s hard to avoid this during your launch. It’s natural to feel anxious about something that you worked hard on.
But the truth is:
You don’t get paid based on how much time you spent creating a product. You get paid based on how well you market and sell it. The true “value” of your product can only be assessed after the sell.
With that said, there’s no reason to think about hypotheticals.
If you makes sales, awesome. If you don’t, then you know you have a lot of work to do.
You are not a failure if you don’t reach your hypothetical sales projections.
Accept how your launch performed in the real world. Then, start planning how you are going to improve your performance in the future. After that, take action.
What Went Well
Although I missed my sales projections, the launch numbers are nothing to be sad about.
One thing that went well was the effect of scarcity. The act of closing enrollment and then emphasizing what the prospect “will miss” can drive a lot of sales.
It will be challenging to move to a traditional model after seeing how well scarcity works.
10 Ways to Grow Future Sales
There are many areas to improve before the next launch.
If you are starting out, I recommend you keep things as simple as possible. I avoided a lot of the areas I’m about to explain for my launch because I knew it would be a distraction. You need to focus on creating an amazing product or course before all else.
Trust me when I say this:
It’s easier to market and sell a product you believe in.
Here are several ways you can increase the chances of your product launch being a success:
1. Segment Your Email List
I learned from this launch that a “pay and spray” approach will lead to many unsubscribes. You should consider segmenting your list. Or at the very least, avoid sending your offer to new subscribers.
2. Build and Cultivate Relationship With Your List
You should always take a value-first approach with your list. Don’t hit your subscribers with offers until you have given tremendous value.
3. Improve Copywriting Across All Your Communications
There is always room to improve your copywriting. Analyze every interaction in your sales funnel. Then, make an attempt to be even more persuasive through your copywriting.
4. Use a Sideways Sales Letter
You can drive sales without video, but video likely has a much bigger impact. The main reason is that video is much more personal. When you are watching a video, you feel like the person is speaking to you. You can still have this feeling through text, but nothing beats “face-to-face” interaction.
5. Gather Real Testimonials
After people have used your product, you need to get as many testimonials as possible. Do everything you can get them because it will make your offer more persuasive.
6. Improve Your Sales Page
Your sales page is never “finished”. As I mentioned above, you can always improve your copywriting. But you can also improve other elements such as the structure and the design. Don’t get complacent. Do every ethical thing you can to persuade your prospect.
7. Focus on Email List Growth
While the quality of your list matters, so does the sheer size as well. It’s simple math. If you have more subscribers, then you are marketing to a larger audience. In theory, this should produce more sales. Plus, what positive reason would you have NOT to focus on growing your list? I can’t think of one.
8. Build Strategic Partnerships
Building strategic relationships with bloggers can take your sales to another level. Some bloggers only rely on JV launches because it’s so effective.
Obviously, this is a topic that requires it’s own guide, but for now:
Identify bloggers who are on your “level”. That means don’t focus on the top bloggers right away. Focus on the bloggers that are still reachable. That way, you can grow together.
In addition to building strategic relationships, you can also start an affiliate program. Of course, you can use a combination of both to amplify your results. I’m going to focus on these two elements for my next launch, so I’ll let you know how that goes.
9. Facebook and Google AdWords (+ Retargeting)
I don’t focus much on paid advertising because of my SEO experience. But I’m going to focus on Facebook ads and Google Adwords for my next launch. The main element I’m going to focus on is retargeting.
Retargeting can reactivate prospects who didn’t bite on your first offer.
10. Increase Organic Search Visibility
Organic search traffic is the highest quality traffic you can get online. It should be a priority for every business in my biased opinion. Read Gotch SEO to learn all you need to know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
This process may seem organized based on how I structured this article, but it wasn’t.
Sure, there were days when I only focused on content creation or only on the sales page. But towards the end of this process, I was switching between many different things.
The point is you need to avoid trying to be perfect. You don’t need to have everything figured out. Plus, you can’t predict the future.
No course, product, or blog post is going to be perfect.
All you can do is take action and put something out that you believe is going to help people. After that, you can learn what works and what doesn’t. This process will help you refine your process and improve your product.
Get something out there and don’t be afraid to fail.
I know this is a lot to digest, so that’s why I created a product launch checklist for you: