If I have learned one thing from the launch of my Successful Freelance Writing Online guide, it is that practical experience often beats theoretical learning.
I expected to learn a great deal from the process of creating and launching my guide, and it is fair to say that the experience has not disappointed from an educational point of view. And whilst I can now look back at the initial launch period and view it as a success, I can already see things that I would have done differently, given another chance.
In this post I want to highlight what I’ve learned from my first ever information product launch with the aim of helping you to launch your own product(s) more successfully in the future. But first, let’s take a look at how well my guide has sold to date.
My Guide’s Sales Figures
I’ll start with a caveat — success is of course a relative term, and you may feel that my achievements are modest. However, I judge my launch to have been a success relative to the initial goals I set.
So let’s start there — what did I hope to achieve when I started out? At some point during the creation of my guide, I decided that I would be happy if it made $3,000 during its lifetime. That was based upon a rough calculation (first revealed in the first post in this series) as follows:
- Estimated time taken to create and promote the guide: 50 hours
- Desired hourly rate: $50
- Financial cost to produce the guide (design etc.): $500
( 50 * 50 ) + 500 = $3,000
Essentially, I wanted to be “paid” a minimum of $50 for each hour that I put into the guide and recoup my costs. In reality I spent more than 50 hours on the guide (I’m not sure how many exactly), but since the whole exercise was intended to be a learning experience as much as anything else, I kept the calculation rough.
I felt that $3,000 was a target that I could meet in the long term — after all, I hope to sell this guide for many months and even years to come. So how have I fared? Here are the vital numbers as at the time of writing:
- Copies sold: 99
- Gross sales: $2,705
- Affiliate commission: $267.60
- Net sales: $2,437.40
As a result of the pre-launch period and subsequent launch on 6th November, I am already over 80% of the way towards my target. In terms of optimizing the sales process and developing the product further I still have a long way to go, so I feel that I will smash my $3,000 target within the product’s lifetime. So it’s fair to say that I’m pretty happy with how things have gone!
But as I alluded to at the beginning of the post, the launch has brought me more than just financial gain. I have learned a huge amount over the past few weeks, and I know that my new-found knowledge will help me to improve my product and sales process moving forwards.
With that said, I have listed below the five most important lessons. If you are currently planning a product launch or intend to create your own product soon, I would recommend that you take my lessons on board!
1. A Big Pre-Launch Doesn’t Guarantee a Big Launch
During October and early November I built up a pre-launch list of around 220 people who would gain early access to the guide at a heavily discounted rate. I promoted the list via this blog, my main email list and my social media accounts. It is fair to say that the vast majority (if not all) of my regular readers would have had the opportunity to sign up to this list at least once.
I hoped that the pre-launch would result in 20 sales — a rough 10% conversion rate. So you can imagine my surprise when I managed to reach that target on the first night of the four day pre-launch. When the pre-launch closed at midnight on Friday 2nd November, 80 people had purchased my guide — four times more than I had hoped for, and a conversion rate in excess of 35%.
Those four days were pretty exhilarating and made me feel extremely excited about what was possible for the main launch. Little did I know that the greatest rush of sales was already behind me.
In contrast to the pre-launch, the launch went off with more of a whimper than a bang. I made a few sales on the first day, and since then the flow has slowed to a trickle of around one sale per day (propped up by affiliate sales).
In retrospect, I can see two clear reasons as to why this has happened:
- Almost all of the people most likely to buy signed up to the pre-launch.
- My sales page caters towards loyal fans, not “walk-in” visitors to my blog.
I don’t view the launch as a failure — I just sucked all the life out of it by promoting the pre-launch so heavily. Perhaps that is something to consider for the future.
As for the second reason, it leads me directly onto the second lesson I learned from my information product launch.
2. If You Want to Sell, You Have to Sell
Regular readers of LWB will know that I am not the “salesy” type. I don’t engage in hyperbole or bombastic language to make my point. I don’t like “selling”.
However, as you might expect, that approach runs contrary to making sales. That has never been much of an issue for this blog, because its purpose is not to “make sales”. I will never use LWB as an overt tool for selling my guide (beyond mentioning it when relevant).
But the purpose of my sales page is to make sales — not that you would really notice by looking at it. Here’s a current screenshot (on the assumption that it will change soon):
It’s not “bad” by any means, but it’s not exactly dynamic either. I knocked it together in a bit of a hurry on the day of the pre-launch. And I’ll be honest — I’m no copywriter. It’s not something I have practiced or have a great deal of experience in.
My theory is this — I made a bunch of sales to start with because my loyal fans (you guys rock!) didn’t need the “big sell” in order to buy my guide. You’ve read my income reports, you’ve followed my story and you trust me. As such, you’re capable of making a buying decision without too much encouragement. But some guy or girl who is hitting my site cold isn’t likely to purchase my guide on the existing sales page alone — there’s just not enough to go on. I need to weave in my story to the sales page and be more persuasive.
My primary aim of being totally transparent and non-pushy will always take precedence over less scrupulous sales techniques, but there is certainly a lot more that I can do to increase my visitor to sales conversion rate.
3. All You Need to Do is Focus on the Fundamentals
In the process of creating the guide I often felt intimidated by the scope of the task I was taking on. Just about everything I was doing was new to me — writing the guide itself, formatting and designing it, planning and executing the launch, and so on.
What I wish I had known at the time was that I already understood the fundamentals, and that was all I really needed. Sure — greater experience would have resulted in a more successful launch, but regardless of that, I had the tools to reach and surpass my goals.
In retrospect I felt that the success of my guide to date was down to three fundamentals:
- A good product
- A loyal fan base
- A great network
If you release a good product to a loyal fan base and promote it via a great network of bloggers in your niche, you’ll do well — it’s that simple. All of the other stuff is just fine print — it’ll work itself out.
4. Measurable Goals are Necessary
Launching my guide was about a six month process. I started thinking about it that long ago. But in reality, the vast majority of the work was done in the last six weeks or so prior to launch.
Why? Because I finally set myself measurable goals and deadlines for the launch of my guide. Rather than simply continuing to write without any real idea of when I would finish, I forced myself to set concrete deadlines.
Doing so was not easy. The reason I had been putting off setting goals and deadlines was because I simply had no idea how long the process was going to take. But I realized that I was in danger of not completing the guide before Christmas, and that was unacceptable. So in the end, I decided that if I had to work day and night to get it finished in time, I would just have to suck it up and do exactly that.
Perhaps the most important thing I did was to go public with the deadline. Once I had done that, there was no going back. I made myself publicly accountable, which is always a huge motivator.
Setting measurable goals is advisable under just about any circumstances. However, when it comes to lengthy and complicated projects, they become even more important. If it weren’t for that moment of clarity in which I decided that I simply had to set myself measurable goals in order to make acceptable progress, I honestly believe that I would not have released my guide yet.
5. Working to Surpass Expectations Pays Off
I worried about a lot of things whilst I was creating my guide. Would it sell? Would I get everything done in time? Would I make some kind of enormous error that would tarnish my reputation irreperably? But by far the biggest concern I had was whether or not people would actually like and value it.
That fear drove to me to produce the best product I possibly could. When I was finally finished, I skimmed through it with pride. I felt that I had created a product that was superior to comparable offerings already available.
But I still didn’t know how people would react. You never do until it is out there. Fortunately, I have been blessed with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, great testimonials from some highly respected bloggers and not a single refund request so far.
In the end, I am extremely happy that I poured so much blood, sweat and tears into the guide. I was often struck by the fear that my hard work would be utterly disproportionate to the reward, but I was determined not to put out a poor-quality product.
So if you’re working on an information product, try and ensure that it is as good as you can possibly make it. Make that your absolute primary focus. If you work to surpass expectations, there is a far greater chance that everything else will fall in line.
What Tips Do You Have?
There you have it folks — my lessons learned so far. However, I know that there will be a lot more to come, and my journey on this project is by no means over. As always, I will be sharing my experiences with you along the way.
The whole information product scene is still very new to me — I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert (or anything close to one). With that in mind, I’d love to open this up to you guys for your thoughts.
So if you have any questions or comments, please fire away. And if you have experience in releasing your own information products, please share your own tips with us below. Thanks!
Creative Commons image courtesy of jurvetson