Some of y'all may know that in March I started to shift my business from primarily client-based work to incorporating online courses and other more “passive” forms of income. I kinda hate the term passive income because (in my experience) A LOT of work goes into creating / marketing digital products, but it is pretty damn cool to literally make money while I'm sleeping. With that said, I still enjoy one-on-one client work and am (currently) not trying to replace it completely with other income streams. I've been getting a lot of questions about launching, so I thought I'd share a few lessons I've learned from launching 3 online courses + 1 membership during the past few months!
Fail Fast + Get Better
I'm somewhat of a chronic over-planner, but for some reason this hasn't translated to my business – and I'm thankful for that. Instead of spending months planning + agonizing over every aspect of my launch plans, I can go from idea to live sales page in less than a week. I set a “minimum goal” for pre-sales and once I hit that, I create + launch within 2-3 weeks. My first launch wasn't perfect. My second launch wasn't perfect. There's always something to improve or try differently the next time and I don't really think there's such a thing as a “perfect” launch.
My “plan” for the last 3 months was essentially, fail fast + learn + tweak + repeat. I actually closed the cart on my first launch + opened the pre-sale for my second launch exactly 12 hours later. I wouldn't recommend that timeline to anyone else (take a freakin' break y'all!), but if you've been planning your launch for awhile and haven't just DONE it already – make it happen. I wouldn't consider any of my launches actual failures – I hit my minimum sales goals every time, and I hit my target sales goals most of the time. I still haven't hit my “stretch goals” for any of my launches, but I'm continuing to grow my email list, try new strategies, and tweak my sales funnels.
Key takeaway: Assuming you have an audience (even a small one) – create an MVP and put it out there. You can always make it better, but you'll never know unless you just do it.
The More Specific The Better
I talked about how finding a niche made SUCH A DIFFERENCE in my first launch vs. my second launch in this post. And a couple of launches later, I still feel the same way. As long as you can find your audience and validate your idea, I think the more specific it is, the better.
It's a little weird because you'd think a general course on something like “Photoshop for bloggers” would attract more people than something really specific like “Photoshop for nomadic food bloggers in Europe” – but in that example, I'd bet most of the nomadic food bloggers in Europe get excited about the course because it's REALLY specific to them. If you create a generic product or service, you're probably going to have a lot of competition. And if you can stand out, that's great – but it's much easier to stand out when you're doing something that no one else is doing in a particular niche!
Key takeaway: If your idea is so specific that it makes you a little uncomfortable, that's probably a good thing.
There's A Good Reason I'm My Own Boss
I'm kind of a control freak. I prefer being in charge of (most) things because I know I'm picky about the way they get done. So it's probably no surprise I was never big into team sports (I was a competitive swimmer) or group projects (my “less-motivated” friends loved being on my team for group projects because they knew I would do all the work and just put their names on it).
When it comes to launching, I like to get a LOT done in a short amount of time. My schedule is a bit manic and I wouldn't impose it on anyone else. It wouldn't be fair. While I'm not great at delegating, I'm working on it. I love my VA but we basically just check in once a month so it's not like we're actively communicating all the time. And my solo webinars have all been more profitable than my joint webinars. It's not that I can't play well with others, but I'm just more comfortable working on my on terms. And that's ok.
Key takeaway: The “best” way to launch something is the way that works for you.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”There's always something to improve or try differently the next time and I don't really think there's such a thing as a “perfect” launch.” quote=”There's always something to improve or try differently the next time and I don't really think there's such a thing as a “perfect” launch.”]
FOMO Is A Big Motivator
I've done both open/close cart launches and evergreen launches. I've experimented with price increases, bonuses, upsells, downsells, bundles, etc. but urgency has been the biggest motivator for generating sales. Meaning EVERY time I send an email about an offer ending soon, I get sales. FOMO is real y'all. People don't like to miss out.
Limited time offers are your friend, but that doesn't mean you constantly have to have “sales” or discount your products / services – on the flip side, you can always give MORE value for a limited time by offering a bonus.
Key takeaway: Wish you were getting more sales right NOW? Launch a time sensitive offer.
It's Easier To Sell To Your Existing Audience Than To Find A New One
There are a lot of articles (and a few well-known courses) out there that will tell you that you don't have to grow your audience before you launch, because you can launch with a small audience and/or grow your audience while you plan your launch. I agree to an extent (you gotta start somewhere) BUT, from my experience it's easier to create something that your existing audience already wants, rather than find a new audience to buy the thing you want to create. For my first course – I chose my course idea before I had a targeted audience (don't do this). Even though I had over 1,000 people on my email list when I launched, but only about 300 were really interested in the course. I felt like I had to spend a lot of time trying to convince people WHY they would benefit from it, and in the end it didn't convert as well as well as I wanted.
For my most recent launch – I had quadrupled the size of my email list, and I also realized that I had over 1,000 people interested in a specific product, so I created a membership based on something that I already knew people wanted. I didn't need to convince people it was good idea, because they already wanted what I was selling. It was a much easier (and more profitable) launch.
Key takeaway: Give your audience want they want, not what you think they need.
List Building + Nurturing Is Sooo Important (So Important)
Speaking of email lists, it's worth repeating that while you can launch with a small audience (especially if they are SUPER engaged), list building is soooo important if you want to sell digital products and especially if you want to sell evergreen products. If you want to sell (and keep selling), you need to keep growing your list + converting more subscribers into customers. So if your list growth is stagnant, it taps out. BUT a bigger list isn't necessarily better IF it's not targeted. Meaning if 2,500 people opt in to your email list because you gave away free stock photos, and then you try to sell them a ecourse on Facebook ads – its probably not going to convert very well. So make sure your opt-ins relate to your paid products (or services)!
Key takeaway: Focus on growing your email list if you want passive income!
So those are a few of the key things I've learned from 4 launches in 3 months – though there could easily be a part 2 of this post with even more of the technical lessons I learned from launching (comment if that's something you'd want to see)! Now that the year is halfway over, I've been re-assessing where my business is and where I want it to be at the end of 2016 so I can plan for the next few months. Even though I keep track of things month-to-month, it's been helpful to take a step back and look at my overall goals for the year.
If you've launched digital products, can you relate to any of these lessons? And if you're thinking about launching – what questions do you have?!
I’d love to see a post on the technical insights! I haven’t launched any products yet but I’ve been flirting with it so this post was particularly helpful to me. I’m always the one caught up in making every little detail perfect before releasing something so I’m going to work on that.
Thanks for commenting Emily! I’ve struggled a lot with perfectionist tendencies so I totally understand!
Elle, this is a great post. 3 course launches already, amazing! I launched a course myself at the beginning of the year and had similar experiences. I’ve now found myself a little gun-shy about doing it again, and can see a pre-sale might just be the best option! Thanks for the download, filling that out now, so helpful!
Thanks Lise! I definitely recommend pre-selling as I’m sure you know there is a lot of work that goes into creating a course + it can’t hurt to make sure people actually want something before investing the time to create it!
Thank you so much for sharing! I hope to launch a course later this year and this guide is so informative.
Great insights! I’m planning a launch for my business mindset coaching program and fear of failure is a huge hurdle to get over!
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I’m in the pre-planning stages of putting together a course and a webinar. Your tips are so helpful. Thank you!