Success generally happens after this part
A few weeks ago a client brought us two domain names and asked which one he should choose.

Both names were perfectly fine – one was a little more geared towards SEO keywords, and the other leaned towards being better for personal branding.

Which one to choose? What choice would give better results?

The answer is: It kind of doesn’t matter.

People’s first tendency – and I mean all people, not “those stupid ones who are nothing like you and me” – is to overestimate the importance of a single decision. We like to believe in the power of fate and how one specific choice determines how everything else plays out.

It’s the same thinking that makes people say “Damn, I should have invested in Apple 20 years ago.” As if that one decision would have made the rest of their lives wonderful and okay and perfect.

(They usually forget that 20 years ago, they were sitting in a dentist’s waiting room reading Wired magazine and agreeing with the “Apple is Dead” cover story. But I digress.)

One choice does not determine your destiny.

When it comes to how things turn out for your ittybiz, your life, your kids, whatever, what matters most is the choices you make after you make any one particular decision.

In other words, your domain name doesn’t matter that much. 99% of your business success is going to be a result of all the decisions you make after you register it. There’s no magic in the name. There’s magic in the marketing, and the brand development, and the product offerings, and the customer service, and all the other things you do to actually build your business.

One choice can certainly affect your destiny – if you choose to start a faceless resource website as opposed to a personality brand, you’re setting yourself up for one of two very different trajectories.

But one is not more likely to be successful than the other. Trader Joe’s is a supermarket with a whole lot of personality. Publix is not. They both seem to have grown pretty well despite the difference. *

One choice can affect your destiny, but it doesn’t come remotely close to determining it.

When you should believe in magic, and when you shouldn’t.

If there’s anything we see a lot of with clients, it’s the belief that a single “correct” choice will give them enough leverage and power to cement their chances of success. Not guarantee it necessarily, but at least give them a foundation of safety.

It’s not surprising. That’s also human nature. There’s a reason the expression “Looking for Mr. Right” is an expression that everyone’s heard of. We like to believe that there is a safe decision that will make everything okay, just like magic.

That kind of magic doesn’t exist. Never has, never will. You’ll go farther if you stop believing in it.

But there is a different kind of magic. It’s a magic that happens when you get completely behind what you’re doing and hustle to make it happen. When you decide that you’re going to brave the hard parts of your business and figure it out as you go along instead of sitting around Looking for Mr. Right Marketing Decision.

The magic is in the hustle. The desire to keep going. The ability to take risks, and stay within your own values, and decide that you’re going to make this thing work.

But the operative word there is work. Not magic. The magic comes as a result of the work.

99% of your success will come from what you do next, not from what you do now.

We get asked a lot about whether this business or that business is the best one to go into or whether this product or that product is the one that should come out next.

The answer, again, is it doesn’t matter that much.

What matters is what you put into your business, or your products, or your growth strategies. And that hasn’t happened yet, because that’s all going to happen next.

Apple didn’t grow because the name was catchy. It was ridiculous. It didn’t grow because Steve Jobs was magical. He got booted out of his own company decades ago. It grew because Steve and a lot of other people decided to keep hammering at it and doing the thing that needed to be done next. And next. And next. Whether things were going right, or whether they were going horribly wrong.

Your business is like that piece of workout equipment that you bought off of a commercial that one time. Was it the right choice? Should you have bought the treadmill instead?

It depends on what you choose to do with it.

Remember that next time you’re feeling stuck at a crossroads.

* Please remember that I’m a Canadian trying to use American brands, so for all I know, the CEO of Trader Joe’s has just been taken down for insider trading and the heiress to the Publix empire has been adopted by Bill Gates. They’re just examples.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

How We Launch, Part 9!

Is that a light at the end of the tunnel? Indeed it is.

We have reached the very last part in our behind-the-scenes series on some of our biggest launches, and we’re capping it off with something a little more real-time.

So, we’ve told you about eight of our big launches.

We told you why and how we made our decisions, what our deciding factors were, and how the behind-the-scenes played out.

What are we doing today?  Today, we’re going to do the same with the launch of our BIG LAUNCH class. The one you’re seeing right now.

From start to finish, we’re going to tell you how we ran this entire promotion – and what you can learn from how we did it.

Let’s begin.

So, how did this class (and launch) come to be?

Rewind back to December of last year.

About two months prior, we finally stopped putting off making this class. We’d thought about it for what, four years now?  And we hadn’t done it.

Here’s why:  The primary difficulty in teaching launch is the fact that there is NOT a formula to it. Yes, you can certainly package one specific launch process and call it a formula, but that has two problems.

  • One, it’s generally applicable to only one real process. (Four videos and a sales page!) What if you don’t want to make four videos? What if you’re not launching a digital product? What if you’re not launching a product at all, but something other than that? What if you’re not a copy or tech wizard who can roll that specific process out?
  • Two, any formula that “works” will be copied so often that it’s quickly formulaic. (And obsolete.) Remember how the words “awesome” and “rockstar” actually caught people’s attention, and now they’re ridiculed? Yeah. That’s what happens when everyone wants to join the bandwagon.

The thing about launch is that to do it right – to make a launch actually perform very, very well – you don’t just have to know what to do.

You have to know how to think about launch, how to think about getting and sustaining attention, how to think about product positioning, copywriting, customer experience and psychographics, and a lot of other stuff. Teaching people how to think like a marketer takes time and a fine hand.

And that’s big. So when we pulled the trigger, we figured we’d call the class BIG LAUNCH. It’s Big. It’s about Launch. And hopefully, it’ll get our students their biggest launches yet. (See what we did there?)

How we structured the offer.

Because launch is such a big topic, we decided to break the offer into very specific chunks (12 monthly Class Packs) to achieve specific launch objectives. Here’s what we did and why we did it.

  • The program starts off with 3 months of core classes – the basic “Everything you need to know to run a very good launch.” This way people who have launches coming up soon can tweak and fix their launch plans and know they’ve got all their bases covered. People new to launch get their core training fast, and more advanced people learn the nuances that make their current launches better.
  • We always want to make sure our classes start out with immediately useful or actionable information so that people can see material results. Even in long-term programs people have near-term needs. Making sure those get addressed is just good for business.
  • We spread the rest of the class content – the parts that take a very well-structured launch and make it even bigger –throughout the year in monthly Class Packs. This way there would always be something to look forward to, and so that the information would be digestible (we hear a lot about “too much information all at once” as an issue for a lot of people). We called these installments “Launch Multipliers” to separate them from the core content so there would be no confusion.
  • We also wrapped “Office Hours” into the offer, because a major part of what customers say they want is the ability to ask questions based on what they’ve learned. Just as with our very first product, SEO School, having after-purchase support is a big draw in an offer.

When you’re creating an offer, it’s extremely helpful to think of all the reasons people would “almost buy” but hesitate, and adjust your offer to take that hesitation away.

Here’s how we ran our (pre!) pre-launch.

As we’ve said before, launches are primarily about a sustained period of attention. Once you’ve got that attention, you can do whatever you want with it. You can have promotional webinars. You can have “answering your questions” teleseminars. You can give away free samples.

We decided that in this case, since we were selling such a teaching-heavy class, we should go with teaching-heavy launch content.

But if you’re going to have that much teaching, you’ve got to get people in the space where they can learn, give them a context to use all that teaching in. So we did five pieces at the beginning that warmed people up to shifting into learning mode and looking to the year ahead.

These five pieces were titled:

We also sent email roundups to people as we were coming out with this pre-launch content so that:

  • a) our list could notice we were coming out with a lot of content,
  • b) they had some time to get used to a higher frequency of emails, and
  • c) they got used to clicking on links that we sent them.

(Hint: People always ask us how to improve click-through. One of the easiest ways to do that is to put some of your best content out on your blog and then send emails with links to them. Your people will get used to clicking on things only to find something very good at the end, which is only good news for you. And them, come to that.)

So first, we ran five pieces to get people ready to learn. Focus on their goals, their aspirations, the obstacles that have stood in the way for them so far. This is warmup.

Here’s something we also threw in to the mix well ahead of time:

For the past few months, we’ve been releasing free samples of BIG LAUNCH by the way of “Freebie Fridays”.  The idea here was to begin exposing the list – and all the new people who have come on since January of last year – to the fact that this class exists.  If you haven’t seen them, here they are:

  1. Getting Great Testimonials
  2. Training People To Be Trained By You
  3. Clear, Not Clever Titling
  4. Using Transitions To Boost Sales Page Conversion
  5. Increasing Click Through Rate On Launch Emails
  6. Hand Upsells That Can Boost Your Numbers
  7. Advanced Tips for Getting Endorsements
  8. Reclaiming Non-Buyers After Your Launch
  9. Using High Value Samples To Push Sales Higher
  10. Successfully Running A Freebie Launch

Each Freebie Friday had an audio component as well as a written version, so people could begin to familiarize themselves with the actual content of the class in the way that it was going to be delivered.  We capped out at 10 free samples, which represented almost 10% of the 108 “Launch Multipliers” that are included in BIG LAUNCH.

Basically, we wanted people to be able to tell WAY in advance whether or not this class was going to be their cup of tea.  For those whose answer was “yes”, this meant they’d have something to get excited about for several months preceding the launch.

Here’s how we ran our pre-launch.

We followed the original five pieces of content with seven more pieces that answered common questions about launch. We were now past the warming up stage (that pre-pre-launch above) and now into the “let’s get people thinking about the topic that we’re creating a class about.”

Pre-launch content should always be directly related to the thing you’re selling – whether it’s prepping people for the offer itself, or just getting them thinking about the specific topic – so that when you go full out with your launch there’s not a disconnect of context.

What we did here is survey a pretty large subset of our past clients, customers and supporters and get their questions about launch – the nagging questions that they were wondering about every time they were considering running their own launches.

And we took those results and pulled seven of the most frequent questions and answered them on our blog. We kept the question format and released these seven pieces:

So pre-launch was seven pieces on highly specific tactical questions. It’s hard to talk about big concepts or strategies when people have open loops in their minds – it’s hard to learn something strategic when you’re struggling so much with something simple and tactical. So we made sure to answer seven really common questions in sufficient depth to make people not confused anymore.

Once they weren’t so confused anymore, and there weren’t so many spinning records in their minds, we started talking about launch strategy. We ran 9 pieces (including this one) detailing our strategies behind our various successful launches.

Here’s how we ran our launch once the cart opened.

Ok, so now we’ve had:

  • 5 pieces of warmup content,
  • 7 pieces of pre-launch content,
  • 10 free samples from the class, and
  • 9 pieces of actual launch content.

Think about that for a second. That’s a LOT of content – more than we’ve ever delivered before. (And that includes last year’s release of BIG LAUNCH.)

We’ve run eight videos in a row before, we’ve run seven straight days of email lessons before, but this launch essentially has thirty-one full pieces of content in it.

We haven’t tallied the final numbers for word count, but assuming 2,500 words per piece, we’ve got almost 80,000 words going out to our list to support this launch. This is a bit extreme (even for us) but since we’re releasing a class called BIG LAUNCH, well, it should probably be big.

So over the last week and a half we’ve put out eight detailed case studies on how we’ve run our biggest launches, with this one you’re reading right now being the ninth.

How do people respond to that much content?

One of the metrics you want to watch during a launch is your open rates and click-throughs (Assuming you’re using an email list to carry your launch communications.)

So far, our open rate is holding nice and steady, which is a good sign.

If your open rate drops considerably during a launch, that’s not a good sign. This usually happens for two reasons:

  1. Your content is honestly not that great (or isn’t relevant), and people are less likely to open your emails as time goes on. Because, well, would you?
  2. Your emails start to become repetitive. Basically the same “Hey, this is for sale” and “Hey this thing is still on sale” emails don’t merit the kind of open rate that new and interesting content can. If all you’re doing is saying the same thing, that’s not going to keep sustained attention.

(This second point doesn’t necessarily apply to your “one day left” or “last day” emails. Your open rate for those will drop like a stone because generally, the subject “Last day for X” only gets opened by people who are really considering X. So don’t sweat it when you see your open rate drop right at the end of the launch.)

Ideally, you want your open rate to stay as stable as possible throughout your launch. Having it get higher would be great, however, that’s not usually what happens unless your subject lines improve over the course of your emails.

Because our launch content is teaching-heavy, there is a “reason why” to open each and every one of them, so that’s helping support the stable open rate we’re seeing during this launch. (This is the sustained attention we talked about at the beginning.)

So what do we learn from all this?

Last year, this strategy led to our single biggest launch to date, by far.

But for this year, we don’t know, because the launch isn’t over yet as of the time we’re writing this post.

Generally speaking, we make more than half of our sales on the last day, and the last day is yet to come.

We’ve had a lot of people who are in the class right now already send us their intake questionnaires (About 50% send them in within a week of registering.)

There’s been a lot of great feedback so far, and the questionnaires are showing a variety of businesses – from people making $150,000 a year with an existing product and looking to bring it up to $350,000, to people selling a new line of skin care products, to people launching a new coaching practice from scratch. It’s really exciting to see the variety.

But how did this launch go?

Well, it hasn’t gone yet, so we won’t know until it’s done. That’s part of the fun of launch. :)

In the meantime, if you’d like to consider joining us for BIG LAUNCH, click here to see the details.

Registration closes at midnight on Thursday, so hustle, people.

Naomi writes more things like this in The Letter. Get it for free today. (It also comes with free marketing courses. You can’t move for free here.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

This is part 8 of a 9-part behind the scenes series on how we ran our biggest launches.  You can start at the beginning right here.

Today we’re going to talk about the Your Next Six Months class.

This was one of my favorite classes to run because it had a lot of the classic IttyBiz flavor to it:

  • Do something no one else is doing,
  • at the weirdest possible time,
  • and name it something obvious.

It happened to be coming up on June (right at Memorial Day weekend), and we had been thinking about what we were going to be doing for the next six months. We’d also had a lot of recent clients talking to us about how to decide what to do for their own next six months.

So we thought we should make a class about that. (This is how we generally decide to make classes or products – we keep our eye out for the things clients mention again and again in a short period of time. Essentially it’s zeitgeist for fun and profit.)

The working title for this half-year planning class was Your Next Six Months. As with most of our working titles, we kept it as the final title.

A side note on naming the products you launch:

People often ask us how we come up with the names of our products, and we tend to do it one of two ways. The first way is to use everything in our copywriting arsenal to come up with the most compelling title ever.

The other approach comes from the 80’s sitcom “Three’s Company.”

They’re both equally effective, when it comes down to it.

In that old television show, there was an episode where Jack and his two roommates were obsessing over what to name his new French restaurant. No name was good enough. Nothing seemed “just right.” It seemed hopeless.

Then their landlord (Mr. Furley) was passing by and said something like “Wow, I didn’t think it would be so hard coming up with a name for Jack’s bistro.” Poof! “Jack’s Bistro” was born.

So sometimes, you can get a title just by coming up with the most obvious description of what it is.

Here’s what we decided to do.

So, back to the story. We’re getting ready to:

  • do something no one else is doing,
  • at the weirdest possible time,
  • and name it something obvious.

Check.

Dave had been more or less off the radar since The Big Scandal, and frankly, so had I. So we decided to make Your Next Six Months a live class with the two of us being involved in it.

Dave had never done a live class before, and I hadn’t done something live in years, so it seemed that the facts that a) Dave was back and b) IttyBiz was having it’s first live class in forever would do a good job of handling the “why we’re making a fuss about this” part of launch.

The class was also limited seating – 200 spots, because that’s what our teleconference provider capped out at. So the scarcity was inherent, not contrived. We ran out when we ran out.

The urgency factor was also natural – class started after registration was over. So instead of an arbitrary end date, which you often have to do with products, the end date was right before class began. That’s a good way to provide urgency in a way that intuitively makes sense to people.

We also decided to add an upsell option to the class – take the planning class by itself for $99, or pay $199 and add an hour of consulting to get feedback on your plan from Dave or myself. There were only 40 slots available for this – again with an “it makes sense” kind of scarcity – there’s only so many business plans we can evaluate.

(Adding consulting as an option is a great way to incorporate an upsell without having any weirdness involved. It’s especially effective if it’s tied to what you’re selling specifically. In our case, it wasn’t just general consulting – it was feedback on the plan you created as a result of the class. Relevance = higher conversion.)

How we launched it (over a holiday).

We decided to pick a launch window of three days max (more on why later), with registration opening right as Memorial Day Weekend was beginning. When everyone in the States was either taking a vacation or travelling to do so.

The reason we chose this was that no one in their right mind would be selling something at this time.

Everybody always says that “nobody buys in summer” and to compound the “problem,” this promotion was over a very specific holiday to boot.

We’re contrarian. If everybody says that no one buys in summer, it’s like a dare. We have to find out. So we ran it when everyone should be gearing up for a tailgate party.

The promotion itself was very low key. In fact, the sales page had the headline “The most boringly informative page you will ever read.” And the copy was basically, “Here are the details of the class. You can buy it now.”

(Normally Dave writes the copy and takes ridiculous amounts of care with every headline and subheader, but I vetoed him and just wanted it straight to the point. People were traveling. This was no time to pour on the dazzle.)

The class itself was straightforward as well: We will give you a process to decide what to focus on for the next six months. And we will call it “Your Next Six Months.”

No magical business plan, no million-dollars-by-Wednesday offer, just a planning class. Just “here’s how to decide what you should do next.”

The premise here is that a business planning class cannot be dressed up like a magic bullet. It’s boring. So we designed it to be appealing to the people who thought boring was just fine by them.

Here’s what the launch sequence looked like.

This was probably the most simple launch we’ve ever run. We sent three emails.

The first one said “The class is open.” The second said “Registration closes tomorrow.” And the last one was basically “Registration closes tonight.”

Normally we send two emails on the last day – one in the morning and one in the evening – because your last day is almost always your highest day of sales, period.

But for this one we only sent the morning email.

Here’s why.

When you’re selling a product, you generally want to maximize sales, so two emails on the last day makes sense. For a live class, with limited seating, you don’t want to maximize sales – you want to get as close to full seating as possible.

So if it looks like your class is on track to fill up on its own before the deadline, you don’t necessarily want to send that second email on the last day. Otherwise you’ll have a lot of people feeling disappointed that they didn’t get in the class. We were 80% full by the morning of day three, so we just sent the morning email.

(Incidentally, you can get a branding bump from not mailing on the last day. If you’re have to shout “Hey! Time’s almost up!” on a limited seating class, it can indicated that you’re not close to filling the seats. But if you don’t send it, the implied message is that you’ve either sold out already or are damn close. If your class isn’t limited seating, though, send the second email.)

How it all worked out.

All 200 seats sold out around 1pm on the last day of registration. Dave forgot to take down the upgrade option (feedback on your business plan) down and so instead of the 40 upgrade seats selling, we ended up with over 70 people coming in for the feedback option. So the next two months of our life were a bit of a living hell sorting out the timing for everyone’s feedback. Thanks, Dave.

Key takeaways:

1. Launching at weird times is a great way to take advantage of launch windows that your competition isn’t using.

However, this is not guaranteed to work – it depends how connected your audience is to email or social media at those designated weird times.

So you’ll want to picture the people in your audience and ask yourself if they’re likely to be online late at night or during holidays or whenever your weird time is. We sell primarily to people running online businesses, so for us, the answer is yes. Your mileage may vary.

2. Live classes promoted in a low-key fashion can perform just as well as all-out launches.

In retrospect, what probably made this one work is that the class was very simple in concept. This wasn’t a change-your-life class. It was “we’ll help you figure out a very specific thing.” It was also $99, so no one was buying this with their rent money.

It also helped to limit the registration period to a very short window. The offer was very easy to understand, and was very much a “you want it or you don’t” kind of thing. You didn’t need a long time to ruminate over whether you were going to get it or not. If you have a more complex offer, three days would likely work against you (unless your offer details were available well ahead of time.)

3. When you’re running a limited seating offer, you actually can’t predict when your “last day” will be.

If you plan for a week, and it sells out halfway through, you’re going to look pretty weird if your launch content consists of a four-part series. There’s no reason to keep going after part two (what are you going to do, send them to a “you CAN’T buy now” page?) – but you can’t stop it without looking weird.

So if you’re running limited seating and there’s a fighting chance it can sell out early, you may be better off running straight promotional emails during your “cart open” period and saving any sequential content for pre-launch, because you can’t actually plan for what day your “last day” ends up being.

That’s it for part 8 of the series.  You can read part 9 tomorrow.

Naomi writes more things like this in The Letter. Get it for free today. (It also comes with free marketing courses. You can’t move for free here.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.