Does it have to be hard? Or, how IttyBiz plans a launch

How to plan a launch

Let’s talk about launches. And hard stuff. For many people, they’re the same thing.

Generally speaking, the majority of the consulting we do here is in some way related to launches. It could be coaching somebody through the launch itself, it could be writing sales pages, it could be spending three months in product development, it could be spending a year platform building to get ready for a big launch.

Usually it’s really weird stuff that is in no way related to any of those things but is at least tangentially related to launch.

If you’re new: When we say “launch”, we’re usually referring to one of two things. One, we’re talking about the mid-to-high profile release of a (usually but not always) digital product, including non-fiction books and novels. Or we’re talking about launching a business or service. With a few exceptions, the tactical advice we give for launching one thing is very similar to the advice we’d give for launching something else. They’re different, yes, but not as different as you’d think.

Because of all this stuff surrounding the launching of stuff, we get a lot of questions about it. One question we get pretty frequently, although if y’all had any sense you’d ask it far more often than that, is how we launch stuff.

(Hint: If you’re hiring a consultant, or taking a class, because you like the way the consultant or teacher does things themselves, ALWAYS ask them how they do it and why. You’ll get far better answers than if you ask how you should do it. Sometimes they won’t tell you because they’re scared to do so, but if they’re as big a deal as they say they are, they shouldn’t be squeamish about it. The only reason to get squeamish is if you’re scared, and the only reason to be scared is if you’ve got a good reason.)

Anyway, today we’ll tell you how we do it. It’s the short version, but it should get you started.

It involves two slightly tricky things that take a while, and three easy things that don’t.

First, decide on prelaunch content.

Prelaunch content is the content that comes out before the launch content. It exists to get your list warm (if you have one) and get them thinking about the topics your product is about. Prelaunch content is usually not very tactical – it’s thematic. It’s about ideas and concepts.

If launch content is foreplay, prelaunch is flirting.

So first, we decide on 3-5 pieces of prelaunch content. If the product is expensive, or if there are environmental factors at play, we’ll err on the longer end. If the product is cheap, or it’s a time of very low competition or an already very warm list, we’ll err on the shorter end.

Go too long and people get bored. (If you flirt too long before making a move, it’s weird, and they move you into the friend zone.)

Go too short and people aren’t ready. (Hold on, there, Chester. I don’t even know you yet. And you want me to pay HOW much, for WHAT?)

Prelaunch content usually mentions an upcoming product only in passing, if at all. The heavier the marketplace launch saturation at the time, the more it gets mentioned. This is to make sure the audience doesn’t inadvertently buy a competitor’s product because they didn’t even know you had one coming out.

Key takeaway: Prelaunch content exists to warm the list, expose the audience to key concepts, and generally remind them why they’re paying attention to you in the first place.

(Incidentally, what you’re reading now is prelaunch piece 3 of 5. Usually our December launches run long.)

Next, decide on launch content.

After flirting comes foreplay. If flirting is general, foreplay is specific. If prelaunch content is general, launch content is specific.

Launch content is usually tactical if you’re selling non-fiction or information or coaching products. If you’re selling fiction, some lead-up information (often “behind the scenes” content) can work well here.

What we typically do is decide on running 4-8 pieces of launch content. The “rules” for if you run more or less launch content are the same as the “rules” for running more or less prelaunch content.

Generally speaking, our launch content is highly specific, highly tactical, themed and much longer than the content we usually produce. When it comes to content you want people to pay better than average attention to, it helps to produce better than average content.

Key takeaway: Launch content is the very last thing people see before you ask them to buy. It has to very good, it has to very relevant, and you cannot phone this in.

Next, decide on the medium of your content. The best deciding factor here is personal preference and if you have the data, your audience’s buying history.

Personal preference comes down to what you like and are good at. If you’re great at text but suck at video, go with text. Go with what you’re better at.

The one exception is when you have data on your hands. We’ve been equally good at doing text-based launches and video-based launches. But we’ve seen the conversion rates, and they’re roughly equal for us. So since text content is about ten times easier to create than video, we go with text most of the time. Conversion is about the same.

But if the data says that when you do video your conversion rate is significantly higher, then it doesn’t mater if you prefer text. You go with what the buyers respond to.

Next, decide on how often you’re going to publish launch content. In our case, that’s probably every weekday, but we’ve done every day for well over a week straight. Our Winter 2010 launch posted launch content on Christmas.

When you’re releasing launch content, it should come out more frequently than your regular content to maintain momentum during the launch. (If your regular schedule is very infrequent, then you’re going to be releasing content much more frequently than usual in comparison.)

I wouldn’t go four days in between pieces of content to avoid the launch dragging on without momentum. In some cases you can get away with this kind of window, but you need a very good reason for going that long.

Finally, decide on whether the cart will be open during your launch content or after it’s done. During means they get fewer emails, after means they get fewer opportunities.

There are good reasons for either choice, and those reasons generally include timing, warmup, whether or not you’re using affiliates, and how long you want the launch to dominate your marketing calendar. But there’s no right or wrong choice. It’s all contextual, and if there are very good reasons to go one way or the other, you’ll see them when you look for them.

If you truly can’t decide, flip a coin. It doesn’t matter as much as you think.

You’re going to put a lot of work into your launch, so you should probably pay attention to this next part.

We hear a lot of people talking about how hard it is to pull off a launch.

But is it hard? I guess that depends on your definition of hard.

Is it difficult to succeed? Not usually, no. I don’t think I’ve seen a properly executed launch fail if all of the right pieces were in place. I might have – Dave and I have been doing this for a long time. But nothing’s coming to mind.

Is it grueling? Sometimes. That’s mostly a factor of your time management skills and life circumstances. If you plan it properly, no, it’s not usually grueling.

Is it nerve-wracking? Yes. Every time. Never goes away.

But is it hard? I don’t know. I’d say no, it’s not. When my first son was born, I had him without drugs. Everyone in the room with me had either had drugs or a Caesarian, so nobody told me about the Ring of Fire and subsequently I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I’d just turned 18. That was pretty hard.

When he was five days old, he was readmitted to the hospital with both kidney and liver disorders. That wasn’t much fun, either.

Less than two years later, we lived for six months in a homeless shelter in Scarborough. That sucked too, come to think of it.

I think things are only really hard when you classify them as hard, and you only classify them as hard when you forget the spectrum of what you’ve already endured. I’m guessing you’ve endured some pretty tough stuff in your day. If that’s so, well, I wouldn’t say launches are hard.

There’s a difference between hard and hard work.

I’ve had three babies, and none of their labours were particularly joyous. Jack’s ran ten days, which I’m pretty sure we all could’ve lived without. But the funny thing about labour is that when you get the baby, you usually forget how much the process sucked and just run around saying “Yay! Baby!” a lot. Sure, you compare war stories with the other parents later, but it’s more of a badge of honour than a genuine complaint.

At the very real risk of sounding crass, it’s the same with launches.

You do a lot of hard work and you get very worried, but the steps are usually pretty clear and the system is pretty defined. (You also go a long time without washing your hair.)

Then you make a hundred grand in a week and it’s tough to dwell on the pain, you know?

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.