How We Launch, Part 2 (In Which I Lose A Bet)

This is part 2 of a 9-part behind the scenes series on how we ran our biggest launches. You can start at the beginning right here.

Let’s talk about IttyBiz Intimate.

Once upon a time – in August 2010 – Dave was on a bit of a kick.

(If you’re new around these parts, Dave didn’t work here at the time. He had his own gig as The Launch Coach, and we had written and created a few products together. And he did everything at IttyBiz that I found terrifying. And he wrote my sales emails when I overcommitted. OK, basically, he worked here, we just didn’t pay him.)

Anyway, Dave had gotten it in his head – quite rightly – that one of the reasons ittybiz owners were failing so catastrophically was because they weren’t charging what they were worth.

As coaches, service professionals, even product sellers, they were wildly undercharging, which was making business owners flounder when they should be flourishing.

He was thinking of taking the direction of teaching people to raise their rates to premium. He had just paid an ironically premium price to buy, and was trying to convince me to stop charging fifty bucks for ebooks and create something worth spending serious money on.

(Incidentally, while we’re gossiping, the first time I met Dave was when we were both invited to attend a roundtable meeting in Las Vegas. After everybody introduced themselves, the first question was posed: “Since nobody’s paying any real money for ebooks anymore, how do we compete with free?”

Dave answered that our ebook was less than 100 pages and sold for $97 every day including Christmas, so he wasn’t too worried about competing with free. That was around the time I started making out with him.)

Anyway, at some point, the number $1,000 came up.

I told him that the IttyBiz audience couldn’t handle that price point, even if the “what’s in the box” part of the offer was genuinely worth $1,000.

I can’t remember what Dave’s actual response was, but it can be summed up with “I double dog-dare you.”

(He was pretty committed to this Premium Pricing thing. He was going to be seriously taking his company in that direction but then Vegas happened, and, well, you know.)

Anyway, now it was ON. I had to make a $1,000 product or risk humiliation in front of my closest competitor.

The deal was that I had to create something that would retail for that price point and I had to honestly try to make it succeed.

If it succeeded, he would win and could be smug forever.

If it failed and nobody bought it, I would be right and he would shut up forever.

Let the (weird and dysfunctional) games begin.

Coming up with the product.

If you listen to how most people create stuff, it seems like the generally accepted protocol for creating premium products is to come up with something and then see how much you think you can get away with charging for it.

In this case, it was a little different. I knew how much I had to charge for it, so now I had to come up with something that I could put in the “box” to make it worth it. I didn’t actually care that much if people bought it. I just wanted the people who saw it to think “yeah, that makes sense” instead of “oh my God, Naomi from IttyBiz has turned into [the person we always mock in our teleclasses]”.

I knew that the product couldn’t be for the mass market, because at that price point, you need to be teaching some advanced stuff, and the general marketplace can’t really handle advanced stuff.

I had my list subdivided into six groups anyway (artists, coaches, service providers, bloggers and so on), so I took a look at them – their open rates, their buying history, their answers on their intake questionnaires – and decided on something targeting coaches.

After much ado and wine, I created IttyBiz Intimate, a four session intensive on (effectively) branding for coaches.

The class itself went something like this:

  • A pre-recorded lecture on Monday, along with homework to be graded by me
  • A Tuesday tutorial based on Monday’s lecture
  • Another pre-recorded lecture on Wednesday, along with more homework
  • A Thursday tutorial based on Wednesday’s lecture

… and we repeated the same process the following week.

As part of the package, you got an hour of consulting with me, and a very detailed website audit. You could avail yourself of those whenever you wanted, so if you wanted to get your life together after the intensive, you had time.

We called it “IttyBiz Intimate,” because it was, well, intimate. Small group. Lots of personal attention.

I did some poorly thought out math and figured if I sold four seats, it would be worth the time I’d put into the class. (And, I could always sell the homestudy version later). So I set it up to have room for 15 people, max, in the class, so I could manage the workload.

Setting up the launch.

This was a tricky process for me. The launches we’d done so far were not the most elaborate in the business by any means, but they did have a certain number of moving parts. They also tended to attract a lot of attention.

In this case, I didn’t want to attract a lot of attention.

It’s not that I didn’t want it to sell – I’d promised that I’d put in a full, good faith effort, and I wasn’t going to bail on my end of the bet. But what you launch reflects your intentions, and this was a bet, not a life plan. I was hardly going to tell 40,000,000 people that I was the girl to go to for small group intensives. It was going to be a one-off.

People had to know, but I didn’t want to set any inaccurate expectations.

I decided to email only the coaches’ list, and not promote via any other means, including the blog. The launch comprised four emails of text-only content directed specifically (and only) at coaches.

Now here’s where things got seriously weird.

Normally, launch content fits into one of two categories. One, it’s a bunch of hype – “here’s all the stuff we’re GONNA teach you” – that doesn’t have any content whatsoever. Two, it’s preliminary teaching or supplementary materials related to the product or class – introductions, samples, interviews with past students, and so on.

In this case, when I drafted up the content for the class, I wanted to make it as all-encompassing as possible, within the scope of what it covered. That meant there wasn’t a lot left over for launch content. And there weren’t any supplementary materials that wouldn’t have been contrived or forced.

So, after consideration, I decided to go with launch content that had absolutely nothing to do with the class at all.

The emails just covered issues of value to coaches – highly specific, somewhat advanced concepts that were customized for the world of coaching. Basically, I wanted to say “We don’t know marketing – we know you.”

(Example: We had a piece called The Holy Sh*t Factor for Coaches, espousing the philosophy of never having any piece of public communication leave your desk that could not theoretically cause a “Holy sh*t!” reaction. “Holy sh*t, I can’t believe she said that”, “Holy sh*t, that must have been a lot of work”, “Holy sh*t, I never thought about it that way”, and so on.)

When it came time to do the promotion, I put my cell phone number in the emails, so people could call me before they bought. I really didn’t want people buying this on hype.

(Ironically, this was a VERY low-hype promotion, but when people see a big price tag they tend to add the hype in all by themselves.)

I wanted to make sure that if people had any questions, they could ask me directly. I wanted to hear their voice and the questions behind their questions, so I could talk them out of spending that much money if it wasn’t right for them.

Basically, I wanted to hear if their voice shook when I said “You know this is $1,000, right?”

I wanted to ask them if paying this price point would hurt them, and I didn’t want a carefully crafted written response to mask bravado or desperation or hesitation.

So, I ran the promotion, talked to a hell of a lot of people on my cell phone, and didn’t expect too much response.

How it all went down.

The first class of 15 slots sold out in 2 days. I say “first” because so many people called me that I ended up opening a second session that ran in the evenings, and sold a total of 27 seats at launch. Damn it. I was hoping to hold this over Dave’s head for years to come.

Also weird? While I knew that, statistically speaking, some of my coaches must have been on other lists, I didn’t realize how many. I only mailed the coaches list for this promotion because I figured that everyone on the other lists – geeks, writers, artists, service providers, etc. – wouldn’t want to get all of the launch emails.

Sure, a few people would get lost in the shuffle but like I said earlier, I didn’t want to be a hypey pants to everybody for a one-off thing being sold to only one demographic.

But so many people came to me later saying that they had no idea that this class had ever taken place and they wished they had known. And by “people”, we mean “coaches”. Lots of them. Some of them were even my existing coaching clients.

In other words, a whole lot of coaches weren’t on the coaching list at all.

(Later I discovered that this was because these coaches thought the industry-specific lists were just for beginners, and didn’t get on the list. Oops.)

So, here I was segmenting out the launch and trying not to be annoying and people were upset they didn’t have a chance to buy. Keep that in mind when you’re tooting your own horn.

This low key, text-only, tangentially related email approach worked so well, it basically became the precursor for just about every launch we’ve done since.

On the back of a stupid bet.

Lessons learned.

1) It doesn’t need to be as fancy as you think.

2) No, seriously. Try for less fancy.

3) Aaaaand… a little less fancy than that. You know how they say to “put on all your jewelry and then take one piece off”? This is like “put on all your jewelry and then take it all off”.

4) Your list can afford more than you think they can.

5) For God’s sake, MAIL EVERYBODY. The most painful email you will ever get is “I would have bought if I’d known”. You think unsubscribes hurt? Unsubscribes are bush league. I just about threw up when I saw all the people who could have taken this class but didn’t.

6) I was very smart to not say this was a one-time-only thing. It was so popular I ran it twice more. Just because you THINK you’ll only do it once, doesn’t mean you’re right.

Alright. So that’s Intimate. Next we’re going to talk about the launch we ran when Dave was running for his life. For reals.

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.