How We Launch, Part 3: The Biggest Surprise

This is part 3 of a 9-part behind the scenes series on how we ran our biggest launches. You can start at the beginning right here.

For those who have been on the IttyBiz list for any length of time, the original Failproof launch (at the end of 2010) is the launch we are best known for. This is largely because it was insane.

(The launch for our BIG LAUNCH class was even more insane, but we’ll talk about it at the end of this series.)

Failproof wasn’t officially an IttyBiz promotion – I didn’t get any money for it and it wasn’t my product – but it’s the one that I get the most questions about, so hopefully I can answer some of them today.

Until this point, in our little incestuous internet marketing coach-y business-y community, launches were usually done in a similar fashion to the ones the Very Famous Sleazy People did, as mentioned in the first part of this series.

There were usually four pieces of launch content, in a variety of media, spread out with several days in between them. You were allowed to see one piece of content for “free”, and you had to give your email address to be allowed to see the rest. (Often the first piece was a teaser piece, ended on a cliffhanger, or was part one in a series.)

In some cases, in order to see the rest of the series, you not only had to give your own email address, but three to five email addresses of your friends and relations.

Yeah. We didn’t do that with Failproof.

In Failproof, you saw our launch content whether you liked it or not.

Why we launched it.

Picture the scene. (For fans of Golden Girls, you may add “Sicily, 1942″ if you wish.)

The charming and handsome Dave Navarro had just started the world’s ugliest divorce (WUD) and the poo was hitting the fan for my best friend. We’re in Miami. He is getting harassed every day. He’s handling it pretty well, considering, but as his de facto handler, I decide that creating a new product from scratch is simply not going to happen.

I’d recently done the Intimate launch (which we talked about yesterday) and a pretty successful store clear-out sale called Gone, Baby, Gone, so I don’t really have any financial needs for the foreseeable future. He, on the other hand, is about to hand over what is looking like it’s going to be 207% of his income for the rest of his life in alimony, child support, and the newly instituted federal What The Hell, We May As Well Tax Them tax.

So he could probably use a bit of a war chest, and my store was empty. Running a promotion through or with IttyBiz seemed like something that would benefit my list – it’s not like I had anything for them to buy at this point.

Dave had a set of ten (I think it was ten) workshops that had proven very popular with his own people on common online business building topics that sold for $199 each in his store. Since ten was daunting to all but the most… committed… of ittybiz owners, I wasn’t in a rush to try and hawk a ten-pack.

Plus, everyone and their grandmother had just bought some kind of package in the Gone, Baby, Gone sale, so I had a feeling information overload would kick in at that level. (“I just bought this insanely huge thing. Why don’t I wait till I go through that with a fine-tooth comb and pick this thing up next time?”)


“Next time” will bankrupt your business if you let it. If you sell information – or a number of other things, by the way – you’re going to run into this situation and it pays to have a plan in place for it.

Here’s the scenario:

Somebody buys something they don’t want or need because of hype or fear of loss or something like that.

They buy another something they don’t want or need for the same reasons.

And again. And again. And again.

Repeat for months, or years, or even decades.

Then your thing comes along and they really DO want it or they really DO need it. Let’s say you sell a weight loss group coaching class or something. They see it. They love it. They think it would be perfect for them. It’s so much better than the other “solutions” they’ve bought in the past.

What do they think to themselves?

“I’ll wait till I use the gym membership. And the pilates DVDs. And the herbal supplements. And that virgin diet book.”

Except they never DO use the membership or the DVDs or the supplements or the books because they never should have bought them in the first place, and they know it.

They’ll buy YOUR thing as soon as they do a bunch of OTHER things you and I both know they will never do.

Sucks to be you, doesn’t it?

If you’re in an industry where people tend to overspend, or in which people tend to feel “desperate” for solutions, you should have a plan to deal with this kind of situation. Because it doesn’t matter if the thing you make is the best thing since sliced hummus, if they’re overloaded and feeling guilty or embarrassed, they’re just not going to buy your magic wonder bullet.

What I tend to do in this situation – and your mileage may vary, since every industry is different – is to consistently come out with more stuff that’s smaller or manageable.

Most of our competitors ONLY sell things that require major involvement. Huge information products and membership sites that send peoples’ commitment flags up, usually without accessible payment plans. I’ll generally sell smaller things that don’t make people daunted by the very prospect, and that aren’t impacted by That Huge Thing they bought from somebody else two weeks ago and really regret but are too embarrassed to ask for a refund on.

(Big Launch is the only exception I have ever made to this rule, and I’m only good with doing this because the last 20 products and classes we’ve come out with have been much smaller. It was time to do an intensive on an intensive topic. But the only reason I’m cool doing this now is because we’ve done enough Not Intensives to create significant trust.)

It’s not perfect, and it won’t work in all cases, but it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re thinking of putting out Very Big Stuff, you’ll want to consider the impact of other vendors’ Very Big Stuff on peoples commitment radars.

Anyway, where was I? Right. Failproof.

We figured we’d take the three of his workshops that lent themselves most to bundling, and the ones that were most useful for people across a variety of industries and situations. We put them in a bundle, slapped a gorgeous name on them, and ran a Promotion That Was Not A Launch But Looked An Awful Lot Like A Launch.

How we launched it.

When we talk about this launch, we talk about it as the time we “launched” a product that already existed to two groups of people who already had it. The sheer hard-headed idiocy of this plan really cannot be overstated.

The biggest issue at play – apart from the “they already have it” part, which really wasn’t that big of a deal because if they already had it they could just ignore the promotion – was that there was a huge amount of crossover between Dave’s list and my own. Because of a lot of administrative factors, it was hard to say how much crossover there was, but we estimated it was around 30%.

In that 30% would be both of our biggest supporters, strongest fans, and most lucrative customers. So if we both hammered the hell out of our lists promoting this product, the people most likely to get burned out were our favorite people and best customers.

Hmm. Not ideal.

So we had to create a launch that was so attention-worthy, so interesting, and so valuable that people getting hammered from two sides wouldn’t get sick of it.

After a few abandoned potential iterations, we settled on a series of 10 videos. (It became eight because we had to drive from Miami to Canada in the middle.) We would create videos of us riffing together on big topics that had to do with marketing on the internet, but as we’d learned from the Intimate promotion, they didn’t have to be directly related to the product.

(One big additional reason for that was because if most of the potential buyers and fans already had the products, they wouldn’t want to spend two straight weeks hearing about something they already had. So we wanted to make it valuable content for those who had the product, those who would never have the product, and those who were considering buying the product.)

We decided on video because neither of us had ever really done that before – he had done a few by himself for a previous promotion, but they were pretty dry and instructional. We wanted to do something fun enough to watch on Christmas Day or New Years’ Eve. We have pretty good chemistry on film, so we figured we could make it fun. That was the hope, anyway. We didn’t exactly have time to run a beta test.

What happened during the launch.

We ran eight long videos on these topics. They were chosen on the basis that they seemed interesting enough to us. That’s how much thought went into them.

  • Episode 1: Introduction (or, A New Hope)
  • Episode 2: Building Lists for Profit and Also Profit
  • Episode 3: Social Proof
  • Episode 4: Getting People To Hate You For Fun and Profit
  • Episode 5: The Product / Service Snowball
  • Episode 6: How to Close the Deal
  • Episode 7: How To Create Your Own Irresistible Offer
  • Episode 8: Making Metrics Sexy, And How To Make Damn Sure You Don’t Quit

We didn’t sell the product at all within the content of the videos. We simply aimed at increasing their comfort with us, and particularly Dave, as a teacher. The promotional element was this – we told them at the beginning, “Hey, this is all in aid of you giving Dave $300!” and we told them at the end “Remember, this is all in aid of you giving Dave $300!”

That was pretty much it. Everything else was pure content.

So how did it go?

It turns out we really hit the right nerve on this promotion. One person who linked to it tweeted “These videos are so good I almost bought this training a third time.”

That seemed to be the common sentiment. They were worth watching. This ended up being the promotion every marketer dreams of.

The promotion ran from a few days before Christmas to New Years’ Eve – what most people would consider an absolutely insane time to promote – and by the time the ball dropped in Times Square, Failproof was the most successful promotion either of us had ever run, before or since, together or separate.

So what do we learn from all this?

1. There’s no such thing as a bad time to promote.

Certainly, if you can capitalize on certain socially, politically or astrologically conducive circumstances, that’s great. But as far as I was concerned in the first several years of this business, there were two bad times to promote – late December and July. Failproof and a later Black Friday in July promotion were our two best promotions.

Turns out, I’m just plain wrong. Repeat this to yourself – there is no bad time to promote.

2. Never underestimate how well people will respond to you just being yourself.

During these videos, Dave was drinking beer, I was cursing like a sailor, and we were utterly shameless in our flirting. Guess what, folks! That’s us, in real life. We’re disgusting. Embarrassing, frankly.

It is a natural human tendency to think we will be more attractive and compelling if we try to be someone we’re not. This is based in our psychological conditioning and anchoring – we see the people we admire, or are attracted to, or are entranced by, and we think that our anchor represents universal admirableness, attractiveness, or entrancement. Sad to say, it’s simply not true.

Just do your own thing and a statistically impressive amount of people will find you really, really cool.

3. You can never guess how many people WOULD have bought something the last time you launched it, except for some unique circumstance.

They didn’t have the money. Their mother was in the hospital. They’d just bought a competitor’s product. It was a busy time at work.

We ittybiz owners are a fairly solipsistic bunch, and we tend to think that the entire world – and the decision-making matrices of each individual within it – revolves entirely around us. It is humbling and gratifying to realize, once again, that this is not the case.

You don’t know who would have bought if it weren’t for something external. Giving them a chance to buy again is probably a really good idea.

Having said all that, we’ll tell you tomorrow about the following May. If that many people hadn’t bought before so they bought it in December, what might happen if we promoted the same damn thing again in May?

Want to find out? Of course you do. You can read all about it 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.