How We Launch, Part 4 (The one where it all went wrong)

This is part 4 of a 9-part behind the scenes series on how we ran our biggest launches. You can start at the beginning right here.

Failproof 2 is an example of a launch when absolutely everything went wrong. I’ll show you how we (sort of) recovered, but this one’s a doozy on the “Oh my God, are you KIDDING me?” front.

So, flash forward five months from the original Failproof launch. (No idea what I’m talking about? Click here.)

If we ran Failproof the first time with the idea that a whole lot of people who might want it might not already have it, it stood to reason we could do it a second time. Right? Of course.

(First, an aside. For most ittybiz owners, I would generally not advise relaunching the same offer back-to-back like this. Usually, you’ll want to sell something different in between, even if it’s only a high profile sale or something. Back to back can work in a few cases, but they’re pretty specific.

One, if it’s the only product you sell, like a flagship course. Then you can only launch the same thing again and again because it’s all you do. That’s fine. In the other case, you can get away with it if you have a significant chunk of other content in between launches. Basically, you don’t want people saying “Weren’t you just talking about this thing?”)

We were prepared. We were organized. (We were smug.) We were all set up to ride our own coat-tails and run basically a mirror of what we had the last time. Eight new videos, whole lotta fuss, riches of Babylon ensue, yes?

Well, yes and no. Mostly no.

We were in England at the time – my mom had just gotten her hip replaced – and I had in mind the perfect place to shoot video. We were going to go with a swank conference room that I did a live event in the year before, in a 16th century coach house hotel. Then we called and it turned out they changed owners and ripped the conference room down.

They were very accommodating, however, and offered us the honeymoon suite as an alternative. It would be difficult to describe to you exactly how uncomfortable this made Dave, and how delighted that made me. Dave, however, lacked a defensible argument against it, and we were going with it. Dark woods and bookshelves and images of butlers and expensive Scotch. Mmm.

We figured we’d hole up there for a few days, pull some all nighters, shoot some videos, and all would be well. (I have a feeling the proprietors of the establishment were used to all nighters in the honeymoon suite of a very different nature, but there you go.)

Around 8 o’clock on the first night rolls around and we set up our video equipment. We’re good at this by now, and feeling pretty darn impressed with ourselves. We go to grab some dinner, and head back up to the suite, ready to rock.

Except not.

Turns out, the honeymoon suite is right above the dance floor.

There are no words in English to explain how loud it was.

Dave goes to find out what’s going on and it turns out there’s a wedding party taking up most of the hotel, and they put the “party” in “wedding party”.

How long are they staying?

Four days.

At this point, the launch is supposed to go live on day four.

I’ll spare you the description of the slow dawning of realization that we really, truly have no other venue choices. Video is off the options list.

Dave takes a few minutes to walk it off – read: completely lose his cool in an alley somewhere – and I review our options.

We can’t do video.

We can’t do audio.

And this thing was set up to be a Very Big Promotion Indeed.

One thing to do in a situation where you don’t know what to do for a promotion is to look at promotions that have worked before – especially the ones that did better than they really should have. Look to the outliers from the past and see what worked that shouldn’t have worked, and you might have some inspiration.

When I’d done the promotion for Intimate, I’d gone with text only emails that really didn’t have a lot to do with the class itself. The emails for that really only existed to prove that I understood the needs of coaches. I relied on the sales page and offer details to do the selling and the launch content only really existed to get coaches’ attention for long enough that they would look at the offer. Could we do the same thing with Failproof 2?

I was really nervous about this idea. I had a sinking feeling that the reason those had worked was because of the surprise element. The Intimate promotion was all text and crazy targeted. The Failproof promotion wasn’t text and wasn’t targeted, but it was still an onslaught done in a completely novel way.

This felt like it would be a poor rip-off of both.

However, given the total lack of other options, and the fact that Dave had by this point gone with the “drink Scotch at the bar and hope the problem goes away on its own” plan, we were going with it anyway.

Spicing it up.

I couldn’t live with myself if we just did it as the bastard love child of Failproof and Intimate, so I wanted to spice things up. Since I had those seven email lists that were subdivided by industry, and my data was really, really clean, we decided to personalize to a level that bordered on insane.

For my list, I wrote seven emails, but customized each by list. The content as a whole was structurally the same, but all of the examples and copy-bits were modified for artists, coaches and so on.

(Example: the subject line for the first email was, “Make your clients say ‘Nobody understands me like Karen’”. Except it might say “Make your readers” or “Make your customers” or whatever depending on the list they were on. Then within the email itself, all of the little asides and stories and advice were about art, or coaching, or blogging, or whatever.)

(The data being clean here refers to making sure your autoresponder’s list has good data. You know when you put your name in the box when you sign up for an email list? Cleaning your data in this context means going in and making sure everybody’s name looks right, there are no weird capitalizations, nobody’s put “Sex God” in the name field, and so on. The ninjas are really good at keeping our data clean on a regular basis, so we can do radical personalization if we need to. It’s very rare that we do it, but it’s a nice little tool to have in the box.)

So people’s emails were customized with their names in cool, unexpected places, and each email was customized with stuff that referred specifically to the needs of their industry.

So we wrote seven versions of seven emails for my lists, and seven completely different emails for Dave’s. (To save you the math, that means we wrote 56 launch emails. Plus the last day emails. So a total of 60. My mom made us a lot of tea that weekend. Merci, Maman.)

People on both lists got both sets of emails, meaning they would each receive 14 pieces of launch content in a week. Remember, the industry average is four.

But wait, there’s more.

In addition to the regular promotion – because hey, why not make it harder on ourselves? – we ran an upsell promotion in the back end. Dave had recently hired a new admin assistant, Jason, and he emailed everybody who bought Failproof the first time and offered them a five-months-later $200 upgrade option to the entire original 10 workshops. Then he emailed everyone who was buying Failproof this time and offered them the same deal.

Very simple, “Hey, I’m Jason, I’m new, do you want this thing?”

This was all going along swimmingly until it occurred to me that nobody had ever heard of Jason, and his upsell emails might end up getting ignored. So I emailed everyone after Jason did, personally, asking if they got the email, if they thought Jason did okay, and what they thought about the upgrade offer.

I annoyed a few people, I’m sure – that was a LOT of email – but Dave ended up getting 22% conversion on the upsell. (Note: It’s generally worth temporarily annoying a few people to get a conversion rate that could buy you a fully loaded mid-range car.)

So how did it go?

Well, our expectations had initially been quite high. Not Failproof the First high, because that seemed fairly unrepeatable. But pretty high.

When video went off the table, we dropped our expectations significantly. OK, we dropped our expectations to, “If we can afford to get a flavor shot in our lattes next week, we’ll have done well.”

It ended up being the second best promotion we’d ever done, second only to the original Failproof. (A couple of others have since surpassed this one, but at the time, it was number two of all time.) That fully-loaded mid-range car thing? That was just the upsell. People LOVED this thing.

As a little epilogue, we would have completely done this a third time later, and possibly a fourth, fifth, seventieth, but Dave took his workshops off the market when he came over to IttyBiz full time the following year.

Key takeaways.

1. Remember how we said yesterday that you really never know how many people almost bought but didn’t? Yeah. At this point we were being relentless enough to even make Dave and me nervous – shameless little marketing tramps that we are. When were people going to just tell us to shut up and leave in a huff? Apparently, no time soon.

2. If your product has legs on its own – if it’s good enough, or even just popular enough, whether it’s good or not – you can relaunch back to back. Use different launch content, though, unless your open rate or conversion rate were really low the first time, or you’ve had significant platform growth. (And if your open rates were low the first time, consider changing your subject lines and headlines. They might have been the problem.)

3. When things go wrong in your launch, you can recover if you keep your head screwed on straight and you make recovery a priority. Too many people, when something goes seriously wrong, spend a lot of time panicking and not much time recovering.

4. When it all goes wrong, you might be better with a completely new plan than desperately scrambling to get your old one back. Sure, spend ten minutes trying to find a way to still do video. The minute you realize how impossible that is, MOVE ON.

So, what’s next?

Talking about weird launches and last minute changes of plan has me in the mood to talk about… weird launches and last minute changes of plan. Next up, the Emergency Turnaround Clinic. Brace yourself… this one’s got stalkers.

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.