We build businesses. Even little ones.

We build businesses.
Even little ones.

How We Launch, Part 6: The Launch That Kind Of Wasn’t A Launch.

This is part 6 of a 9-part behind the scenes series on how we ran our biggest launches. You can start at the beginning right here.

Sometimes figuring out how to launch your stuff only comes to you at the last minute. Today we’ll talk about the launch that was actually a relaunch, and a pretty poor example of even that, but which still sold many hundreds of copies.

This is where we learn that if you build enough loyalty and authority, you can totally suck and still make money.

But first, we’ll flash back.

Beginning of 2008, and I didn’t have any products. I had just started consulting and had taken on far, far too much. I was dying under the workload of that and my freelance writing work.

You know that moment you read about on all the business blogs, about how somebody realized they have to stop trading hours for dollars and get some products for sale so they don’t kill themselves? Yeah, that was me in early 2008.

(I was also the offsite editor for a content website in New York which was supposed to be a full time gig but I had it done by 10 am because I had so much other work to do. Oh, and I was blogging 7 days a week. I read a lot of Dave’s productivity stuff back then.)

So I had to make a product. I didn’t know what to make a product about, so I did what every beginner does – I looked at what other people were apparently selling like hotcakes and made something like that.

It seemed like Aaron Wall was selling his product called SEOBook hand over fist. I came to this conclusion because at the time, I couldn’t move for seeing his ads everywhere. So I thought to myself, if he has the money to advertise on all of these websites, this market must be extremely hot.

(The truth of the matter, which I only found out later, was that he ran a very accessible, very user-friendly affiliate program. Everything I thought was a paid ad was actually an affiliate banner. Turns out, he wasn’t spending a dime. This is a lesson in Don’t Assume You Know Everything Or Even Anything For That Matter.)

I figured that SEO was something that I knew well enough to teach people who knew nothing at all about it, if only to keep them from making stupid mistakes and killing themselves in the eyes of Google.

It was never intended to be the end-all and be-all of SEO wizardry, but it was essentially designed for people who were in the position to do the basics and couldn’t even remotely consider spending the billions of dollars necessary to hire an SEO expert (or, in many cases, a self-appointed SEO expert who charges the exorbitant prices that everyone else did).

In short, there was nothing in the SEO realm that was accessible, affordable, or beginner friendly. And that’s how SEO School was born.

(Aside? While typing that last sentence, I couldn’t help but hear the same tone of voice people use when they “And that’s how your mother and I met.”)

Creating the book itself ended up being a gargantuan task, because I’d never done anything quite like it before and I was extremely concerned about getting it “right.” I literally read the entire book out loud over a dozen times, cover to cover, as part of the editing process, mainly because I’d never written something so long and was crap at transitions.

(Still am.)

How it originally launched.

Anyway, I made the product, I released it on the blog – let’s not over-aggrandize ourselves by calling it a launch – and it did pretty well.

However, around August I got ready to take it off the market because I didn’t want to do support for it anymore, and in truth, I figured everyone who was going to buy it had bought it already. I was concerned that if I continued promoting it would make me feel like a shill – trying to squeeze out every last sale instead of coming up with something new instead.

Another contributing factor in taking it off the market was that people were starting to think I was all about SEO. I was doing interviews on different blogs and everyone was peppering me with SEO questions. I didn’t want to be typecast, so I decided to go ahead and take it off the market.

(I also wasn’t all that great at SEO. This was a beginner’s guide.)

So August rolls around and I take it off the market. Remember last week when we talked about the OBS launch, and how I’d done that series called How To Make $12,246 in a Day? The $12,246 day was the last day of SEO School.

Four years later, the SEO landscape has changed – like, seriously, changed – and for the first time in years, we’re getting a lot of questions about it again. And it seems like it might be time to dust off the old ebook, revamp it for 2012, and put it back out there.

Dave rewrites the book – yes, it was totally Dave, because I never wanted to talk about SEO again – and we’re ready to launch. Sort of.

So how do we launch this thing?

At this point in the IttyBiz timeline, a lot of our launches have been big. They’re attention getting. They’re splashy. We work hard to never make them pushy, but we’re hardly subtle about things. Our launches are high information, high intensity, and high profile.

A $29 ebook that most people have already had for four years doesn’t really seem like an appropriate place for a spectacle.

At the same time, for some reason, we’re getting at least an email a day from people saying they’d heard we’d written a book on SEO and they’re wondering if they can buy it. (My main thought? Good Lord, it wasn’t that good. It was a primer.)

So, it’s in demand, and we want people to know it’s back. But it’s not the be-all-and-end-all, and we don’t want to say it is.

The question, then, is how do we let everybody and their dog know that SEO School is back, without hyping it even a teeny, tiny bit?

I actually delayed this release for several weeks because I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to this question. (This annoyed Dave to no end, because he’d been writing it non-stop, including on Christmas day at my mother’s house.) But everything “launchy” that we thought of was too hype-y, and I just couldn’t sleep at night if I made this thing sound bigger than it was.

We didn’t want any launch content that talked about why SEO was good, or important, or vital. We wanted as low key as possible. Eventually, in Normandy, over cheese that smelled like broccoli, my brother asked the question that sealed the deal:

“Can you tell them why they shouldn’t buy it?”

Perfect.

This way we can talk about it, we can mention it, we can link to it, we can make sure everybody knows about it, but we can never say one positive word about it. Gorgeous.

After several weeks of delay, we went back to the apartment and wrote all three pieces in the remainder of the evening. The series was about the three times you SHOULDN’T optimize for SEO, when it’s utterly hopeless and you shouldn’t even bother.

Three blog posts, three days in a row, and a slight discount for buying during the promotion. Four days (including the last day) and we were done.

One question that was weighing on our minds at this point was what to do about people who had the original version. The details in the new version were significantly different than they were in the original, but the basic tenets section was pretty much unchanged. Dave had added some quick start guides or something, because he can’t seem to create a product without them, so there was that addition.

But we seriously had no idea what to do about people who might have the original. Should we say something about it? Should we say it’s different, a little bit different, not very different, kind of different? Should we give a discount to buyers from before?

Eventually, the delays had run so long and I was so sick of it that I did nothing. We had an official position in the background for if we got any questions, but we just decided to say nothing publicly and let people ask questions if they had them.

The solution was to do absolutely nothing and see if we got emails.

So what happened?

We sold hundreds of copies, about half of them to people who already had the original.

We didn’t get one email.

Who knew?

Lessons learned.

1. It’s worth taking the time to come up with the right launch content. It doesn’t have to be the perfect launch content – I don’t think we’ve ever really achieved that, except for maybe the 3-pack that we’ll talk about tomorrow. But it’s worth taking the time to get it right for the audience at least.

A lot of people feel really unqualified to come up with launch content – they think it’s a confusing, mystical other language that doesn’t follow Earth logic – so they just throw some random crap up there. The number of times I’ve been asked if people can use old audios, PDFs, workshop transcripts from 5 or 10 years ago as their launch content? Blog posts that already exist? Scratchy teleseminar recordings? Yikes.

Launch content doesn’t have to be an example of technical mastery but it is effectively your free sample. Free samples are supposed to be the tastiest stuff you can come up with, not the old crap nobody bought. I don’t care if Shiny Marketing Guru With The Pretty Hair told you that repurposing old content is the secret to riches. She’s wrong.

2. Low key can work if it’s the right product at the right time for the right price. Not everything should be a spectacle.

3. And speaking of the right price, it’s a nice idea to have a range of price points available for people. They don’t all have to be available at all times – that can make your store look pretty weird – but have a variety of offers over time. This is January. I’m selling a class for a thousand bucks. Our last class, in October, was $299. In our August sale, you could buy mini-classes for $17.

A variety of price points can do a lot to empower your customers to make the right choices for them, and it gives them the opportunity to come into your “funnel” (if you insist on calling it that) wherever they feel comfortable.

One last note on that.

When we sold Intimate, we had people tell us that they bought it BECAUSE it was expensive. They’d had enough tiny products that didn’t encompass the scope that they needed. We also have people telling us that the minute we come out with something at the $50 price point, they’re on it. Don’t get typecast into one price point. You’re throwing customers out the window.

Next up, we’re talking about the motley three-pack, when we sold three completely disparate products in a bundle that had no right to exist.

That was the one with the perfect launch content. You can read it over here right now.

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.)