Don’t plan a launch in 72 hours. But if you must, do these things.
The full walkthrough and emotional rollercoaster of my failed launch – plus 10 key takeaways
I launched a mini-course last month.
In 72 hours.
It was messy.
It was emotional.
Would I do it again?
Yes, yes I would. (Um, in fact, I am.)
Because even though it was crazy painful, I’ve learned SO much from this failed launch.
And even though I’m supremely embarrassed that I didn’t even break even
I’ve taken a lot of encouragement from my favorite successful people telling me about their failures.
I’m going to tell you every last detail of my failed launch.
Despite the bruising my ego is taking as I type these very words.
Because these learnings? They’re worth their weight in toilet paper.
It started with a Whatsapp from a fellow homeschooling friend.
There is real talk about all schools closing until mid-April. Not even a joke. Should we do a webinar? Consulting? Take kids in for pay?
She was half joking, but she got me thinking.
This was product-market fit if I ever saw one.
Hundreds of thousands of parents thrown into this REALLY tricky task of balancing work AND housework AND kids. (With no gymborees, zoos, or malls.)
And me. Having done it for 6 years. (Plus the gymborees, zoos, and malls.)
She’s been my co-worker since she was born, even when I worked in-house.
After musing it over for 2 days, I let the cat out of the bag. And told my husband that I was thinking about launching this semi-personal, totally off-brand-and-irrelevant-to-my-audience mini-course.
To say he was excited is an understatement.
Do it. I’ll take care of everything else. I’m stuck home anyway. Make it happen. There is no parent out there that shouldn’t join this.
He also gave me a goal:
I couldn’t buy in, it felt too crazy. But having a crazy number gave me a gift: possibility.
I thought bigger.
Without the 100K goal, I would’ve played safe. My launch strategy would have consisted of an email to my list (who didn’t sign up for parenting stuff!), a Whatsapp to some mommy groups, and a handful of social media posts.
Not exactly a surefire way to cross 1K registrants.
Takeaway #1: Start with a crazy end goal. And strategize from there. What will it take to make a $100,000 launch happen? Now, tailor it down to your reality.
I Slacked my co-founder, Sophia and asked what she thought about pausing Unmassmarket while I launched The Home Front. She didn’t even blink. And asked how she could help. (I tell her all the time how amazing she is – now I have proof.)
I told my homeschooling friend that I was in. We should do a webinar. But that I wanted to turn it into a paid course too.
And she… made me feel guilty.
In the nicest way possible. Seriously. She was super nice about it.
But the words were said and I couldn’t shake them.
No charging though. I’m not taking advantage of people’s weaknesses. It’s an opportunity to help.
She wasn’t the only one.
Remember, Corona was happening while all this was happening
All over Twitter, people were calling out brands and sales reps that were selling.
And even though I believe REALLY STRONGLY that trading your wisdom and encouragement and time and energy and inspiration for money is about the biggest service you can do for someone… I wasn’t sure if the rules were suddenly different.
I mean… the whole world was suddenly different.
Maybe selling wasn’t appropriate.
And it got to me.
When it came time to promote the webinar, I sent out one timid Tweet on Twitter and gave up on the platform. What if I was branding myself as an obnoxious advantage-taker?
Even if it was a free webinar with really amazing tactics… I knew I’d be selling at the end – and that felt manipulative.
I scaled back. And that was a mistake.
I felt guilty. And that wasted the precious energy.
Takeaway #2: If you’re gonna do it, do it fully. Consider dissenting opinions only before you decide to launch. But once you’ve committed? Shut out those voices and keep at it.
(On the bright side, those “give everything away for free” voices did compel me to stick to the webinar funnel. It was definitely ambitious to develop a webinar funnel in 72 hours, and I was driven by the fact that I’d be giving really helpful, tactical content to everyone who showed up, regardless of whether they bought or not.)
Husband dove in and took over everything. He cleaned toilets, gardened with the kids, cooked all the meals.
I shut myself in my office, surfacing only to eat and nurse my 2 year old. (Okay, not quite. But it was crazy amazing to knock out a full 8 hours of work in one day. During daylight hours.)
But… as crazy amazing as it was to get a full 8 hours of work in one day (during daylight hours)…
I finally understood what people mean when they say that launches are intense, emotional rollercoasters. And that something (somethings!) alway go wrong in a launch.
And did I mention that my usually super hands-on and enthusiastic manager was frantically booking tickets so he could get to England before the borders closed?
He couldn’t do much Sunday, because I was still planning and didn’t have tasks laid out. He couldn’t do much Monday, because he was prepping for his last minute trip. And come Tuesday, he was flying.
Wednesday – right smack when I planned the webinar – he was driving from London to Manchester (because there were no more direct flights).
Talk about timing.
So, we (um… I. There was no more we. Help!) needed to be super strategic.
I needed to get rolling so I could start promotion on Monday.
So, the tasks for Sunday:
- Set up the webinar
- Get ads and bonuses going
Setting up a webinar should be easy, right?
Pre-pandemic, only the cool people used Zoom.
So I figured it’d be hard to get parents to join the webinar if they had to download an app they’d never use again.
I knew that you can join Demio webinars without downloading an app, so I was strongly considering switching to them from Zoom.
I also knew that Demio registration pages are prettier and more customizable than Zoom registration pages.
Annnnd when I was digging around on the Demio site, their support chat was amazing. 5 min response time – AND responses that felt human.
I knew that we’d likely hit an attendee limit and I’d want to upgrade mid-webinar. So response time was important.
I signed up for the Demio free trial and started setting things up.
Now, Demio is super sleek. And has really awesome multi-channel onboarding.
But I was super limited on time.
I couldn’t read the help docs. Couldn’t watch the how-tos.
I just executed.
And got frustrated.
Takeaway #3: Don’t try new tech when time is tight. Even if it’s 10x more awesome than what you usually use. It’s not worth the learning curve. You will regret it.
First, I set up 2 time slots.
Remember – kids are home all day now. So I wanted to present in the evening, when I could have parents’ full attention.
But I live on the other side of the globe from most of my intended audience.
So I set one for evening my time, and one for evening in Eastern time. The first, I’d present live – and then I’d upload that recording into the second slot.
Only… you can’t upload a recording into a live webinar slot.
And when I tried to switch the event to a recorded webinar, it prompted me to upload the video.
But I didn’t have a video yet – I was going to use the recording of the live webinar! If I could just set up the event and then upload the video later… but, no go.
So… I had a choice:
1) I could wake up at evening Eastern time (3 am my time) and run the webinar
2) I could run the webinar in the Eastern time afternoon, and hope attendees would catch the replay.
I couldn’t wake up at 3 am.
It was just too nerve wracking. What if my alarm didn’t go off… what if I didn’t have enough energy to present well… what if my 2 year old woke up screaming for me…
So it was choice #2: push the replay hard
I knew this was risky. No one watches replays.
But 3 am felt even riskier. And it wouldn’t be the greatest for my health or sanity either. Especially since I was feeling the beginnings of a head cold creeping on.
It wasn’t easy to get over this reality.
It wasn’t easy to stop thinking that if I just had more time, I could record the webinar and then promote.
To wish myself over the pond somehow.
To just give up on the whole thing because I hadn’t even really started yet and it was all getting way too complicated and overwhelming.
So instead, I made it even more complicated and overwhelming.
Instead of dropping the 2nd webinar and just running ONE (like a normal person), I kept the two so I could segment my audience.
See… the Jewish holiday of Passover was upcoming. And for Orthodox Jews, that means a HUMONGOUS amount of mandatory prep work. It’s a gorgeous holiday, but it’s a LOT of work getting there.
So I knew that Orthodox Jewish parents the world over were frantically trying to figure out how to get all this cleaning and cooking done with kids underfoot. All while keeping up with work-work and basic housework too.
So, I figured it was only right to split the course community into two: one for those who needed strategies on prepping for Passover, and one for those who didn’t.
Takeaway #4: Segmentation is awesome and yes, you’ll craft more resonate messages with a segmented audience. But if it’s the program’s first launch? It’s too complicated (and too exhausting). Remember, you can always get more specific in your relaunch.
Sure, it was ideal to segment my audience.
But when you’re launching in 72 hours, you can’t go with ideal.
You have to go with practical.
Segmenting was really complicated. Especially since I was handling everything alone.
Segmenting meant double the work for every. single. thing.
I was personalizing each webinar. The slide decks. The registration pages. The confirmation emails. The ads. The promo emails. The replay emails. The sales emails. The sales pages.
And then duplicating all the technical set up of all those things.
It didn’t even work.
I could split segments a bit based on some advertisers, but for the more general platforms, my only choice was to offer both links. But people signed up to whichever time worked best – not toward the end goal I subtly offered.
Side note: Substitute “segmentation” in this takeaway for whatever thing it is that complicates your initial launch. Sure, you’d like to hire a video pro. Sure you’d like to build out an accompanying live event. But if it’s getting in the way – if it’s stalling things or taking away your valuable time and focus, drop it. There is always next time.
Ads and affiliates and MISHAPS, OH NO
Since my email list and social audience isn’t built on parenting, I knew I needed to run some ads to reach a new audience. I figured my new audience hangs out on Instagram. So I reached out to a few popular influencers.
Bam. $1,350 spent.
Ok, not quite that easy. There was the email back and forth. Sending over the money. Sending the ad copy. Sharing the sign up link –
I was sharing the Demio registration page… but… what would happen when the event was over??? Could I redirect people that missed the live event????????
Quick chat to support.
No! I couldn’t. Help!
I grabbed the code from the registration page and embedded it on my site so I could set up a redirect when the webinar was over. Phew.
But one ad had already gone live and I couldn’t switch that link. Grump.
No time to dwell on that, it was time to bulk up the course with some bonuses.
I reached out to the amazing Nechama Finkelstein LCSW of The Moodmaker and she hopped on ASAP. (And am I ever grateful. Her masterclass was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Every human on the planet should hear it. Or at least take her course.)
I reached out to another consultant who had amazing complementary material to give over.
But she didn’t want exposure, she wanted money. And lots of it.
Would it be worth it? We talked in circles while I eyed the clock.
Finally I just pulled the plug.
When things don’t feel right – when you feel pressured into something – it’s okay to trust your gut and say no.
One bonus would just have to do.
Finally, I got in touch with some Mommy bloggers, but none responded.
(Two days later I got a promo email from one promoting a webinar with the EXACT same title as mine. Sigh.)
Shwoo. Sunday tasks done. Time to sleep brainstorm my big idea for the sales page.
Aka, time to write copy!
- Promos for social/campaign for my list
- The launch sequence
- The sales page
Oh, it was also time to start promoting to friends and family. #groan
My manager was still sort of around on Monday and he had time to set up the promo sequence to my list. And post some promos to social.
And then it was all on to me.
I don’t recommend writing a sales sequence and a sales page in one day.
Like, don’t do it.
But if you need to, you better have 10x Sales Pages.
It was crazyland to push out copy that fast.
But at least I didn’t have to think through the strategy or the structure or whether I was pulling enough persuasion levers. It was all done for me, in vivid detail. Thank you Mr. Ry. You’re a lifesaver.
Takeaway #5: “Cheating” with GOOD frameworks is an absolute necessity when you have no time
It was also crazy nerve wracking to put out copy into the world that had ZERO revisions, no breathing time, no critique… aka VERY raw stuff. Presented as final. Ugh.
Like, it’d be one thing if it didn’t convert.
But if prospective clients read it? Or other copywriters? Cringe.
Thankfully, I’ve been coached on “JUST GET IT OUT THERE” for the past 2 years. So it was hard, but not crippling. I put it out there, raw as it was.
I didn’t want to waste time writing the sales page into a Google Doc and then copying it over into a page builder, so I was excited to hack a cart page using my latest SaaS obsession, Paperform. << affiliate link (told you I’m obsessed)
Now I could write up the copy easily, like I would in a GDoc, but it would look good. No more dragging modals and sections and fussing.
Then I got to where my first CTA button would live.
realized that a Paperform supports multiple checkout forms… but no buttons. I didn’t want a bunch of forms littering my sales page.
UGH. Back to Divi and ThriveCart.
See Takeaway #3. Remember, no new tech when you don’t have time. Even if it’s awesome and you feel really proud of yourself for hacking your favorite software to do something cool.
Now I was stuck designing the thing twice. At 11pm.
Do uncomfortable things? (And a stupid, rookie mistake)
Ha, what “next?” It was late!
But… I still had another task on my list.
Another very uncomfortable task on my list: promoting to the real people in my life
I have no qualms with selling to my list. But to people who aren’t asking for it? Icky.
I did it anyway. And I’m still not sure if it was a good idea or not.
On the one hand, it was a free webinar with helpful information. And in the interim, my WhatsApp exploded with webinars and magic shows and blog posts. If everyone else was sharing useful information, what made my webinar any different?
On the other hand, it felt a little dishonest. Everyone in the launch world knows webinars are usually sales pitches. But the parents in these groups? Maybe they’d be turned off by the pitch at the end.
Everyone always says “do uncomfortable things” but this felt too far out of my comfort zone. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, it felt wrong. I dropped it for the relaunch.
And since we’re talking about uncomfortable things, let’s go back to the ad copy for a second.
I was writing it fast – in between email threads and setting up tech stuff.
I was still hearing the no-selling talk everywhere I looked.
So… I didn’t push hard. I was hesitant to be too persuasive.
I was hearing desperate parents on my WhatsApp groups scrambling to adjust to their new reality.
I wasn’t thinking about how scattered they’d be feeling and how hard it would feel to commit time to anything.
All I was thinking about was how perfectly I could answer their questions. For free.
So… I figured the webinar would sell itself.
ARGH. Stupid, rookie mistake! Duh, duh, duh. I’ve heard this a thousand times… coached clients on it… I know this! But apparently, I didn’t KNOW it.
Takeaway #6: Nothing sells itself. Sure, you know this. But check yourself a thousand times. Get in that outsider’s perspective and explain the thing like a car manual.
Tuesday was weird. Because on Tuesdays I work for Copyhackers.
So in the middle of all the nitty gritty and ironing out details and blah blah blah, I dropped it all and went off to write some referral emails.
This was actually a good thing.
Giving your brain a break lets it be more creative.
So as it wasn’t working actively on the launch, it was silently strategizing how to present the webinar.
Takeaway #7: in the spaces where you need to ideate, take a break and take your mind off thinking actively. Go for a walk (with your mask), take a shower, bake some bread.
Tuesday wasn’t totally launch-free.
Remember, I don’t usually work full days, so I did my Copyhackers half-day and then went back into launch stuff.
Testing the cart page for one.
Trying (and failing) to get the social share buttons on the confirmation page to direct friends to sign up for the webinar.
Syncing ThriveCart to Divi… which left a neon green button that floated slightly left of center. Wouldn’t move no matter how much I tried.
I also had a quick call with a peer to gauge my pricing.
I told her what I was offering and that I wanted to price it low so it could be accessible for a wider audience. And then had her guess what I was thinking.
She suggested $150. Low, but not too low.
Um… I was too low.
$55 full price.
$39 if you bought within 24-hours.
I kept my too-low pricing anyway. Because I really did want it to be accessible.
And because I had those “don’t sell” voices still in my head.
I’m still not sure about how I priced it. And whether it was a mistake or not.
I did want it to be accessible.
But I also think YOUR people – the people who are interested aren’t swayed by 10, 20, 30 dollars.
I wonder if people thought it wasn’t valuable enough because it was too cheap.
I wonder if I wouldn’t have gotten anyone if I’d gone higher.
Honestly, pricing is just something you have to test. And I didn’t have any data on this market.
And… I don’t know if I could have handled it emotionally if I’d priced it higher. I was experiencing enough doubt as it is.
Kinda lame, but it’s what happened.
Um… if I could pull it together in time.
On Saturday night, I had outlined all the different things I could possibly teach, so I used that as my outline: what would be included in the course, what would be included in the webinar.
I grabbed the webinar template that Joanna Wiebe shared in The 10x Freelance Copywriter in like… January 2019. I saw an actual webinar based off the script back in 2018 and LOVED it. It was the first webinar I’d attended where I actually felt something.
I fell even harder in love when I got the behind-the-scenes walkthrough. It’s pretty much the coolest, most brilliant webinar script ever.
And it was REALLY helpful to not have to think. To just fit my story and content into the script.
See Takeaway #5. There is no way I could have done this launch without these amazing frameworks. No way.
I practiced while I made the slides, because I still had to set up the replay emails. And the sales emails. And the Slack groups – plural. Plural for all. these. things. Because, remember, I went overachiever with segmentation. WHY????
Oh, and since the Demio free trial only allows for 25 attendees, it was time to upgrade. I had 879 registrants for the first webinar, and 223 for the second so I chose the highest pricing tier. Down $234.
And then, it was show time.
The webinar went well… until I started crying.
Ok, it wasn’t that bad. But it was awkward.
Sure, it was vulnerable and endearing and all that good stuff WHEN IT’S SOMEONE ELSE. But when it’s you getting all misty eyed and emotional? AND your mom and mother-in-law and aunt and long lost friends are watching? Yeah. Not fun.
And then… (as if the first set of tears wasn’t enough) right as I announced the 24 hour bonus… I realized I had never set up a coupon code.
Takeaway #8: Test your funnel from start to finish. Not each piece at its own time. Every last thing from start to finish. Actually practicing your webinar is a good idea too. 😉
I barely gave time for questions because I had ANOTHER webinar to deliver… and in the buffer time I reserved for questions, I needed to set up a coupon code!!!
I scrambled out of Demio and set up that code.
Delivered the second webinar.
118 people showed up to the first. 34 people showed up to the 2nd.
I KNEW THAT WOULD HAPPEN.
I was presenting in the wrong time zone! I was relying on replays!
Why did I upgrade Demio to the highest tier??????
That was a total waste of $133.
Why did I upgrade?
Because I wasn’t thinking. Because I was busy pulling this all together. Because there was “upgrade Demio” on my to do list. I looked at the registrant numbers and upgraded without thinking through what those numbers meant – so I could go back to my task list. Argh.
Takeaway #8: Earmark some extra budget for mistakes. That way, you’re covered if they happen. And if they don’t, go get a massage. You deserve it.
On to the next frustrating thing.
One of my advertisers didn’t post the reminder story that they promised. I sent him a quick email… and he posted a “watch the replay” story.
Then I went into ActiveCampaign to update my launch sequence with an actual coupon code. And… all my emails were paused because I’d doubled my subscriber and needed to upgrade.
I headed to the upgrade page and… wait… I was on an annual plan.
But I just wanted to upgrade for the month. These new subscribers had nothing to do with my usual offerings. They weren’t valuable long-term subscribers.
I chatted support.
And Emily blew me away.
P.S. She didn’t just cover the cost of the upgrade for the month – but all the way until my expiration (in October!).
Back to that advertiser who posted late…
I’d off-the-cuff asked him to post late… but with more time to think, I realized that posting late wasn’t good enough.
His posting late – even with a “watch the replay” addition – because the Demio replay page has no lead cap.
Looking back, I should’ve just hosted and gated the replay myself not only to keep capturing leads, but also so I could track visitors. My data’s missing a big, big chunk because of this. But at the time, I was too busy scripting and shooting the actual course!
Without these replay leads I couldn’t send follow up emails. Something that um… as an email copywriter, I think is important in closing the sale. 😀
Plus, the story he posted was obviously slapped together in half a minute. Not what I paid for. (And he wasn’t cheap either.)
I sent another email, asking if he could do another post or story to make up for it.
I sent another email asking for a partial refund.
The response was swift this time.
You got what you paid for, you’re being ridiculous.
(Ok, not exactly those words, but close enough.)
I was frustrated but conflicted.
Partly because I’m a people pleaser and I didn’t want to be annoying.
But also because I think he’s a really strong, cool person and I think he’s putting great content out into the world.
I wrote up an angry email that explained why I did NOT get what I paid for. Gave it to my husband to edit down to normalcy. Sent it and set up a filter so I wouldn’t see the guy’s response and told my husband to check the filter.
I did my due diligence. I didn’t need to see what happened next.
Sorry, just had to let off some steam. It was stressful, not getting what I paid for – and being “told” that I was annoying and ridiculous for standing my ground.
Takeaway #9: Launches (like other stressful things) are a really great way to grow as a person
My gut instinct is to walk away from conflict. I’m proud that I responded, even if I had to set up that filter and hide my head in the sand a little bit.
So… let’s get vulnerable.
With cold hard numbers. (So cold.)
Webinar registrants: 1,102
Live attendees: 152
Course registrants: 30
Expenses: $2005.87 (The additional $421.87 was for related admin wages.)
Revenue: $1,266.87 (Missing a few zeros from $100,000, aye?)
In the red: $739
Here’s where things get interesting
Most of my conversion rates weren’t actually that bad, according to industry benchmarks.
And my attendee to buyer rate was awesome.
So what did go wrong?
1. My registrant to attendee rate was dismal.
I couldn’t control this in time. Tech just couldn’t help me align our time zones in 72 hours. I WISH I could see how many replays viewers I got, but in the absence of data, I’m assuming it was low.
2. I was obsessing about my forgotten coupon code and lime green CTA button.
But I’m not sure how many sales that actually prevented. Sure, I felt crazy unprofessional. But my gut tells me that it’s more about the relationship and the promised value than about how sleek your page looks.
3. I messed up the “urgency” part of things. Consciously.
I have a really hard time with shutting down bonuses and shutting doors. Chalk it up to my people pleasing inclinations. It feels so mean to give a bonus to one person and not the next – because they slid in 24 hours later. It feels so mean to close access – especially since I knew the webinar hadn’t reached enough people.
I have to keep exploring this. Because if more people sign up because of fast action bonuses and closed doors, I’m actually serving more by saying no.
4. I didn’t get enough registrants for the amount I spent in ads.
This was partly because I wasn’t charging enough for the course. Partly because I wasn’t pushing the value of the webinar enough. And also because I was an unfamiliar entity.
Don’t underestimate this. 20% of my students were copywriters. Despite this offer having NOTHING to do with copywriting.
“People buy from those who they know, like and trust” took on a whole new meaning for me.
Think these takeaways were worth $739?
Just in case not, I’ll give you one more:
Takeaway #10: Charging for your content doesn’t just make you money. It helps people. More than it would help them if you gave them free content.
When my friend told me I was taking advantage of people by charging, I didn’t take it personally and very calmly responded like so:
And then my very mature brain angrily defended my stance all night long:
- If I do it free, I can’t spend much time on it. I can’t spend time developing what I want to give over, nor will I deliver it as clearly. If I charge, I can structure it so it’s clear – plus I can develop a full course out of what I know, instead of just a 30 minute webinar.
- If I do it free, I can’t reach as many people. IIf I’m earning money, I can spend money. Which means I can advertise. Which means I can reach more lovely eyeballs.
But my very mature brain was wrong.
There aren’t just 2 reasons to charge for your expertise, but 3.
And unlike the first two, the third has nothing to do with you and how much your time is worth. It has everything to do with the people you’re trying to help.
A LOT of friends got in touch while I was launching.
I gave some course access, gratis. I sent others voice notes addressing their specific issues.
Guess how many listened to what I told them? Yep, zero.
Because they didn’t pay for it.
Paying for something means you’re acknowledging the person as an expert. As someone who can teach you. It opens you up to learning.
Getting info for free? It’s just more clutter.
You’ve probably heard this before: people don’t value free.
And it’s true. Even when people are desperate for what you have to offer.
So go launch. Go help people.
Just, leave out the lime green buttons, k?
Do you have friends who should be launching something awesome? Save them from the mistakes I made and share this post with them.
Do you have friends who are having a hard time with the school closures? Share the free webinar with them: nikkielbaz.com/sanity-webinar-instant-access
Do you have friends who are FREAKING out over school closures? Share The Home Front with them: nikkielbaz.com/thehomefront