#fail – lessons learned from my rubbish launch


Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie is the best-selling author of Email Persuasion and the creator of Unsnooze Your Inbox - *the* guide to crafting engaging emails and newsletters that captivate your audience, build authority and generate more sales.


Email Breakdown: “The Robots are Here” from Copyblogger 22nd February 2023

Groundhog day 22nd February 2023

Online Courses

#fail – lessons learned from my rubbish launch

Have you ever got an email from an online marketing expert telling you about how brilliantly their latest launch went and how you should copy their tactics?

This is not one of those emails :)

My recent launch of my email marketing cohort course was, well, pretty much a disaster. But I've learnt a lot from it and I think you might too, so  in a burst of brutal honesty, here's my breakdown…

The backdrop is that my first two cohort courses were a huge success. They sold out within days and I got the best feedback I've ever had for a course, with a Net Promoter Score averaging about 9.9.

So when I launched and got pretty much zero sales in the first couple of days I was shocked to say the least. I even double checked to make sure the checkout was actually working.

Eventually a couple of sales dripped in, but nowhere near what I was expecting. Not even enough to run a proper cohort.

So where did it go wrong?

Mainly complacency I think.

With the first two cohorts selling so well I took that as a sign that there was a lot of demand for the course and that it would sell out again quickly when I opened up for registration. The fact that more people had registered for the wait list than we had room for on the course added to that impression.

What I hadn't thought – but should have – was “maybe those first two courses took up all the pent-up demand. Maybe everyone who really wanted the course right away has already bought it”. And “maybe the people on the wait list just want the info and aren't all going to buy”.

I spoke last week to an online marketing friend I really respect and he told me the same thing had happened to him recently. Hi did a pilot for a new course that sold out almost instantly so when he launched the course he fully expected a flood of sales.

Instead: crickets.

His conclusion was the same as mine: the initial flood of sales wasn't indicative of a big market. It was simply that all the people who really wanted the course bought the pilot straight away and when he launched shortly afterwards there was no urgent demand left.

So that's the first lesson learned: don't make assumptions – check for alternative explanations

Particularly if you're going to make the second mistake I made which was to ease off the accelerator and not really push the launch because I thought it was going to be easy!

Since the first two cohorts had sold so well and I now had some amazing testimonials in the bag I decided I didn't need to build any extra demand for the course and instead put marketing on the back burner.

At the time we were really busy with Kathy's business and we took a couple of weeks vacation too so it was an easy decision to make.

The reality though was that I did need to build much more demand – or I needed to wait until demand had naturally built up.

When I did my post launch survey the #1 reason for not buying by far (3x the next response) was that the timing wasn't right.

This isn't new news of course. It's almost always the case that at any given point it's not the right time for most people. 

What that means is that you either have to build a bigger list (so that a small percentage of people being ready is still a big number) or you have to build that readiness in your nurture process.

I did neither.

And the truth is that I've somewhat neglected listbuilding in the past few years. My natural focus is to spend my time adding value and nurturing relationships with my current subscribers. But you really need to balance that with getting more new ones too.

The survey also told me that the second top reason for not buying was that for many people, email marketing wasn't an important topic for them.

That's a consequence of a mismatch between my lead magnet (the reason people signed up for my list) and what I was trying to sell.

I've always positioned my business as providing a broad range of marketing tips and ideas to consultants, coaches, trainers and the like. And my lead magnets – like my “Value Based Marketing Blueprint” have reflected that.

Email marketing is something I believe almost everyone should do. But it's not specifically what many people signed up to get help with.

So there's always going to be a subset of subscribers who will never buy an email marketing product. Probably a lot more than the survey suggests I think as if you're not interested in email marketing at all you probably won't take the survey either.

The lesson here is that if you're in that situation you either need to accept it and live with the lower demand and potentially offer a range of products covering all the bases people signed up for.

Or if you really do want to focus your services more, you need to refocus everything including your marketing and lead magnet to be directly relevant to your new offerings.

In my case I do want to be more focused. These days I think it's very difficult to stay on top of a broad range of marketing tactics from email to Linkedin to paid advertising. To give real value you need to be a master of what you advise on.

So that means at minimum I need to update my lead magnet to attract more people who might then want to buy an email marketing course. Obvious when you think about it :)

Anyway – this post is pretty long already. So for now, here's a summary of my lessons learned so far:

  1. Don't make assumptions – explore alternative explanations. And above all – don't get complacent.
  2. Balance nurturing your existing contacts with acquiring new ones.
  3. Align your marketing so that you're attracting the kind of people who would likely buy the products you're offering.

(All sounds simple when you summarise it – but believe me, it's easy to get it wrong in the heat of the moment!)  

    Ian Brodie

    Ian Brodie

    Ian Brodie is the best-selling author of Email Persuasion and the creator of Unsnooze Your Inbox - *the* guide to crafting engaging emails and newsletters that captivate your audience, build authority and generate more sales.