Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It’s an idea that Zak Slayback can very much identify with after his first-ever product launch for his online course, Email Anybody.
“Our server company decided to migrate to Google Cloud the day that I launched the course, so I had a bunch of people emailing me that their credit cards weren’t going through,” he remembers. “My WordPress guy and I were Facebook messaging back and forth like, ‘Why is the website not working? Do we need a different checkout tool? Can we use PayPal? We can’t use PayPal. Okay. So what do we do?’”
Don’t feel too bad for Zak, though. “Everything went wrong, but I still loved it,” he says.
It’s a good thing Zak enjoyed his first launch, because there are a lot more product launches in his future. In fact, the Email Anybody launch was kind of just a practice run for bigger things that Zak has in store.
“$5K is great. I’m really happy with how the launch went,” Zak says. “But I want to move up the value chain. I want to sell bigger products. I’d like to do a launch sometime in the next year that pulls closer to five figures.”
With his big-picture goals for the next year in view, Zak knew he wanted a product launch plan that would help him get the fundamentals of the launch process down cold now, before he raises the stakes.
That’s why, when it came time to design the launch, he brought in guidance from a source he knew he could trust: GrowthLab, and our course on mastering the art and science of the product launch, Breakthrough Launch.
Breakthrough Stats: Email Anybody
List size: 5,400+
Conversion rate: 2.7%
Total Sales: $5,119
Before the product launch: “People asked to pay me.”
If you’ve been reading GrowthLab for a while, you know that one of our favorite pieces of advice for beginner entrepreneurs looking for a business idea is to notice the things people already ask for your help with. Zak is a perfect example.
“People started approaching me and saying, ‘Hey, I need help with sales, can you teach me how to do sales?’ Or, ‘Hey, I want to do a job interview, can you teach me how to do that better?’” he explains. “It was all the stuff that falls under — I hate this phrase — ‘soft skills’ for career stuff.”
People weren’t just asking Zak for advice either. “They asked to pay me,” he says. “They were like, ‘How much do you charge?’ So I pulled a number out of the air. Turns out it was a pretty good number, and it stuck.”
As Zak was fielding requests for career help from friends and contacts, he was also ramping up his output as a writer — and he started noticing a trend in the posts that readers responded to.
“I wrote a couple of articles on cold emailing and emailing for sales and business development that became mini-viral. They went from this Medium publication to The Muse to Fast Company, and from there they got all over the place. So I was like, ‘Oh, there’s something here.’”
The final sign came when a literary agent approached him about writing a book based on some of the posts he’d been writing.
“At that point I had enough signals. I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I should make this into a business.’”
The product: “I wanted to prove that I can get paying students first.”
“Business” doesn’t always have to mean online course — Zak could have continued on with the private coaching and corporate workshops he was already doing, and built a fantastic online business that way.
But he knew he wanted to scale both his earning potential and the number of people he was able to reach. And for that, an online course is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The initial idea for Email Anybody came directly out of what Zak had already noticed with his writing and his private coaching clients: that there was a burning desire for material that could help people improve their emailing skills.
To flesh out exactly what the course should include, Zak drew on three key tactics:
- Good old-fashioned Immersion. “I went through some of the customer discovery stuff from Zero to Launch — emailing people, surveying my list, getting on the phone with a handful of people.”
- Working with private coaching clients. “My coaching clients provided me with a lot of the material — being able to see, ‘Oh, these people are all making this mistake, so that’s probably a pretty common mistake that a lot of people have. I should address that in the course.’”
- Offering free email teardowns. “I emailed my list and told them ‘If you send me a cold email that you’d like to use, I’ll tear it down and give you feedback,’ and I got inundated with like 60 messages almost immediately. That gave me the chance to apply a lot of what I knew, and see how people responded.”
What emerged from this process was Email Anybody. “I can’t guarantee you a reply to every single email. That would be a stupid guarantee,” Zak says. “But I can guarantee you you’ll feel a lot more confident about reaching out.”
For this first product launch, Zak priced the course at $47, but he’s planning on raising that in future launches.
“I put a lot of work into the course. I want to sell it for more than $47,” Zak says. “But I want to prove that I can get paying students first.”
An ironclad product launch plan: “This is the only stuff you need to worry about.”
For developing the course, Zak hewed closely to the recommendations in another of GrowthLab’s products, Zero to Launch. But when it came to launching the course, he knew he was ready for something more intensive.
“I wanted to take launching a little bit more seriously, because I have everything planned out for the next year, and I’m being pretty meticulous about how I’m growing my list and engaging my audience.”
Breakthrough Launch offered Zak exactly what he was looking for: a product launch plan that laid out exactly the kinds of emails he should send, what they should contain, and what he should expect as far as conversion and click-through rates go.
“I really like [GrowthLab’s] material, because it tells you: ‘Don’t worry about this, don’t worry about that,’” he says. “‘This is the only stuff you need to worry about and this is why you need to worry about it.’”
The emails: “I didn’t read the sales page. I bought it based on your emails.”
One of the biggest areas that Zak implemented the advice from Breakthrough Launch was the design of his email funnel.
GrowthLab students know that the email funnel is the lifeblood of a successful product launch. A well-constructed sales email can bring in thousands of dollars in a single day. A well-constructed sales funnel can clear six figures and beyond. But to do it, you have to understand the subtleties of how those emails work for your audience on a psychological level.
“I really like what [Growthlab CEO] Ramit says: that we are just a moment in their day, as far as the email in their inbox goes,” Zak says. “What that means is, you need to have an email going out every single day of this week. You need to directly ask people to buy now. Don’t try to be clever. You need to tell them: This is the course, this is what it gives you, this is why I did it and this is how much it costs.’”
Being upfront about your offer doesn’t mean there’s no room for artistry in designing your funnel.
In Breakthrough Launch, we talk about how every sales funnel tells a story using eight core types of emails, which you can rearrange and customize based on the needs of your specific launch:
- The Hook
- The Tactic
- The Pitch
- The Lift
- The Proof
- The Objection Killer
- The Close
- The Last Chance
For the Email Anybody funnel, Zak took these building blocks and developed an outline that looked like this:
- Monday: The Hook
- Tuesday: The Tactic
- Wednesday: The Pitch
- Thursday: The Objection Killer
- Friday: The Close
- Saturday: The Last Chance
With the structure of his funnel in place, Zak was able to focus on the story he wanted each individual email to tell.
“I wrote a Hook email about how I got to get coffee with almost all of the PayPal co-founders,” he shares. “People loved that. I got a lot of emails from people being like, ‘I can’t wait to hear what you’re writing for the rest of the week.’”
That enthusiasm carried through to the end of the launch.
“I had a number of people email me telling me, ‘Yeah, I didn’t even read the sales page. I just bought it based on your emails. I’m sure the sales page was great, but the emails are awesome. I bought it just based on those.’”
The list: “Were people going to actually buy?”
The best-crafted email funnel in the world won’t get you very far if you don’t have anyone to send it to. That’s where your email list comes in.
Zak had been growing an email list (several, in fact) for a while before the Email Anybody launch. But leading up to the launch, he knew he wanted to get serious about building up an audience that would be interested in what Email Anybody had to offer.
One particularly creative idea for growing his list came out of a conversation with his WordPress developer. “I asked him, ‘What else can we do to grow the email list?’” Zak remembers. “And he said, ‘Why don’t we try Product Hunt?’”
Product Hunt is a Reddit-style online forum for makers and entrepreneurs. You can post anything from apps to books to websites, and ask the Product Hunt community for feedback.
It’s a great example of what we here at GrowthLab call a “fishing hole”: a place on the internet that your target audience tends to gather, that you can go to in order to gain insights about who they are and what’s important to them — and maybe even make an offer that might be of interest to them.
“We threw together a landing page, BestEmailScripts.com, and posted it on Product Hunt,” Zak explains. “It became the #5 product the day it went up. That drove about a thousand email sign-ups right there.”
With the sign-ups from Product Hunt included, Zak had a little over 5,400 subscribers across 3 different lists by the end of the Email Anybody Launch — each list corresponding to a different program that Zak runs.
Career Accelerator: 4,193 subscribers
Best Email Scripts: 949 subscribers
Email Academy: 295 subscribers
The idea of maintaining three different lists might sound daunting to some, but Zak had a very specific question that he was testing.
“I really wanted to know: ‘Are these going to be quality subscribers?’ So I kept the lists separate so I could easily tell, just by looking at MailChimp: Were people going to actually buy? And they did! I was really pleasantly surprised by that.”
Here’s what the conversions rate looked like across the three lists:
Again, Zak thought about the Email Anybody launch and his interactions with his email list with an eye toward the future.
“I’m getting my list familiarized with the idea that I’m going to be selling stuff, so that’s not coming out of the blue for them,” Zak explains. “When I have big things I want to sell, I don’t want a bunch of people suddenly emailing me like, ‘Oh, you’re selling now? You’ve been emailing us for two years and you haven’t sold anything.’”
Zak has taken to heart another launch principle that we preach here at GrowthLab: when it comes to your email list, the quality of your subscribers matters more than the quantity.
“I did a ton of unsubscribes from my main list the week of the launch,” says Zak. “I did probably like 200 or 300 unsubscribes. If they don’t want to engage with this stuff, I don’t want them in my audience.”
The results: “It’s a green light for what you want to do next.”
A few discontented email critics and the problems with payment processing aside, Zak says the Email Anybody launch has been overwhelmingly positive.
“My conversion rate was about 2.7% overall, which was great. I was going to be happy if it was over 1%,” he says.
Zak is already thinking about ways he can apply other lessons from Breakthrough Launch to future product launches.
“Email Anybody would be a beautiful upsell,” he says. “If I did [the course I’m planning on], how to get a job at a startup, that would probably be a $250 product, but with a $100 upsell on it that’s like, ‘Hey, are you anxious about email outreach or networking? Here’s a great course that can help you with that.’”
Even as he looks toward the future, Zak isn’t losing sight of what a big accomplishment this first launch is.
“It’s super cool to have people reach out and say, ‘Hey, I got X, Y, and Z results from the course,’” he says. “I don’t consider myself a sales guru or anything like that, but the question is, ‘If your product costs $47, are you confident it offers $48 worth of value?’ I’m confident that this product actually offers hundreds of dollars worth of value.”
With the lessons from Breakthrough Launch under his belt, Zak is ready to tackle his 2019 goals head-on. “It’s a green light,” he says. “It’s another green light to move on to the stuff that you want to do next.”