You never forget your first product launch.
One of our readers sums it up perfectly: “I never thought I could make over $3K in a week online,” he says. “It was amazing. I felt like I had just discovered a life hack.”
That’s not to say that your first launch is easy. Our CEO, Ramit Sethi, has spoken candidly about how much his early launches wiped him out.
“I’d been working days, nights, and weekends — for weeks — and had almost nothing to show for it,” he remembers of an early launch. “I can still remember sitting in my apartment, clicking ‘Ctrl-R’ on shopping cart software again and again, frustrated I wasn’t getting more sales.”
But something happens the second time you launch. Or the third time. Or the fourth. Sales funnels take shape a little more quickly. The emails are a little easier to write. Reader responses get a little more enthusiastic. Your email list grows, your revenue climbs upward, and you find yourself thinking:
This is working.
Every entrepreneur who sticks with it long enough has one — a launch that told them: Yes, I CAN build a sustainable business. For this post, we asked entrepreneurs to share what that launch looked like for them. A few clear themes emerged:
Build a product you believe in. Don’t be afraid to test. Find a system that works — and trust it.
“Once you figure out the formula, you can rinse and repeat”
For some people, that confidence is there right from the outset — the first time they ever launch a product. That’s how it was for Idrees Ally, creator of Recite in Tune.
“My first launch made around $12K, which was a lot of money at the time,” he remembers. “It definitely gave me the confidence that I could do this.”
“It’s a formula, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “Once you put in the work and figure out the formula, you can rinse and repeat.”
Helpful link: 3 essential systems for starting an online business
“I got better at relaying the value to my audience”
Launches don’t click for everyone the first time around. For social media expert Jackie Muscat, it was her third launch of a £99 product that “flipped the switch.”
The first time Jackie launched the product, she got 7 sales. The second time: 16. The third time: 67 sales — and over £6k of pure profit.
“Just to put [it] into context, the part-time job I was working paid me £16k a year,” she explains. “So I made, in one week, what I would normally make in 5 months. It blew my mind.”
Nothing about her product changed between the three launches, Jackie says. And while her email list and Facebook group grew a bit from launch to launch, it wasn’t enough to explain such a dramatic uptick in sales.
The change wasn’t the product, Jackie says. It was her.
“I got better at relaying the value to my audience. I got better at placing my product in their vision as not just a solution but the ONLY solution to their problem,” she says. “I primed better. I became more confident and more entertaining online. I shook off my corporate self. I listened. I kept trying. I always provided utmost value, and I got better and better.”
Jackie says that her confidence came from knowing that she had built a great product, and that she was building on a strong foundation.
“I knew I’d followed [GrowthLab’s] advice. I knew the product was something my audience needed and wanted,” she says. “It just came down to getting better at pitching it.”
Helpful link: How to sell in a way that’s not sleazy
“I did the research. I knew it was an amazing offer”
Jackie Muscat’s “I can do it” launch came from finding the right way to pitch one product. For Workweek Lunch founder Talia Koren, finding launch synergy meant finding the right product to launch.
Talia tested a number of direct sale products with her list: a few recipe e-books, a few one-off meal plans. They sold okay through passive sales, she says — but nothing like what she would need if she wanted to quit her job and pursue the business full time.
Then, Talia launched what she thought was the solution: her first premium-priced product — a paid 9-week accountability group priced at $197.
“That was a MAJOR fail,” she says. “I should have known that an audience who was all about meal prepping to save money wouldn’t want to drop $200 on an accountability group.”
In the aftermath of the accountability group debacle, Talia went back to the fundamentals: really listening to her audience, and creating a product that she knew her audience would love.
“I did the research,” she says. “I tested my program for 3 weeks with a small group of 30 people from all over the world. I knew it was an amazing offer.”
Talia called her new product the Workweek Lunch Meal Prep Program. It’s a $7.99/month meal plan subscription where she sends new exclusive recipes, grocery lists, and meal plans to members every week.
Her confidence in the product was validated come launch time. “In the first week, I got nearly 300 customers,” she says. “Since then, I’ve grown to well over 1,000 active members by selling the program through Instagram, my email list, and my website.”
Talia launched the program in June. By September she had the confidence to quit her job and make Workweek Lunch her full-time job.
As for what the experience of trying, then failing, then trying again taught her about product launches?
“I think the most important thing I realized is how important it is to build a loyal audience first,” Talia says. “There are people in the program that have been customers since my first ever product launch in August 2017. Even though those products aren’t available anymore, they stayed with me!”
Helpful link: How to see the world exactly as your customers do
“I’m taking the feedback and applying it moving forward”
Part of the reason it can be hard to feel confident in your launches when you’re just starting out is that it’s so easy to compare yourself with others. That’s what happened to couples therapist Isiah McKimmie when she started launching online courses a year ago.
“I was seeing all these people around me make $30,000 from their first launch,” she says. “And my numbers weren’t like that.”
The two things Isiah says were instrumental in helping her overcome that impulse to compare:
- Having clear guidelines for what “success” looked like for her, based on her specific list size and audience, which came from the Greenlight Benchmarks in Zero to Launch, our course about starting an online business.
- Remembering that no single individual launch is make-or-break. It’s about testing, and building on what you’ve done before.
“It’s not about putting on a show, like I have to pull these incredible numbers out of the air and it’s just this miracle,” Isiah says. “There’s a system, and I’m just testing to see what works.”
Isiah got a chance to apply this spirit of inquiry to her most recent launch, when she realized that something felt different than it had in the previous two launches she’d run. “People just weren’t responding as strongly as they had before,” she says.
Instead of panicking, Isiah did what her launch training taught her to do: “I sat down about midway through the launch and said, ‘Okay, what’s going on here that hasn’t been in the last launches?’”
And here’s the part that tells Isiah that she has what it takes to keep running launches for the long term. “Instead of like feeling like, ‘Oh, I’m such a failure,’ I can say, ‘That’s great. Now I get it. I see what I did, I see what’s different. And now I can tweak it again for the next time,’” she says.
“It’s not about being perfect. I don’t feel that pressure nor need to have to have everything perfect. I’m just taking the feedback and applying it moving forward.”
“My readers WANT to buy from me”
Sometimes, it takes a launch that pushes you out of your comfort zone to show you just how much is possible in your business. That’s what happened for style expert Peter Nguyen.
Peter had been running his business The Essential Man for a while when his business coach issued him a challenge: open and close a launch — in 24 hours.
“I used [GrowthLab’s] signature 5-day email sequence, but instead of spreading out over 5 days I scheduled it for 24 hours,” Peter explains. “It became my biggest single launch to date! I was one sale away from the mythical 5-figure launch — $9,800. In 24 hours!”
Peter notes that growing more confident with launches doesn’t mean that all your worries disappear. “Compressing a sales launch to 24 hours really tested my fear of selling,” he says. “Sending five emails in a week, or 10 emails over two weeks, is like nothing compared to five emails in one day!”
As for what this most recent launch has taught Peter about launches more generally? “The most important thing I realized was that my readers WANT to buy from me,” he says. “I can generate amazing amounts of revenue — nearly $10K in 24 hours! — IF I create amazing products and give readers opportunities to buy.”
Helpful link: How to double the revenue of your next launch
You CAN master product launches
We’ve talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs about their launches. The stories we’ve shared here aren’t outliers. They’re case studies in principles we’ve heard from entrepreneurs over and over again.
Build a product you believe in. This is why we put so much emphasis on Immersion and building a deep relationship with your audience before you ever launch a product. Because when you start with a great product — one you know solves a problem for your audience — then launching is just a matter of making small tweaks that allow all of that hard work to shine.
Don’t be afraid to test. You may make $50K with your next launch. You may make $5. But you won’t make anything if you don’t put your product out there and give your audience something to react to. Mastering the art of the launch starts with having the courage to launch in the first place — and know that, whatever happens, it’s all data you can use for next time.
Find a system — and stick to it. GrowthLab student Sam Gavis-Hughson summed it up in our article about his first few launches: Learning how to start a business is a lot like cooking. When you start off, you want to stick closer to the recipe: make sure you’re adding all the ingredients and getting the fundamentals exactly right. Then, as you grow more experienced, you can tweak the recipe to suit your own taste — and the tastes of your audience.
But it starts with getting the foundation right first.
At GrowthLab, we’ve been refining our launch recipe for more than a decade, and we love sharing our insights about what can make or break a launch with other entrepreneurs.
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