28 Feb

Should you launch more than once? I’ve got $58,332 as evidence.

What’s the best way to make a big splash with a product launch?

Or more specifically, how do you make the most money from a launch? That’s a question I’ve been working on for the last year and a half, since before my first book launch.

For a successful launch you need to build a following (email is the best way to do this) and then build up anticipation and excitement—all before you give anyone an opportunity to buy. I’ve perfected this technique over the last five or six launches (hitting up to $36,000 in 24 hours!).

A new edition

It was after my re-launch of The App Design Handbook for the new iOS 7 edition that I started to wonder if my model of launching a product once was flawed. Or at least less than optimal.

The book had been out for just over a year, and sales had slowed considerably. In October 2013 (one month before the re-launch) the book sold 10 copies for $1,190. Then I worked up to a brand new launch on November 6th and sold $55,960 in the month of November, most of that on launch day.

The huge change had to do with a couple factors:

  • Many people who would have purchased in October knew an update was coming soon.
  • A fresh new topic (iOS 7) drove a lot of new interest for the book.
  • Blog posts and emails drove a lot of attention and traffic.

Including all those factors, the simple truth is that people are far more likely to purchase during a launch than any other time. For me this was unfortunate since I only launched each of my products once.

In an average month—where I don’t launch a product—my book sales drop to about $10,000 in combined revenue.  That is easily dwarfed by a $30,000+ launch day.

Multiple launches for Photoshop for Interface Design

If I make $30,000+ in a launch, why not try to do two? With my latest course, Photoshop for Interface Design, I had the perfect reason. The course wasn’t going to be finished in time for launch on January 14th, so a few weeks earlier I made the decision that it would be a beta launch. I would open up the launch to just the portion of my list that had expressed interest in my design posts and products, and make the course available for only 24 hours. After that it would go offline while I used the feedback to finish the course. Then a month later I planned to re-launch it.

Launch #1 – January 14th, 2014

For the first launch I used the following email sequence, just sent out to a subset of my list that had expressed interest in my design content or products.

  • How to use Photoshop to design interfaces – January 2, 2014
    This email was for a new blog post I sent out and had the contents of the blog post in the body of the email.

    • 8,548 Recipients
    • 49.1% Open rate
    • 10% Click Rate
    • 0.3% Unsubscribe rate
  • Using shapes & paths in Photoshop – January 9, 2014
    Also a blog post in the body of the email, but it included links to YouTube videos, which were the bulk of the content.

    • 9,029 Recipients
    • 47% Open rate
    • 7.3% Click Rate
    • 0.7% Unsubscribe rate
  • Tomorrow morning – January 13, 2014
    A detailed email that answered every question I thought a potential buyer might have about the course.

    • 9,019 Recipients
    • 59% Open rate
    • 0% Click Rate
    • 1.4% Unsubscribe rate
  • Ready – January 14, 2014
    A very short email that basically just had a link to the sales page.

    • 8,913 Recipients
    • 53.1% Open rate
    • 16.1% Click Rate
    • 1.1% Unsubscribe rate
  • Sale closing + live event – January 14, 2014 (late afternoon)
    A quick reminder email about the sale ending and mentioning a live webinar the next morning.

    • 8,738 Recipients
    • 47.5% Open rate
    • 7.4% Click Rate
    • 1.2% Unsubscribe rate
  • Closing in 30 minutes – January 15, 2014
    A “last chance” email just to the people who had signed up specifically for this Photoshop course, but had not purchased yet.

    • 1,107 Recipients
    • 60.4% Open rate
    • 14.1% Click Rate
    • 1.2% Unsubscribe rate

Just before closing the launch I ran a webinar (promoted the day before) where I taught design techniques and answered questions live. About 70 people attended (I canceled my GoToWebinar account so I don’t know the exact number) and as best I can tell I made zero sales. My theory is that the only people who attended were those who just wanted more free content and didn’t plan to buy.

In those 24 hours (actually it was 25 by the time sales were actually closed) the course sold $35,732. Twenty-two sales of the $119 Starter Package for $2618 and 172 sales of the $199 Complete Package for $33,114.

That is less than $1,000 shy of my previous launch record, set by The App Design Handbook, iOS 7 Edition.

Launch #2 – February 25th, 2014

For the second launch I built up to it by dripping out some content from the course.  This went out to my entire email list, not just those who had expressed interest in my design products (like the previous launch).

  • Redesigning the United Flight Search Interface in Photoshop – February 13, 2014
    A short email that linked to my redesign videos in a blog post.

    • 16,085 Recipients
    • 53.1% Open rate
    • 21.3% Click Rate
    • 1% Unsubscribe rate
  • Part 2: Redesigning the United Flight Search Interface in Photoshop – February 19, 2014
    This email included more information on the upcoming course along with a link to the second blog post in the series.

    • 16,087 Recipients
    • 46.9% Open rate
    • 9.4% Click Rate
    • 1% Unsubscribe rate
  • Tomorrow morning – February 24, 2014
    Answering questions about tomorrow’s launch. About 75% the same email as when I sent it during the previous launch.

    • 15,959 Recipients
    • 51.6% Open rate
    • 0% Click Rate
    • 1.4% Unsubscribe rate (Oddly enough, this is the exact same unsubscribe rate as when I sent it last time.)
  • The course is live – February 25, 2014
    A very short email that basically just had a link to the sales page.

    • 15,729 Recipients
    • 42.6% Open rate
    • 8.5% Click Rate
    • 0.9% Unsubscribe rate
  • Sale ending + the *right* way to draw a line chart – February 26, 2014
    A reminder about the sale, a couple testimonials about the course, and another video from the course.

    • 15,537 Recipients
    • 34.7% Open rate
    • 4.5% Click Rate
    • 0.9% Unsubscribe rate
  • 30 minutes left – January 15, 2014
    A “last chance” email to just the people who had signed up specifically for this Photoshop course, but had not purchased yet.

    • 1,509 Recipients
    • 52.7% Open rate
    • 9.6% Click Rate
    • 1.6% Unsubscribe rate

After the lackluster results from the first webinar, I decided not to do another one for this launch. During this second launch I sold 121 units for $22,600 in revenue. The breakdown between packages was 16 sales of the Starter Package for $1,841 and 105 sales of the Complete Package for $20,696.

Combined revenue

When you combine the numbers from the two launches I sold $58,332, definitely making it the most profitable (though non-consecutive) 48 hours I’ve ever had.

 Are two launches better than one?

The question I wanted to answer was, “Will two launches generate more revenue than just one launch?” I can only make rough comparisons to other launches (you can’t A/B test this), but it seems this did increase revenue.

When you look beyond the first 24-hours of a launch there are always long-tail sales that continue, but decline, over time. On The App Design Handbook, iOS 7 Edition, this resulted in another $15,000 in the month after the first 24 hours. When I closed down sales after the first Photoshop for Interface Design launch I cut off any potential for the long tail sales.

The second launch—where I left it available for sale—should continue to drive sales. I think when looking at a 90-day picture it will be clear that two launches were more profitable than just one, but maybe only for a 50% increase in revenue (or less). Two launches certainly didn’t double revenue.

What if I launched each product once per year?

So if launches drive far more revenue, and training products need to be updated periodically, what if I launched each new product once per year? I could even do it similarly to Apple, where each product has its season. The iPhone is typically updated in September, the MacBook Air in the summer, and the iPad has recently switched from a Spring refresh to be in the late fall.

launchx2-seasons

Following that model I could re-launch my products each year close to the anniversary of when they were first launched: The App Design Handbook in September, Designing Web Applications in December, and Authority in May. Adding my new Photoshop course to the mix I would then have 4 products that could be re-launched one per season: winter, spring, summer, fall.

No product would get more than a year out of date and I could make sure that as my list grew, new subscribers (about 1,500 per month) wouldn’t miss out on my old products.

At first I thought all my subscribers knew about all my books. That was until last fall when I was asking for case studies from people who had read and implemented the ideas in Authority. I received a surprising number of questions along the lines of, “What’s Authority?”

I had been worried I’d been talking about products too much, but in reality many of my subscribers didn’t even know some of them existed!

Predictable work

A recent goal of mine has been to create more systems to make my work more predictable and efficient. Re-launching a new edition of one book or course each quarter would mean I would know exactly what I was working on for the year and could plan and schedule my time accordingly.

Unfortunately, following this idea I already missed my window (December) for launching a new edition of Designing Web Applications, which is the product most in need of an update. Though I could re-launch that product much sooner and adjust the entire schedule to accommodate it.

Boredom

I really enjoy creating and launching new products. As I learn new things I am eager to teach them to my audience. The result is that I now have seven launched products and two more in various stages of completion.

The idea of just regularly updating my past products sounds really boring. But I can’t just keep creating products forever. At some point—which I think is fast approaching—I’ll have too many products and will start to confuse readers.

The problems with a launch-driven business

Since I make more money doing product launches, the tendency is to figure out how to do more launches. But unless you do a launch every single month (something I don’t want to do), your revenue will vary wildly. As I mentioned earlier, my book revenue ranges from $10,000 to $50,000+ per month. That’s not sustainable. You can’t hire a team with revenue that sporadic, because if you fail to do a launch or a launch gets delayed you are going to be short on cash, but still needing to make payroll.

I know of several businesses—similar to mine—that have grown into  millions of dollars in revenue (and grown to a large team to match) that had to lay everyone off because they couldn’t make launch-based revenue sustainable.

launch-revenue-expenses

Also, launches are a lot of work. Do you really want to rely on working hard every single month? The point of building an online business is so that you have flexibility and time, not to be a slave to a hamster-wheel of product launches.

Recurring revenue

My new ventures, Building Profitable Audiences, ConvertKit, and an unnamed new product, all use a recurring revenue business model. Instead of paying a larger up-front amount, you pay each month for access to the tool or training. This means that each month revenue is predictable and the product still makes meaningful money, even without a product launch.

But it takes a very long time to get recurring revenue products—like a SaaS app—up to a meaningful amount of revenue. With the same amount of work it would take for me to add $1,000 per month to ConvertKit, I could add $50,000 in one-time revenue from a new product.

With that in mind, I plan to balance my effort between both recurring revenue products and one-off product launches. Because the truth is, launches work well.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Most of this discussion doesn’t matter to you if you haven’t yet launched your first product. In that case you don’t need to worry about when to relaunch it, or particular schedules. But you can still learn from following my email sequences. Also, take a look at my email course, Mastering Product Launches, to learn more.

A new course

My product launch blog posts are some of my most popular—and my free email course on product launches has driven more email subscribers than any other source. With all that demand I am now finally working on a new video course called Mastering Product Launches. It will be at least 4-5 hours of video content covering everything from building an audience for your very first launch, up to building systems so that you can have successful launches on a regular basis.

To hear when the full course is ready—and get a sample of the content I’ll be talking about—sign up for the free Mastering Product Launches email course below.

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22 Responses to “Should you launch more than once? I’ve got $58,332 as evidence.”

  1. Nathan,

    Congrats on the success of the launch. The advice that you gave me for the launch of my first book was invaluable and I’m already thinking of doing an updated version of the book this fall. Seeing the results in this post has definitely got me thinking more about that.


  2. Thanks for sharing all this Nathan. Appreciate the transparency.

    I do think multiple launches help but you need more data to really make that conclusion. What usually happens when you launch the same product multiple times is that immediately after the launch, you usually see a dip in sales below than normal for a certain period of time, i.e. 60-day average.

    If you have your metrics and KPIs, you should be able to tell if the 2-3 months after the launch outperforms or underperforms your 60-day average. That’s when you sort of know if multiple launches are good or not.

    Also, I think when you do a launch and you discount the product during the launch, it’s different to quantify that. People will buy it because it’s at a lower price so you can’t really compare it then to your 60-day average where the price is the same and the benefits of the product is really the main driver for conversion.

    If you don’t mind some feedback, I noticed the “tomorrow” email has a pretty high unsub % because you sent it to everyone. I suspect that if you just send it to people who opened the previous 1-2 email(s) OR clicked on a link in the previous 1-2 email(s) you’ll be able to avoid that.

    Totally agree that launch-based businesses can be dangerous but you seem to be ahead of that already with your recurring services. That’s smart. I’ve seen too many businesses go down because they couldn’t sustain the launch model.

    And respect for doing all this mostly by yourself. I don’t know how you do it, but it must super intense focus and work.

    Congrats on the launch and sharing this with everyone!


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Thanh,

      Thanks for commenting. It was great hanging out with you in Vegas at NMX!

      I think you’re right that the 60-day average is what’s important to focus on. I need to get better with tracking my numbers.

      I like the idea of only sending the reminder to people who opened or clicked previous emails.


  3. Amazing article as usual. I just got my website launched. I put up a simple Ebook/guide for people who are maybe wanting something now and have a more substantial guide that I’ll save for when I develop a decent email list


  4. Congrats on the successes, Nathan.

    It’s really interesting to see that the “preview”/beta launch made more money while being launched to fewer people. Maybe there’s something you can do along the lines of targeting your launches to maximize results even further.

    As always, thanks for being so open with all of your numbers and data. It’s great motivation, and also nice to see some examples of email marketing result rates for a large list.


  5. Nathan,

    Congrats on the success of your recent product launches. This post was extremely inspiring. The numbers you shared here demonstrate what’s possible when you take action.


  6. Nathan,
    Do you think having an affiliate network can help in sustaining the sales after the launch?

    Your affiliates can keep driving people in their email lists to your products over and over again.


  7. Amazing post, thanks for sharing with us this great information, i think if you add an affiliate program to your products, i’am sure you are going to earn a lot of money and a sustainable revenue each month.


  8. A great post, and thanks for sharing the detailed numbers behind. Isn’t one benefit of the second launch (aside from the effect on long-tail sales that you cited) that you can tweak the content and approach a bit based on information and feedback from the first launch?


  9. Amazing article, i agree with Abhijit’s idea, looking forward for more artciles.


  10. Nathan,

    I’m really getting a lot out of your launch series. The stat’s are pretty amazing too. It’s really getting me fired-up!

    Thanks,

    Robb


  11. Hello Nathan, thanks for sharing the details.
    Would you share how to build list or email list?
    Thank you.


  12. Thanks for this highly informative post Nathan. The numbers are great and laying out your email sequences w/ rates makes me feel like I just got to peek into your computer and now have super secret benchmarks to work from:) The part that I love the most though is your openness around questioning the business model you are creating and what will ultimately work best for you. I am no where near your size yet but already frustrated by the always-be-launching cycle and really appreciate your perspective.


  13. Hey Nathan,

    Very insightful article as always! I’ve launched a video course last November and rather than dip, the sales are slowly climbing each month! Hopefully it continues but just thought I’d share that as my experience differs a little from what you’re seeing.

    Thanks
    Chris


  14. Great article Nathan!!
    At one point you mentioned it takes same amount of efforts to achieve $1000 in recurring revenue and $50000 at once through launch.
    So given a condition where you have both options open, what you would prefer?


  15. Thank you for such a detailed and insightful discussion. You certainly have me thinking.

    May I suggest you further explore what’s possible with strategic partnerships to increase the monthly sales? That could end up with a mini launch cycle or effect with different partnerships. Look at Samsung and Paypal – shared audiences to leverage off for mutual benefits.

    Of course there’s always affiliate marketing too, another for of strategic partners.

    As for having a team, maybe a more flexible workforce concept where you book key team members in during a year to match with a planned calendar could help?

    All the best!


  16. […] a product. He originally released “The app design handbook” that scored him over $58,000 in less than 12 months. After the success of his book he’s gone on to launch other products, create a newsletter and […]


  17. […] Should you launch more than once? […]


  18. […] dude made $58,332 on his product launch in February of this year.  That. is. amazing. That’s probably not […]


  19. Hello All,

    Please i want to know, can pre-launch sales strategies for a an up coming membership site?

    If yes, which exact payment processor supports it?


  20. […] seen over and over again that even when a product is available for purchase at any time, people buy during product launches.  Here are a few reasons […]


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