When launching a product there are any number of things that can go wrong. Luckily for The App Design Handbook launch two weeks ago most things went very well. It’s easy to focus on the success, so now I want to take some time to talk through the things I screwed up about the launch. This shows that you don’t have to get everything right to have a massive success, but these are all things I plan to have in place for my next product launch.
1. Didn’t have a detailed landing page
In the spirit of releasing early, I put up a simple landing page that announced the book and offered an email signup (the final result can be seen in this video). While it was a good first start, it didn’t provide much real information about the book. Instead I should have quickly put up the landing page I did, and then replaced it as soon as possible with something that actually taught the user something. Not just about the book, but about how to design applications.
I love Jarrod Drysdale’s approach for his book Bootstrapping Design. The page starts teaching you about design right away. As you learn about the book, simple hints and tooltips explain how to design well.
So I had it right to launch something quickly, but I should have iterated quickly on that design to create something that better explained the product. The full phrase is “release early, release often.” I got the first part right and missed the second part.
2. Waited too long to schedule and submit guest posts
My plan was to have 10-15 guest posts, on a whole range of topics, go live on launch day (September 4th). Though only a few were relevant to the book, they all linked back at least in the author bio at the end. Unfortunately I only ended up with 5 going live that day, with 1 more the next day.
The problem was I just didn’t allow enough time. Pitching a topic, writing the post, getting it edited, and then finally in the publishing queue just takes time. I allowed a month from start to finish, but waited too long to deliver the final drafts. Several posts got rejected from the sites I pitched (this is normal) never found a new home. Others I sent my final draft only for it to take 2+ weeks for their editorial team to review it. Which is totally understandable. It is my fault I didn’t have everything together sooner.
So what did I learn about guest posting?
- Pitch early and to a lot of sites. Each pitch should be completely personalized, both the content of your proposed article and the email you use to pitch it. You will get rejected often.
- Big name blogs can be approachable if you get introductions to the author.
- Get the your final draft to the blog as early as possible. It make take 2-3 weeks to get it published after it has been approved.
- Start early. I know, I said that before, but it is important enough to repeat.
For my next product launch I will be working on getting guest posts lined up for launch day as the second thing I do (right after coming up with an idea for the product).
3. Forgot to include Google Analytics on the sales page
Okay, this is just embarrassing. On launch day I saw guest posts go live, a few sites started to pick up the book, and the traffic to my site increased. I could see 20-30 people on my site with the live stats in Google Analytics, but oddly none of them were on my book sales page. Then I started to get sales. A lot of sales. Still no one was visiting my sales page… how…? Then I realized the sales page, a custom WordPress template I wrote, didn’t have the tracking code.
I missed recording stats for the first hour because I forgot to include the tracking code on the most important page of my site. Oops. Luckily it was a quick fix.
4. Didn’t track conversions
Even though I had basic tracking in place I didn’t actually track conversions. Meaning that I logged every visitor who came to the site and where they went, but didn’t record when they purchased the book. This may not seem important, since Gumroad, my payment processor, provides sales counts. But tracking conversions would tell me which traffic source was more likely to purchase and then I could start A/B testing different copywriting and design changes.
Because of the way the checkout process in Gumroad works this is something I still don’t have in place. If anyone is great with setting up goals and custom events in Google Analytics I would appreciate it if you got in touch.
5. Talked about features rather than benefits
When crafting a pitch it is important to focus on what the potential buyer cares about, rather than just listing features. This is classic “how does it help me?” messaging. I could have talked about how a poorly designed application actually costs you money since users judge based on the only thing they can see: the design. People are skipping over your app for a better designed competitor.
Instead I wrote about what the book includes. A PDF on design, videos, code samples, and more. While people can see the value in that, it is just a list of features, rather than focusing on how it will improve their design experience. A simple messaging change would go a long way.
I’m still working on fixing this one.
6. Didn’t get product reviews before the launch
I focused all my off-site attention on guest posts, but product reviews would probably have had more value. I was working on the final draft of the book up to a day before the launch, so I didn’t have time to get bloggers and other designers to review the book before launch. This left me without quotes, objective reviews, and testimonials to point skeptics to. For my next product I plan to give away early copies to a few key people so that reviews can go live on launch day.
The launch was still a huge success
In future posts I will continue to dissect the launch to learn as much from it as possible. In the meantime you can go purchase the book or subscribe to the blog to continue following along.
What mistakes have you made when launching products?