Case Study: How to launch a product with a tiny email list

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris /

I hear you and I see you.

(That’s what my therapist tells me to say every time I want to lash out.)

This week I’ve documented two product launch case studies, Nathan Barry and One Month Stripe. You’ve learned the intimate details of each launch and how you can apply the same strategies to your business. Combined they have sold $31,000 of product in 4 days.

But when I hit publish on the One Month Stripe case study a few days ago, something weird happened. You started making excuses.

Normally you are an action-oriented person. But over the last two days you’ve been an excuse-filled mess.

This is the problem…

List size.

The two companies I highlighted had an average list size of 16,500 subscribers. Your list is MUCH smaller. And as a result you started making excuses about how this material isn’t applicable to you.

“That’s great, Bryan, but I don’t have 15,000 subscribers!”

“Sounds awesome. But I have 500 people on my list. Next.”

Here is an email I got a few minutes after publishing the last post…

Excuses

Do you see the subtle nuance of his language here?

There are two fallacies in his thinking (and yours):

1. “Magical list”: The first problem is that he looks at an email list as being a “magical” object that’s unattainable.

Here is a secret: it isn’t mysterious or mystical in anyway. In fact, there is a proven step-by-step formula you can follow to build your list from 0 to 1,000 subscribers. I’ve spent the past 6 months on this blog teaching you the exact process.

2. “Not applicable to me yet”: No matter if you have a list of 30 or 30,000, the exact same principles for launching a product apply.

By making excuses like “it’s not applicable to me,” you only cheat yourself.

Framing a large email subscriber base as being unattainable and rejecting proven launch strategies because the people you see using them have a bigger list is a really bad idea.

But…

I get it.

It’s really freaking hard in the beginning. It’s even tougher when all of the examples you read are of people way ahead of you in the process.

So, today I’m going to share with you the details of three launches that I have executed over the past 14 months.

All 3 launches were sent to lists of less than 1,200 subscribers.

Getting 18,000 subscribers like Nathan Barry sounds nearly impossible when you have a tiny list. However, growing from 200 to 1,200? Completely doable.

Pro Tip™: Do this correctly and you could pick up 615 subscribers with one blog post.

Now, let’s jump into the details.

Note: Since so many of you emailed about launching with a tiny list, I made the executive decision to delay the “special guest” I mentioned a few days ago until next week.

[Case Study] How to Launch to 25 People

Videofruit was started on April 29th, 2013. I had no clue that I would quit my job 5 months later and start this blog.

All I had was an idea.

Earlier that weekend I’d stumbled upon a method for making explainer videos and started posting about it inside of a small Facebook group.

These were my first two posts…

Those two Facebook posts generated 49 comments.

I sent private messages to all 49 people and received 25 responses. As I started to talk with each of these prospects, one common theme emerged. They didn’t want to pay for a video: they wanted to know HOW to make the videos themselves.

And so the idea for the Bootstrapper’s Guide to Explainer Videos course was born.

Idea? Check.
Interested Prospects? Check.
Actual Customers? ….

My next objective was to validate the idea for the course with paying customers. I wanted 3 people to pre-order the course for $29. This would show me there was legitimate interest and that people weren’t just being nice but would actually pay money if I created it. So, I Facebook messaged all 25 people, and within 48 hours, 19 of them purchased.

Total Revenue: $551 from 19 customers.

[Case Study] How to Launch to 575 People

Over the next 30 days I stayed in contact with my customers who pre-ordered the course and posted regular updates in the Facebook group.

Then I set up a simple website to give people a way to continue to pre-order. It was ugly but functional.

From May until October I worked on the course. Over that time period I collected another 550 email addresses of those that wanted to be notified when the course went live.

Now my list was sitting at 575 subscribers and it was time to launch.

The Facebook messaging approach was nice for a small validation but would have been completely inadequate with 575 people. Fortunately, I had been paying close attention to how David Garland had launched a recent course of his and I decided to “borrow” his launch strategy.

Keep in mind: at that time I had 575 subscribers and David had well over 50,000.

Me: Tiny List.

David: Mega List.

I copied his formula step by step. And then pressed send.

The launch sequence consisted of a series of 10 emails that walked my readers through the basics of video creation and then gave them an opportunity to buy the premium course if they wanted to take it to the next level.

This is what it looked like.

Of the 575 people who saw this launch sequence, 21 of them bought it for $397. A total of $8,337 in revenue.

Want the exact emails and framework I used for this launch? Keep reading.

[Case Study] How to Launch to 1,200 People

Let’s do a quick recap:

April 2013: Bryan has an idea.

May 2013: Course is validated; 19 people buy at $29.

October 2013: Email list grows to 575 subscribers.

October 2013: Course is launched to 575 people and 21 people buy @ $397.

Now fast-forward to March of 2014. Video creation had taken a backseat to the Videofruit blog. I had been writing twice a week for going on 5 months now and was starting to see some serious traction in both monthly visitors and email list growth.

My list had grown to 1,200 subscribers and I really felt like I knew what I was doing for the first time.

Then one day as I was walking the dog while listening to an episode of Mixergy, I had to stop and sit on the side of the road so I could listen closely. Stu McLaren (membership site guru) was Andrew’s guest that day, and during the interview my name was brought up.

Stu said: “Bryan really should have a membership site.”

This got me thinking. And over the next few days I brainstormed out what a membership site would look like for Videofruit.

After 24 hours of deliberation I decided to validate the membership site by offering a coaching program. Why coaching? My thinking was this: if people were willing to pay me $100 a month to have a one-on-one call, then they would definitely be willing to pay me $15 a month for a membership site.

So I crafted a launch sequence to kick off this new coaching program.

The “it’s time to buy” email went out on Sunday evening at 6 pm…

…and by 8:30 pm it was sold out.

I had opened up only 5 slots initially. 5 people @ $100 per month.

When it sold out I was blown away. A few weeks later I doubled the price and opened up 5 more slots. It sold out too.

Over the last 6 months that coaching program has done $20,465 in revenue

It all started with a simple launch sequence to an email list of 1,200 people.

Here is the BIG Problem with a Small List

So far, you’ve seen three tiny list launch case studies:

  • 25 subscribers grossed $595
  • 575 subscribers grossed $8,700
  • 1,200 subscribers grossed $20,465

Is there any reason you can’t do the same thing?

Not going to lie: I chuckled as I typed that last line. The truth is you could come up with 100 reasons why you can’t do the same thing.

The problem with a tiny list isn’t the list. It’s you.

  • You don’t know what to do with it.
  • You don’t know what launch techniques to use.
  • You don’t know what emails to send.
  • You don’t know….</end rant>

How do I know this?

Because you’ve told me over and over again. And because I was exactly where you are now. Frustrated and annoyed. Completely sick of hearing more stories about people making $16,000 in 72 hours while you bumped along with 700 subscribers.

I get it.

That’s the reason I created Get 10,000 Subscribers. It is a step-by-step course that will show you exactly how to grow an email list from scratch and launch your first product. We open up enrollment into 10ksubs twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, jump on the waiting list here.

I’ll personally shoot you an email a few weeks before the next enrollment period.

 

  • Bryan,

    Love your approach to literally EVERYTHING. Keep rockin

  • Tom

    Great stuff Bryan. Excited for your launch!

  • andrewpawlik

    Thanks, Bryan, for more useful information! I’m in the process of validating an idea I have for a graphic design related course (for entrepreneurs who are tired of spending money on designers), and YOU are my primary source of inspiration.

    Keep em coming, buddy!!

    • Love it. Whats the product? What’s your validation goal?

      • andrewpawlik

        An ebook, targeted at entrepreneurs, that teaches basic design/website principles and software. For the complete beginner or just someone who is sick of paying other people for design work. If I can presell 5 ebooks at $29 (inspired by your validation) then I’ll consider it valid.

  • Bryan, great post to help us big and small to get beyond our excuses.

    Reminds me of the quote “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” – Teddy Roosevelt

    No excuses, just get going!

    • One quote I intended to work into the post, but didn’t, is “To be rich, do what rich people do.” Applies to list building and list selling.

  • Bryan! This is really solid stuff. I’m so so so glad you addressed this issue.

    I think one of the main reasons smaller people make excuses is because no one (of the people writing about this type of stuff) ever speaks about the level they are at, or ever really acknowledges that a majority of their audience is no where near the types of people they are talking about.

    While talking about how to make money with a huge list is inspiring, I think talking about how to get there is much much more useful.

    Looking forward to The Vault!

    • You nailed it. There is something re-assuring about seeing people at the same stage you are doing things. That being said, once of the fastest paths to break through is watching the people 2-3 steps ahead of you and pulling technique from them.

  • Blake Jamieson

    Awesome read Bryan! Stoked for your launch!

  • Wow, this is incredible Bryan. You know what I like best about this post though? It isn’t even the email launch part of it. The fact that you validated your business idea in a Facebook group, made $600, and then built a business from it. . . that is incredible.

    The unfortunate thing is that most people won’t take the time do that initial step of validation because it requires hard work. You had to email/FB message people individually. Most people don’t realize that you can’t get to those scalable launch sequences until you do the hard one-on-one work of validating your ideas first. (OK, by “most people” I mean me.)

    AWESOME stuff man. Your rise this year has been fun to watch. I found out about you from that Mixergy interview with Stu McLaren in March.

    Can’t wait to see what you do next.

    • So true. I wish everyone could read this comment.

      Crazy that you found me there. Small world.

  • Awesome post Bryan and super inspirational!

  • Bryan, you are the real deal. I’m launching to a very small list at the end of this month, partially for validation, and partially because I know if I don’t set a deadline to launch, it’ll never happen! Your Case Studies have been instrumental in planning out my launch sequence. Thank you for always providing immense value.

    • Looooooove it! Just do it. It’s so much easier to adjust and improve your next launch than to get the first one perfect.

      Reid Hoffman (founder of Linkedin) has a quote that I’ve been chanting to myself the past few weeks:

      “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”

      • That’s a great quote. I’m the paralysed perfectionist who’s been a long time student of Copyblogger but reading your blog is giving me the drive (and courage) to launch and make money. I’ll let you know how I get on.

        • Looking forward to it Nathan.

          Whats the next step for you?

          • The next step is to turn “The Author’s Guide to Drawing Maps” (http://worldbuildingschool.com/the-authors-guide-to-drawing-maps/) into an email series as it seems that’s what my subscribers are expecting. Then promote my map services & products off the back off the email series.

            Secondly, I need to finish a case study I’m writing about the Author’s Guide and publish it on my marketing website (http://pen9creative.com). I’d like to add a content upgrade and short email series to convert clients for content marketing services/coaching.

            Hopefully I’ll have that all done by the new year. I look forward to your next blog post 🙂

  • One of the things I admire about you is how methodical you are. That makes learning from and using what you do easy.

    Great post, bh.

  • Dang Bryan you nailed me right between the eyes. You are so right about the excuses. You are a good role model. Thanks!

  • Great info, all broken down. You’re a natural teacher.

    What’s the word for existing Vault (v.1.0?) owners? Upgraded, additions, new and improved?

    • Thanks Drew. Yup all Beta users are auto upgraded with new features. You’ll get an email with some instructions next week.

  • Hassan Rashid

    Thanks for the post Bryan! Now THIS is the story I was waiting for you to share. I’m going to create a small landing page and validate the idea using your strategy. Will keep you updated! 🙂

  • Great post Bryan. Thanks for laying it all out like you do. Appreciate it.

  • Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for this post. It’s very thought provoking! Is the sequence similar to what Jeff Walker teaches?

    • There are some similarities in the overall sequence. Jeff uses a three video series (education) followed by a hard. There are many variations.

  • ericakking

    Thanks Bryan, I SOOOOOO needed this!!!

  • Bryan, this is a very useful series, thank you.

  • mrrobbo

    So excitedly to have used your validation method with the launch of my recent software package; I set it up for pre-sale at http://www.thepegeek.com/project and it has made 16k in sales; concept proven and new business made, plus the funds paid for development 🙂

  • Whoo hoo!
    Everything you put out is gold!
    Thanks

  • Robin

    Bryan, here is a quote that fits your work perfectly : “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar. I read a lot of quotes, but this one is one to live by!

  • crushing it man

  • Great information Bryan. I found about you in that Stu mixergy invterview.

  • OLOYEDE JAMIU

    Hey Bryan,

    Am always motivated every time i read about your updates.

    Looking forward to more updates from you.

    Thank you

    -Oloyede Jamiu

  • Will your vault have details of a moderately priced copywriter? I know the brilliant people charge mega bucks for writing sales copy but would love to get someone who is affordable to write a sales letter for our new product

  • Brandon Davis

    Hi Bryan,

    I enjoyed the detailed breakdown. I would like to know a little more about your purchase/checkout process.

    Did you use PayPal, InfusionSoft, etc.? How did you keep those who purchased at a lower price point on that plan/billing cycle while keeping others on a higher priced plan?

    Thanks,
    Brandon Davis

    • I’ve used several things: Infusionsofts cart, Gumroad, Stipre + Samcart.

      • Brandon Davis

        Thanks for the quick reply. Any particular one you recommend?

  • Love all your post, thank you share so much value here! Thank you so much!

  • Interesting