Everyone who’s ever launched a product—a book, an event, a course—has asked this question. It’s the number-one question every amateur entrepreneur wants answers to. It’s the question I asked after launching my first product.
And it is absolutely the wrong question to ask.
I made the mistake of asking this question to Derek Halpern right after my first successful course launch.
I had released a brand-new course for writers called Tribe Writers. Even though I launched it to a list of less than 2,000 people, I sold over 400 courses and made $25,000… in a week!
At the time, I made $36,000 a year at my day job. So this was nothing short of incredible. As you can imagine, I was excited to start the next thing.
“What should I build next?” I asked Derek.
“Whaddya, stupid?!” Derek said in his most wonderful New Yorker accent.
“Uh, no?” I said.
“Why would you go build something new when you have a product that is selling?”
“Let me ask you something,” he continued. “Do you really think everyone who needs this product has heard about it yet?”
“Oh, definitely not.”
“Good. And do you think everyone who has heard about it and is going to buy it has bought it? Or do you think more people on your list will eventually buy it?”
“I think more people will buy it.”
“Ok. So why are you talking about another product? Why don’t you just keep launching this product and learning how to sell it better and better?”
And that’s just what I did. The next month, I relaunched Tribe Writers, doing nothing other than tweaking the product and raising the prices. And this time, I made nearly $36,000.
A few months later, I did it again and offered payment plans, this time making $48,000.
Two months later, feeling nervous about working for myself and now having a kid to raise on a single income, I relaunched the product without changing anything.
Guys, I did the EXACT same thing again and made even more money.
Later that year, I started figuring out how to launch products better and had my first six-figure launch.
And on and on it went, for three and a half years.
This is not rocket science. And I am not a genius. If you have something to sell and you want to make a lot of money off it, just keep selling it. Pretty simple.
And yet this is precisely what most people do not do. It’s not obvious. Certainly wasn’t for me. I needed a friend to ask me, “Are you stupid?” before I saw the light.
Maybe you need the same.
Consider me that friend. 😉
Here’s what I know: The decision to not launch something new and instead keep launching the same course over and over again, iterating each time on the strategy and gradually improving the product, was the difference between making $25,000 once and $2.5 million.
The truth is you don’t need to launch something new. You don’t need to build something else. Not. A. Thing. Instead, you need to keep launching the same thing over and over.
For example, notice what happens when Apple launches a new MacBook. Do they create a new MacBook every month, or even every quarter? Of course not. They keep running campaigns for that same product for years on end, tweaking little things as they go to maximize profit.
This is the way smart businesses succeed. Success is not about invention. It’s about iteration. (Click here to tweet that.)
So if you’re thinking about launching something new, begin by asking yourself these three questions:
1. Are there people who need my product but haven’t heard of it?
2. Are there people who have heard of my product who will probably buy it, but haven’t yet?
3. Has my product been out for less than a year?
If the answer to any of the above is “yes,” don’t launch. Only when every answer to the above three questions is “no” can you launch something new.
In the meantime, follow the process I’ll lay out in the reminder of this article to relaunch the product you already have.
Note: If you don’t have a product, follow this guide to create and launch one.
Step 1: Help every single customer (the 1000 Customer Rule)
Build a one-on-one relationship with every person you serve, following the 1000 Customer Rule, which I learned from Noah Kagan. The idea is simple:
Until you can no longer efficiently help everyone individually, don’t create any unnecessary bureaucracy. No red tape until you hit 1000 customers, or whatever number is unwieldy for you. But the point is it’s a big number. You can help a lot of people before you need to create systems. 🙂
I spoke with someone who recently launched a product and sold something like 10 copies of an online course. He was disappointed he didn’t sell more and didn’t understand why people didn’t buy. How many of those people, I asked him, have you spoken with on the phone?
“Uh,” he said. “A few?”
Whoa. Wrong answer.
When I launched my first course, I sold over 400 spots. I got on group coaching calls with these people every week for two months straight. I answered every email. Hung out for hours each day in the forum. I called them randomly on the phone.
I was obsessed.
Why? Because I was petrified of people asking for a refund. I did everything I could think of to make people feel like they got more than their money’s worth. As a result, we created a community that still exists today.
Serving the customers you have today is the best thing you can do for tomorrow’s launch.
So here’s how to do this practically.
Action Step #1: Make a list of every single person who has bought your product (or just export it from your shopping cart data).
Action Step #2: Send each person an individual email roughly two weeks after your launch, saying the following:
Action Step #3: Randomly call 10 of your customers and follow the same email script on the phone.
Remember: No bureaucracy until you reach 1000 customers. Answer every email. Show up as much as you can. Be relentlessly helpful.
Step 2: Find out what’s missing in your product
Ask your customers what they wanted but didn’t get. Build that thing. Give it to them for free. Then ask for testimonials.
Your first goal is customer transformation. That’ll make everything easier in the future.
When I talked back and forth with my customers, I asked them regularly “What’s missing?” and “What could be better?”
They told me. Some of it was little stuff. And some of it was big stuff. But I did almost all of it. And if I didn’t, because I didn’t understand or agree with the feedback, I asked them why and sought to understand. And then I usually did what they told me.
One thing I realized was that every lesson had something like seven different action items. And that was hard for most students. Heck, that’s hard for anybody. So people were getting stuck on certain lessons and spending weeks in the same place.
This is a problem. With an online course or information product, the customer’s transformation is your best marketing tool. If people get stuck in your product, you have to get them unstuck before you try to launch it again.
An easy way to do this is ask two questions, one as soon as people buy your product and the other after they’ve used it. With my course, we do this by asking people what they’re expecting at the very beginning and then asking them how they liked it at the end. This is just an autoresponder message that people get in an email drip sequence as soon as they sign up.
Here’s what it looks like in the welcome email:
And then here’s the kind of feedback we get at the end:
So let’s apply this.
Action Step #1: Ask people in an automated email why they bought your product and what they were expecting.
Action Step #2: Ask people in an automated email after they’re done using the product what they got out of it and what was lacking.
Action Step #3: Fill in the gaps between customer’s expectations and what you’re delivering, either by setting better expectations in your marketing or by changing the product itself.
Step 3: Ask your audience why they didn’t buy
Once your launch is over, you have two jobs.
First, you need to serve your customer, doing everything you can to help them win.
Second, you need to find out why people didn’t buy.
After the launch, within a week or so of the end of your promotional period, you need to ask why your audience didn’t buy. This is typically done with a survey, but you could also just send an email with a few questions:
Was it the price? Bad timing? Was the product not a good fit?
Apply as much of this as you can to the messaging and packaging of your product. And then relaunch.
My team and I do this every time we launch anything.
The first time I did this, I was amazed at why people didn’t buy.
I figured it was probably the price. Worried that I had charged too high a price at the outset, I was concerned that I would have to offer discounts in the future and that would upset people who had paid full price
But it wasn’t the price.
Perhaps it was the marketing?
Was my promise too vague? Was the email and sales page copy no good? Was I not hitting the audience’s pain points?
Maybe, then, it was the product itself. Maybe it wasn’t what people actually wanted. Or maybe they just didn’t want to pay money for it, period.
But it wasn’t the product. People loved the product.
So what was the #1 reason why people didn’t buy my course the first time it came out?
“I don’t have enough time,” or “Now is not a good time,” or “I will sign up next time” were the most common reasons why people didn’t buy.
That was it. Time.
So what did I do?
- I launched it again, and for some people it was a better time. So they bought it.
- I told people exactly how much time it would take each week to complete the course. 30 minutes a day for eight weeks and you’re done. And more people bought it.
- I gave them a reason to buy now, telling them I was raising the price next time. And I did. And guess what? More people bought because they didn’t want to have to pay more money later on.
All in all, my second launch was more successful than my first one, with only a couple of months between them.
Here is what you need to do:
Action Step #1: After you close the cart of a launch, send an email with the subject “Quick question.”
Action Step #2: In that email, write the following:
Action Step #3: Reply to every single email and apply as much of the feedback as you can.
Step 4: Relaunch the product, but with tweaks, to the same exact audience
Once you have the feedback, you need to relaunch fast. Use the feedback to tweak what you have and iterate quickly. Relaunch within one to three months of the first launch.
Our first launch was on October 11, 2011. It brought in $28,544.41.Then we made a few tweaks and relaunched on December 12. That launch bought in $35,844.80.
The goal here is to figure out what works. You can keep doing this forever, but the second launch is really important. It helps you test all your assumptions and see if what you think will work actually will work.
It also allows you to test the feedback from your audience. If they say they didn’t buy for one reason, and you remove that objection and they still don’t buy, then they probably won’t buy. Or they have an objection that they haven’t named.
The second launch is about getting the cobwebs out and starting to systematize the process. After my second launch, I hired an assistant to help me manage these launches and asked her to start writing down everything we did during a launch. Over time, I was able to hand this process over to other people.
(For more on what we’ve learned about this process, read The 4 Keys to Powerful Product Launches.)
Step 5: Do a big affiliate launch
At a certain point, you may run out of leads you can pitch your product to. Or your list may get fatigued by your offering.
That’s where affiliate launches come in. These launches help you find new markets you can sell your product to without worrying about tapping your audience.
The trade-off here is obvious. You get access to a new audience and pay a commission to the affiliate for any customers they send your way. Win-win.
But what nobody ever tells you about these launches is how much work they are. My team planned our first big affiliate launched months in advance and still had a lot of things go wrong.
The goal here is to take the launch process you’ve been doing internally and let other people use your script to launch your product to their audience. It’s another relaunch, only this time to a new audience.
So how do you do this? Here’s how I did it:
First, I started by asking our students to be affiliates. Since they had the most success with the program, I figured they would be the most vocal about it. I told them that if they got two people to buy the course, they’d basically make back the money they invested in the program.
Then I reached out to friends with good-sized email lists (10K+) and asked if they were interested. I shared the dates and basic overview of the program and then asked one simple question: “Are you in?”
Last year, I did this, launching a course alongside my new book, The Art of Work. Here’s how I pitched people to help me promote it:
Anyone who said they were in received more details. Anyone who didn’t was left alone.
Bryan and others have written a lot on the subject of affiliate launches, so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say we had over 200 affiliates sharing the offer and did our best launch ever, making over $385,000 in just nine days.
The point of an affiliate launch is to do something big for your peers once or twice a year. At its core, it’s just a relaunch but to new people to grow your list, expand your influence, and sell your product.
Here are your action items:
Action Step #1: Email your customers, inviting them to be affiliates for your next launch. Tell them that if they sell two or more products for you, then their membership is paid for.
Action Step #2: Individually pitch 10 influencers you want to promote your next launch. Tell them what it’s about, how much money they could make, and then ask one simple question: “Are you in?” Send more details after that.
Action Step #3: Do the affiliate launch, following every piece of advice Bryan offers here.
Step 6: Automate the launch.
Once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re doing multiple launches per year following basically the same script, it’s time to start thinking automation. Can you take part of your product or the whole thing and sell it though some kind of evergreen launch?
Years ago, I created a product called Intentional Blog which was supposed to be a downsell from my larger product, Tribe Writers.
Then, I started using webinars to sell the product, and at $197 it converted really well.
So I started buying Facebook ads to drive people to an automated webinar, using EverWebinar to sell it.
Note: You can see the ad live on Facebook and opt-in to see the funnel in action by clicking here.
Now I pay about $1,000 a day to make $2,500 daily, while adding thousands of new people to my list every week.
The evergreen launch is the epitome of a relaunch because you are literally launching every day to a segment of your audience.
In order for this to be a success, you need a few things:
Thing #1: First, you need to have a high converting webinar. I did three live webinars for my audience before I had a recording of one that I felt good about. The best webinar I did converted 15% of the audience to buyers, so I went with that one. The principle here is that you will always convert better live, so try to use a webinar that’s getting pretty high conversion rates (10%+) so that you know it will convert well enough to cover your ad costs.
Thing #2: You need to have the right tech. We use ClickFunnels for the landing page, Infusionsoft for the email marketing automation and shopping cart, and EverWebinar to generate the automated webinar.
Thing #3: You need to know what you’re doing with Facebook ads. In my case, I hired someone who lived and breathed this kind of stuff. They helped me set up the whole thing and then managed my ad spend to make sure we were profitable and didn’t spend money too quickly. (Pro tip: Don’t increase your ad spend by more than 50% per day.)
Thing #4: You need to have a follow-up sequence. Admittedly, my follow-up sequence right now for the evergreen launch is not very robust. It’s just a few emails offering the webinar replay and then a reason for people to buy now. But the more robust you make this, the more you can convert on the back end.
Of course, there other ways to automate a launch. You can do live webinars to affiliate audiences. You can do just an email drip sequence from organic traffic to your site. But I have found that buying ads that immediately pay for themselves and start turning a profit is the easiest and most fun way to grow your list. (You get paid to advertise what you do instead of the other way around!)
This is the sixth and final step in the process of relaunching an old product. At this point, if you’ve done all of the above, it may be time to return to that original question: “What should I launch next?”
Action Step #1: Create a product you can sell for $50-$200 that is a version of your more expensive product (or use your main product if it fits in this range). It needs to be an impulse buy.
Action Step #2: Do a live webinar for your audience to sell the product, sending people to a private sales page.
Action Step #3: Optimize the webinar until you can get at least 10% of the live audience to convert.
Action Step #4: Record your most successful webinar.
Action Step #5: Set up a landing page using LeadPages or ClickFunnels and use EverWebinar to automatically run evergreen webinars for you.
Action Step #6: Start running Facebook ads to that landing page. Track how much you spend against how much you make each day. Give it a week or two. If you aren’t profitable, keep tweaking until you are.
Step 7: Build something new
We all want to do the next new launch. If you’re entrepreneurial like me, you can’t wait to move on to a new product.
But be careful. If you do this too quickly, you will miss the opportunity to help a lot more people and make a lot more money. In my case, it was the difference between $25,000 and $2.5M.
That’s a big difference. Relaunching isn’t always sexy, but that’s the cost of running a business. Some of your most profitable activities will be simply doing the same thing over and over again with very small tweaks.
Only after you’ve optimized the launch process by doing all of the above should you move on to building something new. Otherwise, you’re just leaving money on the table.
So that, my friends, is how you relaunch anything. A book, a course, an event, etc.
In fact, I am doing this very thing for my recent book, The Art of Work (on sale this week on Amazon!), which was a national bestseller. It’s been a year since I launched that book and a lot of people (40,000+) have already bought it.
I was ready to move on but something stopped me. I went through the three questions Derek had asked me:
- Did I really think everyone who needed this had already heard about it?
- Did I really believe everyone who heard about it who wanted to buy it did buy it?
- Did I spend enough time promoting it before moving on to the next thing?
No. I knew there were people out there who needed this. I believed some people were still waiting to buy it.
So this past week, we relaunched the book with a modified cover, some snazzy bonuses, and a free live book study with me this summer to accompany the book. We also did a temporary e-book discount to kick things off and have already sold thousands of books (as opposed to the hundreds per week that were selling before the relaunch).
A lot of people told me they were simply waiting for a better time to buy the book and read it but didn’t know when that would be. So when this opportunity came up, they took it.
The lesson here is to keep giving people an opportunity and reason to buy now. This stuff works. And it works with anything, from a book to a course to a conference. Not everyone has heard about your big awesome thing yet. And it’s your job to get it back in front of them, not to be annoying but to be persistent. To remind them that they really do need and want this and just need a reason to get it now.
What better way to accomplish that than a product relaunch? Good luck!
What’s something you can relaunch?
Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you! And if you want to support the relaunch of this book, you can get it now and a ton of other bonuses including eight weeks of live teaching from me for free.
P.S. Want to download the PDF version of this post? Click here to get your own copy of it.