Leaving Work Behind

5 Things I Have Learned from a Successful Information Product Launch

Written by Tom Ewer on November 19, 2012. 54 Comments

Successful Information Product LaunchIf I have learned one thing from the launch of my Successful Freelance Writing Online guide, it is that practical experience often beats theoretical learning.

I expected to learn a great deal from the process of creating and launching my guide, and it is fair to say that the experience has not disappointed from an educational point of view. And whilst I can now look back at the initial launch period and view it as a success, I can already see things that I would have done differently, given another chance.

In this post I want to highlight what I’ve learned from my first ever information product launch with the aim of helping you to launch your own product(s) more successfully in the future. But first, let’s take a look at how well my guide has sold to date.

My Guide’s Sales Figures

I’ll start with a caveat — success is of course a relative term, and you may feel that my achievements are modest. However, I judge my launch to have been a success relative to the initial goals I set.

So let’s start there — what did I hope to achieve when I started out? At some point during the creation of my guide, I decided that I would be happy if it made $3,000 during its lifetime. That was based upon a rough calculation (first revealed in the first post in this series) as follows:

( 50 * 50 ) + 500 = $3,000

Essentially, I wanted to be “paid” a minimum of $50 for each hour that I put into the guide and recoup my costs. In reality I spent more than 50 hours on the guide (I’m not sure how many exactly), but since the whole exercise was intended to be a learning experience as much as anything else, I kept the calculation rough.

I felt that $3,000 was a target that I could meet in the long term — after all, I hope to sell this guide for many months and even years to come. So how have I fared? Here are the vital numbers as at the time of writing:

Information Product Launch Sales Figures

These figures include a couple of purchases I made myself to test the system, hence the slight discrepancies.

As a result of the pre-launch period and subsequent launch on 6th November, I am already over 80% of the way towards my target. In terms of optimizing the sales process and developing the product further I still have a long way to go, so I feel that I will smash my $3,000 target within the product’s lifetime. So it’s fair to say that I’m pretty happy with how things have gone!

Lessons Learned

But as I alluded to at the beginning of the post, the launch has brought me more than just financial gain. I have learned a huge amount over the past few weeks, and I know that my new-found knowledge will help me to improve my product and sales process moving forwards.

With that said, I have listed below the five most important lessons. If you are currently planning a product launch or intend to create your own product soon, I would recommend that you take my lessons on board!

1. A Big Pre-Launch Doesn’t Guarantee a Big Launch

During October and early November I built up a pre-launch list of around 220 people who would gain early access to the guide at a heavily discounted rate. I promoted the list via this blog, my main email list and my social media accounts. It is fair to say that the vast majority (if not all) of my regular readers would have had the opportunity to sign up to this list at least once.

I hoped that the pre-launch would result in 20 sales — a rough 10% conversion rate. So you can imagine my surprise when I managed to reach that target on the first night of the four day pre-launch. When the pre-launch closed at midnight on Friday 2nd November, 80 people had purchased my guide — four times more than I had hoped for, and a conversion rate in excess of 35%.

Those four days were pretty exhilarating and made me feel extremely excited about what was possible for the main launch. Little did I know that the greatest rush of sales was already behind me.

In contrast to the pre-launch, the launch went off with more of a whimper than a bang. I made a few sales on the first day, and since then the flow has slowed to a trickle of around one sale per day (propped up by affiliate sales).

In retrospect, I can see two clear reasons as to why this has happened:

  1. Almost all of the people most likely to buy signed up to the pre-launch.
  2. My sales page caters towards loyal fans, not “walk-in” visitors to my blog.

I don’t view the launch as a failure — I just sucked all the life out of it by promoting the pre-launch so heavily. Perhaps that is something to consider for the future.

As for the second reason, it leads me directly onto the second lesson I learned from my information product launch.

2. If You Want to Sell, You Have to Sell

Regular readers of LWB will know that I am not the “salesy” type. I don’t engage in hyperbole or bombastic language to make my point. I don’t like “selling”.

However, as you might expect, that approach runs contrary to making sales. That has never been much of an issue for this blog, because its purpose is not to “make sales”. I will never use LWB as an overt tool for selling my guide (beyond mentioning it when relevant).

But the purpose of my sales page is to make sales — not that you would really notice by looking at it. Here’s a current screenshot (on the assumption that it will change soon):

Successful Freelance Writing Online Sales Page

It’s not “bad” by any means, but it’s not exactly dynamic either. I knocked it together in a bit of a hurry on the day of the pre-launch. And I’ll be honest — I’m no copywriter. It’s not something I have practiced or have a great deal of experience in.

My theory is this — I made a bunch of sales to start with because my loyal fans (you guys rock!) didn’t need the “big sell” in order to buy my guide. You’ve read my income reports, you’ve followed my story and you trust me. As such, you’re capable of making a buying decision without too much encouragement. But some guy or girl who is hitting my site cold isn’t likely to purchase my guide on the existing sales page alone — there’s just not enough to go on. I need to weave in my story to the sales page and be more persuasive.

My primary aim of being totally transparent and non-pushy will always take precedence over less scrupulous sales techniques, but there is certainly a lot more that I can do to increase my visitor to sales conversion rate.

3. All You Need to Do is Focus on the Fundamentals

In the process of creating the guide I often felt intimidated by the scope of the task I was taking on. Just about everything I was doing was new to me — writing the guide itself, formatting and designing it, planning and executing the launch, and so on.

What I wish I had known at the time was that I already understood the fundamentals, and that was all I really needed. Sure — greater experience would have resulted in a more successful launch, but regardless of that, I had the tools to reach and surpass my goals.

In retrospect I felt that the success of my guide to date was down to three fundamentals:

  1. A good product
  2. A loyal fan base
  3. A great network

If you release a good product to a loyal fan base and promote it via a great network of bloggers in your niche, you’ll do well — it’s that simple. All of the other stuff is just fine print — it’ll work itself out.

4. Measurable Goals are Necessary

Launching my guide was about a six month process. I started thinking about it that long ago. But in reality, the vast majority of the work was done in the last six weeks or so prior to launch.

Why? Because I finally set myself measurable goals and deadlines for the launch of my guide. Rather than simply continuing to write without any real idea of when I would finish, I forced myself to set concrete deadlines.

Doing so was not easy. The reason I had been putting off setting goals and deadlines was because I simply had no idea how long the process was going to take. But I realized that I was in danger of not completing the guide before Christmas, and that was unacceptable. So in the end, I decided that if I had to work day and night to get it finished in time, I would just have to suck it up and do exactly that.

Perhaps the most important thing I did was to go public with the deadline. Once I had done that, there was no going back. I made myself publicly accountable, which is always a huge motivator.

Setting measurable goals is advisable under just about any circumstances. However, when it comes to lengthy and complicated projects, they become even more important. If it weren’t for that moment of clarity in which I decided that I simply had to set myself measurable goals in order to make acceptable progress, I honestly believe that I would not have released my guide yet.

5. Working to Surpass Expectations Pays Off

I worried about a lot of things whilst I was creating my guide. Would it sell? Would I get everything done in time? Would I make some kind of enormous error that would tarnish my reputation irreperably? But by far the biggest concern I had was whether or not people would actually like and value it.

That fear drove to me to produce the best product I possibly could. When I was finally finished, I skimmed through it with pride. I felt that I had created a product that was superior to comparable offerings already available.

But I still didn’t know how people would react. You never do until it is out there. Fortunately, I have been blessed with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, great testimonials from some highly respected bloggers and not a single refund request so far.

Feedback from Georgina Laidlaw of ProBlogger

Unsolicited feedback from Georgina Laidlaw of ProBlogger.

In the end, I am extremely happy that I poured so much blood, sweat and tears into the guide. I was often struck by the fear that my hard work would be utterly disproportionate to the reward, but I was determined not to put out a poor-quality product.

So if you’re working on an information product, try and ensure that it is as good as you can possibly make it. Make that your absolute primary focus. If you work to surpass expectations, there is a far greater chance that everything else will fall in line.

What Tips Do You Have?

There you have it folks — my lessons learned so far. However, I know that there will be a lot more to come, and my journey on this project is by no means over. As always, I will be sharing my experiences with you along the way.

The whole information product scene is still very new to me — I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert (or anything close to one). With that in mind, I’d love to open this up to you guys for your thoughts.

So if you have any questions or comments, please fire away. And if you have experience in releasing your own information products, please share your own tips with us below. Thanks!

Creative Commons image courtesy of jurvetson

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54 Responses to “5 Things I Have Learned from a Successful Information Product Launch”

  1. Jamie Alexander
    November 19, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Well done, that’s some nice results and it’s only just the beginning.

    I’m curious as to why you only wanted $3000 over the lifetime of the product. That would mean you would essentially have to make a new product every month to make a decent monthly wage. I know you freelance, but I’m guessing passive is the key.

    Take someone like Benny the Irish polygot. His guide continues to earn him money every month and (I think) he lives off the money.

    Do you not think it could be your ‘benchmark’ product for at least a few years and make a few thousand each month from it. I would like to think it could be done, but obviously have no idea if it could.

    But good luck with the rest of your journey with this product.

    • Tom Ewer
      November 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Jamie,

      Thanks 🙂

      It wasn’t a case of “wanting” to earn $3,000 — that was the minimum figure that I would be happy with. It was my goal — what I was aiming for (or am still aiming for at this point). In reality I would love for this product to make $500,000, but I doubt that will happen 😉

      You have to place my original goal in the context of my circumstances. I had never released an information product and had absolutely no idea how it would fare. I felt that $3,000 was conservative, but in reality I had no idea.

      I do want the guide to provide me with a regular passive income stream in the medium to long term, and I am confident that it can do that. I’ve got plenty more learning and optimizing to do on that front.

      Cheers!

      Tom

      • Jamie Alexander
        November 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm

        I understand. So it was basically just wanting to cover your costs with your first product, but you obviously want the long-term thing.

        You never know what it could lead to. Hopefully it becomes the first of your main guides that last years.

  2. Aleshia Green
    November 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Hey Tom,

    Although I was never able to master what you do in your freelance world, I can give a little suggestion. I have been following a lot of high end business owners on facebook, Sandi Krakowski, to exact. She is a life coach or something of that key. Anyways, she has spoken highly of using Facebook ads as opposed to Google ads to grow your business. I think using FB ads to promote your guide would most definitely help you. And if you got just a little income flow coming from it..invest it and see what happens..You can start slow…and go from there..I know she offers classes and in depth training to people who are already earning money but want to grow and expand…but I dont know if that is something you wan tto look into..the classes are very high costs.

    But promoting your guide on FB would be where I would go next since you already have a FB page.

    • Tom Ewer
      November 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm

      Hey Aleshia,

      I am extremely wary of PPC advertising — it is an easy way to lose money if you don’t know what you’re doing (and I certainly don’t). However, it is something I will be taking a closer look at once I have optimized my sales page. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Cheers,

      Tom

  3. Edrick
    November 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Congrats on the success so far. I’m one of the many that opted in to the pre-launch and I’m almost finished with the guide. Its really well done and chock full of value.

    I would also be happy for the product to make $500,000+ as the value thats within is pretty much priceless :).

    Edrick

  4. Lisa
    November 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Tom, thank you for your always insightful, to the point share.
    Appreciate you sharing your experience and what you learned through the process.
    cheers.

  5. joe
    November 19, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Tom,
    What about doing a quick screencast or video. Take the links from Youtube and embed, put on facebook, linked in etc. etc.

    Have done some of that and it helped with people wanting to know more..also it’s definitely a learning experience as well.

    Appreciate your post.

    • Tom Ewer
      November 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      Hey Joe, I’m not sure what you mean — a screencast/video of what?

      • joe
        November 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

        Maybe of your process of creation…maybe take us through some steps as you begin a writing project for a client.

        Something you do or handle that might be of interest..I do videos of air conditioners and heaters.. YT channel largeview…

        You might be surprised at what you might do…just thinking you could do a webcast of you showing how you set up your ebook…

        It would be a break from the regular text, we get to see your face, voice etc..

  6. Adam
    November 19, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Even if you don’t like to sell – you do need to sell your product. If you (and I didn’t feel this way about your guide, but feel it’s worth mentioning) can’t be enthusiastic and pushing your own product, then why would I want to pay for it?

    Like everything, you probably need to walk the line between being aggressive and being too laid back, but you have to let people know that what you have is worth what you are asking them to pay. I think this comes with the freelance and passive line of work.

    You are probably going to do this now, but looking into how you might convert the people that “wander in” to your blog should be something worth spending some time on – your guide is good!

  7. Elizabeth Cottrell
    November 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Great insights, especially the bottom line fundamentals:

    A good product
    A loyal fan base
    A great network

    Your candor and openness is so helpful. Too many “experts” out there talk in such grandiose numbers that it doesn’t seem attainable. You’ve made me believe in myself again.

  8. Steve
    November 19, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Hi Tom,

    It’s a successful launch. Awesome and well done!

    Best
    Steve

  9. Victoria Rickert
    November 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I really enjoy following your blog and your very up front disclosures and, just general all around good information. Although I didn’t sign up for your book, it sounds wonderful from the testimonial you just received from the comments above, if I ever do decide to be a blog writer I will definitely check out your book.

    Joe is so correct in that you really should put out a quick Youtube video to promote your book.

    Thanks again Tom for your great posts and guest post on Mywifequitherjob blog, where I first started following you ; )

    Victoria, of course one thing I can do is tweet, facebook, google+, stumbleupon, and pinterest this post those are my main social sharing sites.

    • Tom Ewer
      November 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog Victoria! There’s plenty more here than just freelance blogging so it’s great to have you along for the ride 🙂

  10. Joe @ How I Got Rich
    November 20, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I agree with your assumptions on why the pre-launch was so successful and took the wind out of your actual launch. Where did you get the idea of doing the pre-launch?

    I don’t remember reading about it in the $100 Startup.

    I did buy the guide but haven’t read it as I’m swamped writing content as I managed to get a few orders for my fledgling writing service. Unfortunately this involves writing loads of articles on the same topic with the same keywords, for my current job.

    While this is earning me some money it is absolutely soul-destroying, I hope not all writing online is like this?

    Can’t wait to get some free time to read your guide!

    As for Facebook ads, I heard a good podcast where the person recommended buying ads that only your fans (people who have liked your page) can see. This means they are much cheaper and they are already into your stuff. Worth a try I reckon.

    • Tom Ewer
      November 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      I’m 95% sure it’s in the $100 Startup, from memory. Chris Guillebeau has a pre-launch list for his upcoming course.

      In hindsight I think I should have made the pre-launch more exclusive by perhaps only inviting people on my email list. Also, I think I’d go with bonus features for the pre-launch rather than a big discount next time, as your most loyal readers are probably more willing to pay the full price. Things to bear in mind for next time!

  11. Yamato
    November 20, 2012 at 7:27 am

    ” I would love for this product to make $500,000″
    Yes, aim high!

    Tom,
    congrats to the success with your first product. Well done.

    Regarding FB advertising as suggested by Aleshia above, it could be a good thing to test as you can target people by their interest (at least by what they claim on FB to be interested in). So if you target people interested in writing, it could turn out well.

    Also worth iinvestigating is to publish on an additional platform like Kindle. You bring your product in front of 275 million creditcard holders.

  12. Sophie Lizard
    November 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Nice figures there, Tom!

    To recoup your costs (including time spent) within not much more than a month sounds like success to me. Plus I expect your ebook will still be relevant in a few years’ time, so you’ve got all that passive income to look forward to.

    I’m quaking in my pre-launch boots right now, trying to decide on a definite launch date for my blog so that I can put the last bits of my launch plan into a schedule. Your point about public accountability to your launch date is well made & duly noted! 🙂

  13. Joe Cassandra
    November 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    It looks like you’re doing a badass job, congrats Tom!

  14. Alex B. (@DreamJobGuy)
    November 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Tom,

    Congrats on the lunch, and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, experiences, tips, and ideas with us!

    I wish you much continued success!

    All the best,
    -Alex

  15. Tom Southern
    November 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Tom!

    Good work on creating and making sales on what sounds a great product. Yes, I’m thinking of buying. You mention that you’re not much of a salesmen. This rides in your favour. Your sales page and copy comes across as genuine. What’s, you’ve created curiousity-always a great sales tool, and often not easy to create.

    And, you’ve landed some popular bloggers speaking up for your product. Congrats. You could approach a few more, such as Jon Morrow, James Chartrand and Brian Clark. They are always promoting great writing and go out of their way to promote bloggers. Your angle to them could be “great writing for freelancers”.

    Have you thought of putting an opt-in box, or full feature box straight after your monthly income reports? Seeing as your freelancing brings in the most income for you, this would be a great promoter for your book, as would linking to your main sales page from your Resources page. I’m not sure if you do this already, and I can’t check easily as I’m typing this on my tablet, and it’s throwing a wobbly currently.

    Any how, good job on your success so far.

    Tom

    • Tom Ewer
      November 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      Hey Tom,

      I think I will reach out to those guys — thanks for the suggestion!

      I already do everything that you’ve suggested. Great minds think alike 😉

      Cheers,

      Tom

  16. Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing
    November 20, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Hi Tom –

    Interesting learnings there!

    I’d say first off that 200 people in pre-launch is a really small list to start the buzz going.

    But you did well considering how new your blog is, and how much you don’t like ‘selling.’ 😉

    Other comment — how many pages is this ebook? $47 is a pretty high price for an ebook, I’ve learned. A lot of people will only by lower-priced ones, I’ve discovered.

    I had my own 200+ page ebook at $36 for years, and then did a sale at $18 and then it finally did big numbers for the first time.

    Pricing is all an experiment…keep going until you find the sweet spot where you make the most. I’ve found writers are broke, and lower price points actually make me more, often.

    • Tom Southern
      November 21, 2012 at 9:17 am

      Hi Carol!

      True, ebooks can be a big investment. It’s all in the value of the content. I think really useful, actionable info that works and brings in results for readers in a few pages is far better than not so useful, actionable info across a greater number of pages.

      Kindle books have begun training people that ebooks cost pennies, which is a bummer for ebook creators. One way of overcoming this is to offer something extra such as a teleseminar, e.g. Q&A on the subject, or a “look over my shoulder while I …” do whatever my ebook topic is about doing.

      This is something Dave Navarro and Naomi Dunford have done with their ebook: “Launch the **** “.

      As for writers being broke – true! Except when (from my own experience) there’s a promise of getting paid for writing! Then it’s scrimp and save until the money is found. If the promise works, the effort to fork out for it is remembered fondly, long after the event.

      Tom

      • Tom Ewer
        November 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm

        You’ve hit upon my way of thinking there Tom — I consider the value of the book to the reader rather than its actual cost. However, not everyone thinks that way…

    • Tom Ewer
      November 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Carol,

      It’s just under 30,000 words and 150 pages from memory. The price point is a good one, and something I will be playing with.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  17. Tom Southern
    November 21, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Hi Tom!

    Good job! Sorry if I stated the obvious. Stands to reason you’d already be doing those things.

    Tom

  18. Joe @ How I Got Rich
    November 22, 2012 at 4:30 am

    Do you have an affiliate programme for the book?

    • Tom Ewer
      November 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      I do — fire me an email and I can give you the details (I will be putting up a proper affiliate page at some point, it’s somewhere on my to do list ;-))

  19. Brendan Baker
    November 23, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Hey Tom,

    I just wanted to pop in and say hi! I came across your site today and I’m absolutely loving it.. have spent the last 45 minutes going through it all.

    Keep up the transparency… it’s what’s kept me engaged! I love it and I’ll follow you curiously. I’m trying to think of ways I can incorporate some of your strategies for my site.

    Brendan

  20. Frances Palaschuk
    December 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Tom, I totally agree with Brendan – I am loving it as well! I started my morning checking my new Twitter followers and there you were. So, like always I had to check you out to see if you were the type that I would normally follow back… And am I glad I did! I love your blog, your transparency, drive and determination! Looking forward to reading more and more here! Great job, thank you!

  21. Tim
    December 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Tom, how did you come up with the idea for the guide? Did you survey your readers?

  22. Mark Jackson
    January 1, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Congrats on your ebook sales figures.

    Can I clarify something with you ? What percentage of your sales income for the ebook came directly from this site and what percentage came from affiliates selling the ebook on your behalf ?

    Which affiliate merchant would you recommend ? I know Clickbank is probably the best known merchant for ebooks.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      Hi Mark,

      Only a small percentage of sales have come from affiliates (in the region of 5-10%). I use E-Junkie as their fees are very reasonable, but I believe that Clickbank is the best option for those looking to attract affiliates.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  23. Ujjwal
    November 8, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    First of all thanks for sharing your experience. I am planning to launch my first paid product i have learnt lot, thanks for all these once again.

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