I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, but it’s finally, just now coming to me since I’ve had a little time away from Guitar Chord Kick-Start.
If you don’t know, I spent the better part of 8 months developing, writing, designing, and producing a guitar-learning eBook. It was a major undertaking.
The plan all along was to self-publish Guitar Chord Kick-Start, build a website, and sell it digitally.
I launched the book on May 4th.
In this post, I’m going to write about my experience with my first product launch. Hopefully, if you’re looking to sell your own product online, you can learn from my wins and – even more – from my mistakes.
First, a little overview of what I was doing, the process I used, and how it works.
The Basic Formula
If you’ve been involved in the MMO (Make Money Online) or IM (Internet Marketing) worlds for any time at all, you know the basic formula for selling a product online. Heck, even if you’re not trying to do this yourself but have an interest, or you’ve spent any time online at all, you’re aware of this process:
- Create a product
- Attract affiliates
- Write a sales letter and post it on a website
- Market the hell out of it
- Bring in the money
Usually, these are some kind of info-product that you sell for people to learn information quickly. This isn’t about fiction books or illustrated narratives. This is about learning. You’re trying to solve somebody’s problem. More often than not, these are delivered as eBooks or PDF downloads.
Sometimes you’ll see just a one-off product being sold. Typically, though, this initial product is part of a larger sales funnel where you drive traffic to the first product and try to sell people more products once they’ve bought it. This can be as simple as one or two up-sells or it can get super complex with up-sells and down-sells.
A down-sell would be, hypothetically, someone purchases the first product but doesn’t want the second (first up-sell). So, instead of sending them straight to the checkout/download page, you offer them something else. Maybe something a little cheaper, yet still with good value.
Think of this like going to a fast food restaurant. You order a burger and ask for a small drink. They try to up-sell you to the large size drink and fries. Most of us go for that. If you don’t, sometimes then they’ll throw in that last minute down-sell (which is still an up-sell) for just the larger drink with no fries.
Affiliates are people that help market your product. Every time they make a sale, you give them a commission.
This is a bit old school but is still an effective and extremely common practice in many niches. Basically, you write a letter to your prospective/ideal customer, play to their emotions by detailing their problem, then show them you have the solution. It’s not, at least when done by good business people, meant to be manipulative or scam-y. It’s just classic advertising and psychology.
Market the Hell Out of It
Organic searches and SEO; paid advertising and affiliates; email blasts and social media. By any means necessary, you make sure people are hearing your message and coming to your site (where the sales letter is).
Bring in the Money
This is the easy part. People start buying your product, you collect the dough, and you’ve got a passive income stream. Of course, you should support the product and help people when they have questions. The idea here, though, is that it’s as passive as possible. Once you’ve created your product, you can mostly sit back and wake to a full bank account every morning.
Why am I not a Millionaire Yet?
Probably a simple question to answer, but one that is extremely difficult to ask. You may have asked yourself this before. You may be asking yourself this (again) in the future. These most likely aren’t the only ones, but here are 5 reasons I didn’t make the big bucks on my first product launch.
I Didn’t Get Enough Affiliates
Affiliates are other marketers, generally with huge email lists and great social followings. They drive potential customers to your site and, if the customer purchases, you give the affiliate a commission. This is obviously good for them since it’s best practice to make the initial product’s commission a large percentage. You can always drop the up-sell commissions a little, but at this stage, it’s not about the money.
You see, no matter what, you’ll be making something. The real goal here, though, is to get some customers who purchase your product and join your mailing list. Once they’re on your mailing list, you have a targeted audience that you can market to. You can become an affiliate yourself and make good money, and/or you can market your own new products directly to them. The next time(s) around, you aren’t giving a commission since you’re going directly to the customer.
Affiliates are usually the biggest traffic sources for a new product and it’s crucial that you get a good chunk of them on board for your launch.
I reached out to several marketers before launch and continued finding new ones for several weeks after. I had a handful sign up because of me reaching out and they even made a few sales. I also had a ton of affiliates sign up that I never contacted prior.
These were not “good” affiliates, though. They were more or less spammers – “marketers” who scour the ClickBank, JVZoo, etc. marketplaces for any and all products. They’ll sign up as an affiliate, throw up a shoddy review on their website and maybe send an email, and then just see what happens. I believe I actually did get a handful of sales from some of these affiliates, but they’re not what you want for your business.
You see, I didn’t lock down my affiliate sign-up going into the Guitar Chord Kick-Start launch because I wanted as many affiliates as I could get. When clicking on the affiliates I see in my account, though (mainly after I see they made a sale and I don’t recognize them), I see the page they put up to “review” my book and it is always horrifying.
They never do my book justice. They get most things wrong about it and generally just copy/paste in things from the sales letter and other random reviews (not necessarily guitar book reviews). What they publish is often a barely cohesive “review” of my book.
Two Lessons About Affiliates
- Put in the work ahead of time and don’t stop looking for quality affiliates once you launch. I had a few, but it wasn’t enough. I got caught up in paid advertising because it was fun (and I was obsessed) to learn about creating audiences on Facebook and targeting all the right people. Because I was so involved in the paid advertising, I didn’t nurture and grow my affiliate base the way I should have.
- Lock down your affiliate sign-up and only accept quality marketers. If they’re reaching out to you and you’re a new product builder, be weary. Some of the pages out there talking about GCKS are scary and it’s not how I want that brand represented. Take it from me and only take on the good ones.
Sales Letters Are Out, Videos are In
You may have already caught on to my feelings towards sales letters in the overview above. I’m not a very big fan of them, even though I used one for my book and I’ve seen some really good ones out there before.
The traditional sales letter still absolutely works in some niches. Particularly, they kill in the MMO and IM niches – typical info-product niches.
In the guitar niche, though, I just don’t think it cuts it.
People trying to learn guitar, especially in 2016, are used to something more flashy. They’re used to going to YouTube and searching for tutorials for their favorite songs or stumbling on lessons from some really masterful teachers. It’s my belief that, if someone out there was looking around to learn chords on the guitar and stumbled on my page, they’d be way more apt to purchase if I had a fun and well-done video up there, instead of the traditional sales letter.
Just look at some of the ads that have gone viral over the past several years. Dollar Shave Club, Old Spice, and Squatty Potty are some of my favorite examples.
You’ve all seen them in your Facebook feeds or elsewhere and they work. Granted, those were more so ads and not “sales” videos, but that got people interested in the product and clicking to the website. Often times, on these sites, it was another video giving the overview of the product and why you should buy it – the sales video.
Everything is Shifting Towards Video
Just take a look at this article from USA Today or this one from Fortune. Facebook is pushing video so hard that text posts are going further and further down in everyone’s feeds. This excerpt from the Fortune article sums it up pretty well:
It seems obvious that engagement for non-video content is declining. But why? It could be that Facebook is deliberately pushing that kind of article down in people’s feeds. Or it could be a consequence of Facebook promoting more video, which squeezes out other forms of content. Or it could be both.
I feel like I’ve heard they’re doing it on purpose, but I couldn’t find anything on quick research that proves that.
Regardless, we’re becoming an extremely visual society. If you’re launching a product, you must capitalize on that.
Why Did I do a Letter and Not a Video?
I think I was blinded by the process. As you know, I had paid to be a part of the Alex Jeffreys Coaching Academy. He is a brilliant marketer and super wealthy because of that.
I soaked up everything he preached and, while he said that videos were good and gaining popularity, he swore by the traditional sales letter. It’s what had made him one of the more successful marketers around and it was still working.
His letters convert at crazy rates and, with his help, I knew I’d be able to come up with a stellar sales letter.
And I did.
As much as I hate it, I’m actually very proud of my sales letter. I learned a lot in the time working on that letter. I know I can funnel that into all of my future work.
But I still hate it. It never sat right with me. No matter how much I know I’m not trying to scam anyone. No matter how many conversations I had with friends and family about how that’s just marketing and it’s just how things are done, it just never sat right with me.
Again, I think my letter is really solid. But it just never felt right. I felt, and still feel, that most people on the Internet these days can see right through a sales letter.
Even though it is perfectly honest, forthright, and legitimate, I can just imagine most people on the other side of the screen reading it and thinking it’s not. They don’t know me, so what’s going to make them believe me?
But I kept it. I knew it was good and thought maybe I was just getting in my head too much.
Plus, by that point, I had been working on GCKS for so long that I just wanted it out there. I needed to stop sacrificing “done” for “perfect” and get it out.
Lessons About the Sales Letter
Just because you’re giving up “perfect” for “done” doesn’t mean you have to put something out that you’re not 100% in love with. It’s a hard, hard job to figure out if you’re not in love with something because you think it could be better or if you’re not in love with something because you think it should be something completely different.
If you haven’t launched yet because you’re driving yourself nuts trying to make something perfect, it’s probably best to just get it done. Nothing will ever be perfect.
But, if you haven’t launched because something isn’t sitting right with you, it’s probably ok to hold off a little longer and reassess.
Once again, I am undeniably proud of the way the letter came out and I fully, completely stand behind Guitar Chord Kick-Start as a whole. I just don’t think the traditional sales letter is very “me.” You know what I mean?
Moving forward, I’m planning to completely revamp the site with a fun video and also come up with a few video ads to start driving some more traffic to the site.
I Need More Traffic
Back in mid- to late-June, I had a crazy spike in organic traffic. I was still running Facebook ads at the time, but organic traffic was through the roof. I was making sales and things were going well.
Then it stopped.
After a week of this gnarly growth, it died back down to a handful of random organic page views with the majority coming from Facebook and Instagram. It could have been because of a small update I did a week or two prior to that (Google likes updates), or it could have been something else entirely.
Whatever it is, it didn’t stick.
So, for awhile, I was relying on paid Facebook traffic and it was working. At a certain point, though, it stopped. I started losing money because I was spending a certain amount on ads each week but not making enough sales to cover that. If I were running a bigger business and had a budget, this might be ok, but I’m not and I don’t.
Even when I was breaking even it was fine because at least I was getting people to my list who I could in turn market more to later.
I’m not sure what it was that made my traffic and sales decline from the Facebook ads.
- It could have been that my ads were stale and since I wasn’t getting creative with new ones I was just rotating in ones I had used prior.
- It could have been that my audiences were stale.
- Even though my custom audience was potentially changing based on who visited the site, most everything was still being seen by the same possible customers.
- People seeing the ads who were going to buy it had done so already and everybody else was over it.
Traffic Lessons Learned
Once I revamp the site with a video and create some video ads, I’m going to attack the Facebook paid ads again. I’ll make sure my audiences are up to date and also look into some other tactics for remarketing, etc. I’ll keep you posted when I get there.
Also, along with the revamp, I’m going to start reaching out to affiliates again. Hopefully, I can get some more quality ones on board.
Traffic has to be nurtured and maintained when you’re just starting out. Over time, hopefully, I’ll build and get some quality backlinks and I won’t have to anymore. For now, though, I’ll need to take daily care to make sure everything’s pushing along.
Is My Site Totally Optimized?
When I first wrote the sales letter and put it up on the site, I was just trying to write the best letter I could. Of course, I had the keywords in there that I wanted to target, but I don’t think the letter was written or the site was optimized in such a way to really highlight them.
After really digging into this blog for the past several months, doing a bunch of reading, and talking to my friend Tara over at TaraTierney.com, I’ve learned a bunch of new SEO techniques.
I was eager to put them to the test so a few weeks ago, I spent some time changing up the sales letter on the GCKS homepage. I changed some words around, came up with a new main keyword and some different longtail keywords, and played with the heading tags, among other things. Based on my research, I think I did a pretty good job.
I’ve seen the tiniest, tiniest little increase in traffic, though it’s still nothing compared to what it was with the Facebook ads. Sometimes Google takes time, though, so I’m hopeful that these changes will continue to crawl their way through the search engines and I’ll start getting some more traffic. It’ll probably happen right about the time that I drop the video on the site and get rid of the letter. 😉
Side note: Guitar Chords/Guitar Learning/etc. is a super competitive niche. It’s tough to get anywhere noticeable in the search engines.
It’s all a work in progress. Going hand in hand with nurturing traffic, nurturing your SEO strategy is a must. Competition changes. Users’ search queries change. The practices change (less often, but sometimes Google has those big algorithm updates…). Once in a while, you have to give a little love to your site and make sure the SEO is still on point.
I Had High Hopes
Ok, ok. I wasn’t thinking I’d be a millionaire. At least not right off the bat. 😉
I did think I’d sell more, though. That’s no one’s fault, however, but mine.
See, I was in kind of a weird place when I finished Guitar Chord Kick-Start. I was so incredibly proud of it. I had never done any one project for that long and I had never done anything that large completely by myself. From conception to launch, it was all me.
Yes, I had a few friends help with editing and obviously had the mentor for helping shape the course, but you get the picture. I did every little thing on that damn book.
The flipside to my pride was that I was kind of sick of it. I hate admitting that. It was my baby!
But I was over it. I had never done any one project for that long. I had never done anything that large completely by myself.
I wanted to be doing something else. I wanted it off my plate.
I thought that once I got it off my plate, though, it would be a passive income machine. Again, I didn’t think I’d be making millions, but I thought it would be a good little source of income right away. I thought that I could sit back, collect the money, and hang out in the private group (part of an up-sell), make video lessons (part of an up-sell), and do the social media and marketing.
For awhile there, I was doing just that. But, as you now know, it died down. I think it became a bit of a vicious little cycle for me. At the beginning, I was getting so much traffic and a bunch of sales, so I was all kinds of stoked on doing social media and adjusting the marketing.
But when traffic and sales slowed and the handful of group members weren’t coming to the page, it was way too easy to forget about it. That was the absolute wrong time to forget about it!
Lessons From My High Hopes Being Crushed
Dream big and believe in yourself, but don’t ever think anything comes easy.
I knew this. We all know this.
But it’s easy to get caught up in the hype when you’re about to launch a product. You can play with the projected numbers and, even at the most conservative estimates, get super excited and start dreaming. It’s way too easy.
I also learned that when traffic and sales slow, you should double down on your marketing efforts. Don’t necessarily spend more (I can’t), but revamp, rethink, and re-execute. I’ve taken some time away from Guitar Chord Kick-Start, but I’m looking forward to breathing a little life into it soon.
Thanks for Reading
This has been good for me to write. I hope that any of you out there who are in a similar position or are thinking of getting into the game find something good in here. This life isn’t easy and the failures can be crushing, but it’s what you do after those failures that matters.
Pick yourself up and learn from the mistakes. Everything in this business is a learning experience and you have to embrace that.
What about you? Have any experiences – winning or failure – that you’d like to share? Any hot tips to keep me rolling on my projects? Let me know in the comments below!