It seems like everyone has an online course these days, and it also seems like everyone is making bank selling their online courses. If you Google “create online course” you’ll likely end up seeing a retargeting ad an hour later with a course guru telling you he can help you make 6-figures this weekend by pre-selling your unwritten course 😒 (please remember this is BS). So while it’s not likely that you’ll be able to earn 6-figures in a single weekend (or maybe you can!), but you can definitely plan out a successful launch strategy in that time frame.
I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before, and it may make you cringe if you love the spontaneity of running an online business. Keep in mind though, it doesn’t matter if you’re already a cautious planner or you choose to wing it, most days, you WILL forget to do something related to your launch if you don’t have a plan.
Please don’t rely on your brain to remember everything you need to do. It pays to have a solid system in place. Of course, you’ll find you need to tweak things here and there; you may discover those things after your launch has ended, and you reflect on how it went and if you reached your sales goal. What you have in this planner is quite a bit of detail to get your launch in motion, but since every business is unique, feel free to make changes or add your own creative flair as you go through it.
Let’s start by exploring how to create a launch schedule that fits your lifestyle, so you and your team know exactly what has to happen in sequence. We’ll move through creating pricing options and why bonuses could boost your sales. We’ll walk through how to create pre-launch content, opt-in pages, and email sequences, produce daily content, recruit affiliates, and create affiliate tools they can use to promote you.
That’s not all. We’ll guide you through planning your webinar or live stream training and how to open your shopping cart with fanfare to attract immediate buyers. We’ll end with how you can make more sales from those who have abandoned their shopping carts before paying.
At the end of this planner, you will have a solid foundation for your launch that you need to implement.
The first step in mapping out your launch is deciding exactly when it will happen – and for how long. Without a launch schedule, you’ll miss important steps, forget to send important emails, and won’t make as much money.
Planning equals money in this case, so spending time in the planning stage reflects directly on your ROI. Your launch schedule is your road map to making sales while also keeping your sanity. Seeing exactly what has to happen in a chronological timeline makes life easy for you and any outside contractors you hire to assist with the launch. Instead of wondering, “what happens next?” your entire team can see the progression of steps and knows exactly when different deadlines are due. From the beginning of the launch, everyone is on the same page.
To get started, take a look at your work and personal calendars and take note of the months and days when you don’t have anything scheduled. Be careful about scheduling a launch around holidays or right before/after your family’s vacation. These bigger events tend to cause distractions, both for you and your audience. Pick a time that is free of major events as your launch date.
Now compare that time frame to your customers’ buying patterns. Do you generally notice a slow down during a certain time of year? Are there other months or seasons when things pick up? Examine the reasons for these fluctuations and shift your launch date, if necessary. Your launch date should coincide with your customers’ highest need for your product in a perfect world.
Here is a sample launch schedule that tends to work well:
Day 1 – Release first pre-launch content
Day 3 – Second pre-launch content
Day 5 – Sales webinar or live stream event
Day 6 – Open cart
Day 7 – End early bird price
Day 8 – Launch extended payment plan.
Day 9 – Cart close
We’ll discuss pre-launch content in the next section, but these freebies serve to get your audience excited about your new product. It builds anticipation and intrigue while still offering value or help with an existing problem. Your audience should want to hear more about your product after reading this content.
Notice that nothing is listed for Days 2 and 4, but that doesn’t mean you’re sitting around, twiddling your thumbs. Be present on social media. Schedule some podcasts or other media interviews for those days so you can promote your webinar and/or new product. Send out emails promoting your upcoming webinar or live-stream event. Tailor this schedule to the needs of your audience.
A webinar or live-stream option is listed for Day 5. At this point in the launch schedule, you’ve built up buzz, and you’ve offered help without giving away all your secrets; now, it’s time to promote your new product outwardly. Video is compelling in developing the relationship between you and your audience members, so don’t dismiss this option. This format allows for offering your paid product at the end, which will entice audience members to buy right away to jumpstart your sales.
Do you see how mistakes can be made without a launch plan? Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should be written down for you and your team to reference easily. Let’s go through the steps now to complete your own launch schedule.
Pricing is everything, and you’ll need a few solid numbers on paper before you launch your course or create your pre-launch content. The trick is to price your product competitively and at a price you feel is worthy instead of pricing it far too low to attract customers.
The common fear is that if the price is too high, no one will buy, or sales will be slow. Lower the price, and you may attract more customers, but you may also devalue your product. Now consider if you’re established in your industry with other products or programs in your library or if you’re brand new, and this is your first launch. Those more experienced coaches have trained their audiences to buy higher-priced items while you still need to prove yourself, so a lower price point may serve you better if you’re starting.
It’s a common conundrum many entrepreneurs experience, and, unfortunately, there’s no simple formula to follow. However, here are some common expenses you should track and include in your pricing calculations:
Now it’s time to work some magic and blend the science of numbers with the art of pleasing your audience. If necessary, choose a couple of different pricing options and conduct market research of your customers’ purchases and/or competitors’ rates.
Here are some common pricing definitions, which you may or may not have seen before. Once you calculate your product or program’s full retail price, you can easily figure out the other options.
Remember, all these pricing options are optional. If you’re happy with your full price, keep it there and track your sales.
Payment plans are another way to sway customers to make an expensive purchase without lowering your price. Payment plans are often reserved for high-ticket items, such as a group coaching plan or an in-person retreat; generally, anything priced higher than $997 can be split into equal payments. The number of payments will depend on the total price and how long you personally are willing to spread out the payments.
In Scenario #1, the business coaches who are running a beach retreat in 12 months can offer a 10-month payment plan to cover the cost of the retreat (room, food, activities, etc.) Clients who want to join the retreat with only 6 months to pay can do so, but their payments will be higher because there’s less time to pay it off before the retreat begins. In this example, the payment plan rewards both established clients who don’t want to give up that lump sum right away and those who are newer to your business, who possibly don’t have that total sum to give but who can manage lower monthly payments.
In Scenario #2, you start a 6-week group coaching program. Offering a 2-payment option makes sense because it will end simultaneously as when they make their second payment. Extending the payments past the program’s end date only extends the amount of time for you to get paid for work that’s already completed. You also run the real risk of clients canceling those last payments after the program has ended, and you are wasting time in a dispute.
Payment plans should feel good to you but should also feel like a steal for your buyers, too. Also, remember that payment plans often total more than the full retail price of your product. Some customers don’t even realize it; they want the convenience of monthly payments. For those who notice, marketers explain that it’s for the extra processing charges each month plus the administrative costs needed.
Bonuses are the perfect way to get on-the-fencers to say yes to your new product or course. Providing a complimentary resource to help your clients get the most out of your course is almost essential in today’s online education market.
However, please don’t fall into the trap of early online learning, where it was the rule to give away upwards of 50 bonuses to bump up the value of the actual course. This number of bonuses does nothing other than confuse the consumer, and let’s face it, 90 percent of those bonuses will sit on a hard drive gathering dust. No one has the time or desire to go through that many bonuses.
Your bonus should be relevant to your product and should be exclusive to your product. If you can find the bonus elsewhere, customers should have to pay for it. Customers should feel as though they’d miss out on something fantastic if they passed up your bonus.
Your bonus format doesn’t matter, but the content should be relevant to your new product. Consider these types of bonuses:
Now that you’ve brainstormed some bonus ideas let’s talk about WHEN to offer bonuses. These are just ideas; you’re not obligated to use all of them or any of them. Try out one type of bonus on this product, experiment with a different bonus on another product, and compare results. Or get ambitious and offer bonuses every step of the way.
One tip: Have a start and end date as well as time for each bonus. Those who miss the deadlines can qualify for a different bonus. Just be sure to make the bonus deadlines obvious in your emails and social posts.
Now is the perfect time to review the content you currently have on the hard drive that you can repurpose as a bonus.
It’s time to stir up some excitement before announcing your course to the world! Each piece of pre-launch content needs to tie into your course theme and get people excited about your topic without giving away the actual course content. Leave them wanting more!
This specific content will be used as a lead-generating freebie so that you can collect more email addresses for your prospect list. The more compelling and relevant your freebie, the more people will join your list, leading to more sales in the long run.
You’ll also be creating and hosting a sales webinar or live stream, so make sure your pre-launch content leads into your webinar topic.
Sometimes this exercise gets a little tricky. One could argue that the pre-launch content should be the same subject as your paid product, but how much information from your paid product do you want to give away for free?
A health coach has self-published her book about living a gluten-free lifestyle. She covers why people live gluten-free, ease the transition from gluten to gluten-free, and includes a 30-day menu plan with recipes for a gluten-free life.
Scenario #1: Should she still give away gluten-free recipes in her pre-launch content? It’s a possibility. Or her potential purchasers may think, “Why should I buy the book when she gives us free recipes? Maybe there’s more on her site.”
Scenario #2: Or should her pre-launch content talk about “5 Common Reasons Why You’re Experiencing Intestinal Discomfort”? Intestinal discomfort is one symptom of gluten intolerance, but she’s not focused solely on that topic. She can also include information about IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers as other reasons for the discomfort.
Do you see how the “5 Common Reasons” idea is related to gluten-free living but not specific enough to give away all her secrets?
Your pre-launch content should give just enough information to your audience that they are ready to buy your product once you lead them to it.
Now that you know exactly what pre-launch content you’re creating make sure you don’t just gloss over the opt-in pages or the follow-up emails. These are incredible places to get your prospects even more excited and engaged in the launch process.
In your own experience, no doubt you’ve seen opt-in boxes in multiple locations, including the sidebar of websites, on social media headers, or at the end of blog posts. A strong strategy is to create a dedicated opt-in page for each free offer, so your website visitors don’t have to search for it. Or, worse, yet, they get distracted from the other content on your website, and they forget to opt-in for their freebie altogether!
At the very least, your opt-in page should have a headline that really hooks the audience and a simple opt-in box asking for their name and email address. This opt-in box is a code that’s provided by your email service provider.
Since you have a dedicated page for this offer, you have the space to offer a more detailed description of your freebie, who it’s meant to serve, and why your audience needs to claim it. If you’re new to the industry, you can also include an About Me section to serve as an introduction to new visitors. Most importantly, you don’t want to distract or overwhelm your visitors with too much information.
With a dedicated opt-in page for each of these freebies, you now have a unique URL to promote, instead of just your home page and then hoping visitors find the correct opt-in box.
Once your prospect signs up for your email list, the worst thing you can do is never follow up with them. Creating an email autoresponder series for each freebie is paramount to creating a relationship and keeping your name foremost in their mind. If you fail to stay in touch, they will miss out on your product launch news as well as forget who you are or why you’re so great at your job.
Autoresponders are evergreen emails scheduled to mail at certain intervals, such as every three days or once per week. Since we’re talking about emails during a launch period, a daily schedule is recommended. But don’t get overwhelmed; these emails are simple to schedule, so you can write them well in advance of your launch date and be confident that they will be delivered according to your schedule.
Email number one is often the “Thank You for Signing Up” email. This one is delivered immediately upon sign up and includes the download link to your freebie. Include a bit more about your freebie, such as utilizing the information and giving some teasers about your upcoming webinar.
Your second email reminds them to download their freebie and give some action tips related to the freebie.
In your third email, tell them about your upcoming webinar and how to register. Most webinar services require a separate registration, and this also weeds out those who just want your freebies from those who want to attend your webinar, who are also prospects for your paid product.
If you’re doing a live stream presentation instead of a webinar, give them a reminder to follow you and watch for notifications when you go live. Also, ask them for questions in advance if people are too shy to ask questions during the event.
Email number four can be more evergreen content related to your freebie’s topic plus a reminder about the webinar or live stream.
If your webinar is on Day 5 of the launch schedule, then your fifth email should go out on that day with huge reminders about what time your webinar starts, along with the registration link for last-minute joiners. Your webinar platform should have the capability to send registrants the link to watch the webinar live, so you’re not bothering your entire list again.
The remainder of the emails in your daily launch sequence should be about building up your paid product. Give details. Tell them why they need your product in their life. Explain how your product will solve their biggest pain point. Tell them your launch date and any bonuses you’re offering. Just because someone isn’t interested in your webinar doesn’t mean they won’t become a customer.
Now, rinse and repeat this sequence for your second pre-launch freebie. Keep each freebie list separate to avoid confusion and duplication of information. A confused audience is a non-buying audience.
You’ve already created your pre-launch lead magnets, but now you have to create other daily content that drives traffic to those landing pages. You also need to be especially present throughout the launch process to stir up excitement about your freebies, webinar, live stream, and, ultimately, your paid product.
During your launch is NOT the time to get shy or indecisive about what kind of content to produce, hence the need to use this planner now. Answer these questions to help craft an easy-to-follow and stress-free content marketing plan:
Jot down your ideas in as much detail as possible, especially if you plan to outsource this content creation. The more details you can give a contractor, the fewer questions you’ll get, and the happier you’ll be with your final content.
Answer these questions for more clarity of exactly what format you should produce:
Next, it’s time to plan when you’ll release this content and to whom. Will your social media followers see the same content as your email subscribers? Or will you cross-promote all your content to every platform you use? There’s no right or wrong answer, just have a plan and get as scheduled as possible.
And if you’re wondering how content can bring in regular sales around the clock, think of all the people who see your content at different times of the day. You’ve got different time zones and different countries where those people might be starting their day as you’re ending yours. Think of those people with insomnia who might see your content in the wee hours of the morning while you sleep. By releasing killer content, you’re making that content work for you at all hours of the day by attracting those who need your message the most.
You know that old saying, “Two heads are better than one”? We can alter that a bit too “Multiple people are better than one” when discussing selling your product.
You don’t have to sell your new course alone. Instead, utilize paid affiliates to promote for you–and make sure your course or product gets the possible eyeballs on it. Affiliates act as your sales force. They receive a unique link to use in their emails, social media, or blog posts, and every time they refer someone who buys your product, you pay them a commission. In general, digital products’ commission is 50 percent, whereas services are usually in the 10-20 percent range.
If you want your affiliate team to really work hard for you, it’s best if you recruit people who know you already and who are familiar with the quality of your work. Look among your business peers, social media followers, or influencers in your industry.
If you’re open to strangers promoting your products, create an application they can fill out and require manual approval before assigning them a unique affiliate link. At the very least, ask them their website URL, what type of audience they serve, and how they plan on promoting your products. Now you can do a quick investigation of the website and decide if this affiliate indeed serves the same audience as you or if they are doing anything shady that could reflect badly on you if they promote your products.
Many experienced affiliates will promote your products easily because it’s part of their business model, and they know what offers their audience will jump at purchasing. But there’s nothing wrong with some friendly competition, and running an affiliate contest will spur most affiliates into action.
Start with choosing the purpose of the contest: Do you want more leads or more sales? Do you have a total number of leads or sales in mind? Don’t hide those numbers; tell your affiliates what you’re aiming for.
Second, choose a badass contest prize that will appeal to your affiliates. It doesn’t have to compliment your product, but it should stand out as being impressive and worth winning. Professional affiliate marketers promote multiple products/brands, so make your prize worthwhile for them to spend their time promoting you. Consider a large cash prize, the newest electronic toy, or a free ticket to your next live event.
Next, choose the duration of the contest. Do you have the energy to run it a full 30 days or 14 days work best for you?
Lastly, you’ll need affiliate management software to track all the leads and commissions owed. Don’t be fooled into doing this manually; consider the price of an affiliate software program a worthy expense for your business.
You’ve got your own launch content laid out now, but you also want to make sure your affiliates and JV partners have everything they need to succeed, too. The easier you make it for affiliates to promote you, the more they will do so.
Here are some ideas of affiliate tools you or your team should create to make their lives easier:
If you’re not familiar with the term “swipe copy,” it’s an old advertising term that simply refers to emails or other sales copy that can be used unedited in multiple promotions. So, your writer or VA can write an email swipe that affiliates can literally copy and paste (aka swipe) and send out to their own lists.
Affiliates with a writing flair can certainly make changes to the swipes, but by providing the swipes, it lessens the chances of misinformation going out, such as the wrong launch date or wrong cart closing date. And for those who struggle with writing, the swipes allow them to still send out email promotions without the stress of writing them well.
As you well know, social media is all the rage. Still, some affiliates may be “graphically challenged,” so providing the social images serves the same purpose as the swipes: They can be used “as is” very easily by those affiliates who don’t have a designer hand or who struggle with creating images.
Affiliates will pick and choose which tools to use in their promotions, but it will serve you well as the affiliate manager to provide as many tools as possible. You’ll never keep track of which affiliates use which tools, so cast a wide net, so you get the most affiliates as possible to promote your products.
Running a live webinar or live stream where you provide value and then introduce your offer at its early bird price is a tried-and-true way to “kick-off” your product launch. What can you teach about that will prime your attendees to want to continue to learn from you?
Decide on a juicy topic for your live stream or webinar. Again, it should be related to (but not straight from) your product and provide a taste of your expertise and what it’s like to learn from you. Video is a powerful medium for showcasing your personality and expertise because your attendees will see you in action. They will decide right at this moment if they like your style and want to purchase your product.
Save all your sales talk until the end of your presentation. No one wants to sit through a long sales pitch; they want you to teach them something. They want to know that you have action steps or other answers to help them with their problem.
For your presentation, outline to stay on course so your VA can create slides for you. Choose 3-5 key points you want to make on your topic. Offer advice or actionable steps they can implement right away and save the sales pitch for the last 10-15 minutes of your webinar. Finish up with a Q&A session so viewers can ask questions about the presentation or your product directly.
Create branded slides for your webinar. Include your business colors and logo, your headshot, your contact info, and a call to action slide at the end. If you opt for a live stream instead, outline your notes into bullet points so you can stay on track.
You should have your bonuses sorted out by now, so be sure to talk about your fast action bonus. This bonus is special for those attendees who are watching live. Also, decide if you want to provide a replay of your webinar. Replays are great for those who can’t attend life, but the bonuses should remain exclusive.
It’s going time, baby–but you must be extra specific about when, where, and how you’re opening your cart. And if you want sales to roll in from cart open to cart close? You’ll also need to think about exactly what emails you’ll send and what you’ll post on social media during every day of your launch to keep people engaged and excited.
Pick an official “go time” for your cart open and be specific how you’ll announce it to the world (or at least those who didn’t show up live for your webinar). Pick an exact time of day to launch, so your affiliates know exactly what they can start promoting. Then, unveil your course or product in the way that feels best – most likely a cart open email explaining the course, a series of social media posts, a Livestream – or all of the above!
Remember when we planned out your email autoresponder series that subscribers receive when they opt-in to the freebie? We plotted out email topics for every day leading up to your webinar. Now you need to add messages to that series so your prospects know that your cart is open and ready for sales.
Keep the daily content flowing to ensure people stay engaged and excited. Map out your cart open to cart close daily content. How are you going to promote your course from now until cart close – live streams? Daily emails? Social media posts? Blog posts? All of the above? Get super clear on what you’ll post, to which platforms, and when.
Make sure to talk about why they need your course, why you’re the best person to teach them (aka what makes you uniquely credible and trustworthy), and what problems your course solves for them. You should also address their fears and objections, answer their frequently asked questions, and clarify what bonuses are expiring to create urgency.
Urgency is a sales tactic that plays on people’s fear of missing out, either missing out on the product itself or a great sales price. If a certain bonus is about to expire, tell your subscribers to spur some quick sales.
Ever had major FOMO after a course you wanted to buy – but didn’t – closed its doors? Once you snap yours shut, you’ll have many buyers-to-be who feel the same way. So, if you have a few stragglers who’ve shown interest, it’s time to give them another chance to get inside.
Closing your cart makes sense for mastermind groups, live workshops, or membership groups, or products that are “retiring.” Closing doors spurs the serious purchasers into action so you can plan specific open/close dates for your program.
Other products, such as self-study courses or eBooks, don’t need to close their cart. Those are poised to make sales year long because your time is not a part of the purchase.
Remind your followers about the cart closing with several emails and social media reminders. Spacing them out at 48-hours, 24-hours, 1-hour, and 30-minutes work well for most products. In each of these messages, remind your readers about the benefits of your product, what problem you can solve, and the urgency that they’ll miss out if they don’t act NOW.
Don’t feel guilty for closing your cart! It’s your business, so you make the rules. But if you have stragglers complaining that they missed the deadline, consider reopening your cart for a minimal time, like 48 hours. Then create an abandoned cart email sequence ONLY for those who added your product to their cart but left without paying. You can see these email addresses of the abandoned carts through your shopping cart platform.
Do NOT send your abandoned cart emails to your entire list! Save this short sequence only for those who didn’t follow through with payment. You’re trying to get a few last sales, not trying to irritate your entire list with an offer that doesn’t apply to them.
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