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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!

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8 Secrets to a Powerful and Profitable Launch Strategy with Carolyn O’Brien

Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher 

When it comes down to it, the biggest thing everyone wants to get out of a launch is for it to be successful. After all, you decided to put in all that work to create a course or product in the first place because you had something to share with people, and you knew there was an audience who would find it helpful. And, of course, whether you’re launching something for the first time or the 20th time, it’s pretty dang important that you actually make money during your launch. That’s precisely why I invited Carolyn O’Brien to be a guest on Create a Better Course and talk about launch strategy.

Carolyn is an absolutely fabulous online business manager who’s worked on multiple large teams to help run successful six- and seven-figure launches. She considers herself a “data first marketer,” which means she’s all about looking deep into the actual numbers and statistics to help people improve their launch performance. Launches can notoriously be an emotional time, and it’s all too easy to start adjusting your offer on the fly in the heat of the moment. Bringing everything back to a data-first approach helps people focus on what actually moves the needle during a launch – without getting distracted.

In this episode, I got to pick Carolyn’s brain about creating a successful launch strategy and how to pivot mid-launch if you’re not seeing the results you want. 

In this episode, we talked about:

  • Expanding your launch audience
  • Tracking metrics so you know what’s working in a launch
  • Boosting open and click-through rates on email
  • Encouraging people to pay upfront 
  • Increasing webinar replay views
  • Launch strategies for money during your whole launch (not just cart open and close)
  • Giving sales a mid-launch push 
  • And so much more!

I’ve recapped some of the main points of my conversation with Carolyn below, but don’t miss out on the entire episode – it’s so good! Like, “Get out your pencil and get ready to take notes” good!

A winning launch strategy

The most important thing to remember is that a successful launch doesn’t always happen the first time around. Sure, there’s always someone who totally knocked it out of the park on their first try, but Carolyn always reminds people that it can take a couple of tries to get to that super big, crazy good launch. And you know what? That’s OK! So many times, we hear people’s success stories and colossal launch numbers. It’s easy to get FOMO or feel like we’re doing it wrong when it just takes time and some trial and error. That said, Carolyn has found some tried-and-true tactics to boost any launch and roll with the punches as things come along.

Expanding your launch audience

Sometimes you’re gearing up for a launch, and you’re not quite getting in front of the audience size you’d like for promotion – maybe your email list is on the small side, or you don’t have a ton of social media followers. In that case, get creative about where you can find people who want to hear your message.

Here are some of Carolyn’s ideas for expanding your launch audience:

  • Collaborate with another creator for a promo to their email list
  • Swap freebies with another entrepreneur to promote your launch
  • Ask someone with a similar audience to share your launch in their stories

In short: don’t underestimate the power of collaborations! Many people don’t mind helping you with your launch (especially if you’re willing to return the favor and give them a shout-out to your audience)!

 Boosting email open rates

If you’ve ever been part of a launch, you know the feeling of watching each batch of promo emails hit the subscriber list and checking open rates every two seconds (praying for good numbers.) So, what should you do if you’re not getting the open rates you want? The first thing Carolyn suggests is evaluating the number of subscribers on your email list. 

Typically, the smaller your mailing list, the higher the open rates. When you send fewer emails per batch, it’s more likely they’ll make it to subscribers’ inboxes. That doesn’t mean you have to chop a ton of people off your email list – you can segment users into different groups and prioritize sending to your warmest leads.

The second thing she suggests is working on email subject lines. It’s simple, but they really are the trick to getting people to open emails! Every audience is different, but using emojis and first names in subject lines can significantly impact open rates. Anything that makes an email seem more personalized and like it was written directly to the person receiving it (and not like a generic bulk email) is a good idea. Pro tip: one of our go-tos is using “re:” before the subject line to make it look like a conversation you’re in the middle of having with the email recipient!

Keep track of all the metrics

We always think we’ll remember what worked and what didn’t in a launch, but three months later, everything is a blur. Look at your numbers every single day during a launch, and make a note of how things are going. Track everything from subject lines to open rates to when you send each email in a master Google Sheet, so you can easily recycle what worked and improve your strategy from launch to launch. 

Improving click-through rates

Even if you get people to open your launch emails, there’s another step before they get to your sales page: clicking through the link in the email. Encourage people to click through by making a link button (not a hyperlink) in a bright, attention-grabbing color. However, also include several hyperlinks in a bright color throughout your email text. The idea is that when you make it easy to see links and ways to get to your sales page, people will click on them more often! It’s the simplest tip, but it works.

Getting people to pay up in full

Payment plans are a brilliant way to increase sales, but a lot of creators would much rather have full payment upfront. It can be so satisfying to get those revenue numbers up right away, especially if you’ve already spent a lot of money to get the course off the ground in the first place. Make the pay-up-front option more enticing by adding exclusive bonuses. Honestly, even if the bonus is that they pay less money by paying upfront, promote the heck out of that by doing the math for them right on the page! Carolyn also suggests tailoring these bonuses to potential buyer objections (think quick-start guides, how-tos that help them make money faster, or a one-on-one coaching call).

Getting people to watch webinar replays

Not everyone can attend live webinar events, but you can always offer a replay. The catch is that it can be challenging to get people to watch it. Make watching the replay as accessible as possible and give people plenty of options for participating. Think beyond Zoom replays and consider offering audio recordings, private podcasts, and condensed videos. Also, offering a bonus midway through the replay can encourage people to watch.

How to make sales during the entire sales period

Usually, when launching a course, there are two huge sales days: cart open (when sales begin) and cart close (the end of the sales period). There’s always a cluster of people excited to buy right away, then a group of procrastinators who aren’t ready to make the order until the last minute. But in between, sales usually trickle in slowly (and in the middle of a launch, that can make you feel panicky!)

Carolyn had the fantastic idea to roll out bonuses each day of a launch to incentivize people to buy throughout the entire open cart period – and that sustained sales rates through each day of the launch. The bonuses don’t even have to be anything particularly fancy. For instance, you could use smaller digital products or internal resources you’ve already created. Start with a bundle of products available at the cart open, then drop one bonus off each day until the cart closes.

Boosting sales mid-launch

Sometimes despite all your best efforts, you’ll get to the midpoint of a launch, and sales aren’t where you’d hoped they would be. If you’re in the thick of it and what’s happening to you, take a step back and try to pinpoint the specific problem. (Hint: if you’ve been collecting data throughout the launch, that will help!) The data and the numbers behind everything you’ve tried so far will point you to the breakdown every time. Are emails not getting opened? Is the sales page not converting? Is no one showing up to live webinars? Once you have a handle on what’s not working, then you can work on fixing the issues at hand.

Want to learn more from Carolyn?

Listen to the full episode in the player above on your favorite podcast player for more launch strategy tips! You can also find Carolyn on her website and Instagram. If you want to get started on tracking launch metrics, grab her Metrics Tracking Template and Metrics 101 Guide. I absolutely love it and use it to track launches for myself and my clients!

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