How to Regroup and Keep Going After a Disappointing Launch

This is a guest contribution from Ernest Dempsey, fiction author.

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The big day has come and gone. You did all the prep work, created as much buzz as you could, and promoted from every angle.

You blew up social media. Networked with peers and strangers. Met new people and helped them promote their stuff through your small, but growing channels.

You spent countless hours getting your product ready to launch to the world, painstakingly covering all the bases so it would be as good as it could be when the release day arrived.

Zero hour arrived and you waited patiently as the sales began to trickle in; a good sign at first. Or so you thought.

But as the day went by, the small flurry of sales never became the avalanche you’d hoped for, and by the end, you were left wondering what the hell just happened.

Does your product suck? Did you do something wrong with your marketing and promotional plan? Should you give up and try something else or should you regroup and push forward?

You’re not alone in this maelstrom of confusion. There have been several big names that have seen that road. And there are some key lessons we can take away from their experiences.

Light bulb with a great idea

Here’s the problem with people and ideas. We get them in our heads and inside that imagination of ours, they seem like the best thing since sliced bread. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had ideas for books, movies, products, or services that took my excitement to the edge of the stratosphere.

Throw on top of that all the amazing success stories we see on blogs, Youtube videos, and online training courses. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

We see the articles about the guy who wrote a guest post for someone and got 10,000 visits to their website the next day. Or the girl who sent out a Tweet with the right hash tag and sold 5,000 units within six hours. Or the lady who had 1,000 subscribers before her blog even went live.

We see all of that, and think it can be us too. Why not? They were normal people just like you and I. All we needed to do was have a good idea, take action, and execute the exact same strategies.

Right?

Not so fast. And I mean that literally, not so fast.

Dreaming goals Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

Let’s go back to the point where you just released your product. It’s day two and sales are barely doing anything. Maybe you’re moving a product or two every twenty-four hours. Or maybe you aren’t selling a damn thing.

That’s not going to cut it. And at that rate, if you haven’t already, don’t quit your day job.

But what is the problem? You did everything exactly like you were supposed to, following the blueprint of those who have gone before to the letter. Why did your launch suck?

It could be any number of things. But the first thing you need to examine is the expectations you set before the launch.

If you go back and look at it, what were those other people selling? Was it a product with a bigger market, a hungrier market, a more viralistic market? (I think I just invented the word viralistic)

Let’s assume that you have already done that and you have a really strong market that can produce lots of traffic to your site, and a market that is desperate for the solution that you provide. Sounds like a perfect scenario. Even with all of that, it is not a good idea to assume that your launch is going to go bonkers with sales.

What has worked for someone else in the ways of marketing, promotion, and the resulting sales or subscribers may not happen for you. Every single person is different. Every scenario is different.

Then what kind of results should we expect?

You know people will pay for your product or service because you have already done that part of the process. You tested out a few prospects in your target market and they loved what you’re providing.

So, why hasn’t it gone viral? Why didn’t your launch go better?

The truth is, most product launches don’t go that way. In the normal world, those occurrences are the outliers in the statistical universe. For you, it’s probably going to take a little more time, a little more effort, and a lot more patience.

After all, there is a ton of behind-the-scenes work that goes into an overnight success.

These things take time to build up for most businesses. In the offline world, it can be as slow as networking with one person at a time. On the Internet, we have the opportunity to meet and interact with multiple people in small amounts of time, but it can still be a long process to build up trust.

And trust is crucial.

Would it be cool if your launch went viral? Sure. But don’t expect it. What you should expect is to need to keep working hard and constantly making connections, interacting, and helping others.

Like I said before, you’re not alone. There are lots of people who have been in your shoes. But it took a bit of regrouping, and rethinking to get them to the level of success they desired.

Yeah, I thought I would start with my personal experience in the matter. I write action/adventure fiction and science fiction. When I released my first novel, I expected lots of people to buy it. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t believe I could quit my job right away. I just wanted to write stories on the side.

But I figured I had 700+ Facebook friends and most of them would buy a copy since I had helped most of them in some way at some point in time.

I sold less than fifty copies in a year.

It sucked. And I was crushed by the lack of support. Moreover, I was riddled with doubt. Was my book horrible? Was I a terrible writer? What did I do wrong?

Actually, it is pretty simple. I set huge expectations, relatively speaking, and did very little ground work to get my book noticed. I didn’t understand the first thing about traffic or promotion or marketing.

I just figured I could put something out there and the people I knew would buy it, and word would spread.

Compare that strategy with the one I employed in December of 2012 when I re-released my first book along with the sequel. This time, I gave away thousands of copies of the books. I did a lot more online networking.

As a result, my book sales took off. I didn’t sell millions of copies, but so far in 2013, I’ve sold around 4000 copies of my books and novellas. Pretty cool, right?

The lesson here is that for many of us, slow growth is how we will get to where we want to be. And that is okay. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.

When Nathan was getting ready to launch his book about creating apps, he wrote a bunch of guest posts and submitted them to various blogs. His hope was that he could get several of them published and the resulting traffic would help propel the launch of his book.

In the end, he only had five posts published, which is still a good number. But the traffic that came as a result was moderate at best; each yielding about a hundred visits.

He could have thrown in the towel at that point and just waited to see what would happen. But he didn’t. Nathan continued to build up his subscriber base until it was close to 800 when he launched his book.

On the day his book went live, he brought in over $12,000 dollars. That is an amazing day. Not life changing money, but awesome nonetheless.

What is better is that Nathan kept on pushing, sending emails, writing posts, grinding it out. The result was over six figures worth of sales in a year. Nice.

I realise that is not a disappointing launch, but it was certainly discouraging before he went ahead with the release. Nathan could have waited around until he reached what he thought was critical mass before putting his book out there, but he didn’t. Rather, he persevered and kept pushing slowly forward.

Yeah, surprise name right? I know. But in 1955 when an interstate bypassed Corbin, Kentucky where Sanders had been cooking up fried chicken for almost twenty years, he was left broke and uncertain about his future.

He knew his chicken was good. But he’d been forced to sell everything he’d worked so hard to build over the course of two decades.

Then Sanders rethought the way he’d been doing business. He decided that instead of doing all the work himself, he would franchise his chicken business. And Kentucky Fried Chicken was born.

Within five years there were 190 franchisees and over 400 restaurants serving up the Colonel’s eleven herbs and spices.

The lesson from this one: A great idea is nothing without a great execution strategy. There could also be a better way to do what you’re doing. If so, find it!

The master of seemingly all things business has not gotten there by being immediately successful every time he launches something.

One of his earliest ideas was a video tape that produced the visual of a fireplace or an aquarium on a television screen. He figured lonely or lazy people would be interested in buying such a thing because they could pop the tape in the VCR and just let it go.

No fire stoking. No fish feeding. Simple.

He went to American Airlines magazine and ran an ad for it, telling himself if he sold 30 units, he would pursue production of the item.

The first week he ended up selling 24, so he thanked everyone who’d ordered the tape, and sent them a gift.

Since he didn’t meet his goal, he bailed on the idea. However, the next week he received another eight orders, which would have put him over his goal of thirty. But Godin had already abandoned the idea and moved on to the next thing.

What’s the lesson here? Patience. That is the lesson.

Sometimes, we set these goals in our minds and tell ourselves if we don’t reach them by a certain time we will just give up. Godin’s idea with the video tape might not have been a successful venture in the long run, but we need to give our products and services a fair chance at success.

That means giving them time to sink in while we work behind the scenes to get more eyeballs on the product.

No, not the guy from the Lost television series. He’s an author. Actually, he’s a best-selling author.

Early on, though, he wasn’t.

John had been a successful businessman, and had made his fortune long before he started writing books. No agents or publishers were interested in his stories so, he decided to self-publish his novel.

With loads of expendable money in his arsenal, he released the book and spent $25,000 over the course of a year trying to promote it. He hired one of the top publicists in the country to send out over 10,000 press releases, bought a kiosk in the mall just outside of Borders Books, advertised on billboards, and tried several other things to boost sales.

In the first twelve months after he released his book, all of those efforts netted him less than thirty sales. You read that right: thirty. Not a good return on investment for all that time and money.

John had written a few other books during that year-long process, and decided that he needed to take a step back and regroup. The marketer inside him told him to do things differently, the way he would if he was running his book business like a regular business.

He got on Twitter, built a simple WordPress blog, and began networking with the online community. At one point, after hundreds of hours interacting with people online, he wrote a blog post about two people he admired and sent out a tweet about it.

Because of all the work he put in behind the scenes, his tweet led to hundreds of retweets, and thousands of visits to his blog. Sales of his books went off the charts and within five months, John Locke had sold over a million ebooks on the Kindle platform.

He is one of only a handful of self-published authors to ever be on New York Times Best Seller list. And he is still one of the top best sellers on Amazon.

The lesson from John’s story is that you may have to take a step back from how you are doing things in your promotion and marketing strategy. It may even require a complete overhaul.

John will tell you up front that he is not the best writer in the world. I’ve read some of his stuff, and he’s right! Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, edgy, witty, and a good read. But it will probably never win any awards. And that’s okay! He writes to his audience whether he’s writing a blog post or another chapter for a new book.

Because he has redesigned his marketing plan, he doesn’t have to be the best writer in the world. His product is good enough for the people it was created.

Do any of these stories fit into where you are or have been with a product launch? What did you do? And what are you going to do in the future?

Ernest Dempsey is a fiction author and writes about personal development and life observations on his blog.  He has also been a Master’s level counselor for the last decade.  Find out more about his books and check out his inspiring posts by visiting ernestdempsey.net or follow him on Twitter @ErnDempsey or Facebook.

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