10 Lessons from My First Million-Dollar Launch

image of man thinking of money

I was amazed.

Jaw-on-the-floor astounded.

I’d been imagining what it would feel like for a long time, and truly believed if I put my mind to the task and nose to the grindstone, it was sure to happen.

But the reality was like seeing a six-pack after 100,000 crunches (not that I’d know anything about that).

I never thought I would know what it felt like to hit a million dollars with a first launch.

But now I do.

I was the ghostwriter for this project, and I worked in collaboration with many others, so my non-disclosure prohibits me from specifics of the product itself.

But that’s actually irrelevant, as is the seven-figure total.

The number is impressive, sure, and that’s what prompted me to write about the recent launch for the Copyblogger audience. But the truth is, a million-dollar launch applies to you more than you might think.

After nearly three years online, I’ve launched or helped launch everything from $27 ebooks to WordPress plugins and themes to membership sites.

Despite the specific configuration of the moving parts, the basic elements are always the same.

Whether you’ve already launched your first product, are still working on it, or you have a thriving business under your belt, these are the 10 things I learned from my first million-dollar launch.

Use them to help you nail your own launch, no matter how big or small it might be.

1. Look customer objections in the eye

Every potential buyer has quibbles that will prevent them from buying. It’s your job to address those objections with honest, unambiguous answers.

People are short on time, money, and patience. You’ll probably have to tackle one or all three.

Your buyer is thinking your product won’t work for them because they’ve tried something similar before, they don’t have the time, or their bank account is bare.

Tell them how you’re different, why they can’t afford not to make time, and why their relatively small investment is one of best they’ll ever make.

There are plenty of ways you can address objections, ranging from case studies to strong testimonials to screenshots clearly showing simplicity in action.

Tell stories or draw metaphors, but never, ever ignore objections.

2. Be specific

Buyers don’t want magic beans that do everything. Well, some do, but trust me, those aren’t the kinds of customers you want.

Your ideal buyer is looking for something that will enhance their life or business in one specific way.

We had to narrow down the options to get to the perfect offer. Because our product did so much — it included education, tools, advice, great support — we spent a lot of time weighing the merits of all the benefits.

In the end, we highlighted the most profitable angle and focused only on that. The other parts of the product became bonuses and upsells. Even though they were all part of the same product, we knew spending time marketing the extras would only confuse the power of the core component.

Take the time to know your market and what they truly need, then sell them only that. Everything else is lagniappe.

3. Be confident in your copy and your product

We were asking our buyers for a lot of money, it certainly wasn’t time to be timid. Confidence in your product is everything, but you must also shed any shyness you might have about making money.

If you’re a writer or a marketer, it’s your job to get paid for your work. If you’re embarrassed to ask for the sale, your buyer will know it, and they may confuse your lack of confidence in your salesmanship with a lack of confidence in the product.

That’s the last thing you want.

If you’re building a product, make it the best it can possibly be. If you’re writing sales copy for that product, be proud that your words are being used to represent something that will make the business profitable while helping the buyer.

The confidence will show in your writing, and it will make the customer feel confident that making the purchase is a great idea.

4. Be highly adaptable

Yes, you must set a plan in place. (The plan is nothing, planning is everything.)

No matter how well you organize yourself ahead of time, things will go sideways — it’s all part of a launch.

Test as many things as you can at least one week prior to launch, preferably two. Shopping carts, landing pages, autoresponders, merchant accounts — there are too many things that can go wrong to leave it all to chance. Don’t forget to split test your sales pages, too.


Test everything, and know that some things will still go wrong. Set contingency plans in place, but be willing to zig, even if you are 100% certain you are going to zag.

5. It’s not about the money

Money is great, and you should aim to make as much as you can. But if all you’re thinking about is the bottom line of your launch, then you’re thinking of the appetizer instead of the menu.

You should be thinking about the launch that will follow, and the one after that.

There is, of course, value in every launch, but the real value is in the relationships that a well-run launch builds. The people on your list are people, not just leads. Honor your relationships and you will be rewarded over time, and with compound interest.

Charge a fair price for your product, without overcharging. Build something tremendous. Let your market see that you’re passionate about delivering value, and they will return.

Even better, your buyers will tell their friends, virtually guaranteeing each launch will be better than the one before.

6. Enlist the experts

We had the copy and general marketing nailed, but we were also aware of our soft spots. With more than 160 separate emails to manage, plus affiliate relationships, we didn’t want to drop any of the many bouncing balls.

We hired two specialists to help with some of the heavy lifting so we could focus on what we do best. I also work with a terrific partner, Lori Taylor.

Don’t think you have to do it all, and never be afraid to ask for or hire good help. In our case, we had additional people to pay, but it made sense since their involvement more than paid for itself with additional revenue.

You don’t have to hire an expert, but you should still be as prepared for every part of the process as you possibly can be. Dave Navarro and Naomi Dunford have written an excellent (and well priced) home-study course on product launches that I’d recommend to anyone launching a product on a somewhat smaller scale.

7. Service will make or break you

One of the things that made it simple to ask for the sale was that the developers already had a learning community with a reputation for fantastic customer service.

They answer every email almost immediately, know their customers inside-out, and over-deliver at every opportunity. Their forums are well populated with eager teachers and their community thrives as a result.

This consistently exceptional service has built a layer of trust with their audience that made it easy to ask for the sale, since it was a natural extension of a promise made over a prolonged period of time.

8. Your network is important

Ideally, you should have a decent-sized audience of regular readers (blog, email, or — ideally — both) before launching your product.

Yet potentially more important than your own audience is the strength of your network.

It isn’t enough to think, “Hey, if I offer a giant commission, affiliates will line up to promote my product!”

That just isn’t true.

Good affiliates promote products and people they know and trust. Only lousy marketers will mail anything to anyone without regard to their own promotion schedule or existing relationships. (And lousy marketers aren’t going to make you any sales.)

We got great affiliates for our product, but only because every member of the team was able to reach out to their own pre-existing networks.

9. Make it easy for your affiliates to help you

Give your affiliates early access to whatever it is you want them to promote. Not only will this prove that your quality product is worth promoting, it can help get your affiliates excited to bang the drum as well.

Our product made some bold claims, and despite the existing relationships within our network, there may have been some skeptics.

But anyone who spent time with the product was thrilled to promote it, and the active users became our loudest, most avid supporters.

We also had emails written, banners created, and entire sales processes set in place, so that for the majority of our affiliates, promoting the product was as easy as pressing “send.”

10. Focus

Make sure that you, and anyone on your team, is eating, drinking, and sleeping product launch for the immediate time preceding the launch, as well as during the entirety of the launch itself.

A lot of things can go wrong, and a few things probably will, but with the right focus and steady determination, you will wind up ahead.

This is especially true during your first product launch, since it is twice as hard to maintain focus when you’re flying outside your comfort zone. Yet it’s in facing your fears and marching forward that you will find the success you’ve been waiting for.


Don’t let negative self-talk slow you down. No, not everyone will like what you have to sell, but many people will. It’s not your job to please the naysayers, it’s your job to do the best you can for your audience and deliver a product worth launching.

Your launch doesn’t have to be seven figures to be a success. If you build a quality product that cements your authority and helps your audience, your launch can’t help but be a triumph!

About the Author: Sean Platt helps good writers make a great living. Follow him on Twitter.

P.S.

Want 20 more lessons on how to build a successful business online? Subscribe to the free Copyblogger newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People, and move closer to your own inspiring business goals.

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Comments

  1. Sean:

    This is good stuff and very helpful to me. I’m in dialogues with a London connection, about some joint venture product promotions. The ROI is good for me – 50% profit after expenses, and the other person picks up the cost tab. Developing an affiliate network is crucial for our success.

    I like the first point about “looking customer objections in the eye”. Entrepreneur, marketer and copywriter Joe Sugarman covers this well, in his books.

    While I’m mostly familiar with Jeff Walker and his million dollar product launches, I’m happy you have joined the club. Good stuff today.

    Randy

    • Thanks Randy. I’m about 36 light years from Walker, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the first big launch.

  2. I like to study successful product launches. I copy the text of their sales pages, make screen shots, and study everything afterward. The clues to a great launch are right there.

    Write more of these, Sean.

    • Hey Shane, I sure will. Would actually love to write about some of the stuff I picked up last week in Austin.

  3. Thanks Sean,

    Having a strong network is very important. Your blog is as strong as your network.

  4. That’s true in life. Your network = your net worth. :)

  5. You rock!

    Being highly adaptable is huge. I’d also say that knowing how to be a team player is so, so important. You have to make sure everyone feels valued and heard and understands that YOU understand how vital their role is. It pays dividends down the line when you find that you have dozens of people who are willing and eager to work with you again.

    • One of the most important things about being a team player, is knowing when to fade into the background. Even if you know your ideas are spot on, sometimes it’s best to let other voices gather their strength for the benefit of everyone. When the TEAM is operating as one, there’s nothing they can’t do.

  6. Point #5 is so true and so important. As my buddy Gary V likes to say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    • It’s soooo not about the money. I’ve seen the filthy floors of the churn and burn business, and it’s not pretty.

  7. Congratulations! And thanks for all great articles that have helped me gain a better understanding of the blogging world.

  8. The structured approach is very impressive but I guess you need it that way with so much at stake. I’ve seen a few Internet marketers who have taken an undisciplined approach to their launches and watched them have a mini meltdown on launch day.

    Great stuff Sean!

    • I just got a flow sheet for an upcoming launch that is crazy specific. What’s cool about it is that A) It tries to detail every eventuality, and B) This launch is still six months away, so we’re leaving ourselves a ton of time to do it right.

  9. Thanks

    Having a strong network is very important. Your blog is as strong as your network

  10. Hey Sean,

    Blog World, 2 years ago, sitting in a restaurant in Vegas, talking about this kind of stuff.

    All I’ve got to say is…

    High Five!! o/

    Eric

    • Ha, I always knew it could be done, though I may have underestimated how long it would take to do it. :)

      Big high-five back atcha, buddy!

      • High five to both of you!! :)
        Great article Sean ! I am taking these lessons in as I launch my app platform !

        • Hey Maya, nice to see you! Good luck on the launch, you should be a natural. Let me know if I can help in any way!

  11. Sean, great post. I loved your use of “lagniappe.” That’s been one of my favorite words since I lived in Jennings, La. Every marketer should be aware of the benefit of providing a little lagniappe.

    p.s. As far as I know, the every day use is, “Everything else is lagniappe.” Do you know if it’s technically supposed to be “a lagniappe”? I remember hearing it the first way. : )

  12. Hey Sean,

    Curious, how much split testing was done on the landing page?

    Congrats on the success! I hope they paid you handsomely ;)

    • Hey Glen!

      A decent amount, but not nearly enough. We have enough to data to improve the next launch, though. I would’ve loved to have split tested the actual close. The speaker strayed slightly off script at the end. It would’ve been interesting to see the two side by side.

      It was rev share, so I’m happy. :)

  13. I totally adored reading this story, remembering when Sean was all hard work and drive, and learning like crazy. It’s just really neat to see someone work his tail off, keep learning and growing, and see the payoff.

    My hat is off to you, friend. :)

    • Thanks so much Sonia. Copyblogger’s definitely been a part of the opportunities that have come my way. I’m nowhere near finished, learning or growing, and I’ve more drive then ever, but the true payoff is momentum. Sometimes all us creative entrepreneurs need is a full tank of gas. :)

  14. Be Honest when you promote your product. Because if your product has something avg. to offer & you promote with so much fakeness, then in future you’ll face problems. So Honesty is a must. Liked this post. Thanks for sharing it.

    • I don’t know if there’s anything more important. Betray your audience even once and you’re finished.

  15. Great points Sean, thank you. This would definitely help me break some “mold” in my new venture :)

  16. Great article about how to work with credibility and efficiency. I misread the title, however, and was wondering how one goes about getting a million dollar “lunch”!!!

  17. Some very helpful and great points here, for those of us doing launches.

    I do strongly agree with point #7. Customer service can be the difference between getting positive and negative reviews.

  18. Point #2 is very timely reinforces a marketing principle I was reading in a book at Barnes and Noble last night. Tie the product/service to an emotion and a desired outcome vs. just a generalized notion that it will do some good.

    • Yeah, we had to get super specific on what it did. We originally had a huge bucket of STUFF, but it was so overwhelming we could see people tuning out because, like everyone, they don’t have the time. By shrinking our pitch, we made it easy for buyers to see themselves using the product. When they got inside the members area and saw the extras, they were bonuses, not barriers to entry, and that blew them away.

  19. If you have never done a launch before, how much do you think is enough to charge for your product or service and what would be too little?

    I realize that making your product to small may not generate any interest, but making it too big and being unknown wont be good either.

    • There is no too little. You can sell a coaching coarse for 2K or a PDF that gives a buyer a single, vital piece of information for $7. Or $97. You can sell an E-Book for .99 – Amanda Hocking sold 450,000 of them last month.

      Decide what you’re good at and what people will pay for. Then build that. Whatever you charge, give your buyer more than they pay for; make it easy to give them more than they pay for again.

      • Thank you for the quick response. I think I am going to focus on a small but valuable piece of information. The price will be small. It’s time to take action and get results. I can build from there.

  20. Sean,

    You’re one of my favorite CopyBlogger writers. You wrote the posts about Eminem didn’t you? This article is another classic…

  21. Great article. It will be very helpful for me in implementing the strategies that you have outlined. How long did it take for you to be successful on your blog?

    Thanks in advance!

    Matt

  22. Totally depends how you define success. The first year I had plenty of attention, but no income. The second year balanced income and attention, but neither were nearly enough. It’s been two and a half years, and the dream is only now paying on its promise. Fortunately, I expect it to pay with compound interest.

  23. Just invested in Walkers PLF so this was a cool article to read, thanks Sean. My goal is to do 6 figures in launches this year… will report back Dec 31st :P

  24. Congrats, Sean! I know all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes and applaud this milestone. You’re a true inspiration and one of the good guys I’m proud to call friend.

  25. Great points Sean – thanks. Look forward to reading some more of your posts.

  26. Wonderful article, Sean. Networking is very important as it will help you in every aspects of your life. Another master piece.

    P.S.: I am looking forward for my first product launch, wish me to make some dollars out of it.

  27. You summed up the ingredients of successful product launch beautifully, Sean.

    If there’s one thing I would add is that if you know influential people, give them your product as a gift and they will spread the word about it on your behalf. One tweet of a popular “Tiwtterer” could go viral in no time and you will reap the rewards.

    I particularly love your tip regarding NOT being offended by the simple fact that whole wide world will not welcome your product with open arms! That’s a very important point to grasp.
    Also, doing what you do best and hiring other “Qualified” candidates to do the rest is critical as it will help you follow through your business commitments without getting bored or overwhlemed along the way . The know-it-all, do-it-all mentality is the fastest recipe for business failure.

    I hope your future product launches will be even more rewarding and profitable,Sean. All the best :)

    • I know a guy who does some amazing business, and his entire pitch is convincing his buyers not to buy. He actively tells them that his product doesn’t work for most people because most people will never be willing to do the work. What makes it work is that he 100% believes it. He doesn’t want people to buy it if they’re going to be wasting their money, and his delivery is passionate. And his conversions are RIDICULOUS.

  28. I realize that making your product to small may not generate any interest, but making it too big and being unknown wont be good eithe

  29. Excellent and so timely Sean as I’m launching next week to my community and the week after to the `rest of the world’. I’m glad to see I have the majority of this in place but I’m totally expecting a lot of zig zagging from what I’ve planned ahead of time.

    For me it’s not about the money but all about reaching as many people as poss that I think will benefit from my eBook and from that end I have been building a strong network who I want to work with to help me spread the word. I’m doing making this a personalized individualized approach as I believe that works best.

    I’d be interested to know beyond your affiliates how you reached a wider community to enlist support in the launch and how receptive they were to you

    Congrats!

    Natalie

    • We didn’t for the most part. The main product had a decent sized community to pull from, and we relied on affiliates to bulk up our numbers. Well before the campaign, we ran some PPC campaigns for testing and to build a separate list (potential buyers who weren’t actively using another of our products or weren’t familiar with the face of the company already).

      We were the “new guy” in the space so getting affiliates was harder than it will be for the next launch from this company. What really helped was that we had someone mail for us, who rarely mails for anyone. We were able to carry that social cache down the line to a few other affiliates.

  30. Great post Sean. Thanks for the tips

  31. Just go to show how powerful this internet really is. Thank you. Glad I found you and connected.

  32. These are good lessons. I’m working in my first product, but this is me taking too long. I want do a good work, and read people like you is good for my training.

  33. Having been part of several Big JV Launches in the past, I want to compliment you on your post. Product launches are unlike anything else in our industry. You almost have to be adrenaline junkie. What I learned and learned well is if you make that customer happy they will buy from you time and time again.

    The other thing I learned the hard way is being very consisitent, reliable and providing good support not only to your customers but to your affiliates is key to a succesful launch. I took so much from this post, and thank you for your wisdom. You blog is a daily part of my day.

  34. Very nice and informative. Gets right down to the basic steps..great job!