The Copyblogger Guide to
Zombie-Free Product Launches

image of thumb emerging from soil

These days, a lot of online product launches are like zombie attacks.

One day, everything is fine. The next day, there’s a legion of crazy people banging on your virtual doors and windows, wanting to feed on you.

Who the hell are these zombies and how did they get my address? Time to break out the shotgun, or in this case, the Delete All button.

And it gets worse. That group of friends you hang out with from time to time? Yeah . . . they’re zombies too.

“Wait dude, I thought we were cool . . . why are you . . . Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

You can always tell when the first wave approaches, because your inbox will suddenly fill up with variants of the same message. And the guy who hasn’t talked to you since his last launch is suddenly your best friend again.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m the last person to hate on someone for trying to make a buck. But let’s face it, some of these guys are doing their reputations an injustice by treating their customers this way. Product quality aside, in some markets we’ve become so immune to these tactics that zombie leaders are forced to gather new streams of recruits each and every time they launch an invasion.

So what’s my point?

Instead of forcing yourself to do the hard work of constantly capturing fresh flesh to lunch on launch to, why not implement a strategy that takes the best parts of the product launch model and combines them with high-quality content marketing?

That way, you not only build trust and authority with your readers, but you also keep them ready and eager to listen to you. (In other words, you make yourself zombie-proof.)

That’s what they do here at Copyblogger, and it’s why so many other bloggers have been able to form six-figure businesses without having giant lists and hundreds of superaffiliates.

It works like this:

You let your content do the talking and you build your lists the old-fashioned way.

That means building an effective blog, providing value, and following up to help your readers be successful in their own right. You take your time to show off some of your best stuff before you ask for any cash.

When it’s time to launch your product, you will have already built trust and authority with your readers, so they won’t be wondering why you are emailing them out of the blue. And although you might use a big tribe of affiliates, a long-form sales letter, and a variety of techniques to build excitement about the launch, your audience isn’t turned off by what you have to offer. In fact, they can’t wait to come along for the ride.

What makes the difference?

Well for starters, your audience knows you already, because they’ve been reading your blog for months before the launch. They probably got your name from another satisfied reader, a retweet, or a link from a blogger they trust. So you start out with a good shot of social proof.

Second, unlike certain clumsy marketers, you don’t abuse that trust. You treat people as friends, not food.

And finally, when you’ve closed the sale and converted your readers into buyers, you follow through on your promises by (over)delivering what you promised. Not only that, but you stay in touch.

You aren’t the hit and run marketer that we’re used to

The funny thing is, the original Product Launch Formula created by Jeff Walker is totally in sync with this approach.

That’s probably why Brian Clark found PLF so useful several years ago when he used Jeff’s ideas to start building Copyblogger into a powerhouse business, not just a powerhouse blog.

In fact, lots of Third Tribe-style marketers use the strategies outlined in PLF. Because they work. But we’re using them to build businesses, not just one-shot brain buffet launches.

As a marketer, consider building an army of fans rather than traveling from town to town in search of fresh victims. The difference might be small, but over time, the benefits are tremendous.

Alternately, you can build your own legion of zombies and consume everyone on your list. I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a lot of work.

Besides, something tells me that brains don’t actually taste very good.

About the Author: Nathan Hangen teaches people how to build digital empires, helps them rock through their workday, and works with small businesses to implement digital marketing campaigns.

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Comments

  1. I agree. If the superaffiliates spent half the time and energy they spend luring new people to their list on providing something of value to the people who are already there, they would likely find they could keep more of the other half in their pockets and let their list and content do much of the selling for them.

  2. Hey Nathan,

    This is great! I received so many emails in the last month from new product launches and some of them where from the same product launch just different people promoting them…Crazy!

    But this is a great learning tool. Because in the near future I’ll be producing a product to launch. So thanks for sharing this with us.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  3. LOL! You are hilarious – but oh, so right. A blatant sales pitch does often feel like a zombie attack! :)
    That’s the exact reason why I shifted from the affiliate marketing to the Blogging tips niche. I know how irritating sales pitches and since I couldn’t stand to write them, I had no choice. I decided to focus on teaching others and offering them something of value instead – ever since I’ve been doing that, I’ve been seeing the best results.

  4. I have a crazy fear of Zombies… not sure where it stems from, probably just an overactive imagination :)… great post.

    I’m amazed at how many of my acquaintances are suddenly my best friend when pitching their new product or service. I’d be 10x more willing to use their services if they were also friendly at other times, not just when trying to get into my wallet.

  5. I love the visual you’ve given me over my brunch this morning. :-)

    It all basically boils down to work hard, right? Produce good content, make sure it all looks good, ease of access, SEO… if you build it they will come? Wait, that’s not zombies.

  6. This article is incredibly awesome. You combined zombies with tearing down spamm-y internet marketers. Add some cake and I’m done for the day.

    I’d also add that it’s not just the ‘big guys’ who do this. It’s a trap I see so many newbies fall into – desperate to make some money, they push out some hard sell, and wonder why the ‘gurus’ techniques don’t work.

    Thanks for getting it so right!

    Marianne

  7. @Chris, me too, even the funny zombie movies are too scary for me. :)

  8. Loved the zombie tie-in. Remember, only a head shot will do. :)

  9. You must be on the same email lists I am! I’m getting tired of being hit with the same pitch for the same products by 5 different people. I have unsubscribed from many of these folks. It’s too bad really, because some of them do have good stuff, it’s just the cross promotion that drives me bonkers.

  10. Ironically these zombies don’t think with their brains instead of wanting them LOL

    Good one Nate

  11. I’m wondering how long it will take prior to a big launch for the big zombies to coordinate their less-big-zombie affiliate campaigns so prospects don’t get bombarded with multiple emails.

    Kind of like a franchiser whocoordinates locations so that each franchisee doesn’t step on the shoes of other franchisees, the head zombie could compile all affiliates lists and split it up somehow. If a prospect shows up on more than one affiliates’ list, the head zombie must choose who gets it.

  12. Dude, best post I’ve read from you yet. This is something we can all use reminding of when we’re working on an upcoming launch. Keep ‘em coming Nathan.

  13. That’s an interesting idea, Shane, though given the fact that most lists promise not to share your e-mail it is difficult to imagine how the lists could be compared for analysis.

  14. @Shane, I think it just gets Darwinian. The emailers who have stuff people actually want keep the subscribers. Those who just do pitchfests get unsubscribes.

    I will say, I got the giggles about 100 times when editing this post.

  15. Awesome stuff Nathan. I just wrapped up a launch and I got emails from folks thanking me for writing to them about my product. So it’s definitely doable the non-zombie way. :)

  16. @Sonia,
    I agree. I think the multiple emails are a bit annoying, but since I opted into these big-zombie guys, I just chalk it up as a learning experience regarding how the big fish play the game.

    I was laughing, too, trying to figure out whose hand that was.

  17. I was quite happy to find that photo on iStock.

  18. I like the way the Salty Droid handles these guys with their goofy hyped-up product launches: http://saltydroid.info/
    Fair warning, the Droid has a filthy mouth, but he is the anti-scam evangelist, and a lot of fun to read to boot.

  19. My problem with salty droid is IMO he throws out a lot of baby with that bath water. But he’s definitely always good for a grin.

  20. One of the key concept of launching a product is to marketise on it a blog that is niche specific with a massive traffic and finally a product reveiw it works and the product launch is successful

  21. I am amazed at how many wanna-be internet marketers are still using this zombie approach.

    It’s like there is a internet-marketer-in-a-can spray that they shot all over their computer and thought that by pretendig to recommend a $495 set of 5 minute videos that people would flock to it.

    Yes, even the old stand-by gurus are doing this from time to time and I can’t believe my eyes.

    Sure, old-school copywriting is essential to actually closing the sale and there is such a thing as being too nice and giving too much away for free, but we are in an era of content (and have been for awhile).

    It’s all about the relationships and it seems like the zombie guys are going by the way of the Viagra spammers.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  22. Slow and steady wins the race – where have we heard this sage wisdom before. I like how you’re applying it to product launches. I’m saving this article to read again when I’m ready to launch my product on line. In the meantime, steady as she goes with writing quality content and building over time. Thank you!

  23. Seriously, how cool is it that I get to talk about my two favorite things in one post? (Zombies and Marketing)

    Thanks for all the comments. I think what it boils down to for me is just treating people like people. Respect them and don’t see them as a buyer, but as someone you can help.

    As for the salty droid…hilarious, but like Sonia said I think he’s got a bit of a vendetta, and it pollutes his message.

    btw…awesome pic Sonia :)

  24. @Martypants shhh say his name 3 times and like candy man he appears LOL

    @sonia I agree (baby bathwater comment)

    I actually wrote something constructove about him a few months ago.

    21 Online Business Ideas for The Salty Droid

  25. I’m so glad to see this. I was beginning to think that I was the only one being fed upon ! The tactics these people use to sell their products include NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to get you to do what they want; i.e. buy, buy, BUY. You can thank Frank Kern for that, although he cautions everyone to use these powers for good. Flesh-eating zombies are not good, in my book.

  26. Great post Nathan, I am still vry much in the early stages of the first stage:-) getting the momento going and getting that following. It really just boils down to good old fashion business values; create value for your customers and you reap what you sow. Those zoombies harvest all year round:-) I am going to keep this post just in case I think of moving from stage 1 to stage 2.

  27. Love the image (the post was good too :p)!

    I just wrote abut a similar topic on my blog, but the general idea is still the same: build an audience that trusts you. What good are those people in your audience that don’t even have respect for you?

    Again, great post. Really enjoyed the zombie references. :)

    • Yes, build an audience that trusts you … then earn that trust by not abusing it. I’m just setting out to learn how to do an e-book product launch, but I am keeping one eyebrow raised for any ‘technique’ that would cause me to overstep the bounds of what I feel is ethical.

      I’m afraid that many folks have the attitude of “build an audience that trusts you” … then harpoon ‘em.

      I want fair value for my book. If things work out well, I’ll write another. And another. And another. That’s how I hope to earn a fairly generous living … by providing fairly generous benefits to a lot of people at a fair price.

  28. You can thank Frank Kern for that…

    Frank is standing on the shoulders of 100 years of direct marketing pioneers, most obviously Dan Kennedy and Eugene Schwartz. Just because you heard it from him first doesn’t mean it’s original. :)

    At Copyblogger, we take a different approach: We keep stressing that although the context is different (online and social media), the fundamentals established by those pioneers are still applicable as adapted. Kern is just further proof of that.

    And we throw in a few tricks of our own. ;)

  29. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Frank. In my (limited) experience, he’s always delivered quality content. It’s just overkill with some of these people. You’d think they’d time their launches better so it’s not so obvious what they’re doing. Oh,well, it’s always fun to watch the show.

  30. This is one good advice that cannot be ignored when building a mailing list. I especially liked the part that says, “You treat people as friends, not food”. Thank you, Nathan.

  31. One thing that it’s smart to remember is that some of the big launches may annoy you, but that’s different from being ineffective. I was talking with Jeff Walker about that very thing this morning, because I interviewed him for Inside the Third Tribe. (And yes, it did rock, thank you for asking.)

    There’s being clumsy, which Nathan talks about, which is not a good idea. Sometimes you see that when someone starting out is imitating the “big guys” but doesn’t really see the whole picture of how they’re doing stuff.

    To my mind, that’s different from some of the mega launches recently which, just by their nature, make a hell of a lot of noise. Some of that is smart and well-crafted and some of it is sort of zombie nonsense. :)

    Kern uses some NLP, but he uses a lot more POC. (Plain old copywriting.)

  32. Hi there,

    Its so true- and yet the same ‘Get Rich quick ” mentality is clogging up our Inboxes with this zombie like greed!
    The ‘Snake Oil Salesmen’ of the 21st Century..Sigh.
    I hope people do look at the IM er’s who are out there- giving great tips & content, cause when they launch stuff- its really going to deliver!
    Just remember that as you are reading * passing on great content , YOU are also growing in your knowledge- and that will reflect on your business offers!
    :)

  33. ” And the guy who hasn’t talked to you since his last launch is suddenly your best friend again.”

    Ain’t that the trush….funny how the smell of potentail money brings out the freindship in people. Ahhh, the Web, what a fun place it is.

    Ta for the Dave Navarro links.

    Jamie

  34. That’s awesome,

    Having true fans is more fun anyways than spamming “strangers” with launches that pay of your Mercedes.

    I luv Kevin Kelly’s idea of a 1,000 true fans, and the fact that you can make a living off blowing people away with your creativity and awesomeness. People buy from friends first, especially if your product rules and you make the effort to sustain a real, genuine relationship !

  35. LoL. I like your imagination. Sales people as zombies. HaHa! I remember walking in the mall where there is this bunch of people all wearing suits, holding flyers. With one look you know they are sales people. And whenever someone walks by, they jump on you! HaHa! Now, every time I will see them. I will remember this post and imagine them as zombies! :P
    Kidding aside though, I think it’s not just about content marketing. But also finding the right target. Sometimes these people just aim for their targets but never the right target. Like the spam mail I got for increasing manhood size and I’m a GIRL! LoL.
    So, I think you’re right. We should forget the trust we build. A good successful business is the one who listens to their customers and takes care of them (and not eat them for lunch)
    PS…Sharing an article on customer satisfaction http://sn.im/uxp4n and how it’s vital to your company’s success.

  36. Others who follow us are not supposed to be a target as advertising materials, they have the right to vote. But in a market, it would be very helpful mailing list and readers without seeing who are they.

  37. I’ve unsubscribed from all the main guru lists, so I don’t even find out about most of the main internet marketing launches, unless I read about them in passing on other blogs.

    I save time and decrease brain fatigue.

  38. Hi guys,

    I’m sure brains don’t taste good. LOL!!! Great Blog. Thanks for posting.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  39. Thank you SO much for this.

    I’ve been torn between frustration and rage, and hysterical giggles – just watching the email clones from all the affiliates fill my in-box.

    I only subscribe to these folks so as to learn from what they’re doing. I don’t expect to EVER buy from them. And what I learn is what *not* to do.

    I try to stay with finding it amusing… but sometimes the retch factor is awfully high!

  40. Always entertaining education! Five stars.

  41. I’ve bought a couple of e-books. In both cases the hype was more informative than the sloppily written book. (It has actually become something of a hobby to read the long, hard sell pages.) I’ve already been ‘had’ by the juvenile delinquents: it will be a CDIH before I drop even a tenner again. I do not mind paying for worthwhile information but I can write crap myself and the library is only two miles away. Something written for download has to be timely, specific and available nowhere else.