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Trial by Fire: a Beginner’s Attempt at a Product Launch

This guest post is by Ryan Derousseau of R.M.D. Media.

Unlike most bloggers who share their experience on ProBlogger, I haven’t quite seen the fruits of my labor turn ripe—yet. I only launched my blog on social media and media outreach a couple months ago. I’m a newbie to this whole blogging thing.

My decision to launch the blog fit well with my background, since I work as a journalist and a social media manager. But jumping into a blog of my own meant I had to do more than just write about my niche.

It involved truly marketing my own business, building readership (not just benefiting from a standard readership that I’m used to through the magazines I write for), and developing my brand. I think we all can relate here. It’s a move that has come with some trial and error.

In order to build this brand quickly, I wanted to develop an ebook and offer it for sale. “What better way to jump into the world of creating sales marketing copy and grow readership quickly?” was my thought.

Of course, this meant a bunch of reading and strategizing on how to ensure I had some following before launch, in order to help spread the word of my new product, The Insider’s Guide to PR.

I tried to do all the things that the experts tell you to do: join an affiliate network, find partners to help with promotion, guest post, write a sales page well in advance, and on and on. Along with those tools, I’ve tried some other endeavors—some from experts—that I launched or prepared prior to the ebook release, in order to see the effects I desired. I want to share some of those with you.

But this post isn’t about how effective these strategies were, as I’m not an expert at launching products (it’s my first one, remember). Instead, I’m sharing my experience, to help spark some ideas for you. Maybe this will lead to some other, better, ways to promote your product, which I overlooked.

Tactic 1: Leaking details of my ebook

When I was about a month out from launching my first online PDF, I started leaking tidbits from the book. I did this in order to build buzz and enthusiasm, but also to highlight my expertise, since I was a new blogger.

At first I began to leak ideas that are shared in the book. For example, I wrote a post on the types of media pitching campaigns that a consultant, independent business owner or entrepreneur could use to plan outreach. (This has actually become one of my more popular posts to date.)

These types of posts made for great content for the blog, provided knowledgeable “pillar material that I can use for months and years to come, and were easy to write since I had already developed the ideas in the ebook.

But I went further then that, as I began to have a clear launch date in mind. Once I did, any time I referenced something that would relate to my book, I began to say things like “And you can read more about this in my upcoming guide to PR.” That way, I encouraged the reader to check back, if they had interest in hearing more.

And it worked. About two weeks before my launch, I was at an event hosted by a client, and they asked me about the guide. That was exactly what I wanted to hear!

Tactic 2: Developing a product to encourage newsletter signups

If you’ve delved into building a newsletter list before, then you have heard this over and over again: “You have to offer them something!” So I listened to the shouting, and did.

In my Guide, there are free email templates for pitching the media. I took the ones for pitching guest posts, and turned that into a free offering in order to encourage signups. I then published a blog post announcing the new free offering, which I promoted heavily.

It’s still difficult to just do that and expect a ton of email newsletter signups. After all, if no one sees the post, how can they sign up?

So at launch, I decided to test the effectiveness of this strategy by earmarking a portion of my advertising budget for encouraging newsletter signups. Instead of pointing people to my product, these ads point them to the newsletter. Once they sign up, they receive a copy of my sales site, so they still learn about the book.

The issue with this tactic is that it’s leading to tons of clicks, but few sign ups. While I wish there were more, each one is very valuable, so it has been worth it. But moving forward, instead, I will offer the first chapter of my Guide to see if that entices more opt-ins.

Tactic 3: Offering consulting to encourage new clientele

One thing I wanted to try was to offer a consulting-like service prior to the ebook launch. This idea came from a partner I work with, and I thought it was so great that I put together the offering the day after our conversation.

Unfortunately, it proved ineffective at encouraging signups or promoting my ebook.

And looking back on this, it’s clear to see why. I put together the plan so quickly that I didn’t have time to promote the offering besides a blog post and some tweets (not enough!).

However, I do see the strategy working out now that I’ve launched. Because the service is in place, I don’t have to constantly promote it, but people who are on the site, and looking at possibly purchasing the ebook, can see that I also have this consulting service. They may prefer this service instead, or are simply comforted to see that I also consult. I’m not sure which, but I saw pageviews to my consulting page jump by a factor of eight in the week of launch, compared to the week prior.

That can only mean potential for success down the road. But it also means I can quickly change tactics after the book promotion dies down, to focus on consulting services. It gives me options—something you need at the early stages of a business.

Tactic 4: Sharing the guide free

One thing I did as soon as I launched the guide was send a free copy to anyone and everyone who helped me in some way prior to the launch. This includes partners, mentors, those that I reached out to in order to ask a question, my parents, and others.

I also told them to share the guide with anyone they liked. I did this because I’m not just looking for sales; I’m also looking for readers and newsletter signups.

By offering the guide to those who supported me the most, I provided them with content that they could use to further cheerlead my efforts. That could lead to a number of other opportunities down the road as well. And who knows who in their network can send my pageviews, and sales, flying?

What works for you?

While I’m sure I’ve missed steps in the process, these are the key tactics I tried before my first product launch.

I’d love to hear what you found effective—and what failed—as you launched your first product, second product, or 20th product. It’s a learning process, and there’s no better way than trial by fire. Still, might as well make that fire as dim as possible, right? Share your tactics with me in the comments.

Ryan Derousseau is Director of R.M.D. Media where he provides advice on media outreach and social media. And receive the first chapter of his new e-book by signing up for his newsletter here.

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Comments

  1. Peter Jones says:

    Very thought provoking. ….and informative ! Thankyou .

  2. Great write up! Often times all we hear about are the succeses. A great strategy is to build up a buzz. Make it seem like everyone HAS to have your product.

    The most important strategy I think is to network. Find other blog owners in your niche and contact them. They probably all wont respond, but some might and they might like your e-book enough to promote it to there readers!

    Good luck!

    Chris

  3. Thanks, Chris! That’s a great idea. I’m actually starting to build a list just for that purpose. It’s definitely an important strategy, one that has long-term impact. Sometimes that can get lost as the rush to get the product out increases.

    Thanks for the advice!

    -Ryan

  4. About tactic 2 – did you use a squeeze page? Do you have a link to the squeeze page we can look at?

  5. How did it go with you tactic #4??? Any results???

    • Not immediate, no. But it’s something, now that a month has gone by, I can circle back with them to see what they think, get their impressions and see about possible references or people to connect with. That was the bigger plan for that tactic.

      -Rya

  6. Hey Ryan,

    Great post and very timely. I’m doing a thoroughly-planned blog launch in two weeks. I’ve actually been focusing on all of these things, giving away a 75 page book and a bonus resource package for list signups, as well as preparing for consulting. I’m actually already consulting for two people, even before launch, which is going to greatly help for both future experience as well as product creation.

    I initially intended on selling the 75 page program but realized that building a mutual trust with strong readership is much more important than pushing product on them. One thing I think may be super helpful would be to tag-team the initial (or second) product offering with a well-established blogger in the same space with similar viewpoints and a complementary skill set. The growth potential and initial reach for the product would be much wider and larger in general. And if you can prove to them that you’re an all-star and form a friendship and great working relationship then everyone will benefit from it.

    Which, in the end, is the goal as a blogger right: to add value to the blogosphere as well as your readers’ lives.

    Cheers and good luck with your blog!

    • Yeah, the relationship building is actually a bigger aspect of growing a blog then I ever realized. But definitely something I do, and will continue to do, which will hopefully increase the success of future launches. Feel free to send along a link to your site, so we can see the give away.

      BTW, I did play with the idea of launching the Guide for free, like you did. I wanted to try it out, since I had never done this before, and really attempt to sell a product. But the guide was written in a way, that I could leak a lot of the information, and it still hold value. That helped with it.

      -Ryan

      • Yeah man definitely. The blog itself is NoGym.net so you can see how I set it up and how I call readers to action, then the landing page for the product is http://bit.ly/QjvlMl and the download page itself (so you can read the whole thing if you’re interested) is at http://www.nogym.net/rs7y49z/

        Would love any feedback or advice if you have a second since I’m launching in only a couple weeks now.

        And btw – how has your product done in term of results so far? Thanks for the article and best of luck man.

        -Chris

        • Hey Christopher, fantastic looking site. I actually really like how you added a link to the table of contents. I might have to borrow that idea.

          In terms of advice, I do look at other fitness sales sites quite often (they’re great resource in how to market online effectively) and all of them have video. It’s something I want to eventually incorporate. I would imagine, since you’re in the fitness realm, that it could help you as well. Good luck on the launch! And thanks for sharing.

          -Ryan

          • Thanks Ryan! Glad you liked the site! I’m trying to step up the design so it stands out b/c many fitness-niche sites are pretty scammy-looking…like they were designed in the early 00′s or something. Yeah I definitely agree with the video recommendation. I’m actually in the middle of creating a course on Udemy with tons of video so I’ll definitely be recycling my intro video onto NoGym.net for a promo.

            Definitely – adding the link to segments of the book may be that little push someone needs to sign up for your list.

  7. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the writup. Too often we see the successes but never the process,

    My attempt at creating a buzz involves free reports. I release them and get people on my list. I’m waiting on the paid product until I get a better idea what my audience wants.

    It really is awesome that you are getting your product out there and trying a launch. You learn by putting stuff out there and either failing or having success. Rinse and repeat.

  8. Richard says:

    hmmmmm..Pretty thoughtful. I agree that you need to offer something to the users before they sign up for your blog.

  9. I like the tactics you are using. Like your determination. All the best!

  10. Kate says:

    This article was really helpful – thank you Ryan! I am in the process of creating an online Tarot reading workshop and this gave me some ideas – I especially love the idea of sharing what you are working on to build interest. I have always wanted to do that but held back for some reason.

    • Yeah, me too! It’s a weird hangup, I think partly out of fear of succeeding or failure or both. I don’t know, but as soon as I pulled the band-aid, it became easier for me to tell my readers and friends about what I was creating. So, hopefully, even telling us will help get you in the groove of sharing.

      Thanks for the comment.

      -Ryan

  11. piyush says:

    The most important strategy I think is to network. Find other blog owners in your niche and contact them. They probably all wont respond, but some might and they might like your e-book enough to promote it to there readers!

    Good luck!