Why I love launching ( …and is the launch model right for you?)
During the past month you’ll have noticed a lot more activity from me than is “normal” during the rest of the year – thanks for sticking with me!
There were invitations to the free events: Fall in Love with Sales week, the Heart-Centred Sales Masterclass and Q&A sessions. You may even have noticed me popping up on your Facebook newsfeed much more than usual. In fact if I got it right it might have felt a bit like I was “everywhere” for a couple of weeks. Possibly even starting to feel just a tiny bit annoying if joining my programme didn’t feel like the right thing for you right now – but if you are reading this today, not so annoying that you decided you don’t want to hear from me anymore!
That’s because during September and October I was in full on promotion mode for my flagship online programme “Get More Clients Saying Yes!”.
OR, in “online business speak” – I was “launching”.
I’ve been launching programmes since pretty much the very beginning of my business – before I even knew that it was called launching! But even though I’ve built my business on launches it’s not something I talk about much in my free videos and blog posts.
So fresh out of a launch feels like the perfect time to do that!
What is a launch?
The word launch is a bit of a confusing term to start with. In the “real world” a product launch usually involves launching a brand new product – and that’s how most people tend to think of it.
But in the online digital product world a launch is when a product is made available to a market for a defined period of time, but this isn’t necessarily a new product – for example I’ve been launching my online programme (nearly) every year for 12 years now, and I’ve launched my Business from the Heart membership twice a year for the past 5 years.
So a launch in the online world is any time that a product or programme is made available for a defined, limited period of time, and then closed again and made unavailable until it next opens.
Launching and my business
I said that I was launching before I even knew it was called that! When I sold my first online programme I first offered it at a live speaking event, and then repeated the same talk and offer via a webinar to the same audience plus my own very small email list. In total I did 2 speaking engagements and 2 webinars and sold 20 places on my “pilot” course. The course had a deadline to buy, and 5 weeks later I ran the course.
So I had just launched – even though I’d never even heard of the term!
Since then I’ve gone on to run my entire business via a “launch model”. Over the years I’ve created and launched 3 different online courses or trainings, a high-end mentoring group programme and a business membership! All of them I’ve sold through launches.
I’ve also enrolled private 121 clients this way – launching isn’t just for group programmes.
So you could say I’m a bit of an “old pro” at launching and there’s a lot I could teach you – in fact I could probably write a book about it (which is why this is quite a long article!).
Instead I’m going to start by sharing a few key points that I think you’ll find useful – especially if you’ve been wondering if launching would be a good idea for you and your business.
The first thing to make clear is this:
Launching is a sales strategy
First and foremost the launch model is about making sales, and a lot of people see it solely that way. They do it because they believe it’s the best way to maximise sales into their business.
However I also see it another way:
Launching is a business model
And considering whether this business model works for you, should be a large part of how you decide whether launching is for you – rather than just considering its impact on your sales.
Why I love launching
Let me start by telling you why I’m such a fan of this model.
1. It suits my “all-or-nothing” personality
I love to hyper-focus and throw myself into something and be all consumed by it for a period of time. And that’s what it’s like, both during a launch and in the lead up to one. I’ve always been this way, it’s just how I’m programmed. I was the same when I had a job and would throw myself into specific projects to the exclusion of all else, and the same when I trained as a yoga teacher and spent 6 hours a day every day practicing yoga. But when I’m off work I’m 100% off – for example, don’t really think about business while on I’m holiday. Balance isn’t something that comes easily to my personality and because of that it suits me to be “all on” or “all off” with something.
2. I get all my sales done in one concerted period of time
I don’t do it this way any more but for 4 years I did all of my sales for the entire year during just September and November. This meant that during the rest of the year I could take things a lot slower, focus on client delivery and marketing, and take time for me without constantly worrying about whether I’d make the sales I needed each month. These days I have 3 “windows” each year when I make sales.
3. It helps me stay out of overwhelm
I used to suffer from ME/CFS and I was very debilitated for many years. I’ve recovered now but my system is still very delicate and I don’t “do” stress and overwhelm very well. Separating all my sales activity into short bursts each year works really well for me as I feel it helps reduce the number of things on my plate during the rest of the year (though let me not deceive you, launching does come with plenty of it’s own stressy moments – it’s just concentrated into short bursts of a few weeks at a time which overall I find easier to handle especially as I’ve developed strategies around it).
4. It allows me to focus fully on delivery
Once a launch closes I get to turn my attention to the people going through the programmes. Not fully, because I’ve still got a whole business to run, and sometimes 2 or even 3 programmes running at the same time, but it does mean that my attention isn’t scattered and spread thinly between too many different activities.
5. It helps me get results for people
I launch a course, work really hard to get people enrolled, then close the doors and take everyone through the programme all at the same time, with Q&A and mentoring calls to support the course content. It’s great for creating a sense of community – and it’s great for actually helping people get results because people are engaged and feel they are “part” of something. Rather than if they could join at any time but may not feel part of a “container” in this way.
Launching is not for everyone
However for a lot of the reasons I mention above, launching is definitely not for everyone.
1. It’s really intense
Launching can be really intense for a period of at least several weeks each time. My family and friends are used to it now – they know that during a launch I’m fully focused on the launch and not available for much else.
2. There are a lot of moving parts
Even if it’s just an internal launch to my own mailing list there are videos, landing pages, webinars, email sequences, sales pages, products, shopping carts welcome sequences. Everything has a deadline and a lot of things need switching on and off at very specific times. It’s a huge amount of work to do on your own. And it’s still a lot of work with a team as it requires a lot of co-ordination. The very nature of a launch means that if something goes wrong, sorting it out is urgent – right now!. If there is a big glitch with your sales page, or your email system goes down the night before a key webinar you don’t have the luxury of sorting it out in a few days time. It has to be done right now – and if that means a late night that’s what has to happen.
This sort of intensity is not for everyone and a lot of mums of very young children opt out of following a launch model because it can be harder to juggle around family life.
Now in theory it doesn’t follow that it has to be hard, especially if you are really well planned in advance – and it definitely gets easier as your launches get bigger and you can afford a team to support you. But you can never fully factor in those emergencies – it’s almost part and parcel of launching that there will be some stressful moments!
3. It may not be right for your market
Depending on what you sell it may not feel appropriate about to only make it available to people at certain times of the year. For example if you are selling hypnobirthing to expectant mums it won’t work to have a model where you launch once a year – your customers need you when they are pregnant, not 6 months later when you decide to open for enrolment but they’ve already had the baby.
4. It takes resilience
Launching can be an emotional rollercoaster because you have so much riding on it. What if you get ill during a launch and don’t do a good job? Or your internet crashes out in the middle of your biggest webinar? Yes, of course you can still do things to save it and turn things around. But there is a feeling that “all the eggs are in one basket” especially if you’ve put a lot of work in to make it happen.
It can also be scary. I have often entered into a launch wondering “what if it doesn’t work this time? What if nobody buys?”. It feels hugely exposing to put myself out like that with no idea what the response will be. I used to think that was just me, but my business mentor who has run multiple million dollar launches says he feels exactly the same – so launching does take a certain amount of resilience.
This is why for every person who runs a launch model, there is someone else who runs a model where their product is available to purchase all the time.
Why launches work so well
However, as a sales expert I am a big believer that people need a good reason to buy. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s basic human psychology to respond to a deadline. Most of us have a natural tendency to put off decisions, to think about things intending to come back to them later. If a decision doesn’t feel urgent we often don’t make it at all – even if that decision could have a huge impact on our life and business. And this can make getting customers for our programmes “off the fence” really challenging without a clear deadline to force them to decide one way or another.
For that reason I’m not a fan of just leaving your programmes sitting on your website all year round hoping that people will buy – some people will of course, but likely not in the numbers that you need for your business to work.
If big launches aren’t right for you a good halfway house is to adapt a launch model so that instead of one big launch 1-3 times a year you do multiple “mini-launches” throughout the year. This is what many of my clients with children do as it can be easier to manage your time and energy, and it’s less stressful because you have less riding on each launch.
Warning: This doesn’t mean I’m only marketing once a year
This would be my big warning about launching. It’s easy to look at a launch model and think “oh, great, so I can just market my business once a year” . But here’s the thing – a launch is about making sales – you open for enrolment, you do a lot of activity in the lead up to and during the enrolment period, and then you close again. All of this is focused on encouraging people to make a decision to actually buy from you. But you need to have those people in what I call your “orbits” first – you need have people available to launch to. Which means that you need to be marketing all year round.
There will of course be people who come across you for the first time during your launch because of all the extra activity and the buzz the launch creates, but you will find it SO MUCH easier to make sales during your launch if those people already know, like and trust you. So your marketing needs to be a year round thing.
The biggest mistake I see people make is when they decide to launch their first online course, membership or workshop they are effectively trying to launch to the to the ether – instead of building a community of interested people first and then launching to that group.
Start small and build up
If you are thinking of running a launch for the first time, the most important piece of advice I can give you is don’t try and do it perfectly from the get go. There’s simply too much work involved in doing it “perfectly” and you will burn yourself out trying. Instead start with baby steps. As I said above my first “launch” was a couple of live speaking engagements and a couple of webinars. That webinar consisted of a couple of email invitations and a couple of follow up emails including a recording. I didn’t even have a proper sales page, just a booking page with a list of the course modules and a Paypal button!
Then every year since then I’ve added something new or improved and upgraded what I’m doing. I’ve now got quite an elaborate system that involves nice branding, launch “experience weeks”, a series of emails designed to maximise webinar attendance, a webinar, a series of emails about the bonuses ending and the offer closing, live video testimonials, a Q&A and a beautifully designed fully detailed sales page.
But I didn’t have all that together to start with – and you don’t need it either. Start simple and refine it over time. You don’t need an elaborate launch with all the bells and whistles – you just need to start!
It’s not just for group programmes
While I’m here, I just have to bust this myth that launching is just for online or group programmes – that’s not the case at all. What if you like the sound of doing all your sales activity in just one burst once or twice a year, but you love working 121 with your clients? Well you can totally do that with a launch model!
When I used to take on private 121 clients I used to enrol all of them at the end of November for a January start. I’m then fully booked and don’t need to put any more focus on it for another 6-12 months – I’m free to focus on working with those clients. You can totally do the same – follow a launch model to fill all of your 121 client spaces for the next 6 months, then repeat 6 months later.
You don’t have to follow a specific launch “blueprint”
There are lots of people out there teaching launch models – Jeff Walkers Product Launch Formula is the most famous. I love Jeff and what he teaches, but I haven’t bought his programme and I don’t follow his model. Instead I’ve found my own way of launching that works for me. The lesson here is that there is no “one way” to launch and you can totally create a launch model that works for you and works for your clients.
The key thing about a launch is that you open enrolment on one day, and close it on another day. How long that window is, what activity you do to warm up your audience in the lead up to the launch, how you actually sell to your audience, the activity that happens during the enrolment period, how many moving parts you have, that’s all up to you.
Remember this is just my take on it but this is how I see launching:
- The business rhythm of really busy periods followed by slower periods
- Bringing in all of the revenue at key times of the year rather than pushing to make sales year round
- Being in full on sales mode just twice a year also leaves the rest of the year free to focus on marketing – otherwise you’ve got no one to sell too
- The clarity and lack of overwhelm of not needing to juggle sales, marketing, delivery, and running the back-end of the business all at the same time
- Being able to bring a group of people together into a course at the same time to take them through it as a group, and to focus fully on delivering to them
- Launches are complex, with a lot of moving parts. By their very nature there are tight deadlines and things inevitably go wrong, so it can be hard to fit launching into a “regular” working day.
- You may want to be able to give people access to your products or services all year round, not just at specified times
- It doesn’t work for all businesses, especially if your customers might have their greatest need for your offer right when you are closed
- It’s a lot of eggs in one basket – if it goes wrong there’s a lot riding on it so it takes a certain amount of emotional resilience
Will I always make my programmes and products available this way?
I don’t know. It definitely works really well for me right now. I have sold some of my programmes via automated (“evergreen”) processes (more on that another time!) but the launches are still where I make the majority of my sales.
What about you? Do you follow a launch model or are your programmes or services available all year round? Has it got you you thinking about launching in a different way, or helped you decide if launching could be right for you?
Let me know in the comments below.
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With Love & Gratitude,
Great content, as always. I too would be interested in hearing what you have to offer as support for those of us considering a launch model.
Thoroughly enjoyed your article. I’m thinking of doing a launch for my programme this spring 2020 and would love to hear how it could be done! I will email you.
I’m now thinking that this might be the way forward for me in the long term so would love to hear more about what you have brewing.
Great read Catherine. I am looking to launch a coaching programme that I am just piloting now so would love to find out more about how to go about it all, so please keep me in the loop!
This is fantastic timing for me. I’m intending to launch a membership program for 2020, and would love some support in doing it. I’ve emailed you as I would love to be kept in the loop, to make 2020 a brilliant year for my clients and my business.
That’s great you’d be interested – I have something brewing and will keep you in the loop!
Catherine, I love reading and listening to your insights and material. I had never thought of ‘launching’ in this way before as a business model so thank you for generously sharing it. I am in a different place at the moment on my journey but wanted to let you know it is a really valuable insight. Thanks Louise
Fantastic advice Catherine. As always your honesty and integrity shine through. Thank for drawing back the curtain and sharing the upsides and downsides of launching. It’s super helpful advice for making that choice – now at least I can do it with my eyes wide open!