Imagine this: You’ve spent weeks or months putting together your latest product launch. You’re excited as hell because you have a killer product, a well thought out marketing campaign, and projections are high.
The launch date finally comes and you send that first email to your list, anticipating the rush of phone notifications with the words “John Doe just ordered ‘Your Killer Product” for $997”, but 10 minutes pass since you sent the email. 20 minutes. 30 minutes. NO sales.
‘Huh, that’s odd... Nothing. Oh well, it’ll probably pick up towards the end of the launch’ you think.
But it doesn’t. The launch ends up being a total dud.
You’ve spent six months creating your product and planning the launch, sacrificing time with friends and family. You've poured your heart and soul into this project, building your email list to spread the word. You did your launch by the book, following the advice of the biggest gurus out there - yet you managed only 11 sales…
A ‘failure’ - you throw this word at the whole business, not just the launch.
If you’re like a lot of us - that story would mark the end for that business idea. You tried it, it didn’t work, so of course you should move on, right?
Don’t stick that last nail in the coffin just yet. I’m about to share with you what could be the chariot for abandoned online business ideas everywhere.
Sometimes what you view as an epic failure, is simply a case of needing to make some well-pointed adjustments. With the right attitude, data, and alterations, your product could blossom into the success you always dreamed it would be.
The $80k Difference
Meet Jeff Sauer.
Jeff’s company, Jeffalytics, just made $113,971.
He launched a $900 - $5,000 training course, Agency Jumpstart, and made exactly 100 sales. But here’s the kicker, he launched it to a list of just 1650 people.
That’s a 6% conversion rate on a (minimum) $900 product. And that’s not even the impressive part…
Jeff did a launch for the same course 6 months earlier - to the same list - and made just 11 sales. Let’s say that again for effect. 10x as many sales to the exact same list.
Now you can imagine Jeff’s disappointment after the first launch. After all the effort building up that list, and months putting the launch together, it resulted in a dismal 11 sales and $20,000.
While 20 G’s is nothing to scoff at, it was nowhere near the expectations and time investment Jeff and his team had put into the product. But rather than shutting the whole thing down, Jeff reframed, recouped, and tried again.
We’ll take you through exactly what steps Jeff took to turn a $20k email list into a $100k email list.
Round One - by the Book
Jeff was working in a digital marketing agency during the day while starting to build his Jeffalytics brand in his free time in 2012.
After moving into a less hands on role in his day job he decided to branch out into online courses. He started with teaching Google AdWords and Google Analytics through the Jeffalytics blog, but soon realised his audience needed more.
From this grew Agency Jumpstart, a resource for helping small agencies and freelancers run successful digital agency business.
Jeff’s plan is to build one new course a year - and in 2017 that was the ‘Agency Jumpstart Course’
To build the framework for his Agency Course, Jeff asked subscribers of his Jeffalytics email list, then 9,000 people strong, if they wanted help growing their freelancing, consulting or agency business. 150 people responded positively, and became his initial target audience for Agency Jumpstart.
He pre-sold the course to his list in November of 2016, and had 35 business owners join the beta program.
The First Launch
To launch Agency Jumpstart to the public five months later, Jeff followed the Jeff Walker Product Launch Formula. It’s a well-known step by step course on how to execute a launch, designed to take advantage of scarcity, reciprocity and buzz.
In simple terms, the formula involves the audience watching a sequence of educational videos that provide tremendous value. Once authority and a sense of indebtedness are achieved, the audience are presented with a paid offer.
By this time, Jeff had grown his Agency Course email list to 1,500 prospective customers by providing a unique offer to his main list, and running Facebook ads directly to the first Lesson in his free Agency Workshop.
Once it was launch time the rest of the video lessons were trickled out.
The video lessons leading to the option to purchase the full course.
A long form sales page sealed the deal, hitting on all the by-the-book sales triggers. All the pages for the launch were built using Thrive Architect.
An excerpt from Jeff’s first long form sales page.
Following the product launch formula, Jeff had a set end date for the launch, and used countdown timers on the funnel pages to increase scarcity.
Jeff used Google Analytics techniques to track engagement with his funnel, and noticed right away that there was a problem with his product launch strategy. Only a small percentage of his audience even finished the first video!
The video completion rates for the first launch video.
Following the product launch formula meant the audience would need to watch 3 more videos in order to even see the “add to cart” button. His Analytics could not be denied - this launch was not going to go according to plan.
Turning a Disappointment into a Stepping Stone
While a $20,000 launch may sound impressive, if you consider the time and cost that went into producing the course, Jeff was actually losing money. He would have been better off putting those hours into client work and never even starting the product launch.
And when you consider only 11 out of the 1500 people (on his list at the time) bought, that’s only a 0.7% conversion rate. Compared to the private-beta conversion rate of 20%, Jeff knew he could be getting out of his list.
At this point, most of us would have decided the idea failed the validation stage and started from scratch on something new. Or given up entirely. But Jeff knew there was a hungry audience for this type of training. It had been proven to him through all the interaction on his blog, as well as great feedback from the agencies that took the beta run of the course.
Identifying it was the launch that didn't hit the mark, not the product itself, Jeff took a systematic approach to improving the launch funnel.
But first, he had to know where to start...
Reviewing the Stats
A huge issue Jeff spotted right off the bat was the long form video format really wasn’t suitable for his audience.
The drop off rate was quite dramatic; 603 people started video one, 224 people started video two.
His audience of busy consultants, freelancers and agency owners had to watch 1 hour of videos before they could even buy.
“The add to cart button only appeared after Video 4. The only way to get to Videos 1, 2, 3, 4 respectively was via email. Engagement dropped off for all metrics (email opens, clicks, video views) with each step of the funnel. It was a bloodbath.” - Jeff
If he was going to improve his results for the next launch, he would have to rethink the structure of his launch sequence in order to increase conversion rates.
Just because one strategy works for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your business. The only way you can really know is to test it with your specific audience. If it doesn’t work, use the data to learn from the results and inform what you choose to test next.
Asking for Feedback
It wasn’t just the launch format Jeff’s audience didn’t click with. He had a sneaking suspicion the price tag might be a huge deterrent, as well as a few other factors he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
To know for sure, Jeff went directly to the source. He sent out a post-launch survey to his audience to get a better understanding of what they needed the most.
Here’s a look at some of his survey questions.
Jeff then did something very clever; he wrote a blog post on how his first email requesting feedback went. He then sent this blog post to his list, and at the bottom of that email he included the survey link again. This is a great value-first way of getting more respondents.
The survey asked about current work statuses (whether the subscriber was an agency marketer, freelancer etc.) and an approximate company revenue number.
Organized results from the survey.
Jeff then cross referenced those categories with a question on how much each segment would be willing to pay per month, so that he had a better idea of what to charge for his different packages.
No one can tell you better what your audience wants - than your audience themselves. While it may seem daunting to ask the kind of questions Jeff did, you’ll find that a percentage of your list are surprisingly responsive to these kinds of surveys (especially if you’ve built up reciprocity over time). The insights you gain in return will be well worth the initial discomfort.
The key is to make it as easy as possible for your audience to give this feedback. Try using a Thrive Quiz Builder quiz for quick and easy insights, or if you want to include text responses like Jeff did, Typeform is a great paid tool, with Google Forms being a adequate free alternative.
Nurturing the List
Knowing he was going to try again, Jeff kept building and nurturing his original list while re-framing and planning the next launch. He would send weekly emails sharing value based posts on his brand new Agency Sage blog.
Some examples of the topics Jeff covers on the blog.
The survey results gave him great guidance as to what to cover in posts and promotional material leading up to the next launch.
This nurturing helped Jeff build trust, authority and rapport with his audience.
Think of your initial opt-in offer as planting the seed of trust and authority. Now you need to water it in order for the relationship to grow. Offering regular value without expecting anything in return is a great way to build your reputation with your list. Eventually, when you do have an offer to present, your subscribers will have so much goodwill stored up towards you that they'll be far more open to what you're offering.
Round Two - Finding the Sweet Spot
Once Jeff identified the key downfalls and areas for improvement, it was time to apply those lessons and try it all again.
The main changes he decided to make were:
- Lowering the price - to fit the prices indicated by his audience in the survey
- Reducing the number of steps to the buy button - so that the subscribers didn’t have to sit through as much content in order to purchase the course
- Using limited time bonuses to boost sales - rather than just a ‘launch ending in...’ countdown timer
Lowering the Price
If you take a look at the stats from the survey results above, the majority of Jeff’s freelancer audience indicated that they’d be willing to pay between $49 and $99 a month for a course like his. Established agencies were willing to pay significantly more.
From this, Jeff settled on the following pricing structure, which is much more inline with the survey results.
The pricing structure for the new launch.
Reducing the Number of Steps to the Buy Button
This time Jeff cut straight to the chase. He’d already solidified his authority and good reputation with his audience, so the groundwork was laid out for a successful product pitch.
He launched the Agency Jumpstart Course with a webinar to announce the course was available for the next 5 days only. The next morning, he started emailing his list links straight to the sales page, with offers of time-sensitive bonuses.
Using Limited Time Bonuses to Boost Sales
To push peaks in sales throughout the launch, not just at the end, Jeff experimented with different bonuses to create mini deadlines.
“One of the biggest fears I have with launching is that all sales will come in at the last minute. So you don’t know how sales numbers will look until it’s too late. That was part of the problem with the previous failed launch. Most orders came last minute, and there weren’t very many of them.” - Jeff
Subscribers could get a one on one coaching call if they signed up within a certain period of the offer opening, and later in the launch a payment plan at a lower monthly price was offered. He used Thrive Ultimatum countdown ribbons to set and advertise these bonuses.
“It (offering limited time bonuses) was the perfect way to make sure that our launch would be successful, and Ultimatum allowed us to do this pretty easily.” - Jeff
The free coaching call bonus presented in a Thrive Ultimatum ribbon.
Below is a graph over the whole launch period, including the peaks thanks to the limited time offers.
“We had more sales in 1 day than we did in the entire previous 7 day launch! Woohoo!” - Jeff
The first spike was due to the one on one coaching offer, the second was from a ‘cart closing, final chance’ message on the countdown ribbon, and the third is when a 'last chance payment plan' at a lower monthly price was introduced.
This new launch drew in $113,971 in revenue and exactly 100 sales - a seemingly night and day difference between his audience’s response to the first launch vs. the second.
Jeff and his team had truly hit the mark this time around.
Jeff's $100k Product Launch Toolkit
Round Three - Set it to Repeat
Sweet, a $100k launch. Why not do that again. And again. And again…
Now that Jeff has found the launch sequence that works for his audience, he plans to turn $100k once into $100k a month.
To do this he needs two things:
- More traffic / people to sell to
- To build a evergreen (repeatable) funnel
More People To Sell To
Once you know what works for one audience - why not find more of those people and do the same again?
In order to scale the successful funnel he’s built up, Jeff will have to reach more people like the ones already in his list.
Knowing that his offer converts, he's planning on using paid traffic, such as Facebook ads, to attract more people with similar interests and demographics.
The paid ads will lead prospects to a lead generation landing page to collect email addresses, and send them into an automated follow up sequence through his email service provider.
One of the benefits of having already done the launch once is it gives Jeff a gauge of what his value per lead (new subscriber) is. His 1650 strong list resulted in $113,971 in sales, so his rough value per lead is around $70 ($113,971/1,650). I say rough, because leads coming from cold traffic from Facebook Ads won’t be as receptive as leads from visitors to his own website. Nonetheless, he knows if he nurtures his new leads, over time these new subscribers might be worth up to $70 each.
This gives a good general guide on how much he could be investing in Facebook ads. Once he starts getting data on his Facebook Ad cost per click, and his landing page conversion rate, he can work out what he’s actually paying for each new lead, and whether that’s in line with his value per lead.
So if for instance he works out he’s paying about $5 per new lead, he knows he should hit the ‘scale it to the moon!!!’ button in Facebook Ads (I wish they actually had a button like this). On the other hand, if his leads are costing him $65 each, he knows it’s getting pretty dicey in terms of profit margin, and it’s time to improve one or more aspects of his traffic generation strategy eg. better ads, different targeting, improving conversions on the landing page, altering his audience targeting etc.
Of course once the funnel has done one round using only Facebook Ads, he’ll have much more accurate data on conversions with the new traffic source and can run his numbers off that instead.
Building an Evergreen (Repeatable) Funnel
For the past launches, Jeff just used the countdown ribbons from Thrive Ultimatum to present offers that ended on one set date. In order to scale this to a repeatable funnel, Jeff plans to start using the recurring campaign function in Thrive Ultimatum.
Jeff can set Thrive Ultimatum to take subscribers through the entire launch sequence (including the limited time bonus offers that were so successful in the previous launch) - except rather than having a single end date for the entire launch, the whole sequence is going repeat every 1-2 weeks.
Another option is setting Thrive Ultimatum to an Evergreen Campaign, where the launch ends XX days from when a visitor puts in their email address.
Thrive Ultimatum lockdown feature recognizes the subscriber and makes sure any of the countdown ribbons show the correct offer based where they are in the launch sequence, and will redirect them to an ‘offer over’ page if they don’t buy within the set time period.
If you want to set up and evergreen funnel for your own business, it’s actually a lot less complicated than it sounds. Take a look at this blog post for more information on how to set up scarcity timers for your launch campaign.
Now Jeff can set his launch sequence to run on autopilot, constantly repeating in the background (which means constantly repeating revenue too).
Was That Failed Business Idea Just a Diamond in the Rough?
So next time you consider abandoning a potentially solid business idea because the launch didn’t quite go as planned, ask yourself, W.W.J.D. (what would Jeff do?) - and try giving that baby another shot.
By taking a critical look at the product itself, getting feedback from your audience and reviewing the launch data for clear areas of improvement, you could dramatically improve your previous launch results.
So how about you, have you sent a few business ideas to the grave too early? Are there any you’d consider rehashing after reading Jeff’s story?
Let us know in the comments below.
Thrive Themes in not affiliated with Jeff Sauer, Jeffalytics or Agency Jumpstart in any way.
This is just another fantastic case study, well documented and explained using all the Thrive Themes Tools available.
It would be interesting to include a breakdown of this case into a step by step course inside Thrive University for all members.
Thank you so much for sharing it.
This is a great idea for some Members Only content Luis! Thanks (and if you have any other idea let me know, we’re very open to suggestions for the members only goodies)
I do have some suggestions for plugins based on my experience and needs.
1- All Thrive Themes & Plugins should integrate caching capabilities such as the ones from W3 Total Cache (just to set an example). I have had apparent incompatibility issues with W3TC and Thrive Quiz Builder.
2- I think I once heard Shane mention that the Themes would soon incorporate contact forms. Is this the case?
3- A membership plugin.
4- Let us know about the new theme that’s currently being developed.
Thank you so much.
Thanks for the detailed reply. I’m afraid I’m going to have a lot of ‘no exact date’ answers for you on these one. Your comment does however help us identify the needs of our members and what we should be pushing out first 🙂
1- This is something we are aware of but are still looking for a viable solution
2- A contact form is planned in the future, however I don’t have an ETA. For now you can use Thrive Ovation as a Contact Form. Here’s a tutorial on how to set that up.
3- This is on the cards, yes, but as you can imagine it is a HUGE project. There won’t be anything to see from this for at least another six months.
4- We are hoping to give you a glimpse of the new theme builder very soon 🙂 This one shouldn’t be to much longer, we’re about as eager as you are to get this out into the wild 😉
Hope this helps give you a bit of a rough timeline. Some big and exciting plugins coming up!
These are great news! Thank you so much Stephanie.
I must admit, you guys are killing me…
I can’t wait any longer for all the new toys. Hahaha
This was an excellent case study. Thank you!
I loved seeing his process of turning this launch around.
Thanks Melodye, Me too! I find it very motivating to hear stories like this – where it doesn’t just ‘work’ the first time, but after some deliberate effort you can push through and make it work.
Well done Jeff! Awesome case study Stephanie. Very well documented and with some pretty great takeaways. Thanks for sharing with us.
Thanks Eddie, and thanks Jeff for being so open and generous with the information 🙂
great case study. Very impressive, great tips and insights.
Thanks Jonathan – and shout out to Jeff who agreed to let us bare it all on our blog!
Great breakdown of Jeff’s launch. I think it really hits home because he wasn’t an overnight (easy button) success.
There was actual hard work involved that didn’t pay off on the first launch but he had the grit to stick with it.
Great case study!
We’re all about grit here at Thrive Themes Robert 😉 But I agree, so much content is focused on the big wins. It’s nice to hear a story of a stumble, and how that got turned into a big win with a lot of effort.
I am having a really frustrating experience with customer support.
Who can I contact to help me?
I’m sorry you’ve had this experience. I located your last support forum post and I can see your frustration. I have sent it through to the relevant team leads. Someone should get back to you as soon as possible (keeping in mind it’s the weekend and only support works 24/7). I hope we can make it a smoother journey for you.
This was a great article – should be obvious but proof that Jeff walkers formula isn’t a magic launch bullet. Great tweaks based on actual data.
Yeah it’s a shame a lot of people try it and don’t follow through when they don’t get the results they were hoping for / advertised. It does work for some people, just not everyone.
Very helpful explanation of Ultimatum uses. Thank you.
This seems counter-intuitive:
“I say rough, because leads coming from visitors to his own website won’t be as receptive as leads from cold traffic from Facebook Ads.”
Why is someone who clicks on a FB ad more receptive than someone who landed on Jeff’s site after doing a search, finding an answer there, and signing up for his opt in?
That was a typo. She meant the reverse of what she said.
Thanks, you’ve got my back Chad 🙂
Good catch Kathryn, it was indeed a typo. I’ve switched it around!
Extremely interesting. Commitment and persistence…..and the right tools.
You just outlined the recipe for success there Conrad 😉
Nice case study! Many thanks for sharing.
I wonder why Jeff use LearnDash and not Thrive Apprentice
We were still releasing the new Thrive Apprentice and working on the integrations with membership plugins like Membermouse to keep it all secure, so I’d say we got in just a little too late for Jeff to use Apprentice. Who knows, maybe we can convince him to switch over 😉
Any ETA for the Apprentice integrations?
Hi Sherif, Thrive Apprentice currently integrates with Membermouse, Memberpress and Wishlist Member.
I’ll hope it’s coming soon 🙂
If you are a Thrive Themes member – it’s already available in your dashboard 😉
Yes I am a member, so I’m gonna try it.
I tried it, but at the time it didn’t have everything I need. Love the visual aspects of the course, that’s for sure.
This is a fantastic case study and it gave me plenty of ideas. Thanks!
Good to hear!
thank you for that great article. This gives a lot of inspiration. Greetings Sascha
That’s my main goal with these articles so that’s good to hear Sasha 🙂
Loved it, makes complete sense and thank you for writing it all out wonderfully.
Thanks! Jeff, thanks for giving it another go and for willingly sharing your story – your testimony is impacting and motivating. Stephanie, thanks for the case study. So many insights. I’m just starting on the journey and have come across the product launch formula, assessing the needs of my list, etc. Your study helped me look at each of these more pragmatically rather than just cranking the formula handle. Jeff’s case has also hammered home the power of analytics. I had just thought it was something I was supposed to do at some point. Thanks again! Blessings
Hi Andrew, thanks for the great feedback. I agree, analytics are definitely not sexy – but having that data is incredibly effective. It’s always worth the struggle of setting it up.
Analytics definitely help you understand what happened, and how much of it happened. And it’s also our first opportunity to answer the “why?” question. I might have given up if couldn’t understand why it didn’t work. But thanks to analytics, I knew exactly what needed to change. That’s why I love them so much!
Thanks for a post with great value. I find the takeaway as: Always explore more & understand the reasons, before giving up. Personally, I’m not sure it needs extra breakdown to a step by step course, but of course some people may find it very useful. So if it will happen i’ll also have a look. Good insights story. Thanks Stephnie.
Thanks for the feedback Ahrale 🙂
Great case study Stephanie! I have taken Jeff’s Google Analytics course and he does a great job as an instructor. Never realized that he uses Thrive products to sell his courses 🙂
Judging by the way Jeff was to work on this case study I’m not surprised; he was very professional and thorough. I’m guessing he takes that into everything he does!
Amazing post Stephanie. I.was missing you lately . Study case is the best way to learn from people has experience in digital marketing . Greetings from Spain.
Thanks Juan, I agree Case Studies are a great way to learn. I love having an excuse to hear everyone’s stories 🙂
Jeff’s story is really motivating! We don’t know how close we are to success, so it’s better to take one more step and try once more > once more> once more >……… until we get that aha moment we are grinding for.
Thank Stephanie Kelly for this AMAZING case study!
Thank Rohan. A friend once said to me “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t achieve their goals when they 100% believed they could” – If we commit to it and keep working at it / improving / adjusting there really is nothing that can stop you (besides giving up).
Thanks for having me on this case study Steph! It was a blast working with you, and I really like how this turned out. Thrive Themes continues to amaze me on every turn.
Thanks Jeff, right back at you! Thanks for being so generous with your information, I’d say you’ve saved quite a few business ideas from an early grave 😉
Can ThriveThemes pls build a ‘scale this to the mooooon’ button ????
I’ll run it past the development team 😉
Stephanie, is there any agency that can help us by in the kind of product launch for our B2B Cloud Management Product.
I can’t recommend any personally but I’m sure a Google search will come up with a few 🙂
This is an amazing piece of valuable information, thank you. Congratulations for offering so much value in a unique article!
Nice case study but I think it’s strange that Jeff asked his mailing list how much they’d be willing to pay in $/month (where $99 was the most common answer) and then made the product in one-time 1k-2k-5k purchases. Why is the payment model in the survey different?
Great questions. The product is for a year of training and support, so the by month price adds up the the same yearly cost.