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  • Lessons from a Lackluster Product Launch

    clubhousesignA couple years ago, I launched a membership-based online community I called my Clubhouse. I’m a career coach for creative types, and I wanted to find a way to serve more clients at a (much) lower price point.

    I’d been working on it in the back on my brain for months, and quite actively for 8-ish weeks. Everyone I told about it reacted super favorably, offering tons of encouragement and kudos. I even asked my virtual assistant if she’d want more hours, as I’d already mentally banked The Clubhouse Money.

    Let’s say I was Law of Attraction-ing it up, but in a I-really-believed-it-way. I was sure. I was confident. I was On To Something.

    Despite my confidence, the first launch of my Clubhouse was a disaster. But I’ve learned a lot since then.

    What the First Launch Looked Like

    I wrote an announcement and scheduled it via blog and email newsletter for 7 a.m. Eastern the Tuesday after a national holiday. I felt confident that around 20 people would join that day, expecting the first one to sign up by 7:01 a.m.

    Um … not quite.

    The first “official” Clubhouse member came in at 1:16 p.m. Eastern. I told myself, “Everyone had a busy morning back at work … the sign-ups will be pouring in now!”

    The second member came in at 2:48 p.m. Eastern. I told myself, “OK, here we go — be at the ready!”

    The third member signed up at 9:51 p.m. Eastern. I told myself, “(Gulp).”

    And then I went to bed, too tired from my unnecessary waiting at the computer.

    A full week after launch, I only had one other person sign up.

    I tried not to break down the 27 hours I prepped for the Clubhouse into the money I made, including the refunds. But I did. $138 divided by 27 hours is (gulp) $5.11/hour.

    I calculated that Month 2 would bring me … $327. That’s still only $12.11/hour.

    Can you see The Travesty? The Embarrassment? The Head Scratching and Brow Furrowing, especially as I get emails and blog comments and tweets about how amazeballs The Clubhouse is?

    Here’s what I’ve learned since:

    Early mistake: I sent my email newsletter the morning after a long weekend.

    I “should” have known better. People at corporate gigs were rushing in to work and didn’t come up for air until lunchtime at the earliest. Moms were getting their kids ready for school and out the door. Men and Women of the World (aka entrepreneurs) were also digging out of inboxes. My newsletter had a 3.6% lower open rate than normal, with 1.4% less clicks than usual.

    How I Fixed It: I knew that f I sent that email on Wednesday or Thursday — or even 6 hours later on Tuesday! — it would’ve made a huge difference. But I did what I could, sending another newsletter a week later, admitting my screw-up and telling everyone the details. I also put it on my blog, and admitting this “failure” so openly made it a popular post. A good side effect? More Clubhouse sign-ups.

    Early mistake: I didn’t tell any of my cohorts about my product launch.

    OK, that’s not entirely true. I’d told them all about The Clubhouse casually, and, as I mentioned before, they’d been super enthusiastic. But, um, I didn’t tell them when I was opening The Clubhouse, so I didn’t have much help spreading the word.

    How I Fixed It: I sent out an email to my amazeballs colleagues, clients, and cohorts, asking for some tweets or a blog post (or some other way to help me spread the word).

    Early mistake: I didn’t advertise.

    I have to admit — I might’ve gotten a bit cocky. At the time, I had 6,000+ Twitter followers, 1,700+ Facebook fans, and 2,000+ newsletter subscribers. I mean, I didn’t think my numbers were huge, but I just figured there’d be at least 20 people who’d be picking up what I’d be putting down, yaknowwhatI’msayin? I thought, “Well, I built it! … Where the hell are they?” Not only was nobody spreading the word for me, but I was barely spreading it myself!

    How I Fixed It: I placed three blog ads where I knew my people were: Alexandra Franzen (who doesn’t offer ads anymore), Kind Over Matter, and Kelly Rae Roberts.

    Early mistake: I didn’t optimize my web copy.

    I had almost 200 people look at the Clubhouse page that first day … and only three joined. While I was super proud of my sales page, I knew there had to be something missing if something like 98% (math ain’t my strong suit) of the peeps who checked it out (which must’ve meant they were somewhat interested) didn’t sign up.

    How I Fixed It: I spent three hours pulling quotes from my Clubhouse members about why they joined, making them pretty, and adding them to the sales page. I also took out the few times I said I needed to build something “hands-off” for myself, as I decided it could give the impression that I won’t be around the Clubhouse very often (which so ain’t true!). I added a new question to the FAQs and added a free downloadable exercise to that page, too.

    Early mistake: I listened to the “shoulds.”

    I originally wanted to launch this on my birthday, but since it was a Saturday, “nobody would pay attention.” Well, on one hand I convinced myself of that, and on the other I decided to run a 34-hour sale in honor of my 34th birthday for my newsletter peeps only (no tweets, no blog posts, no Facebook updates) that started — you can probably guess this — on Saturday morning. I sold 27 workbooks by the time the sale ended on Sunday night. If that many people had joined my Clubhouse that weekend, I woulda been thrilled. Thrilled!

    How I Fixed It: I told the “shoulds” to take a hike and continued to conduct my business in the way that felt good and made sense to me.

    Early Mistake: I made the offer way too convoluted.

    I initially had 3 tiers of membership that people could buy into, and I think that led to paralysis when people tried to assess what they needed. I knew that the offer was complicated, since it always took me a while to explain it to people.

    How I Fixed It: I streamlined it a few weeks later and only offered one membership option. I also hired Stacy of Ethical Launch to help me untangle the mess and rewrite the sales page.

    What the Clubhouse Looks Like Today

    Two years and lots of change later, the doors of the Clubhouse are still open.

    Last year, I made $82/hour for my Clubhouse work, and it currently has more than 60 members. At the end of the day, I have achieved what I set out to: connecting, coaching, and serving more clients at a lower price point.

    So no matter what … I Did That. And I’m proud.


    Michelle Ward has answered the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question for herself, and as the When I Grow Up Coach she helps women transition out of soul-sucking jobs and into work that feels like play. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook, and sign up for her email list here!

    2 thoughts on “Lessons from a Lackluster Product Launch

    1. Very good article. I really like how you wrote this with what you did wrong and then how you went about fixing it. You have given me food for thought on how I need to go about writing and promoting my sales page. Thank you.

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