Launch Success: Is It You or the Market?


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launch success market or marketing

Today I’d like to introduce you to a traditional folk dance of the online entrepreneurship space, known as:

The mid-launch shuffle.

It typically starts a little after the pre-sell and initial sales from your white hot buyers has died down.

Maybe you saw a pretty promising day 1.

Maybe only a couple of people bought but you have some trés interested people in the pipeline.

Maybe everyone you expected to buy has already purchased, and now you’re seeing who else comes through.

And, as you’re in the middle of a launch, things suddenly start to get… quiet.

This is NORMAL by the way.

Totally and completely normal, and should be expected for every launch, as the hottest “buy” moments are at the very start and the very end of the sales period.

Annoying for us on the selling end, but humans gonna human, yaknow?

Fun fact: for the uninitiated, this is also the reason why people do “mid launch bonuses”, to try and nudge that momentum again.

The World’s Most Irritating Music Mashup

Anyway — no matter how good your initial sales numbers are, sooner or later… the music starts.

(In my opinion the appropriate music for the mid-launch shuffle is an anxiety-inducing combination of the Jeopardy theme song and Flight of the Bumblebee — but I digress.)

The buyer flow stems to a trickle, or shuts off completely. You obsessively check who’s clicking what links, and you wonder — why the heck aren’t these folks pulling the damn trigger??

And your imposter syndrome and self doubt clear their little beasty throats and pipe up to bring the drama:

“It’s not working.”

“This launch is gonna flop.”

“You’re a loser and everyone is gonna know.”

Our inner middle schooler then crashes in through the side door to agree wholeheartedly.

THEY’RE RIGHT. We convince ourselves.

THIS IS IT, WE’RE WASHED UP, THIS OFFER SUCKS, AND EVERYONE CLEARLY HATES US AND THINKS WE’RE IDIOTS.

I Like My Imposter Syndrome with a Side of Projection, Please

And then our projection slips in through the door our middle schooler blew through and suggests:

“Maybe it’s us… or maybe your buyers and audience just aren’t right for this. Maybe your offer is amazing, but they just suck?”

Is it us? Or them? Or us? Or them? What’s going wrong here?

And so… we start to do the mid-launch shuffle.

We take a step to the left, And then a step to the ri-i-i-iiiight…

…. And we spend an entire afternoon (and most of the night) totally rewriting the rest of the launch emails.

… And we frantically text our friends to see if there’s a “pivot” they recommend, or how on earth we can get in front of new potential leads with three days to go.

… And we sweat over the sales page, picking it apart and trying to activate our best psychic abilities to add in an angle that’ll work. (“And wait! There’s a typo in the fifteenth paragraph. IS THAT WHY PEOPLE AREN’T BUYING??”)

Que Sera Sera…

Then, what usually happens is this:

The launch wraps, the shuffle music stops, and some more people buy on the last day, because humans.

Or, they don’t… and you check the “so so launch” box in your list of entrepreneurial achievements.

Eventually, our imposter syndrome, projection, and self doubt slink off to play pogs with our inner middle schooler.

And we’re left wondering…

“Um.. did I need to do all that in the middle of things?”

The short answer is: honestly? Probably not.

Sometimes You Just Need to Let it Play Out

Because, while the mid launch shuffle can make you feel like you’re doing SOMETHING to move the needle, chances are if you’d just let your launch play out, the result would’ve been the same.

But, most importantly, if you’re switching everything around mid launch?

You simply aren’t giving your original strategy time to work… so you have no idea what smashed, and what flopped.

It’s SO tempting to assume we know exactly what’s right and wrong in the middle of the launch.

And it’s SO tempting to lay the blame on ourselves for the momentum slowing down…

… and equally tempting to wave our hands and say our audiences just don’t know a good thing when they see it.

But how can you know which one it is, for sure?

Is it the Marketing, or Is it Me?

This is the question the lovely Margo Aaron and I are digging into on today’s glorious (and 17 minute) episode of HAMYAW.

Especially when the launch doesn’t go all that well in the end: how do you know if it was your fault… or the market — as in, the audience was or wasn’t right, the timing was bad, or the offer wasn’t what they really needed?

And how can you start resisting the urge to do that damn shuffle?

(And yes — there is a kitten cameo featuring Dolly Purrton in this episode, so come for the marketing, stay for the cuteness).

And don’t forget to drop us your thoughts in the comments:

What’s YOUR litmus test for whether the so-so/successful launch was you… or the market?

And what’s your best defense to turn that godforsaken mid-launch shuffle music OFF?

Click here to catch it now and join the conversation, and we’ll see you over there.

Write on,
H

Episode Transcript

Dolly, you’ve really gotta just cut me a break here. Oh gosh, she’s stuck. All right, just this is what we’re doing now. 

I want her for the whole episode.

Okay, well you might get your wish because she is just so needy. Sweetie, okay. All right, fine. (groans) She’s trying to choke me. Is this what having children is like?

Oh, yeah.

(upbeat music)

Welcome back, marketing nerds of the world. It’s time for another episode of HAMYAW, and today we wanna address the age-old question, is it you or the market? Recently Margo, myself, and a third friend of ours on the group chat who maybe we’ll name her, maybe we won’t, I don’t know, let’s go crazy. All three of us were launching at the same time, and we all had moments where we were like oh my god, maybe it’s just a January thing.

Maybe things are just slow. Maybe we’ve worn out our market. Maybe this isn’t the right offer. And hilariously, all of our launches ended up going okay, but we wanted to bring this to the table today on this episode of HAMYAW to figure out how do you know if it’s you if it’s the market, maybe your product, not liking it.

How do you know where the line is between how you’re presenting and what’s going wrong with you, versus how the market is responding and sort of creating a feedback loop that you can respond to? So before I get into that, Margo, is it you or the market?

I feel like it mimics how you break up with people. I was always an, “Oh my god, it’s me” person, which is how I respond to launches. And I would say my closest friends like, “It’s the market! My fucking list is dead!” And I’m like “Ooh, I know how you broke up with people.” (laughs) Do you know what I mean though?

The accuracy in that statement, though. Yeah. Yep, yep. For me, it was always, “It’s not you, it’s me.” And it’s like, “He sucks. It’s the fucking market.” No, it’s me. It’s me.

So real talk, I default to assuming it’s me, and that actually keeps me from doing the most important thing, which is launching again and again and again, which our friend, Sarah, has reminded me so many times. She’s yelled at me but very kindly.

Yeah. She’s good like that.

“You just gotta do it. Just launch it again. Launch it again. The first time is awareness. The second time is this.” And I’ll be like, “No, I must change the offer completely, and it’s representative of not having demand.” And here’s the thing, too. I think it’s also, in part, numbers. So viewers are all watching with different audience numbers, but I think that if you don’t have a giant, critical mass of people, it’s hard to make really, really big conclusions.

Yeah, that’s true.

I don’t think they’re statistically significant yet. People need time.

I think it depends. So I do wanna make sure that we define the split clearly, though. We’re talking about you versus the market. It’s you doing something wrong, no one likes you, no one wants this offer. And then versus the market, which is like this is just how people are responding right now. People are fatigued or whatever. Is that the difference?

Yes. Yeah. I wanna expand on the market, though. I would argue if it’s you, it’s something in your approach that isn’t working, whether it’s your positioning, whether it’s your branding, whether it’s your tone. Whatever it is that’s unique to your brand and how you are bringing this thing to market.

Then I would say the market is timing, pricing, and pricing can kinda go in both categories, demand. And I think that’s the most important one. Is there actually demand for something like this? I think Ramit uses the famous example that he tried to sell a mentoring program and also one on health insurance. He has like these two, where it’s like everyone said they wanted these and then you launch them, and it’s like they don’t actually care about this. There’s just no demand. People just wanna bitch about it. And it’s such an important insight.

So like that is a market thing. That’s not about your positioning. You don’t need to position differently. You don’t have to Trojan horse it. Nobody’s buying that stuff. And that also can change over time, but right now that’s the market. Market would be like the things you can’t control. You part are the things that you can.

Yep, absolutely. And what’s annoying about the things that you can’t control is that you have to give it time to work. And I think that- No!

Or in Margo land, no, just change everything.

No, you do. She’s right. She’s totally right.

But I think that also, this is, again, the ego thing. This is, again, launching is such a vulnerable experience. I think I likened it at one point to a cute baby contest. Like you have a baby, and you’re like, “This is my baby. I made it. I think it’s the cutest baby.” And then you put it in a cute baby contest, and it doesn’t even rank and you’re like,

“These mother fuckers have no taste in babies. I can not imagine what is wrong.” But in reality, maybe your baby just isn’t that cute. No, I’m just kidding. So it’s that vulnerable space. 

If we turn it on ourselves, that’s something we can control, and I think that business owners start with that, where it’s not like the market, where people need time to understand and read and learn about the offer. We turn it on ourselves. “I’m not promoting enough. That angle wasn’t strong enough in that last email. There’s something up with the messaging.”

And I think that it’s really easy to turn that on ourselves and start nitpicking and tinkering, and then all of the sudden, we’ve created a whole rat’s nest and our results aren’t necessarily improving. And you know what happens? When we let go, put our hands on our head, and just let the launch we planned to run, all of a sudden, guess what happens on cart close? Influx of purchases.

Let’s dive into something you said right there, which is let the launch we planned work. Work.

I think that is also a really important point because I think a lot of people don’t actually plan. And so they get really reactive, and then they get panicky in the moment and then they change the strategy.

And I think there’s a real big difference between reacting in the moment to a big problem versus questioning your judgment in the midst of something that is already decided and then messing it up and not letting it follow through. So I think number one, having a strategy in place to begin with is a really important piece.

So a good litmus test also is, I think, where a lot of people fall down on this, especially with launching, especially because it’s so involved, people forget to pre-sell. People forget to pre-sell. And that’s something that has been built into every single strategy that I’ve been using for the past year.

If you’re not launching with presale, it’s kinda like going in dry. You just gotta prepare the orifice for entry. (laughs) And without that, it’s like lube ’em up a little bit. Give ’em a break. But I think that also is a really good touchpoint to get that first interest. So I want us to talk briefly about where you should get worried.

How do you know if it’s you or the market? And for me, I think from personal experience, if people are responding to the presale, if people are engaged, if people are answering, if people are like, “Oh, I’m so excited to see this offer. Can’t wait,” those are all good signs. Even if you don’t have a blowout first day, that’s a sign to stay the course.

But I think what can be a sign where it is you and there’s maybe the wrong offer, you’re frankly not gonna know until the end of the launch period. You have to get through it, period. But I think that an indicator is the attention and the response to the engagement. 

If nobody’s responding, if no one’s saying anything, if no one’s like, “I want this,” you may wanna update your messaging and make it more urgent. But then there’s also a slew of things that also could be impacting it. Maybe your list is too small. Maybe there’s something up with your email deliverability. 

Maybe there’s an election. 

Maybe there’s algorithms hiding you. So those are all things to take into account too, but I find it is rarely, if you’re doing your due diligence, if you have a plan, if you’re pre-selling, and if you’re getting that response, that’s an instance where you have to let the launch work. And you have to let it play out to figure out what went wrong.

Yes! The new mantra of this show is, “No conclusions ’til cart close.”

Yes, ma’am.

And we got alliteration there so you know it’s true. 

No conclusions ’til cart close. Put that on a t-shirt.

You’re gonna get the bulk of your response … This is just human psychology, last 24 hours, if not the last six hours. It’s just how it is with deadlines.

So if you have evergreen, this is a little different, but then you’re not launching. We’re talking specifically in the context of launches and knowing whether or not a product actually failed or a launch actually failed.

So I love all of these distinctions. I would be careful to look at engagement rates, but they are an indicator. They’re a proxy metric, but don’t hang your hat on them. Because this is where we panic. If you’re not getting that engagement, you start panicking, and a lot of times your best people sometimes are silent.

Yeah, so true.

And they’re the ones that you have to look at the proxy metric of simply an open rate

and a click-through rate. That’s all you have to know that someone’s paying attention. So those things are helpful indicators, but again, I agree with you. I don’t think you know until the end. And then I think the way you do the post-talk analysis is really important because what I see so often is people just running to, “This is everything that was wrong with my people, and my people suck. And this is what they did, and they’re so bad. And maybe I have the wrong list.”

And it’s like, “Well, hold on. Number one, did you come up with an offer based on what they actually said they wanted or based on something you just wanted to create?” Let’s be real. We all do it. We all are like, “This would be great!” 

And nobody wants it. 

Even to Ramit’s point, too, sometimes you can poll your audience and get that wrong. 

Yeah, and they don’t want it.

And they don’t want it. So you never know until money is put down, by the way. And then the next thing is I would audit your strategy. And this is where I really think getting nitpicky is important. And I would use a friend because it’s really hard to see for yourself because you always think you’re doing the most.

If I look at my strategies with a marketer lens versus a personal lens, I see all the holes. I’ll be like, “Oh, you didn’t warm up the list. You only sent one email here. You didn’t follow up on this one.” Basically, you weren’t loud enough, and you didn’t say it enough times.

9 times out of 10 that’s the problem, guys. You’re not showing up frequently enough to make the offer.

Yes, I’ve said this once. I’ll say it a thousand times. People are so afraid of being annoying, and the honest truth is you’re only annoying when it’s not the market.

Yep. Yep. The market wants more. 

People with the problem that you solve wanna hear from you.

That’s such a good distinction ’cause I find that whenever I have people ask me about how I do my launches, I’m like, “Well, we keep it pretty simple.” Frankly, we do. We have a pre-launch. We have an email sequence going out to my list.

And I’m showing up on social for basically two weeks straight, talking about the offer. Then presale, talking about it in a different context. And then hard sale week, I’m just on Instagram stories like, “What’s up, everybody?” And I do that every day until the cart closes because you have to get in front of people. You have to remind people.

I was telling this story to Louie Grundig this morning, where I was like, 

Shout out, Louie! 

One time I had … yeah, name drop! I was telling him the story about those shoes that I bought, where I was being stalked by the Facebook ad for these amazing shoes that were on brand and I loved them. And I was like, “Every time that I saw them I was like gotta buy those shoes.” Took me six months to finally have my credit card in hand and the shopping cart open at the same time.

I think no judgments ’til cart’s closed is such a good mantra because you just aren’t gonna know in the middle of it. So also, we’ve established when is it you, what does it mean by you, but when is it the market? What are some signs that it is not you; it is the market? 

I mean, really no buyers. Use percentages more than absolutes on this one because if you have small numbers, and you’re like, “Oh, only three people bought,” but you needed five or six in your group, then that’s good. That’s actually good. That’s just showing you need to dial it up a little more.

But if you’re aiming for like 100 and four people just showed up, okay, then the market is telling you something. This is also where it is a thin line between you versus the market because in the sense of if you weren’t loud enough, like in my case, how many times have you yelled at me, where you were like, “Margo, I love you, but you wrote it on Instagram stories once. Nobody knows what the fuck you’re selling.”

So many times.

Or I’m like, “No, no, no. I did it. I was loud.” You were like, “You were loud one day of the last four weeks.” 

One day. You sent one email to a segment of 50 people, Margo.

Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right because of the million insert reasons. This is where it overlaps. If you are not doing the most and the market also doesn’t want it, you actually don’t know. That’s the reality is that you won’t know. But let’s go back to your question of like what are the indicators? I think the only indicator that matters is sales or no sales.

Yep. Yep.

Am I wrong? Is there something else we’re missing?

No. So this is where people get caught because they’re like, “Oh, well people are responding to my emails. My list is so engaged.” 

I don’t care. “They’re sharing.” I don’t care. Are they buyers?

Exactly.

So that’s the real question. I think that when we talk about this disconnect between is it you or the market, I think if you’re in a launch, the temptation is to say, “It’s me. I’ve gotta do a million more things. Let’s change direction. Let’s change the message.” No. 

Your job is to show up, making the offer, as consistently as possible. You can tweak the message a little bit. You can experiment with new angles. But do not throw the launch away until it is done so you can figure out what worked or what didn’t. And I know this is stressful to do because you’re like, “What if nobody buys? What if I die alone? What if everyone knows that this launch didn’t go well?”

And it’s difficult to get through so I don’t wanna discount that. But the reality is, if it’s your market, if no one’s buying, if it’s a bad time, if it’s the wrong offer, you’re not gonna know ’til the end anyway. So stay the course and stop trying to change a million things in the middle of the launch.

Yes. I wanna add that, it hurts me to say this. Bad messaging can still sell. It really can. IIf your offer is strong enough.  

The real tea over here, yeah.

Now that’s not to say bad positioning. That’s different. But messaging, if you’re not explaining it well, that is not totally the reason. And I have seen this on so many launches. If they have true demand, I’m thinking of one friend in particular who has … 

It’s hard not to use numbers. I won’t use her name ’cause I don’t have permission, but she has over 600,000 followers, and …

That’s so many followers!

The first time she launched, it was to like a small list of 80,000, and it was garbage, the offer. It was like the offer isn’t different now, but the branding is a lot better and it’s a lot clearer and she has been able to address her market in the way that they speak. But in the beginning, when she was doing it, she couldn’t ’cause she didn’t know. So she was just throwing offers and seeing what stuck.

And it was such a healthy approach to be like, “What about this? What about this?” And as soon as people started biting, and by biting I mean paying, not saying, “Oh, I love that. Oh, that’s interesting.” Those, by the way, those are not indicators.

They can be helpful for a warm-up audience. They can be helpful to be like, “Okay, cool, something’s landing. Something’s happening.” But yeah, at the end of the day, you’re absolutely right.

You wanna hear, “Take my money,” not, “That’s a good idea.”

Seriously. Seriously.

It’s really important to know the difference.

You said it. You said it! 

But here’s where I think, content creators especially get in trouble because, and we talked about this in an earlier episode, where the different skills between creating content and sales, they aren’t the same. So a lot of content creators are really good at generating buzz. You’re really good at getting shares.

You’re really good at getting likes. You’re really good at getting engagement. But engagement, no matter what, is a proxy metric. So if those engagements aren’t leading to someone clicking and hitting buy and taking out their credit card, this is the action you want someone to take, then it didn’t work. Then it didn’t work for sales.

We get in really dangerous territory here because you can have viral content that performs really well from the metrics of engagement that does not bode well for conversion to sales.

Yes! It’s so true. I love that, and I think that, again, you have to know what your metrics are, (which are sales) but also give everything the time to play out. Give the strategy time to work before you start tinkering with 11 million things.

Yes. All right, before we wrap up, anything else?

No, that’s it. And I wanna apologize for my splotches, guys. I am allergic to my cat. Speak of the devil.

Wait, I didn’t even see them.

I’m allergic to both my cats so that’s awesome.

Are you actually allergic to both your cats?

Yeah, uh-huh.

How do you live with cats?

With love and affection and … 

Oh my god, you’re crazy!

Determination. Mike’s allergic too, and he like can’t breathe when we go into my aunt’s.  So it’s not, we’ll talk about this another time, but I’m way more allergic to dust than I am to cats so we mop once a week. We sweep. I have my nasal spray in the mornings. And they’re so cute. How could I worry about being allergic to this? Listen to that purr.

So y’all, your takeaway here to how to know whether it’s you or the launch is to stay the course, keep launching. You are not gonna find out until cart close. No conclusions ’til cart close. And to get in the reps. You just have to keep launching, launch after launch, and then audit.

Do a forensic analysis of what happened and be real ruthless and have people around you like Hillary who can be really, really honest about what worked and didn’t and nest it in kindness.

If it is the market, it’s not a reflection on your work as a human being. If the sale doesn’t work, you’re okay. There’s just some tweaks. There’s just some things that you can shift. Maybe the offer’s not quite right, and you can do an autopsy to figure out what went wrong. But first, let it play out and stop tinkering with everything.

That’s right. Stop tinkering, Margo. (laughs)

The last thing, if your initial reaction is really reactive and emotional, where either you’re going into self-blame or other blame, any time you’re looking for a scapegoat, that is a sign that you’re not being objective. So make sure to pay attention to how you are responding to the failure or success of the launch, and then look at it with objective eyes.

Absolutely. No doubt. Awesome.

Now, we wanna hear from you. How have your launches gone? When did you blame the market? When did you blame yourself? How did you learn how to parse out the difference? Tell us all about it in the comments. And if you liked this episode, please like it below, subscribe to our channel and share it with your friends.

I am Margo Aaron.

And I’m Hillary Weiss.

This has been HAMYAW.

We will see you in two weeks.

No judgments ’til cart close! Bye guys!

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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