About a week ago, I launched my new book, Design for Founders – the book. Witty name, huh?
I had no expectations for this book launch. Over the years I’ve learned not to fully believe the hyped product launch case studies which for are the most part not typical.
I don’t want it to look like I just pressed a magical “Launch” button and saw my account start loading with money. Actually, “How to Make $762 in One Day After Working Hard for Just 4 Months” might be a better title for this article.
— Heidi Pungartnik (@aShocka18) January 20, 2016
On the first day, I made $762 in revenue. The book continues to sell.
The thing I’ll be focusing on now is figuring out a way to drive sales consistently. I already started tinkering with this, with the help of ConvertKit.
In this case study, I will reveal the details about what worked in this launch and what didn’t, what I’d do differently the second time round so you can avoid doing my mistakes. I’ll discuss:
- Why I removed my face from the landing page
- Whether or not are content upgrades really effective for conversions
- Why I switched email marketing providers
- Why I decided to offer a consultation package
- How I got the epic testimonials on my landing page
- Where the traffic to my landing page came from
- and more!
Let’s get to it.
First, here’s the list of resources I’ve used in the book launch.
After I found out that MailChimp was going to start charging me $50 for my 2500-something list, I started looking around for something with better integration options.
I needed something that will support my current system with content upgrades, which ConvertKit supports out of the box. It is almost exactly the tool I would’ve developed for myself, so I was excited to try it out. So far, it has been pretty great — the interface is clean and logical, and the migration from MailChimp was a breeze.
ConvertKit lacks certain essential features like
cleaning up the list of people* who don’t open emails and better reporting. They assured me they intend to implement these in the next months, so I’ll stick around to see it happen. All in all, it’s a tool I recommend.
*CK implemented this feature exactly on the day this case study went out.
GumRoad integrates pretty well with ConvertKit, plus it’s is super easy to use and supports affiliates. However, there’s still the detailed reports problem, and they take a fee off every purchase you make.
Another solution you can use if you prefer fixed monthly fees is DPD.
IFTTT integrates with GumRoad, so it’s a no-brainer to set up purchase notifications on your smartphone. It feels great to get your phone blown up all day long! No, seriously. It’s awesome.
Since publishing this post, I’ve been notified that GumRoad offers this functionality directly in the app.
She won’t appreciate I mention her under the “Tool Stack”. Sorry Maja!
But she has been absolutely indispensable in this launch. She emailed all people who were mentioned in the book (200+ contacts) and handled the emails coming in. If you’re doing a launch, I really recommend you share the workload with someone you can trust.
For the launch, I offered a 24-hour $10 discount to induce a sense of urgency. Besides that, here are the steps I took to sell more books.
Launch to My List
Before the launch, I wrote a 10-piece course on design that end with a pitch to get the book. I am sending this autoresponder to all new subscribers now and am seeing pretty amazing open rates.
When I tried emailing this course to my existing subscribers after months of silence (more on this under “Lessons Learned”), they didn’t like it at all. I saw huge number of unsubscribes (as many as 40 per email). My open rate was at around 20% from the very beginning. The pitch email only brought in around 160 visits.
I got a couple of friends on board as affiliates. They introduced the book to their audiences and explained the discount. This strategy accounted for nearly half the sales.
I also submitted the book to ProductHunt. ProductHunt has been a great platform to launch products on so far — I used them to launch ThemeBro (twice) and they always brought in at least 3000 visitors.
The recent changes in their design had a negative effect on this launch, though, bringing only 173 visits to my landing page on the launch day.
For those who are unfamiliar with PH, they recently split their daily list of new products into Tech, Games, Podcasts, and Books. Of course since there are not many books launched on a daily basis for exactly this audience, the Books segments seems to be full of older or lower quality books, sometimes even fiction.
I’m not sure what the reason behind the redesign is (Cleaning the “Tech” segment of low-quality products? First step in trying to grow the site into other segments?), but if I had done this launch again, I’d insist on being featured on the “Tech” page. I did get plenty of upvotes for the category though, so my book instantly topped the list and stayed there for the whole day.
Outreach and ThunderClap
As I mentioned, Maja emailed all businesses that were mentioned in the book. The idea was, of course, to let them know, but to also get them on board to send out a Tweet on the day of the launch. We used the tool called ThunderClap which — apparently — no one has ever heard of. Despite of sending out 200+ emails and getting replies from most of them — even saying that they’d love to send out a Tweet!—, my ThunderClap campaign only got about 5 supporters (and 2 of those were me).
I resorted to sending out a quick email on the launch day to all who seemed interested with a “Click to Tweet” link. I’d gotten a good amount of social shares that way, but I am not sure about the exact number due to Twitter’s new share count policy.
Landing Page Walkthrough
For the strategy to work, it needed a great landing page to close the sale. Here are the highlights of the landing page.
The copy is trying to address the people who are already aware of the benefits that design can bring to the table, and persuade them to buy the book.
The premise is simple — business that look better are more likely to succeed. This book will help you level the field as a bootstrapping designer.
In this launch, marketing efforts were targeting only startup founders. Richard reminded me that other audiences like eCommerce business owners may like this product as well.
I got a lot of praise and questions about the testimonials. They have been written by people who have actually read the book, but I do know them all personally.
When you’re launching a product, it’s a good idea to give out a couple of copies of your book ahead of time to people who are known in the community. Building connections (e.g. befriending people) is very helpful in getting them to write a testimonial.
Besides the book, I offered a high-priced consulting package as well. I don’t really sell my time for money any longer, but I am sure many founders could use a custom plan on how to approach design in their business. So I created a premium package.
One of the reasons I decided to offer a consultation package is to price anchor. It’s supposed to justify the price of a product when compared to a much more expensive offer.
I can’t say if it worked or not because I don’t have a control to compare it to. A good thing to A/B test may be to switch places of the offers and see if showing the expensive offer first and then the more acceptable “budget” version would increase sales.
I still honestly think the book is priced fairly and does deliver the value promised. For this reason, I decided to offer an any-time lifetime money-back guarantee. So far, there have been no returns.
Time Limited $10 Discount
At the time the offer was available, I advertised it with a hard-to-miss bar on top. I even added a countdown timer. Judging by the drop in sales after the launch day, I am sure that this time limit caused people to share the book more and buy it sooner to avoid missing out on the discount.
For all who are on the fence, I decided to offer a couple of book pages for free. I used ConvertKit to create the pop-up form that sends a subscriber the pdf. Then, they start getting the same email course as the rest of subscribers. Yeah, I know, not very creative.
The goal of the landing page is for people to buy the book, so the call to action to “Buy The Book” is everywhere and in pink. Very hard to miss. I didn’t want the secondary call to action of “Get a Sample” to confuse the customers, so I made it quite hard to find.
On the other hand, Jarrod Drysdale on his landing page primarily encourages people to download a sample and even without a sign-up! This strategy may be something I’ll try to A/B test to see which works better.
My Baby Face
On the pre-launch page, I included a huge picture of my face besides the text about the author. I thought it would be beneficial to show people who’s behind the product.
When I shared it on Reddit, I got a couple of comments that I might be better off removing it. Because apparently, I look 15. And people don’t think 15-year olds can improve their businesses.
To clear up any confusion, I am actually 23, and have been working in the design industry since I was 16. So I really have something to say!
But the comments were hard to argue with, so I removed the image until I do a new photoshoot. And/or grow a beard! Haha.
Here are the things I knew before I did this launch. Most are stupidly obvious, but, well, there are many moving parts in a launch so it’s easy to keep track of everything.
Given how much I advocate A/B testing and measuring landing pages, I am absolutely terrible at implementing it myself.
I didn’t do any A/B testing from the launch day, but the traffic from ProductHunt and affiliates wasn’t typical. Therefore, the data from the launch day wouldn’t be very representable.
What I really should’ve made sure, however, was the tracking of conversions from my email list. Since ConvertKit offers integration with GumRoad, I figured this data would be generated somewhere in between, but nope! It wasn’t.
Of course it’s all my fault for not checking, but it’s still something ConvertKit needs to figure out. Soon.
I got a couple of people complaining that my website lacks SSL. We ended up completing those sales via Paypal.
The fact that a few people cared enough to reach out makes me wonder how many just left the site when they saw I sell something online without SSL. This is such a “d’oh!” thing, but I just wasn’t aware of it.
This will be resolved in the upcoming redesign of the site.
On Content Upgrades
Content upgrade is a piece of content available through sign-up that directly relates to the particular blog post. Sign ups through content upgrades account for two thirds of my subscribers — so for every person who signs up by clicking the blue “Hell Yeah!” button, two other people sign up to receive a particular freebie.
In other words, in terms of sign-ups, it’s extremely effective.
Given the conversion rate of the launch, the quality of my list is not great. This could be due to content upgrades (made for the content, not for the target audience) or the lack of communication (more on this in the next point).
Open rates (40% and up) of brand new subscribers suggest that the problem is not in content upgrades. But since ConvertKit’s reports lack segmenting, the high open rates may only apply to the “Hell Yeah!” sign-ups.
While I won’t remove content upgrades entirely, I intend to make them more target-audience specific. An example can be seen here, where I offer “startup (target audience) stock photos (content)” in exchange for an email.
Communication With the List
It has been almost two years since I first launched this website. In this time, I had been working more on building the list than on sending those leads any emails.
I tried sending out weekly links on design. Then stopped. Then I started sending out weekly guides on topics like branding and UX. Then stopped.
Each time I came out with a new idea for newsletter content, I had introduced a new email branding (Design for Founders bootcamp, Epic Design Weekly), and each time after I would quit one idea, I would leave the list alone for months at end.
This is all terrible. But I learned a few things.
One, I am not able to keep up with mailing on a schedule. I just suck at it. Two, autoresponders are great for providing value consistently to subscribers on autopilot.
Since I input a lot of effort into my blog posts and never post more than one per week, I’ll try sending my list a link to the newest blog post. This way we keep in touch, and I constantly provide value.
So now a person signs up, gets a 10-days email course on design, and then a pitch to buy the book. From then on, they simply receive the newest content from the blog and an occasional freebie.
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In general, I am quite happy with how the launch went. Over the next few months, I will continue to post more great content to this blog and release a few value-packed freebies to help startup founders achieve their vision.
Depending on how well will the book sell on an ongoing basis, I may create an upgraded version, perhaps even in the video form. In cooperation with Tomas, I have a plan to re-launch the book to a new audience with an amazing offer. Stay tuned!
Startup Design Toolbox
This bundle of freebies includes an ebook on fixing any design, a wireframing kit, a selection of free stock photos, and more.