Everyone dreams of it. Sell some product on the internet. Make a million (or a few million) dollars, and retire to some Caribbean island – or, in the case of Jeff Walker, Durango, CO. However, how can you do that? Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life Of Your Dreams claims to hold the keys to this elusive goal of many people. While Launch may have some pointers, from my point of view, there are some key areas of the map that are obscured or missing. We’ll get to that, but for now: what is the product launch formula?
Product Launch Formula
Jeff Walker started by sharing information about investing and became an internet marketing mogul. He’s well-respected as someone who has found a model for internet marketing that works. His approach is very different than the approach used by typical marketing. It’s not Guerilla Marketing or Duct Tape Marketing. It’s not even The New Rules of Marketing and PR. The strategy is different, in part, because it assumes you’re not starting with a product. It assumes that you’re launching a new product or business. The idea is that you develop an audience (what Seth Godin would call a “tribe” – see Tribes). You get that audience frenzied about the availability to get the product. The process is designed “to get your target market so engaged with your product (or business) that they almost beg you to sell it to them.”
The target market is the first of the blurry (or missing) parts of the map. Jeff assumes that you can build your target market. The idea is that you can create content and that content will help to engage prospective customers in a conversation. They’ll help you to create and refine the content, and then you sell it to them. However, what if you can’t engage the market? What if you can’t find your tribe?
Walker quickly skims over this topic and assures you that you’ll find your target market and that they’ll help you refine your offering. I, however, have lived the life of building a tribe and defining a product. For the past ten years in selling The SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide, I’ve found great places to connect with the market and equally found times when there seems to be no connection at all. It’s quite easy – and probably correct – to say that I’m doing it wrong, and I’ve missed the market, or that I’ve failed to zig and instead zagged. It is, however, my experience that the tricky part is in finding and connecting with a market to understand what they’ll get engaged about.
Sequences, Stories, and Triggers
The Product Launch Formula is made up of four sequences: Pre-Prelaunch, Prelaunch, Launch, and Post-Launch. Each of these sequences has a series of steps. The steps are designed to tell a story across time instead of overloading someone with one big message. The story is spread across days. (See Wired for Story and Story Genius for more about writing stories.)
The sequences and stories are designed to activate a set of mental triggers in the mind of the recipient that drives them to action. The triggers are:
- Scarcity – This is a limited-time offer; you’re missing out if you don’t take advantage right now.
- Authority – You’re the person who has all the answers; they’re a fool if they’re not listening to you.
- Community – They’ll be left out of the club if they don’t join you.
- Reciprocity – If I give you something, you’ll want to give me something back.
- Trust – You should trust me.
- Anticipation – You can’t have it – yet.
- Likeability – Making yourself likable to encourage others to want to do business with us.
- Events and Rituals – People love events and the opportunity to experience something together.
- Social Proof – Others have had success using this system; the implication of which is that you can, too.
Obviously, these triggers are the right things to drive activity. The Happiness Hypothesis and Switch remind us that we are substantially more driven by our emotions (and our fears) than we would like to admit. Reiss claims there are 16 basic motivators of people in Who Am I? and The Normal Personality. His motivators include power, savings, social contact, status, and others, which link up to the triggers Walker shares here. The triggers are right – if you can find someone who’s interested in your offer.
So Now What?
The Product Launch Formula may be the right answer once you’ve figured out your market and your offer – or at least if you’ve got it reasonably close. However, in my experience, the magic happens in figuring out what to sell and finding a market that’s willing to buy it.
Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of “tire kickers,” who will take all your free content and lap up whatever sage advice you have to offer – but for whom there is no budget to be had. There’s nothing they either can or will buy. Of course, the argument is quickly that they either didn’t believe that I had something to offer them of enough value to part with their money, they didn’t believe in me, or they didn’t believe the solution would work for them.
I accept that, for at least some of the people that I have run across, these are true. I missed the mark somewhere in helping them understand the value that I generate. However, at the same time, I have to say that there are some who are just not going to buy.
The most frustrating thing about Launch for me was the fact that it didn’t offer any way to solve the intractable problems. If you know you have a market and you know roughly what you want to offer, it’s a good time to launch into reading Launch.