Ask Steph is a monthly column where I answer all of your tricky business questions! Get ready to tackle everything from setting up better software & systems, to making space for reflection, to planning out your business launch, to establishing better boundaries with your clients. Have a question for me? Ask away, right here. See archives here.
Why can’t I get this thing off the ground?
Here’s the thing: I’m really good at having ideas. I have so many of them! I love thinking of ways to help my clients, but I seem to get stuck somewhere between the idea’s inception and getting it out into the world. It always feels like I’m skipping some important steps because I’m so excited to tell people about this thing I’m creating, and as a result my “launches” usually fall flat. Could you please create a mind map or a sketch for me that I can consult anytime I create a new service or offer something new? I know there is a process, but I seem to forget it every time. If I knew the clear steps, I think I could be more proactive in my planning process. I feel like I should be faster at this!
Excited to Launch
It takes a while to do things right.
Here’s something that I think a lot of entrepreneurs miss: having an idea & creating the content of an offering is only about half the battle.
We tend to think that once we’ve created a new workshop, or designed our latest product, we’ve gotten to the finish line! We wrote words and chose photos and poured our hearts and souls into this piece of work. Now we get to sit back and wait for the sales to roll in, right? Right?!
I used to think that too! But when I ‘launched’ an online course and received precisely ONE sale, I knew I was missing something. Now my launches take me longer to execute, but they also work a whole lot better.
Get Your Head In The Game
The most important part of creating more successful launches is developing the right mindset. When we start to mentally give ourselves twice as much time as it usually takes us to create something, we’re actually being realistic. We no longer feel like “we should be faster at this” because we understand that it actually just takes that much time to do it right.
If you need a new motto to try, borrow this one: I will spend just as much time working on the behind-the-scenes systems and marketing of my offerings as I do on building the content of them.
Meaning that if you self-publish a book, you should expect to spend at least as much time figuring out systems for online sales and shipping, hyping it up, and marketing to your audience as you did on writing the book in the first place. If not more!
Have I emphasized the mindset piece enough? Okay great. Let’s move on to the five steps I follow every time I launch something new! I’m going to use the example of my latest launch, Productivity Parties, to show you how I work through each step of the process.
1. Make decisions
First things first, figure out what you’re creating. Time to get super clear and specific about your vision! I find it helps to answer those age-old questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how. The idea is to figure out as many details & logistics as you can.
Once you’ve hammered out the basics, it’s a great time to put some date holds in your calendar, call your suppliers for quotes, or rent space for your workshop. At this step, you’re building the bare-bones infrastructure for this offering. What do you need to do now in order to make this happen on the timeline you’ve decided?
Case Study: For my Productivity Parties, I needed to start by figuring out which dates & times would work in my schedule. I also had to decide how long I wanted each session to be, how many people I’d want on the calls, and settle on pricing. Finally, I confirmed (with myself!) that I’d hold the sessions on Zoom, since I already have a Pro account. Step one, done!
2. Make it valuable
This is the part you’re probably the most familiar with: the creative part! Now’s the time to build out the “meat” of your offering’s sandwich. If you’re building an online course, this would be your video lessons & worksheets. If you’re creating a new workshop, this would be your gorgeous, show-stopping presentation slides. For a new product launch, this is when you’d design, tweak & perfect. If you’re launching a new email opt-in freebie, you’d write out your PDF and add some gorgeous photos!
Take your time with this step, because this content is super important. This is the special secret sauce that only you can create. It’s your magic, and the only part of this process that you can’t eventually outsource.
Case Study: In my case, this step mostly involved figuring out the format of each call. How would I structure each party, and what questions would I ask folks to get them reflecting on their goals? How would our work sprints work? Fleshing out those pieces made the offering feel stronger & more coherent.
3. Make it beautiful
At this point in the process, we’re moving away from creation and into promotion. And we still have this and two other steps left to go before you launch! If that feels overwhelming, scroll back up to the mindset part of this post and remember: this is how long it actually takes. You can do this!
This step is all about doing your offering justice by positioning it, adding visual details, and starting to explain it to the world. YOU know what makes this so special, but others don’t (yet). Spell it out for them!
My favourite way to do this is by building a custom landing page on my website for each offering I have (see examples here, here, and here). Your ways of making it beautiful might be creating a simple landing page, a new product listing, a banner on your homepage, a beautiful brochure, or a poster. Remember: whichever format you choose needs to be a beautiful & functional one-stop shop for all the information a new customer would need to know.
Case Study: I spent a full day building the Productivity Party sales page! Using elements from other pages I’ve created, I made sure to address my clients’ problems up front, explain the offering’s format, answer questions I could anticipate, and set the tone through photos & emojis.
4. Make it work
Here’s what I believe: When it comes to having happy customers, the systems you use to run your business are just as important as what your business has to offer. Nobody wants to deal with a slow & clunky checkout process, or get confused, or feel like they’re missing important information, no matter how good the end result may be.
So take some time to figure out the most intuitive & simple way of delivering your service or product, for your customer. Yes, it matters that things are efficient for you. But it’s a lot more important that they’re efficient for your clients. How will someone purchase your product? What does it feel like to use your system? After purchase, do they get a lovely thank you email or a generic system-generated “Thank You For Your Purchase” page? The details matter, so devote yourself to getting them right.
Case Study: After toying around with a few system ideas (I also considered Eventbrite!), I ultimately decided to use Dubsado, my client relationship management software. It’s not a typical ecommerce system, but it has a lot of features that I love. It’s super customizable to my branding, allows me to use coupon codes for my clients, and offered a pay-what-you-can option at checkout. I spent another full day setting up my packages, checkout pages, coupon codes and follow-up emails for my customers. Then I added the links into my sales page and checked that everything worked!
5. Make some noise
Last but certainly not least, it’s time to shout about your offering from the rooftops. You created this idea with the intention of helping people, so it’s important that those people know about it!
I’m a big fan of personalized pitches to folks who might benefit from what you’re offering, where appropriate. This can be a quick text or simple email with the link to your sales page, asking them to check it out or spread the word! This works best when you take the time to customize each message, AND when you make sure to only contact people who you think would be genuinely excited to receive it. Past clients, customers, or workshop participants are good candidates to receive these kinds of emails!
And of course, talk about it on every marketing platform you have! I always start with emailing my newsletter list, since these are folks who have opted in to hear about what I’m up to. Then move on to the usual suspects: Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, oh my! You’re likely to have the best results on the platforms where you’re consistent in showing up regularly.
Case Study: For this offering, I started by giving it to my current clients of The Foundery and my mastermind group for free, in exchange for asking them to pass along the info to anyone they think might benefit. Next, I emailed all my past clients who I thought would love an offering like this, giving them a special discount code to use at checkout. Then I sent out an email newsletter to my list with all the information! Finally, I posted about it to my Instagram and Facebook feeds, and followed up with interactive Instagram stories.
Time to Launch!
Yes, it’s a lot of steps. And yes, it’s a lot of work. But yes, this method has worked, for myself and for my clients. Taking the time to work through each and every step of the process pays off HUGE when you finally launch your offerings into the world. Be patient, take it step by step, and watch your hard work pay off. Give your amazing ideas the kind of intentional, heartfelt launch that they deserve.
I’d love to know: What is your process for going from idea to launch? Which step is the hardest for you to execute or make time for? Let me know in the comments below or over on Instagram @stephpellett!
PS. Join me for a Productivity Party! 🎉 Every Monday in May, I’m hosting a two-hour community coworking session, designed to help you connect with other inspiring entrepreneurs and get things done. We’d love to see you there!