Behind the scenes of my first launch
What to do when everything goes wrong
I learned how to ski when I was about 8 years old. By the time I was in high school, skiing felt second nature. I didn’t have to think when I was doing it. I just leaned into my edges and let my skis carry me.
Then in college I decided to try snowboarding. Suddenly, I was in the shoes of a beginner again. Only, this time I wasn’t four feet tall and as flexible.
The mountain - which had always been this comfortable place - took on an entirely different look. Everything was more intimidating. Everything was hard.
Launching a course for my business was a little like learning to snowboard as an experienced skier.
I have been in marketing for about 10 years now. I started my own business creating strategic branding and websites for businesses more than three years ago. I’ve gotten to the point where it feels (mostly) comfortable. I have processes. I have systems. I know how to work with clients and find ways to bring their business’s success.
But six months ago, I began thinking about the potential of an online course. It would allow me to help a gap of people who can’t afford my one-to-one services. It would expand my reach and help create new revenue for my business, which would then allow me to set aside certain parts of my business that eat up a lot of my time and energy. I could then focus on the kinds of things that I am best at and give me the most joy.
So I enrolled in a business marketing program and began setting up the framework for the launch of a new branding course. The plan was to launch it with a free online workshop where I would teach the three pillars of branding. Then I would promote my paid five-module course, called The Amplified Brand.
I set the date of the workshop for Jan. 13, which seemed so far off back in October. I spent the month of December providing content about branding and getting to know more new business owners. The holidays were a blur and suddenly I found myself a couple weeks away from my workshop.
This was my first launch of any sort of digital product. I knew I was launching a little too early. I hadn’t built the email list I really needed. I have relied fully on word of mouth for my business so I haven’t required the big audience I would need for big results for a product launch.
I also knew that it would be a lot of work. You never know how much until you get in the weeds. Especially when the weeds flood or there is a forest fire.
Pre-launch week 1: Don’t tell mom, the babysitter’s sick
The first sign of trouble came two weeks before my workshop when my babysitter texted and told me she woke up with a sore throat. I still had a huge amount of work to do to get ready for the workshop, promote it, set up elements of my launch and do all my regular client work.
To be safe, I kept my two-year-old daughter, Em, home and used the TV babysitter for an hour in the morning. I did some creative scheduling to make sure I could keep my meetings with clients. And I pushed off everything else that wasn’t urgent. After losing several days to the holidays, it didn’t feel like there was much that wasn’t.
It will be better next week when I have a babysitter again, I naively thought.
My husband took on dinner and bedtime while I worked at night. I snuck in work at nap times and early mornings.
Then, Americans watched in shock as rioters stormed the capital. How can I talk about branding when our country is in shambles? I thought.
It was too late to stop. This train was out of the station. I vowed to put my head down, turn off the news and move forward.
Pre-launch week 2: Grape-flavored glasses and phone puke
By day 12 of no babysitter, there were dishes piled in the sink. We did not make a single meal on my weekly meal plan. (My husband did most of the cooking, which meant, we ate a lot of red meat).
Walking by the clothes washer one day I realized that it was full of wet clothes. I couldn’t for the life of me remember when I had put them in there. I left them in for one more day before rewashing them.
That was also the day we found out our babysitter had COVID.
Well, I thought, it’s been 12 days and we are all healthy, so we must be in the clear.
An hour later my daughter spiked a fever.
Thus began the overthinking that COVID has brought to daily life.
I had taken my daughter to her grandparent’s house the day before for a couple hours so I could get some work done. What if she was carrying coronavirus all this time, and I was the one who exposed them?
Do we now quarantine for 14 days?
Not that I have time, but is it ok for me to go grocery shopping?
Do we have to tell the CDC?
The weekend became a juggle of work and taking care of a sick kid. My husband stepped in and tried to give me the space to work.
Despite his best efforts, a rogue cat interrupted my practice workshop and my daughter puked on his phone.
By Sunday evening, Em’s fever was up, so we decided the only humane thing to do was give her some ibuprofen.
This, of course, was not well received. We tried talking it through. We tried coaxing. The last ditch effort was to give her the syringe and see if she would do it herself.
She likes doing things herself. What could go wrong?
Next thing I know, she shot the entire dose directly in my eye and all over the couch.
After cleaning it up, I slouched one of our big armchairs with grape ibuprofen smeared in my hair and wondered how I was ever going to do this. The mountain of things I had to do seemed insurmountable. Was my ambition making me a bad mom? Would this launch even work? All of the doubts flooded in.
I headed to the shower while my husband stayed with our daughter. Feeling a little fresher afterwards, I sat down beside her. She looked up at me with sad eyes. A renewed feeling of mom guilt flooded over me. The second sensation I felt was the wet couch cushion I had just cleaned seeping through my clean t-shirt.
The next morning, Em seemed to take another turn for the worse. I sat cuddling her on the couch while my phone chimed incessantly with client texts and emails and my own tasks went undone. I felt torn between seas of endless needs.
My husband came to check on us, and we talked through the options. I had to work. He had to work. Someone had to take care of our daughter.
Then she threw up on my arm.
He decided to take the day off sick.
That night after a trip to the doctor and a negative COVID test, we sat together while he cruised Zillow for fun and I worked on my laptop.
“When you launch and make us $11 million dollars, we can buy a house on the lake,” he said.
I laughed. I am a long way from $11 million. By about a factor of $11 million.
Launch Day: What’s a little wind?
The week leading up to the launch, my cat and daughter seemed to be in a cutthroat contest to see who could wake me up more at night.
The night before my workshop the battle for the win came to a climax. By midnight, the cat had the lead before I got desperate and put her outside. Then my daughter proceeded to take advantage of her competition’s situation by waking up crying four times.
Suddenly, a new competitor entered the ring when we heard something slam against the side of our house. It was a branch from one of the giant trees outside falling off as the wind ramped up.
I woke up in the morning to a string of texts from a girl’s group text that included phrases like “sheltering in place” and “trees falling everywhere” and “the power is out.”
We still had power, but my online workshop was in a few hours, and it depended on the Internet not going out and a tree not falling on our roof.
My husband saw me spiraling and sat down, held my hand, and helped me make a battle plan: I showered, filmed an entire backup workshop and uploaded it onto Youtube.
Then I scheduled an email to the workshop registrants with the link to the emergency video should the Internet go out in the middle of the live event.
This all sounds relatively straightforward, but in reality I was plagued with tech issues up until minutes before the workshop. I sat watching the back up video upload - 95 percent … 96 percent … 97 percent …. minutes before the workshop was to begin.
At 11 a.m., I went live. To my relief, people showed up. We had some minor tech issues, but all in all, nothing catastrophic. The Internet stayed strong. No trees fell on my house.
My first course sale came in that night. I almost cried.
Launch week: What launch week?
The workshop marked the first day of my launch. Promotion of my course was on for the next week. But by that point, I was so exhausted it was hard for me to show up. I had client work to catch up on and a sick toddler to take care of.
It took me about four days to pull myself out of a fog and ramp up promoting my course.
I just have to try, I thought. So I did.
I went live. I advertised. I talked about it constantly. I talked to hundreds of business owners in Facebook groups, trying to get a sense of where they are in the branding process.
I finished my launch on Jan. 21 and didn’t make my sales goals. But something else surprising happened. I made connections and started collaborations. I had a rash of new inquiries into one-to-one services. I saw my website traffic spike and my email list grow.
For one hour the morning after my launch closed, I felt myself slide into sorrow about it not being what I had hoped. Then suddenly, the ideas began flooding in for next time.
I vowed to do this again and make it even better.
Post launch: Lessons learned
Launching is hard. And doing it for the first time feels like inventing the wheel over and over.
Here’s a few things I learned this time:
1. My husband is a champ.
Ok, I already knew this, but he showed up in big ways to support me through it. It made me love him all the more. Having a support system through this was crucial.
2. Plan for things to go wrong.
I probably could have saved myself some nail biting if I had recorded a backup of my workshop BEFORE the day of the workshop. You can’t control the weather or the Internet. Things happen. There are ways to make the impact less when they do.
And even if you plan for all the contingencies, things will still come up that you haven’t thought of. You just have to do a little creative footwork and adapt as you go.
3. It’s all an experiment.
This is just the beginning. Marketing is a series of experiments. You have to tweak and test to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then do more of what works.
It’s rare you get it exactly right out of the gate. The first time you do something new, it’s going to take some adaptation.
4. Just because you don’t meet your goals doesn’t mean it was a failure.
I had a number in my head. But it was really an arbitrary number. In the end, what matters is that I had people sign up at all. There was so much good that came out of this launch that is hard to quantify.
Next time will be easier because I won’t need to create everything from scratch.
What matters is that there are excited women who will join me when my course starts Feb. 1. I am going to show up for them and serve them like it is 1,000. Because, someday it might be, and getting it right means doing the ground work now.
I’m confident that this course will be the beginning of growth for other people’s businesses, not just my own. That’s why I launched it and will launch it again.
5. Sometimes you just need to be patient.
A week after I posted this, I did meet my sales goal. Which brings me to my final lesson: it doesn't always happen in your timing. You just have to keep experimenting and tweaking and putting yourself out there. You just might meet your goals after all.
Curious about The Amplified Brand? Find out more here.