Wouldn’t it be awesome if customers bought your product (or service) idea before it even existed?
I mean… As much “fun” as it is to put in ALLLL that hard work…
Invest late nights, spend days, weeks, even months toiling away at it…
And then see your “Sure-to-be-a-success!” idea —
Yeah, that’s not fun at all. I say that as an entrepreneur who has launched over 10 products (and 4 service offerings) to date.
I can tell you it’s awesome when your product succeeds, but it’s a sucky experience when it doesn’t.
That’s why the Digital Marketing Gods gave us the concept of pre-selling.
In this article, I’m going to teach you how to pre-sell, step-by-step (note: you can download the complete PDF guide to reference offline on our site).
I’ll start by giving you a complete definition of what pre-selling is.
Then, I’ll teach you how to pick your best idea (the one worth testing).
After that: How to pre-launch (pre-sell) it to your target market (including the tools, emails, and landing pages required for it to be a success).
And I’ll also share 5 common mistakes (most of which I made when pre-selling in the past) that you can easily avoid.
And of course, along the way, I’ll share some nuggets of wisdom based on my own experience.
These bite-sized stories will help you avoid the same mistakes that I had to learn the hard way.
For example, back in January of this year, I was on the fence about stopping my “head-down-don’t-bother-me” work on this new product idea.
That product ultimately became the Proven Sales Conversion Pack.
My choices were: take a risk of time and money to focus on finishing the product.
Or, pause my work and offer it to our audience as pre-orders…
Before I tell you what happened with it — you might be wondering: what is pre-selling?
Why (and when) should you do it?
Receive a copy of this in-depth article to read later
What is Pre-Selling?
Pre-selling is the art (and process) of selling a product (or service) that doesn’t yet exist in order to confirm that people like, want, or need the product.
Pre-selling (when done right! — follow my guide here!) is a highly-ethical shortcut to save yourself time, money, and the potential for a “soul-crushing experience”.
I’m not exaggerating that last part either (see next section on “why”).
Because, simply put, making a unique product people want to spend their hard-earned money on (even if it’s not a physical product) is hard work.
If it’s not hard work, then your product probably doesn’t offer a lot of value in the future place, which makes it more likely to flop.
The point is, if you’re going to put in all that work, why not also put some of that effort into lowering your risk?
- Pre-selling lowers your risk as an entrepreneur or startup because it confirms there’s real market interest.
- It helps you understand (and stay focused on) the benefits of the product from your customer’s point of view.
- It radically accelerates the time from “idea” to “delivery” (I’ll explain how…)
- And it gives you a financial cushion to focus on building the product.
WHY Should You Pre-Sell?
Spending months creating a product that no one has confirmed they actually want only to launch it and… :: crickets ::
That doesn’t make you smart.
That’s bad decision making. You don’t want to have that experience.
So many startups and entrepreneurs I know have done that. And they fall flat on their faces 90% of the time.
The worst part is that “falling flat” can take… years, in some cases. In the process, money, energy, and time are wasted.
I get that many people (you?) are uncomfortable with the idea of pre-selling.
They associate it with unethical “internet market-y” tactics, even though the idea is now mainstream with sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.
(Full disclosure: the founder of IndieGoGo, Slava, once served me pancakes in their “company summer house” in the Hamptons… They were delicious, so they get a link!).
So many Wantrepreneurs literally choose to be failures-in-the-making by being “head down” 100% product-building instead of confirming:
Hey you! Mr(s). Customer?
Do you want this amazing thing?
Customer: Hm… Si!
Will it make your life better? Will you pay me for it?
Customer: Hm… Absolutamente! (hands over $100)
Sweeeet, time to go build it….
I know it may sound like I’m being harsh but that’s because I want you to avoid making the same mistake.
I agree with Barbara Corcoran’s “hard-love” philosophy on this topic.
On an early episode of Shark Tank a few years back she explained that entrepreneurs need to “shoot their ‘dogs’ early”. In other words, if the product was a dog, meaning it wasn’t selling, then quit early unless you know (for certain) how to fix it.
Entrepreneurship is a mindset and a lifestyle. It naturally consumes you. Building a successful business is a massive responsibility filled with lots of successes and painful lessons along the way.
So WHY should you pre-sell?
In short: Because you value yourself, your health, your friends, family, your sanity, and your customers.
When should you pre-sell?
Simple answer: Once you have a solid idea backed-up by some research.
How Pre-selling to customers changes the equation
A pre-sale for a product is the ultimate piece of positive feedback.
Each customer who buys now has skin in the game because they’ve made some commitment no matter how big or small.
It means they want to see that the solution to their problem exists.
They definitely want the value you are offering. Enough to spend some of their hard-earned money on it.
When you pre-sell to a group of real customers, your risk of a failed product launch drops by a factor of 10.
However, it shouldn’t be like one, two, or three customers.
That’s not enough.
Unfortunately, you can always persuade a small number of people to buy a horrible product if you’re persistent enough (this is why 50% of the products that come into the TV show Shark Tank has some sales but are pretty mediocre in terms of real value).
I did that with my first SaaS product, BlueSkyLocal.
Smart idea, wrong market.
I started it up with my co-founder right after we graduated college.
I remember visiting my parents one weekend. I was pacing around my room as I spoke to a former alumnus of my college. He was named Cornell’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” that year.
It was Jay Walker, Founder of the billion multi-dollar publicly traded company, Priceline.com.
I told him about BlueSkyLocal, it was a software that sent out text message coupons for restaurants on slow sales days, like when it was raining or on a Tuesday.
He gave me a piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten because I knew it was right:
Him: Why don’t you make your customers your investors?
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Don’t even create the product. Just go around, show people what will do, and get like a hundred businesses signed up. Have them pay you something for it. THEN go build it.
It made so much sense to me…
Of course, I immediately ignored it 😀
Well, not completely…
I was able to pre-sell the product to 4 local businesses. It wasn’t really solving a painful problem for them.
The real reason they signed up was because I already had personal relationships with the owners and made them money from a previous business I ran on campus.
Moreover, I didn’t collect money, just credit cards, with a promise to charge the card once we had a working product available.
It wasn’t much, about $500 recurring monthly revenue.
Still, this is exactly why you should aim for a number closer to what Jay Walker recommended to me.
With a bigger sample size, there are fewer people buying simply because they (1) like you (2) trust you (3) or simply want you to go away, haha.
I recommend at least 30 since 100 is difficult for many people.
You also want to be sure to charge money up front.
Offer a discount and provide an estimated (but doable) delivery date for the product.
4 Steps to selecting your first product idea to pre-sell (and do the proper research on it)
How to come up with a winning business idea that is bullet-proof and succeeds is a longer discussion for another day.
Brainstorming ideas for products or services is easy.
Anyone can do it.
However, we want to pick a winner as early as possible because we want your pre-launch to work, not “Well that was a fun thing to invest in a couple of weeks, maybe I’ll try again another day…”
That’s how Wantrepreneurs think — but not you.
Here’s how to maximize your chances of success.
Step #1 — Will you be pre-selling a product or a service?
Pretty straightforward, but I recommend you do something specific here other than deciding the answer.
You should create a list of criteria for what you DON’T want from your product or service in terms of your workflow and lifestyle.
- Products are great because you can focus on marketing once you have something that works… but finding that perfect idea can be a challenge. Creating it as well as making sure you can sell enough to turn a profit.
- Services are also great because you get to invent out of thin air exactly what you’ll be selling. All you need is a landing page to start converting leads, but… there are tons of competition. You’ll probably have to build a team long-term. Also keeping clients happy while selling to new ones, is a full-time job.
I’ve pre-sold two products and two “done-for-you” productized services in the past.
There are some subtle differences in how you pre-sell each. I’ll cover those coming up…
Step #2 — Brainstorm a list of PROBLEMS you can solve.
This will be difficult for first-time entrepreneurs.
That’s because the most common belief for them is how important “the idea” is.
After all, that’s what the news headlines sell us to believe.
But a great idea is only one component to success.
I like how the co-founder of DropBox, Drew Houston, describes it:
“I think of idea, team, and market as multipliers for success.”
It all matters, including the idea.
But if you focus on the problem(s) to be solved over the solution, this will help you keep your focus on value to your customers.
Step #3a — Pick the top 3 most PAINFUL problems, and then…
When I was a college sophomore starting my first business, I was privileged to be mentored by some very smart and successful entrepreneurs / angel investors.
People like Bill Trenchard who — every time I pitched him — went deep on the questions of:
“What is the problem you’re solving for the market? Why is it painful? Why do they need this? How is this a ‘painkiller’ and not a vitamin?”
Post-college I befriended Andrew Warner, another successful entrepreneur who’s made a mantra of the phrase:
“Find the pain, and focus on it.”
I encourage you to do the same, prioritizing that over the idea.
Ideally, the top 3 problems are something you have personal experience with, as well as direct knowledge of the market for.
If your product idea ends up solving a problem you’ve personally or professionally had, this is an advantage that will work in your favor long-term.
It doesn’t mean you’ll have to work less hard. It will mean fewer mistakes (probably) because you can empathize with customer needs. This deeper level of understanding means less guessing and better decision-making.
It’s time to do some “light” research. Again, we’re not looking to invest a lot of time yet.
Instead, when you do this research, you should:
- Be able to easily reach your market online, either via a newsletter to your audience or via cold email outreach.
- You’re looking (without pushing the idea on anyone) to confirm if the problem is actually a real problem for them, and…
- Would they be willing to pay money to solve it — And why?
- If they had a magic wand to solve the problem, what would it do, specifically?
- How much time, money, and “headache” would having the solution save them?
- Value Delivery Preference: Would they pay for an educational solution (info product)? How about a self-service tool? A done-for-you service? (asking what they feel would be an accurate price for each based on how much time, money, and headache it would solve them).
Step #3b — Make like a “sponge” and soak up info about your market by READING
In my 6-figure Sales Funnel training, I go in-depth on the process of how to do target market research.
I teach this because getting a deep understanding of who your target audience is — their fears, their hopes, their motivations, how they think — translates to highly persuasive copywriting and design.
As a brief overview, I’ll say this…
Social media is way, way, way underrated for doing market research.
You can find just about every type of person on all the major social networks, and therefore you can find any market you want to research.
HOW do you do this though?
Simple: look for what people are complaining about or have questions about—and the answers.
- Go read Yelp reviews.
- Read what people are posting about in Facebook Groups.
- Read what people are commenting on Twitter.
- See what people are creating boards around on Pinterest (and why).
- Join LinkedIn groups — what posts get the most attention? What do people comment?
Complaints or questions within your target market = Your Opportunity.
You may find people talking about competitor products / services.
This is not a bad thing. If the competition, whether similar or different from you, is addressing the same problem and making money doing it—then this is validation.
In other words, it’s confirmation that your market has the problem and is willing to spend money to solve it.
It’s also an indicator of how much they are willing to spend.
You can also gauge how big the market is, as well as how widespread the problem is within it. From this, you can better estimate the total market size.
Story Anecdote: Latent Problems vs. Painful Problems
In 2009 I graduated from Cornell University and worked full-time on my startup, called BlueSkyLocal. The idea was to fix slow sales days for restaurants due to the weather, day of the week, or season. The solution was to send out text message coupons during these slow sales periods. I successfully pre-sold the idea to four local restaurants before the product was built.
Later on, I even did a research survey of over 100 restaurant owners. The math said that the average restaurant was losing ~$250,000 per year in sales due to this problem.
What I didn’t learn until much later was that this was a latent problem, meaning it was under the surface or not a priority for restaurant owners. They were more concerned with day to day operations and a million other things that come with running a restaurant.
BlueSkyLocal was solving a problem, yes, but it wasn’t one that the market was “itching” for. Your solution must scratch an immediate itch.
Avoid the “latent problem” trap. Find a real pain point, and focus on it.
Step #3c — Go talk to your target market (and build an audience)
I know many people reading this won’t have an existing audience they can go to quickly do this kind of research.
It’s a huge advantage if you can build an audience, of course, but if you go the cold email route that can be scary.
Here’s how to create your cold email campaign with two quick-start templates.
Template 2 — follow-up outreach message.
These two templates are a starting point.
You can of course optimize and AB test them as you go, but I’ve written them to be casual, to the point, and designed to earn a reply.
Now that you know what you want to send, it’s time to find people in your target market to send it to.
This assumes you selected a specific market that has the problem(s) you want to research.
Did you do that?
I know you’ve got big dreams but focus on them for practical purposes. I promise you won’t regret it if you trust me on this point…
Anyway, if you have an audience already built that you plan to test your product idea on — Congrats! You can skip the rest of this step and start getting feedback via a newsletter.
To save you time, here’s a quick template that’s worked for me in the past:
Template 3 — Survey your existing audience.
Again, that template is if you have an existing audience.
On the other hand, if you don’t have an audience built that’s ok too.
With specific enough target market, a simple Google search is all you need to find people who will give you feedback. Their websites will usually have their email contact info or a contact form.
- Make a spreadsheet list of about 300 websites (About 3 hours of total work). Include the name of the person you want to contact, and the link to their email or contact form.
- Kick-off your campaign by sending between 10-20 emails per day. (About 30 minutes per day or 5 hours of total work)
- Keep track of all replies and responses. Seek to engage them in a conversation and get answers to the key questions I listed above.
If you had just gone ahead, created and launched your product depending on what it was, you’d probably input 50 to 200+ hours to make something decent. Then you’d launch it, not knowing if it would work!
There’s a good chance that without any research, pre-sell, or other prior validation the product wouldn’t sell.
By comparison, the total work time here is about 10-12 hours total. You’d learn whether (1) a pre-sale launch makes sense or not, and (2) beyond that if creating the product makes sense or not.
If it’s an option, you can even cut down the time this takes by delegating the process to your assistant or fellow team member. However, I recommend you do it for a few days yourself first and record short videos to show your exact process for an ideal result.
Step 4 — Make a data-driven decision.
The law of averages says that if you reach out to 300 people you’ll hear back from about 10-20 percent.
It could be higher than that as well depending on the quality of your research. It could also be higher depending on your target market and the fact that your message is (and should be) focused on helping. You’re not asking for a link or anything like that.
You’re asking if X is a problem, and if so, offering to solve it.
That’s the attitude to take because it’s also likely a couple of people will be very annoyed you’re emailing them in the first place.
“F*ck you! Don’t email me!” is probably the worst thing you’ll hear back. Don’t let it discourage you though. Simply take the person off your list.
Assuming a 15% average response rate means you’ll get about 45 people responding and engaging with you on the question: is X a problem, or is there a more pressing (painful) problem you might solve?
You’re like a detective.
You’re searching for clues in what people tell you. What they say should inform you how you build the product.
A word of warning though: don’t sell yourself on your own idea.
Avoid being married to your idea, and instead let the market sell you on what it thinks is the best solution (or problem for you to solve).
Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and you’ll end up building a product no one actually needs or wants. That’s not a good path to be on…
Anyway, here’s the bottom line: when you’re done engaging (conversing via email, but also via phone when possible) with people who replied, it’s time to stand back and read through all the data, all the notes you took,and all the responses to the key survey questions.
Then make an objective decision…
Does the data point to the original problem you thought the market has? A different idea you had? Or a totally new direction?
Look for patterns in the responses.
Then decide to move forward based on that hard data…
Once you’ve made the best decision you can choose which problem to focus on, it’s time to go build the problem, right?
You don’t want to risk potentially 100’s of hours based on people’s words and nothing else.
It’s time to double-down in a different way and ask the market to put its money where its mouth is…
Why “skin in the game” is key (for you and your customers)
It is super tempting (and exciting) to put your head down and go build the product at this point.
But that is the wrong approach.
Well, for one thing, the people who gave you all the super-useful feedback don’t have any skin in the game (and neither do you!) …
“But Matt! If I’m creating the product, of course, I have skin in the game!”
This is about succeeding, about making sure that what you create actually SELLS and adds value for people’s lives and businesses.
This is not about “playing” entrepreneur.
Marc Cuban said, “Sales cure all” and he was right.
But the opposite is equally true: “a lack of sales KILLS all.”
Why you cannot (fully) trust the data…
Back in college one of my first business ideas was this site called “CollegeWOM.com”. WOM meant “Word-of-Mouth.”
It was like Facebook with a greater focus on events, parties, and nightlife.
I was so hyped about this idea. I knew it was going to work, big time. I was so determined, I went door-to-door in the dormitories on campus and surveyed over 300 students.
I even got kicked out of one dormitory for “soliciting”. My friend got in trouble for letting me into the building—sorry Tiffany, good time though 😉
Do you know what the vast majority of the students who I surveyed told me?
- GREAT IDEA.
- Yeah, sounds good.
- Awesome, yeah definitely need that.
- Like it.
- Yeah, I’d use that…
- Love it.
- Of course.
In reality, a lot of those people were just telling me what I wanted to hear.
Most people don’t want to be disagreeable, especially if they don’t have a vested interest in the idea, i.e. “skin in the game.”
I ultimately (luckily) moved on to another idea despite the “positive data.” On the contrary, I am certain that had I pursued that original idea, it would have been an uphill struggle—because no one really needed an events website—including horny college students looking to drink and party.
This is one example of why you cannot trust the survey data and feedback you get about your product idea. It’s also why I recommend you focus on getting people to talk about the problem and their ideas and how they could be solved.
Your 25-Point Pre-Selling Launch Funnel Checklist
You’re going to need to piece together several components for a successful launch.
I thought about writing out the steps for you, but a straightforward checklist is probably more useful.
This is the same checklist I used when pre-selling / pre-launching our Proven Sales Conversion Pack product.
1 – Emails
- Content email
- The content email does two things: (1) it delivers some value to potential customers on your email list while (2) setting the context for the offer you’re going to talk about coming up. This piece of content should be at least 1,000 words in length, and all claims should be backed up by a research of credible examples. You can publish it as a blog article with an option to download it as a PDF for later reading as an e-book.
- Offering value before asking for the sale also works because it uses the principle of reciprocity. In other words, people are more open to hearing of and buying your offer if you give them something first.
- Providing researched, well-written content also works to position you as an authority.
- Anticipation email
- The anticipation email comes next. This is all about giving people a preview or a “heads-up” that you’ll be launching something new and valuable tomorrow. This is your opportunity to talk in greater detail about the problem mentioned in your article.
- The more vivid detail you give to a problem, the more people who have that problem will feel you empathize with them. This is an example of “pacing.” You are “pacing” your customers by relating to their challenges / struggle, and when you present the solution you’ll then be leading them.
- Launch announcement email
- You’ve offered some value and you’ve built anticipation. With this email you’re now announcing that you’ve thrown the doors open on your new product (or productized service).
- You’re basically saying: hey, remember that thing I mentioned? Well, it’s available now, here’s the problem it solves (quick recap), this is the solution (simple statement), and here are the top 3 benefits.
- Use cases
- In this email sent the next day, you’re showing how the product can be used. Different people usually have different applications for any product. Show what the use-cases are for your product, and in turn, also demonstrate how it works.
- FAQ 1
- The next day, you’ll send an email with a question you recently received from a customer. At this point, you probably have had at least a couple of customers email you or send you an on-page chat message about the product. Revise the question as needed to so it’s relevant to other customers, and not just to the person who asked the question itself. Craft this email around your answer to the question.
- Mention how other customers are buying (if they are) and asking questions at this point. It’s a subtle form of social proof.
- FAQ 2
- Same deal with this email as with the previous FAQ email. The only difference is that you’re not answering another question.
- Note: depending on the decision you made to include scarcity (limited spots) or urgency (time-limited launch), you should begin gently reminding subscribers of these limits or that time is almost up. In my experience, many people defer deciding to buy because they simply don’t have a reason to decide now. Scarcity and urgency are tried and true tactics for doing this, though there are some important considerations to take into account. I talk more about this in the “Deadlines, Dates, & Incentives” section below…
- Last chance
- This email is a quick recap of everything with a focus on the fact that the opportunity is almost sold out or about to expire, or you’re simply going to take it down / raise the price.
- Doors closed
- This email is to give thanks to those who give you their attention, opening your emails and clicking. It makes customers who bought feel good and reminds them of the benefits / delivery details (when they’ll get it).
- It also gives the option for customers who were interested but just didn’t “pull the trigger” to join your wait list for when you officially launch the product later on.
- Thank you (post-purchase)
- This is the email that is immediately sent to customers right after they’ve bought. It is meant as a confirmation that their order has been placed. It also comforts them to know their order went through successfully. I made the mistake of not including this email in our pre-sale funnel and it created some anxiety for several customers who emailed in to ask about it. Receiving confirmation and a thank you calms those fears.
- It also reviews the key details, like when you expect to deliver the product by.
- Further, you can provide them with a sneak peek, via video, and solicit feedback and/or direct them to the PDF e-book piece of content you promoted with the first email.
2 – Landing pages
- (Sales) landing page copy
- Do not create the design first. Write the copy first in a Google Doc or Microsoft Word. This ensures you’ll focus on the messaging rather than trying to fit it into some template.
- There’s much I could tell you about how to write a great landing page. The best way is to follow my proven 10-step landing page template. This is one of a number of battle-tested templates, formulas, tactics I teach you as part of my 6-Figure Sales Funnel training.
- Here’s a general overview of this template (it is so simple yet works every time I use it):
- Agitate the pain points
- Top 3 benefits
- Social proof
- Risk reversal
- Reason to decide now
- (Sales) landing page design
- The design should always be done separately and after the copy is written.
- The most important purpose of design is to:
- Organize the copy so it doesn’t feel overwhelming or difficult to navigate.
- Enhance the perceived credibility of the offer through professional design.
- Clarify the offer and next steps with the use of effective visuals, like image choice and highly visible CTA buttons.
- Leadpages so far is the fastest and best code-free solution I’ve found (so far). It allows you to quickly design and rollout nice looking landing pages without needing a developer to code or maintain them.(
- Thank you page
- The thank you page is important to include, and serves a similar purpose to the thank you email in part 1 above. The purpose is to acknowledge the purchase as confirmed and comfort new customers.
- Remember, pre-order customers are taking a calculated risk on your new product (or service) idea by investing early. Reassurance here is key to a good long-term relationship.
- Misc (widget)
- You need a way to collect questions from potential customers so you can fine-time our copy immediately after launch. There are two ways to do that: a chat widget and an exit pop-up.
- Chat widget — an embeddable chat app like Tawk.to (which I just discovered, it’s free, and seems pretty awesome for the value it provides). It allows you to pop open a chat message based on a time trigger. This is useful for specifically targeting customers who are interested but on the fence. For instance, you might make an “I’m here to help if you have a question” message after 60-90 seconds.
- Exit pop-up — You can use an exit pop-up like from ThriveThemes, for instance, to ask people about to leave the page if they had a question that wasn’t answered. Or to simply ask why they’re leaving.
- You need a way to collect questions from potential customers so you can fine-time our copy immediately after launch. There are two ways to do that: a chat widget and an exit pop-up.
- Proofread, test, and launch
- Once your landing page is written and designed, you’ll want to do a final run-through. I’ve avoided so many sales-killing errors in the past simply by doing a final check like this. Here’s what you want to do…
- Proofread the page out-loud (speaking the words causes your brain to slow down and not to skip words that might be missing or having a typo).
- Click to check all links.
- Push it live!
- Once your landing page is written and designed, you’ll want to do a final run-through. I’ve avoided so many sales-killing errors in the past simply by doing a final check like this. Here’s what you want to do…
3 – Checkout
- Specifically, the checkout page should show the name of the product as it was written in the copy on the landing page.opy
- It should include a short description.
- The short description should use some elements of urgency i.e. “You’re 30 seconds away from reserving your spot for ______”
- It should also briefly restate the benefits.
- The other important piece of copy are the words that will go on your CTA button. As I observed from a number of AB tests in my Proven Sales Conversion Pack, the words used on your CTA “buy” button have a big impact on the conversion rate. In one case study, simply changing the CTA wording to: “Buy Now & Get Started” grew the sales conversion rate by 31%. Example:
- Saving yourself time is key without sacrificing your conversion rate. That’s why I use and recommend SamCart for hosting your checkout pages, especially if you plan on selling a digital product, whether it’s a pre-order for a SaaS or an info product. It works just as well for selling services too.
- Best of all, there’s no need to hire a developer or custom code anything yourself. The templates they provide are solid.
- SamCart also allows you to AB test your checkout page copy. I used this feature along with my Proven Sales Conversion Pack product to grow the conversion rate for our most popular product by 50% last month. I included all the details here under Insight #3.
- If you have other products that offer similar or relevant value to the product you are pre-selling, you should consider upselling them.
- Not only does it grow the value of the average sale, but it gives customers some immediate value that they can consume while you create the main product you’re pre-selling.
- I don’t recommend creating a new product from scratch just so you have something to upsell. That’s not logical.
- Proofreading, testing, and launch
- You want to follow a similar process used on the sales page.
- Give your checkout page a final run-through:
- Read the entire page aloud to detect typos and missing words.
- Click all links.
- Go through the checkout process.
- Then push it live!
4 – Deadlines, dates, & incentives
- Deadline —
- Consider adding a deadline for when you will close the doors on the offer. For instance, when I pre-launched Proven Sales Conversion Pack, I didn’t have a specific deadline but we did use scarcity. I only made 15 pre-order spots available.
- A deadline would have worked well in the case of the Proven Sales Conversion Pack. Instead, less than a week after we’d launched, I sent an email to our list saying we were about to sell-out. The remaining spots sold so fast that an extra 2 customer snuck in before I could take down the checkout page!
- Urgency helps to encourage customers who are interested to make a decision one way or another.
- Delivery date —
- Include in your copy on the sales page when you estimate you’ll deliver the finished product by. Whatever your estimate is, add 30% so you have breathing room when things undoubtedly don’t go according to the plan.
- Write the specific date. This holds you accountable and also gives customers peace of mind.
- Incentive(s) — value add-on / discount
- With the pre-sale for the Proven Sales Conversion Pack, I decided to offer a 50% discount. After all, I had no clue if people wanted this product. I knew it would be valuable but I wanted to test the level of demand in the market for the product…
- It went better than expected and we sold out in 1 week (8 days technically). However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend emphasizing a specific discount.
- I say this because, while people who pre-order should get a cheaper price, your main goal is to confirm that people want the solution to their problem—and not just a sweet deal they won’t be able to get later. See what I mean?
- So, say the price is cheaper since it’s a pre-sale. But I recommend emphasizing the value and maybe giving a little something extra towards solving the main pain point. For instance, you could give a free 1-on-1 strategy or coaching session on how to use the product.
5 – Launch Prep
- Final proofread
- Re-read the copy for each component that’s about to go live 2 days before it does.
- When I began focusing on selling digital products over services, I noticed that simple typos had a direct impact on the sales conversion rate. Once we corrected the typos, sales went up.
- Do yourself a favor and double check everything.
- Mobile testing
- It’s easy to skip this step. Many do, and I’m guilty of doing it in the past well. Often your landing page or email will benefit from a small tweak to make it display better on mobile devices.
- Friends & Family test
- Have a couple of people you trust to give you honest feedback reading over your landing page, and if possible, your emails as well.
- Watch them click and scroll around your email / landing page. Don’t guide them, just tell them the general mindset and goals of your target customer. Then ask them to talk out loud as they digest the content. There are no right or wrong answers, no right or wrong way to go through the content.
- Ask if your subject lines are eye-catching and clear.
- Ask if what you’re selling is clear.
- Ask if you explained the problem and how the solution addresses it well enough on the page.
- Launch: Schedule your first email
- You’re done. You’ve created a complete launch funnel. You’ve edited and checked everything to the best of your ability using this checklist. Now it’s time to pull the trigger.
- Test sending your email to your personal email address. Open it, click the links one last time, then hit the “schedule” option.
- Sending emails early in the morning between 6-9am works best for the team and me here at AutoGrow. Specifically, Tuesdays at that time are our best day of the week to send—but it might be different for you.
- All markets are different. A sizeable portion of our market is in the US for instance, and this is probably why this time range works best.
- Do your research, and make the best decision you can but don’t forget to… Launch!
3 Successful Examples of Pre-Selling Product Launches
Sometimes, knowing something is possible is all that’s required for you to feel inspired and to get started.
Here are a few examples to consider…
Example 1: Zoe Linda — “$1,500 in sales without a single sales page in sight”
Zoe Linda was able to recover from a failed launch and pre-sell a new product generating $1,500 in pre-orders.
She talks about what went wrong on her first try, and how she used a simple Google Doc outline to get it right the second time around.
Example 2: Foundr.com — $200,589 in sales for a coffee table book
Foundr had been publishing their digital magazine for some time when they decided to take the next step and launch a physical product.
They did it with Kickstarter, and the results speak for themselves.
Example 3: Fieldbloom — $1600 in revenue SaaS product that didn’t exist yet
FieldBloom sent out a survey to potential customers with their idea for their apps.
They received 300 responses and made 8 sales at $200 each when offering a lifetime account to customers who pre-ordered.
Then they built the product, while prioritizing feedback from paying customers.
Final Thoughts: What I’d Do Differently (Better) When I Launch Our Next Pre-Sale
- “Avoid” doing a pre-sale by doing even more research on the problem / market beforehand. Launches are stressful and can take a lot of work in general. I don’t know about you but I don’t like work, I like results.Of course, a pre-sale launch is still less work than working on a product in isolation only to see it not get off the ground. I think research early on is key to weeding out bad ideas from good ideas, and even good ideas from great ideas.
- Use my own checklist. I don’t personally enjoy launches. However, now that I have a template for it, I think next time will be much easier. When you use my checklist and the step-by-step process above it will be a lot easier for you too.
- Emphasize value over the “early bird” discount. I might not even say what the discount amount was, just that they were saving money. I’d likely throw in some added value bonus that was directly related to the product’s value proposition.
Conclusion: You’ve launched your pre-sale, now what?…
First off, pat yourself on the back and do something to congratulate yourself.
You’ve just accomplished something important.
- You came up with an original idea
- One that hopefully addresses a problem you personally have or can relate to
- You did the research
- Followed the pre-sale launch checklist
- And now you’ve made some sales!
There is one question to answer when it’s done: Did you meet your minimum sales figure?
For example, were 30 copies pre-ordered for your product (or 10 spots filled for your service)?
If yes, then you’ve clearly validated the idea.
Even if you’re close it’s probably still worth following through with it.
If you missed your sales target by a significant range, consider the following:
- How big was your email list that you launched to? If your conversion rate is lower than 5% then the idea is probably not worth moving forward with.
- If it’s below 10% then it might mean you need some tooling / tweaking to the offer copy and perhaps the product you deliver as well. These can be overcome, and the product is still worth pursuing.
Assuming you hit a minimum number that makes sense to move forward with creating the product—then the next step is clear.
Create the product!
Fulfill the expectations you set for customers who are trusting you with their money.
To help avoid issues, I recommend delivering part of the product early.
Ask for feedback! Then use it to make the final version better—or pocket it for version 2.0.
For example, with the launch of Proven Sales Conversion Pack, I realized after the product was delivered from talking to customers that I could provide a better experience. In other words, if I created a simple “search engine” (web app) for people to find the more relevant ideas and learn from the case studies, this would make it much easier to get the full value of the product.
So that’s what we’re working on now!
Launching a new product is a process all about learning what is valuable to your customers—and then iterating to ensure you deliver it to them.
Download a copy of this pre-sales checklist and guide for future reference when it’s time for you to launch a new product (or service).
So what lingering questions if any do you have about pre-selling a product?
Did you have any “eye-opening” moments while reading through this guide?
Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
And of course, sharing this guide with your peers on LinkedIn / Facebook / Pinterest who would benefit is appreciated.
Keep convertin’, stay focused,