View Full Version : Suggestion: "ass backwards" launch (and Star Trek)

Rob Toth
09-10-2009, 07:46 PM
In case this is news to anyone here, I figured I'd post a note I explained to a client earlier.

This is re: the priority sequence of to do steps in a launch or event based promotion.

I have a client who hired me to write copy for his promotion... the salescopy was done. The product was done. The affiliate recruiting and buzz building was never even started.

I now have another client who hired me for general monetization and consulting strategy work... his software is in beta testing, he has a pro copywriter writing copy, he has pro graphics all finished... affiliate recruiting, buzz building is untouched.

Think of this...

The new Star Trek movie came out just a couple of months ago.

Yet, I was re-watching a different movie on DVD the other night and one of the trailers on it was for Star Trek. The trailer was very brief and very much a general teaser. Hardly any film footage was shown. It was from over TWO YEARS ago.

Meaning... the minds behind Star Trek were starting the buzz building 2 years ago... well before the movie was even remotely finished.

Consider this timeline (and yes it's rough approximations and simplified):

Jan 1st you start work on a project and you do it ass-backwards.

- product dev starts up. takes 1 month to create.
- salescopy and graphics start up. 2 weeks later, they're done.
(it's now mid Feb.. no release, no money)
- you setup the affiliate system and start talking to JVs because you want to release Feb 28th.
- you start buzz building.

Now... you're salespage and product were sitting gathering dust for quite some time and you gave yourself only 2 weeks for buzz building and affiliate recruitement.

Your results greatly suffer.

FLIP THIS instead to...

Jan 1st...
- you setup a basic teaser (pre-launch) page
- you setup aff program and aff pitch page
- start talking to JVs about your upcoming product on Feb 28th. Sure you're talking to them early, but it gives them a chance to properly schedule a mailing slot for it, create or think up strong bonuses for it or just, overall, actually get around to reading your pitch.
- you start buzz building... sure the market talks a bit about your product here and there well before they can buy, but buzz has an exponential factor to it which means by the time you release (assuming your teaser is good enough to generate the buzz), you end up with a lot of noise in the marketplace about your product.

- you spent 2 weeks starting the above 2 gears up... now that they're under way...
- you push to create the product
- and even before your product is done, you get work started on the salescopy and graphics and tech setup.
- in the midst of all that, you revisit affiliate communications, follow-ups to key JV partners, contests, more buzz etc.
- because of all this, your product takes 5 weeks to finish (not 4) ... but you're still ahead of the Feb 28th launch day *AND* you gave yourself 2 full months for aff recruiting and buzz building.

Same length of time for the campaign just produced more than 4X the result (all things being equal).

So start back-wards.

This also has the built-in benefit of pressure based around a deadline. You HAVE to get the product live by your launch date. No time piddling around trying to be a perfectionist and making it pretty.

... And even if you're looking to run split tests for your sales copy for conversions, you still want to start with the above order and then just work-in or allow for the 1-2 weeks of split testing + sales funnel revisions.

Though as pointed out in another thread on this board... the EMAIL copies and your various affililate tools are what need the actual conversion testing not the salescopy because by the time the launch date arrives, your market is pre-sold.

Michael McMillan
09-19-2009, 11:13 PM
Rob, you touched a nerve here--a good one.

One thing I always harp on with my students is the "reverse engineering" of products. You talked about working backwards. Many people develop a product and then say, "Now, how can I sell this thing?" It puts a chill through my spine.

Just one example: I always tell people to write their sales page BEFORE they create their product. Doing this well means that your sales page will then tell you what your product must cantain to deliver on the claims you make on your sales page. Make your sales page unbeliveable, and then make your product deliver.

Working backwards may sound counter-intuitive; It is not--it's just being smart.

Mike Merz
09-20-2009, 08:42 AM
Great post, Rob ... and follow up, Michael.

From my stand point, whether you're trying to attract potentially strong affiliates into your Affiliate Program, or looking for reputable JV Partners for the long haul ... it absolutely amazes me when even the most accomplished merchants come to me 2 weeks before a launch and ask me to 'work my magic'. In the majority of cases, even if you're simply going the affiliate route, it's pretty well known that the stronger potential partners are booked 4 to 6 weeks in advance of a promotion, and those they may save a spot for are usually in their JV Network.

In my honest opinion, whether affiliate or JV partner ... the best time to win their interest and create a rapport is during the early phases of an upcoming promotion when the buzz is just starting to pique interest. Even better, support the launches of those you wish to win the attention of before your launch is announced to begin the relationship building process and hopeful reciprocation when the time comes. JV relationship building should be a 24/7 process ... not solely when you're looking for launch support.

I've had the luxury of working with major partners over the years that started out just regular first time product launch merchants, and by working one on one with productive partners, building relationships and reciprocating, and adding to this 'inner core' circle launch after launch ... they now have their own JV Network ... a strategic alliance of capable partners that know each other, help each other with all facets of product creation and promotion, and almost always support each other. It's well worth the time and effort when you realize the potential results.



Dan Briffa
09-20-2009, 02:15 PM
Wow, excellant post Rob..

Some key things in there which made me double think my launch strategy !!

Thanks !!


Desmond Ong
09-21-2009, 09:24 AM
Hey Rob,

I don't know how you figure this out -- but I think you've been sneaking in my office and stealing my data. ::) Nah just joking.

Whatever you are saying in this thread, I am actually putting it to use and running a test on it. I am currently testing it in niches like dating so it works out well, I will remember to come back here and report back about this type of launch.

Rob Toth
09-21-2009, 03:33 PM
Desmond, I promise I didn't sneak in and steal your data... though I have been lurking outside your window with some very high quality binoculars. ;D

As for the above setup... it's obviously a rough outline just to "paint the picture" but it works like bonkers.

I used to do it all wrong 3 years ago.

Thought up my fancy idea.
Created the product.
Ordered graphics.
Worked on salescopy.
Setup affiliate program.
Recruited affiliates.
Tried to sell the damn thing.
Result? Paltry low 4-figures.

I've since "matured".

For example...

A promo I'm working on has graphics and video in the work and a full JV recruiting strategy soon to launch. The product though isn't completed, certainly not packaged and webpages aren't ready yet.

(Prior to launch, soft promos and initial advertising will tweak the sales process so by the time the JVs mail, the sales funnel will be flawless, but right now... it hasn't even been touched yet).

Another promo similarly now has a co-launch JV partner (ie: not a super affiliate but an actual 50/50 profit partner due to the various assets we each bring to the table). That deal is already worked out, the affiliate/JV recruiting strategy for that too launches soon (though not in competition with the other project I just mentioned). Yet the product itself will need a full 2-3 weeks to finish, graphics haven't been touched. Although we also drafted the story board for the teaser video to better sell the initial aff-recruiting pitch.

In fact... this morning I saw something that I really enjoy seeing. A colleague just sent me a short teaser video for one of their offers launching in Dec. The trailer was short, moved quick and ended with "This December 2009 It All Changes..." (or something like that)... point is, the trailer is just building anticipation for a vague release coming this Dec, even though we're in Sept still.

Tying into that, I often try to toss in a soft-pitch and mention of my May 13, 2010 Canada Marketing Summit (the 4-day direct marketing + internet marketing conference that I ran this year with project-partner Jeff Mills, though now I've taken over the brand). Get this... the hotel isn't locked in yet. The speaker line-up is a rough outline with no committments. The webpages certainly aren't done. I do have someone researching and starting negotiations for venues for the May 13th date... I do have my flash guys putting together a "coming soon" type flash presentation... I have my video guy putting together a trailer/teaser of the 2009 event... and we have a strategy and attack plan mapped out to target sponsors. But the actual "product" (speakers) and the associated webpages are untouched and will remain that way until January, yet I talk of the May 13th date any chance I get just to "plant the seed" nearly 9-10 months from the day of.

Rob Toth
09-21-2009, 03:45 PM
And as an exercise...

Anyone interested in any of this, go google "cloverfield marketing campaign" .

Obviously the movie Cloverfield is just one example of many potential viral and word of mouth and other buzz campaigns I could list here... but they did a great job. The anticipation and buzz they built with a VERY minimal trailer was fantastic. And it resulted in a fantastic "launch" .

Keep in mind the age-old advertising + human psychology principle... curiosity sells. I'd say it sells more than sex. Because even "sex" will only sell to a certain sub-group of the population (albeit, a MASSIVE sub-group ;) ) ... but curiousity, well that gets everyone.

And if you can build a teaser, a trailer, a viral campaign, something of interest, something to build curiosity, something to create controversy, something that will develop into buzz... then the marketplace will advertise for you and no big name JV partner can match the power of the voices of 1000s of excited prospects.

*BUT* for any of the above to even have a hair of a chance to develop for you, you MUST initiate it as soon as possible... NOT once your product is fully done and tested and once you have fancy testimonials and all the cool graphics done and your affiliate program in place.

Final thoughts...

I've you've seen Cloverfield, you may agree that it was good, not great. Good because it's relatively unique (next to possibly Blair Witch). But it certainly isn't a blockbuster. Had the film been promoted with just standard venues and last minute advertising, I'd bet it would have flopped. That's just my theory... but I'm pretty sure it's an accurate one.

This example's budget was $25 mil. It made $41 mil it's first WEEKEND. And the advertising came primarily from their own target market as blogs, forums and one-one-one discussions broke out. (Now imagine that but with a powerful affiliate force to help instigate that buzz building for you... massive massive opportunities but it will NEVER happen for you if you get things pretty first and focus on buzz+aff-recruiting second).