by Jenna Kutcher
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I remember in the early days of my brand, launching was more of a battle than a sweet cakewalk. It was all last-minute deadlines, late night copywriting, flinging hope-filled strategy at the wall like spaghetti noodles, and crossing our fingers that our frantic, frazzled efforts paid off in the long run.
Nowadays, we’ve got launching down to a T. It’s like a spa week in comparison to launches of past years. I share this not to say we have all the answers, because, OH, we are still learning so much every single week and through every single launch. I began to really think about what the biggest change has been to make launches go smooth as butter nowadays vs. my early days. And truthfully? It comes down to a lot of little things, but ONE major thing makes the key difference in all of it.
I want to talk today about the pre-launch. I truly believe pre-launch, the period of time before you make the actual offer available or open the cart, is the make or break for a launch and the goal you want to hit.
I want to share with you my exact framework for pre-launch… what I do in the days and weeks leading up to launch to make THAT time way more manageable, light, and rewarding. And if you have not grown a team just yet, you’re not sure what it is you want to launch or this is all just a side-hustle–for now, I have a bonus tip for you.
Essential pieces to a successful pre-launch
What good is creating something epic if you can’t get people to want to pay for it and enjoy it? I used to spend SO much energy creating my courses, and then just throw together the launches in real time, and it hit me: is the effort of creation worth anything if I’m all out of steam when the important work of getting it into people’s hands arrives? If I can’t launch in a way that makes people take action and be ready to hit buy, then what’s the point?
Now, instead of only putting my best efforts into the courses and offers, I’m still pouring my guts into those, but I’m also building in margin to allow for plenty of time, energy, and space to strategize the lead-up to the launches. You don’t want to be so frantic trying to complete your product before launch that you’re left creating marketing materials and pitches DURING the actual launch.
With a sound pre-launch strategy, you’ll get all of that creation taken care of well before your offer’s available, AND you’ll have primed your audience so they know an offer is coming and likely will be excited to jump on it once it’s finally available. I have 6 essential pieces to a successful pre-launch that I want you to start mulling over and seeing how you can fit them into your ramp-up to your next launch!
First up, before you start thinking about launch strategy, maybe even before your offer is totally firmed up, I want you to begin breadcrumbing. I’ve talked about this lots of times before but it’s because it’s probably one of the MOST important aspects of launching ANYTHING.
I don’t care what your offer is — nobody’s going to want to buy if you haven’t mentioned a thing about it and suddenly you’re shouting from the rooftops that you have a course or a product or a membership for sale. We crave the stories and journeys behind what someone is offering, so let people behind the scenes.
I want you to specifically get focused on this 3 to 6 weeks before the actual cart opens or the product is available. You want to be talking about the thing you’ve been creating, sharing insights on the topic, and helping people start to warm up to the idea. You can even straight-up come out and say, “Hey, I’m launching this thing in a few weeks and here’s what it’s about!” and be sure to include some kind of takeaway or value right then and there.
I’ve actually seen this more open and direct approach work really well recently. It’s not like you’re tiptoeing around your offer; you’re sharing it with pride and this infectious attitude of getting people as jazzed about it as you are!
The next thing you can be doing in the lead up to launch is creating and framing content around the biggest questions someone has to help them qualify themselves as a potential fit for your offer, without you even doing any selling. So essentially, what problems does your offer solve for others? Answer those in your content.
An example from my The Pinterest Lab launch is how we created content and even framed the webinars around how Pinterest can be used to grow and scale any kind of business. We published blog posts in the pre-launch period about creative ways to use Pinterest for your business and a comprehensive guide to using Pinterest for ANY business type.
I published social content around this topic and intentionally drove home the fact that Pinterest isn’t JUST for saving favorite recipes and home decor inspo, which is what the vast majority of us use it for. And I also reiterated that it’s not just another social platform; it’s a powerful search engine where most of your ideal clients likely hang out.
We took a simple question — Can Pinterest work for my business? — and provided plenty of opportunities and entryways to discover that YES, it can work for sooo many businesses — most, actually — and that paved the path to talking more about how they can learn exactly what to do inside The Pinterest Lab.
Tease, tease, tease
The third piece is similar to breadcrumbing, but it’s even more direct. Rather than talking ABOUT the topic and warming up folks to the IDEA of your offer, I want you to clearly begin hinting and teasing about what you’re creating about 1 to 2 weeks ahead of launch.
Listen, we all have a little voyeur in us. It’s why reality TV is so dang popular, because we loooove to see the messy behind-the-scenes and what it REALLY takes for people to get where they’re going. We don’t just want the pretty, filtered photo on the ‘gram at the end.
So, give us your messy middle! Talk about the process and what’s going on as you lead up to your launch so we can kind of have a radar that you’re creating and launching something new, and you’re being REAL about it, which is high-key one of the quickest, best ways to get people on your side, cheering you on, empathizing with you, and wholeheartedly trusting you.
Next up, I want for you to begin collecting feedback and testimonials in the pre-launch phase so that you can make sure your offer is crystal clear, your messaging converts, and you are certain your offer is the RIGHT offer for your audience.
Get people you trust to look at your sales page, your email funnel, heck, even the offer itself to get some social proof that you may even be able to use in your marketing materials. At the very least, you’ll get valuable insight on anything that might need tweaking to be more clear, and at best, you’ll have legit testimonials that you can rework and use throughout your launch efforts so that potential buyers can see the value in the offer.
I totally don’t think ads are necessary for every launch, especially if it’s your first or second go-round, but IF you’re going to do ads at any part of a launch and have a limited budget, do ads in the pre-launch phase to drive people onto your email list through a freebie that is aligned with your topic. Once they’re on your list, you have their attention and can warm them up further and add value inside of your emails rather than continuing to try to capture their attention with paid ads.
You’ll pay significantly less for an ad for a free offer like an opt-in or a freebie in comparison to an ad that is for a bigger ask or that points to your actual paid offer. Snagging their attention early on and getting them on your email list will pay off way more in the long run. Studies show that for every $1 spent on email marketing, $42 is the average expected return on investment.
Imagine if you were spending your ad budget growing your email list and then spending your efforts on converting them there rather than trying to convert a cold audience straight from Facebook or Insta ads. Because of this, we are actually constantly running ads to my free resources to allow us the chance to warm people up to our offers and have a longer runway.
Prep it ALL
This final step is a big one but one of the most vital in this entire pre-launch phase, and it is to prepare everything, everything, everything you possibly can for your launch on the front end, before the cart even opens, so that when you’re live, you can focus your energy on showing up well and being available for people who are ready to potentially become a client or customer.
By working on all your content, copy, and marketing needs ahead of time, you’ll be free to trust what you built when you weren’t in foggy launch mode, and let it run its course while YOU are able to just be visible, answer questions, and deal with any last-second tweaks or adjustments.
My team and I use a platform called Monday that I’ve raved about before to organize our systems, and we’ll dedicate an entire board to a launch and break down all the different needs, from small things like creating pop-ups for my blog to bigger tasks like recording a pre-launch podcast episode educating on the topic.
Seeing it laid out like this is huge and allows us to task it out, schedule it out, and complete most of the heavy lifting before launch even arrives. Once your offer is ready and you’re preparing your pre-launch, I’d recommend just simply listing out everything you’ll need for the launch, from a sales page and thank you emails to product delivery, email sequences, downsells, bonuses, and beyond so that you can see big-picture what is needed, and then begin to break it down and plan it out before the actual launch arrives.
The Big Picture
Whew, that’s a whole lotta strategy in not a lot of time! But my dream is that you take this simple, 6-part framework, run with it and make it your own as you prepare for your next launch. If you’re starting where I did, with a team of just one – YOU, then know that you can execute this exact plan, just in a watered down way. You don’t have to have it all figured out, you can move a little slower, start a bit smaller, but this framework will support you as you prepare to get that offer out into the world.
Launching can easily become frantic, and you feel like there’s this stopwatch counting down until zero that makes everything feel a little bit more like you’re trying to run through a pool of maple syrup. It’s plain STICKY and FULL and there’s not a lot of wiggle room once you’re actually IN the launch. That just plain won’t change. Launch will always fly by, but what you do before the launch… now that’s where the magic can happen.
And I hate to be all “you have to plan ahead,” because that’s sorta boring and always what we’d like to do, in a perfect world, but rarely have time for in the real world. However, having a plan, holding yourself to it and, as a result, creating margin for yourself ahead of your launch is going to change the game of what your mental capacity throughout launch looks like AND what your results at the end of it look like.
When you can create and plan from a place of calm, not last-minute chaos or a feeling of burnt-out “I just gotta get this done,” you’ll feel and see the results in so many more ways than just your peace of mind. You’ll have clarity entering your launch, you’ll have a birds-eye view of how it’s going to go, and you’ll be able to show up for the people who need you, who have questions or want more info. That’s the freedom and beauty of launching with a solid, strategic pre-launch, and I can’t wait for you to experience it in a whole new way.