How To Plan An Online Launch (For Online Courses & Memberships)
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You have a course or membership that you know can get people massive results.
Anyone who joins gives hugely positive feedback and their progress is clear to see.
But you are struggling to really gain traction, hit that breakthrough launch, and scale your online business.
Well, trust me you are not alone. I have helped hundreds of online business owners who were in this exact position too, and the good news is, there is a solution.
So if you want to scale both your online business revenue and profitability while having the impact that you know you can then this post is for you.
What I am going to bring you through today is the planning tool I’ve used to deliver almost 60 launches and was a huge part of me building $1.5m in annual recurring revenue from courses and memberships.
It is now used by all my Lead2Launch Clients too.
I’m going to share the key phases of your launch and key elements that you need to plan, create and deliver within each phase.
And if you hand around to the very end I will share a special bonus session where I uncover 5 tweaks to supercharge your launch planning for maximum results.
Your Launch Planning Tools
Ok lets kick off looking at Your Launch Planning Tools.
First we have my own Launch Planning Template.
Think of this as your heads up display for your launch.
I always start my planning process in Excel because it helps me visually map out the elements and move things around quickly and easily.
Sure there are lots of software programs that you can give you this view but none of them are as flexible, convenient, or quick as Excel
Once we have the outline of the plan I then move the project over into Asana for my detailed day-to-day project management.
You can easily import projects, sections, and actions from Excel into Asana.
Now some people love Trello, others Microsoft Project, and Monday is another tool that I have used.
They all work and a lot depends on what you are used to but I love Asana and if you are really visual you can connect Asana to a low-cost service called Instagantt which turns your Asana project into a Gantt chart view.
You can build in estimated timelines for actions and task dependencies to really see your critical success path.
This is especially useful when you are coordinating a larger team or when your launch become more complex.
Your Launch Planning Timelines
Next, let’s look at your launch planning timelines.
I plan in 90-day cycles with the first day of the new cycle 80 days before open cart or when you first make the offer for your launch.
The reason being I believe that as an online business owner you should have 4 promotions a year. These don’t need to be primary promotions.
You may do 2 primary promotions and 2 secondary promotions. The primary promotions are for your signature product or membership.
Your secondary promotions could be for a front-end membership or program a virtual event or even a JV launch that you want to go all-in on.
If you are just starting out I encourage my clients to go all out and launch their primary product or membership 4 times a year. Getting the reps in early in play is extremely important to optimize your funnel, launch copy, campaigns, and offer.
I love the quarterly promotion model because it gives you plenty of time to build your email list, build trust with your new subscribers and work on optimizing your launch.
5 Launch Planning Phases
Third, we are going to look at your Launch Planning Phases.
90 days break down into 13 weeks.
The first 6 weeks are what I call the Build Phase. Because your next launch starts the second your previous launch has finished.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is they wander aimlessly between their launches. You have to plan your weekly content so that it lines your email list up for your launch.
Including this phase in your launch planning will force you to be more strategic in the content that you create. Every piece of content should be positioning you, your audience, and your concepts so that when it comes to your offer people are pumped primed and ready to go.
Phase 2 is the Awareness Phase.
This is where you build Awareness of both the specific problems that you solve with your signature program and the opportunities that exist for people if they were to achieve the ultimate transformation that you know is possible for them.
One of the best ways you can do this is by sharing case studies and success stories. Depending on the format of your Pre-Launch this phase can be 2 to 2 and a half weeks. During this period I like to step up the frequency of my emails from once a week to twice a week.
Phase 3 is the Pre-Launch Phase
This is where we invite people to join a Masterclass / Workshop / Challenge / Coaching Week. Whatever phrase or approach you want to use to describe your Pre-Launch content
Your Pre-launch will normally be free but does require registration
In some cases for the likes of challenges or coaching weeks, you can charge a low ticket amount, traditionally – $7 – $47.
The format of your Pre-launch can range from a single piece of pre-recorded or live content to the traditional 3-part workshops all the way to 5 and 7-day challenges.
As a result, your pre-launch phase including the registration and delivery period will be from 2-4 weeks
Phase 4 is the Launch Phase.
This is where you open up doors for your program or membership, make your offer and start welcoming new members.
This phase can last anywhere from 3 days for a quick launch to 5 to 6 days for a standard launch.
In this phase, we go all out emailing at least once a day and I encourage people to go live every day if possible.
Phase 5 the final phase is the Onboarding Phase. This is a hugely important phase for the long-term success of your business.
It is so important you create a wonderful experience for your new members in that first 7-14 day window. Spend as much time working on your welcome sequence as you do on your pre-launch and launch sequences.
Ok so now that we have looked at our Launch Planning Phases let’s dive into the planning of the deliverables.
The 10 Launch Planning Deliverable Categories
Diving into the plan in a little more detail you can see I have broken each day down into 10 sections.
Part of how to use this planner is for my weekly and daily team meetings. Even if you don’t have any team these daily launch check-ins are essential.
I want to be able to see all the key date-driven actions on a day-by-day basis but I also want to be able to see what’s coming up on a week-by-week basis.
Finding this balance between the micro and macro planning in the visual launch plan is essential
There are 10 areas that I like to plot on this visual plan which includes:
This is the drafting of all the copy for your lead generation and launch, emails, opt-in pages, ads, social posts, and offer pages. It is important you have your copy drafted well before it needs to go live so you have an opportunity to review, proof, and optimize.
This is everything related to the production, publication and promotion of your lead generating lead magnet, when it needs to be created by, promotion deadlines, optimization, updates, new lead magnets, launching a mini-front end self-liquidating product
Here we include the date that registration for your masterclass opens and the delivery of each module of your Masterclass or Workshop
This is for the delivery date of each email. I plan and label each email to be sent during each phase of my 90 Day Plan. This is a great way of planning and building a cohesive, fully aligned email campaign which gently easy your email subscriber from cold contact to raving fan and recurring long time customer
This part is for everything got to do with the design, design, development, integration, launch, and optimization of your launch funnel. The opt-in pages, thank you pages, the pre-launch video or livestream pages, your concierge page, opt-in analytics, and tracking, offer page, checkout and payment integration, course or membership set up, and onboarding. So every webpage, integration, and step required for a member to move from prospect to lead to masterclass registrant, paying customer and member.
This is the planning, launch, and optimization of your lead generation, pre-launch and offer promotion. You will have multiple layers of both top of funnel cold targeting ads and middle of funnel retargeting ads for each promotion
You definitely want to have drafted and scheduled your social posts in advance. Yes, you want to sprinkle in reactive and “in the moment posts” but trust me when you are under pressure social is the first thing to get dropped. I like to build out at least one social post per email. No need to get overly cute, especially in the early days of launching. Use your email copy as the basis for your social posts
Livestream & Webinar
Going live in any format is one of the best ways to engage with your audience. Even if your audience is small. I like to start building momentum with my livestreams during the Awareness Phase. During your open car of offer phase, you want to schedule a number of livestreams and webinars to make sure you help the people sitting on the fence jump off it
This is where we schedule our Open Cart and Closed Cart dates. As this is a key part of the launch I want to have these dates in constant focus throughout the planning and delivery process. Here we should schedule the in launch bonuses and any special initiatives we are going to undertake during the open cart period
Onboarding & Delivery
Ok so finally we come to one of the most forgotten periods of a launch which is the onboarding process. You need to have an email sequence drafted and scheduled well in advance of your open cart date. One thing that people often forget is that some people are going to sign up on day 1 of your launch. If you have a 5-day open cart you can’t leave these people sitting waiting until your launch is over for their next communication. Likewise, you can send these people critical onboarding information that people who register on day 5 are not going to get. You have to think carefully about this phase of your launch to ensure you create a wow experience for your members and build all-important momentum immediately
Launch Planning Setting Your Key Dates
Ok so now we are getting right down to setting the key dates for our launch.
I always start with the open cart day. I figure out the day I want to open up my program for registration and start driving traffic to the offer page.
We have to be careful that this open cart period avoids key national holidays, industry holidays, known black spots like mid-term and back to school, big competitor launches, and anything else that is likely to have a negative impact on our launch results.
We also want to pick what we think are the days of the week when we think we are going to get the best results. For instance, I avoid close cart on Fridays and Saturdays. Likewise, I avoid open cart on Saturdays. Much of this is going to depend on whether you are B2B or B2C
Once we have our open cart date we can then pick our close cart date. This will normally be in the range of 3-6 days following open cart.
Then we can start working backward. Are you running a Seed Launch, traditional 3 part workshop, live launch or maybe you are going to run a 5-7 day challenge or coaching week?
I think live launches work best 3 days in a row with open cart directly after the 3 modules of the workshop.
The traditional 3 part workshop will normally have a 1 – 2 day gap in between each module of the workshop. The trend is toward more compact launches with fewer gaps in the pre-launch phase.
Once we have figured out our Pre-launch masterclass we can then work on our pre-launch promotion phase. I will always give at least 10-14 days from the Pre-Pre-Launch survey to the first module of the masterclass.
This will give the opportunity for at least 3 workshop promotional emails and then individual emails for each one of the workshop modules.
As your launches grow and you establish a baseline of copy the number of promotional emails sent during this phase will increase.
Working backward from our Pre-Launch promotion we can then move into scheduling our Awareness phase with our shot across the bow survey and also the case studies and success stories.
During our awareness phase, we are also going to start building momentum on social by upping the frequency of our livestreams.
If you notice in my plan you can see this is where the drafting of the email copy starts to kick in.
In fact, I kick off the copy project 42 days in advance of open cart. This gives us plenty of time to get all our emails and offers drafted well in advance and not leave us under massive pressure during key phases of our launch where we should be focused fully on engaging with our launch participants.
Bonus Session: 5 Tips to Supercharge Your Launch Planning
This is the exact process that I follow for every launch I deliver or advise on.
And having delivered just shy of 60 launches and advised on countless other launches here are 5 tips to supercharge your launch planning for maximum results.
- Map out your launches a year in advance. I brought you through a 90-day process. You should be mapping out your 4 promotions a year, at least a year in advance. This keeps me on track and focused. Whether you strike gold or a launch flops, you have a plan and you are committed to the long game
- Set your annual financial goals and the launch-specific financial goals. It is important to know what is on the line. Building an online business is tough. When we hit a hurdle we need to know what reward for preserving is and what is potentially at stake
- Remember it’s not just about your financial results. I believe that online businesses have the ability to impact the lives of those we serve in a way that few other businesses can. Connect to what your future potential clients would be missing out on if you stumbled or didn’t follow through on your plans to launch.
- Set yourself launch rewards. Take 3 levels of revenue. Your target, a stretch target, and an outlandish target. Tie a specific reward to each level. The reward size-matched to the target level. Make them so exciting that you are willing to run through walls to hit that target, whether it be a weekend away in a posh hotel or a foreign city break. And if you hit the revenue target follow through and do it.
- Keep your plan visible at all times. Your launch plan is core to developing your online business. Find a place in your office to hang your 90-day plan. Every morning walk into your office spends a minute or two reviewing your plan. Dedicate the first portion of your day to completing your Launch tasks due for that day and moving your launch forward.
Ok so now that you how to Plan an Online Launch you are probably going to want to take a deeper dive into The 5 phases of a launch. You might also want to take a look into building recurring revenue in your business
So make sure to check out some of my other posts.