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    5 Lessons on Running a Launch (The Bad and Ugly)

    5 lessons from a recent launch (what went wrong).

    By Kieran Drew

    Earlier this month, I ran a birthday launch

    Some things went well. Others poorly. I wrote a full report but it stretched into a mega email, so I’ve split it over two weeks.

    Today, we’ll talk about the 5 things that went wrong.

    It’s a 5 minute read. Let’s dive in.

    The Birthday Bash breakdown

    Let’s chat through the offer.

    I arranged five exclusive interviews with 6-8-figure writers, including Erica Schneider, Olly Richards, Chris Orzechowski, John Bejakovic, and David Deutsch.

    The interviews were free for High Impact Writing (HIW) customers and an incentive for non-customers to join them. There was no discount. But I threw in my other product, the Viral Inspiration Lab, for free.

    I was proud of the line-up and expected a juicy 5 figure launch.

    Which leads us to our first lesson.

    Never expect

    A rule I follow:

    Have high standards but low expectations. Outputs you can control. Outcomes you cannot.

    But I let this attitude slip.

    The birthday launch wasn’t a wild success. I sold 24 copies of HIW, grossing $7,704. Rebills should bring in an extra $1,500. I also made several thousand dollars in upsells and order bumps, which I’ll discuss next week in the ‘compounding leverage’ tip.

    Now, some of you will think, “that’s not a failed launch.”

    Which I get.

    Two years ago, if you told me I’d make this amount with just 6 emails and two tweets, I’d have danced (terribly) around my office (kitchen).

    But since last May, I’ve had three six-figure launches. These big wins change your perspective. But the key to a happy life is to keep your expectations low even as the goalposts shift.

    It’s also important for your judgment.

    You should stay humble when you win and hungry when you lose. Humility is especially important because you’re most at risk of failure straight after success.

    Which is what went ‘wrong’ here—I got sloppy.

    Let’s do a post-mortem.

    The number one reason a launch flops

    The secret to a great launch is tension.

    Consider an elastic band. If you pull gently and let go, the response is pathetic. But if you pull hard and long, on release, it snaps with massive energy (and a little scream if you’re aiming at someone—which I usually am).

    The same is true for a launch. You must build awareness and excitement and reduce scepticism and price resistance. But 90% of the work can and should be done before the cart opens. So that when it does, you go with a bang.

    You’ve failed at marketing if your audience is surprised by your offer. Many people make no noise until game day and wonder why no one cares. But it’s not that they don’t care; it’s that they didn’t know.

    But for this launch, I sent one email to 250 people several days before.

    And that’s it.

    Here’s what I should’ve done:

    1. Spoken more about the birthday bash (my birthday was coming anyway!). I could’ve teased each interview without releasing identities, screenshots of conversations, joke about having an internet party.
    2. Built desire for entrepreneurial writers, sharing more content on the business of writing.
    3. Asked the 1,850 customers to help promote and invite them to affiliate.
    4. Broadcasted some of the hundreds of testimonials and case studies during the launch.

    This was my playbook for the other launches. But what’s the expression—shoulda, woulda, coulda?

    Don’t let your standards slip. If you’re going to do something, do it right. This is why I’ve already started marketing High Impact Emails—with 279 people on the waitlist.

    I’ve only just finished writing module one, but it’s looking damn tasty.

    Anyway, let’s move on to the next blunder.

    Never react blindly

    A month before the launch, I asked David Deutsch for feedback on my sales page. David’s sold over $1 billion worth of products, so I expected a 10-minute video.

    Instead, he sent me a 3-hour masterclass, peeling apart every sentence.

    I won’t lie. It was brutal. My copywriting confidence plummeted from an 8 (where it shouldn’t have been) to a 2 (which feels about right). But he also gave me a warning I completely ignored:

    Test the ideas.

    Confession time: I’ve been a terrible entrepreneur. An audience gives you a lot of wiggle room. Your traffic is organic, so you don’t feel the sting of failed conversions like someone relying on advertising does.

    I didn’t know my conversion rates. I should’ve set up my analytics and waited a few months. But David’s feedback jolted me into reactive mode (a terrible place for an entrepreneur). I spent weeks rewriting the entire thing—time I could’ve spent on marketing.

    When the launch wasn’t a smash hit, I realised my mistake.

    I didn’t know if it was the copy or the offer.

    I had several friends affiliating, so I felt like I let them down. I’ve now installed Fathom Analytics—which is fantastic—and I’ll start experimenting with headlines and leads in a few months.

    But I did discover one reason as to why the launch sucked.

    In retrospect, it was glaringly obvious.

    Sell stronger drugs

    On the final launch day, I offered a down-sell to 500 people who clicked the sales page but didn’t purchase: they could join the interviews for $200 without buying High Impact Writing.

    The response?

    A big fat zero.

    I know these interviews are worth the investment. But as I brushed the dust off my marketing hat, I realised what went wrong.

    I was selling vitamins. Not painkillers.

    Pain gets people to act, and pain gets people to purchase. If you want sales, you should focus on a big idea that solves a pressing problem.

    Now, the thing is, people love vitamins.

    But only once they’re fit, healthy, and have money to burn—i.e., your buyers. Interviews as a front-end incentive lacked the oomph from my other launches. In those, the reasons to buy were webinars on:

    • How to build your writing business (pain of not monetizing)
    • How to start and scale your newsletter (pain of relying on social media)
    • How to disconnect your time from results using the 5 pillars of leverage (pain of time and income ceiling)

    You might wonder why I didn’t discount instead. After all, people love a deal. But sales cheapen your brand and should be used sparingly. Especially if emailing 32,000 people about it.

    But I’ll say this. The interviews have been a smash hit with current customers. There are more ways to measure success than revenue, which we’ll discuss next week.

    For now, one more lesson.

    Don’t fail at framing

    I’m almost four years into writing, but I feel I’m only now finding my voice.

    I’ve tried on many hats: the escape-your-9-to-5 guy, the serious writer, the platitude pumper, and everything in between.

    But nothing felt quite right.

    I love discussing important topics, but I enjoy a good joke. If we can laugh and learn at the same time, fantastic. Life’s too short to take things seriously.

    So, I’ve been leaning into this approach. And the feedback has been great.

    During the launch, people said I made them laugh out loud, while others said it was the best description they’d heard of certain big ideas.

    But I don’t want to get too big-headed because I massively screwed up one email. The most important email. The first.

    To explain, let’s discuss framing.

    Framing is how you begin a conversation.

    For example, if you and I went on a date and I turned up late, hadn’t showered, was rude to the waiter, and double-checked that we’d be splitting the bill before we started—well, you’re not inviting me home, are you?

    But if I was smooth, complementary, and looked like Brad Pitt—things might go differently.

    First impressions decide everything. In writing, your hook doesn’t just catch attention, it shapes the interpretation (this is why you must avoid brain-dead social media hooks like the plague—it’s your reputation on the line).

    My first email’s subject line was, “I’ve got you a birthday gift”.

    Here’s the hook:

    It’s a bank holiday in the U.K. The best part about your birthday landing on a holiday at this age is your friends are all getting married. So I get to celebrate without the hassle.

    I’m in the lovely Lake District for the weekend, so I’ll keep this brief:

    I’ve got you a present!

    I know, I know… not the conventional way of doing things. But we live in modern times and convention is way out the window, so I’ve organised something for you.

    It’s called Kieran’s Birthday Bash.

    I’ve blackmailed asked 5 excellent writers to give the behind-the-scenes of their writing approach and business philosophy.

    Not bad framing, right?

    Wrong. Awful.

    I’ve just asked people to pay for a gift. If some muppet did that to me in real life, I would think they were an idiot. A sales amateur. So when this reply came in, guess how I felt:

    So I’m expected to pay for your birthday gift?

    Online, if one person says it, one hundred think it. This is one reason you should run ideas by straight-talking friends. The nature of blindspots is you don’t see them until they bite you on the arse.

    I tried to be smart with my time by writing one email with different pitches based on subscriber tags (Convertkit’s Liquid Tagging is amazing). But sometimes, it pays to go slow. This email was perfect for current customers and off-putting for non-customers.

    I should’ve said, ‘I’m holding a party, and if you want an invite, here’s what you need to do.’

    Anyway, you live and learn.

    It ain’t all doom and gloom. I built something that should gross an extra $40k this year (and took 30 minutes to build). I also set up some exciting deals and used the launch to experiment as a podcast host.

    I’ll see you next Friday to break down the good stuff.

    Enjoy your weekend,


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    Kieran Drew

    About Kieran

    Ex dentist, current writer, future Onlyfans star · Sharing what I learn about writing well, thinking clearly, and building an online business