Marketing Part 1: How To Set Up Pre-Orders for Your Product and Why It’s A Good Idea
Views, followers, and collected email addresses are great, but nothing validates an idea like getting someone to pre-order your product.
We’re big believers in pre-orders. In fact, as I type this post, I can't think of a product or service I've sold in the past five years that hasn't had a pre-order of some kind.
pre-orders = PRODUCT validation
Listen, we're building a business here. Sure, we're making videos, writing articles, etc., and of course we want eyeballs on all the content we're creating, but at the end of the day it's about trying to create a paid value exchange.
When trying to create said value exchange, we like collecting email addresses of people who are interested in what we're building, but the truest form of validating an idea is getting someone to actually pay for it.
If you don't have a product that people are willing to pay for, you don't have a business. The sooner you can confirm people will pay for your idea, the better.
Having a customer give you money for your idea before it's 100% ready is some of the best motivation you can get.
For us, we know the Wandering Aimfully Membership should sell because it's very similar to our previous BuyOurFuture product, but what a customer gets on the backend has changed (as has the pricing model). It's important for us to get folks to buy in to our idea while also being the first customers to give us crucial feedback before we launch to our entire audience.
Pre-orders reward your die-hard fans
It's weird to write "fans" as we don't think of our email subscribers, social media followers, video viewers, etc as fans. We think of you guys/gals as awesome creative humans that we love sharing our experiences and stories with. The word "fans" is just widely understood, so, yeah, moving on...
Allowing a customer to pre-order your product is also a way to say: Hey, you get to go behind the fancy velvet rope while everyone else stands in line! Who doesn't love early access? Who doesn't want to see a product before other people?
As I mentioned, pre-order customers can give us (creators) valuable feedback on the first version of the thing we're selling. They become beta testers. They are a valuable part of the iterative process needed when building anything new. They also become a group of cheerleaders to help you spread your product via the best marketing tactic ever: word of mouth.
That's why We're opening up 30 pre-order spots on May 2.
Our Pre-Order Plan
We decided we want to open up pre-orders to just 30 people and for one week only. As you already know, we have plenty of to-dos to get Wandering Aimfully finished and launched, so we want to keep our pre-order window short and sweet.
From experience we know that showing the early version of a product is best to do with a small number of people (hence why we're only opening 30 pre-order spots). I like to think of this like doing public speaking. For your first-ever public speaking gig would you rather:
- Speak to a small group, so when you make mistakes, it's not in front of many people?
- Speak to a large group, make those inevitable mistakes, and feel embarrassed and create a less-than-fantastic experience for a lot of people (and crush your confidence)?
The option is clearly #1. If you want to show your first draft of whatever you're creating to a large audience, more power to ya! You're a glutton for punishment. 😂
We want to keep our pre-order group small so we can keep a close eye on their experience with the Wandering Aimfully Membership. We know we want to test our new payment system (Restrict Content Pro), our new Customer Dashboard, how we give access to the Slack community, and about 20 other things. With a smaller group of people, we can hope to interact with all of them and ensure we can hear each and every voice. Not to mention, the people that want to purchase pre-orders are usually your most engaged audience members, and those people are going to give you the best feedback on your product because they care.
How to set up pre-orders for your product
1. Decide how you want to take payment
Taking pre-orders can sometimes just mean setting up a quick product on something like Gumroad or Coach or Teachery. In our case, however, it was important we have people pay for pre-orders through the same mechanism that we’ll take regular membership sales. This is our chance to test everything, after all! As we talked about in the website development post, we’ll be using a WordPress plugin called Restrict Content Pro (RCP) to manage the membership areas of our site.
These are our action items involving payment stuff:
- Setup a brand new Stripe account and PayPal account for Wandering Aimfully
- Purchase, install, and activate RCP in WordPress
- Hook up Stripe/PayPal to RCP
While those action items look simple in a nice bulleted list, setting up PayPal alone has been a multiple-hour adventure. I even had to get on the phone with PayPal to get my bank account linked (apparently you can only have two PayPal accounts link to the same bank account - woof). These are the things you should be prepared for once you get to the part in the process where you're close to taking money for your product!
2. Create a pre-order sales page/payment page
Many of you already know what the Wandering Aimfully Membership is going to include. However, we don't want to assume that all 30 pre-order purchasers will have read all of these posts leading up to our pre-order announcement. That's why we're building an actual pre-order sales page, and not just sending a buy button in an email (wouldn't that be nice!).
We'll keep the pre-order sales page VERY simple and minimal. On the sales page we'll explain what's included, add a few images, maybe toss a short explainer video on the page, and then drop the payment form from RCP on the page.
While again we're using our ongoing payment mechanism, if you were trying to get a pre-order page up fairly quickly, you could use options like Gumroad or a software product of mine Bumpsale to set up a simple buy button on a page of your website.
Our action items for setting up our pre-order page:
- Design simple pre-order page
- Get our developer to turn the design into a WordPress page (with RCP payment form)
- Test it ourselves!
3. CREATE a customer onboarding process
There are three big parts of the Wandering Aimfully Membership that we need to address with our pre-order customers: (1) the customer dashboard; (2) the Slack community; (3) access to courses.
Each pre-order buyer will automatically get a welcome email from us that addresses these three pieces of the Wandering Aimfully membership and lets them know:
- The Customer Dashboard is still being built and won’t be ready for 2-3 weeks, but they will get first access before we launch publicly plus peeks behind the scenes as we put the final touches on everything!
- They can join the Slack community immediately! Our existing BuyOurFuture Slack community (of 350+ people) will be transitioned over to the Wandering Aimfully Slack by the time they pre-order (see action steps below). We'll have an invite link and a getting started guide ready for them so they know how we roll inside our awesome Slack community.
- They get Teachery access and all our courses right away. While pre-order buyers won’t be able to sort through our courses or interact with them in the Wandering Aimfully Customer Dashboard just yet, they will be able to dive in to the content and get started (through their Teachery account). To accomplish this, I'm actually going to add each pre-order customer manually to the back-end of Teachery. It's only 30 people, so I'm happy to make the magic happen with some elbow grease.
Action items for the customer on-boarding process:
- Write the onboarding email
- Setup automation workflow through our email provider (Drip) that sends welcome email upon purchase
- Setup any tagging or automations within Drip to keep track of customers
- Update our customer Airtable with pre-order buyer information (more on this in a moment)
- Test our onboarding!
When it comes to taking pre-orders: Don’t overautomate!
It's soooo easy to get caught up in the automation game. The last thing you want to think about when building and launching a new project is having to do any (more) manual work. But, trying to automate everything too early only leads to procrastination, trouble, and overwhelm.
4. Test your pre-order purchasing sequence!
We can't stress enough how important it is to test your actual purchasing sequence. I've watched so many fellow creators painstakingly build their product, their sales page, and then open the flood gates without thorough purchase testing. I'll grab my own AMEX card and purchase our pre-order of Wandering Aimfully multiple times in multiple browsers. I do this because I want to double-check that:
- The checkout process works on Chrome and Safari web browsers
- The checkout process works on mobile
- I receive the correct welcome email and onboarding instructions
- The test accounts I create have the right tagging in Drip
- Everything looks right in our RCP paying user accounts
I typically do 5-7 live test purchases of anything I create. It takes a matter of minutes to refund the test purchases and delete the test accounts later on. But if I let actual customers in before the first test buyers, I could be in for hours of troubleshooting (and apologizing!).
5. Let people know pre-orders are open!
This is another one of those classic mistakes that creators can make. You've spent ALL this time building your thing, drumming up attention for a pre-order, and then you only send ONE sales email.
We won't make this mistake. We're damn proud of what we're building and we won't be afraid to put it in front of our audience. We want our 30 pre-order spots to sell, and we don't want to leave it to chance. Here's what we'll be doing to open pre-orders:
- Send 3 emails to the Wandering Aimfully subscribers (~440 people)
- Send 3 emails to my email list, the Action Army (~9,800 people)
- Send 3 emails to Caroline's email list, the Self-Made Society (~5,200 people)
- Segment out our existing BuyOurFuture buyers from these emails
- Segment out each other's email list, so folks who are on multiple lists don't get multiple sales emails (yay for tagging in Drip!)
And here's what those 3 emails will be about:
- Email #1 on May 2 - Pre-orders are open, here's what Wandering Aimfully is if you haven't heard us talk about it yet (somehow 😅)
- Email #2 on May 4 - Stories from existing BuyOurFuture/Wandering Aimfully members
- Email #3 on May 9 - Pre-order window is closing (we may not need this email if the 30 spots fill up)
About 15,000 people will get the three emails about our pre-order spots opening up. And here's a look at curbing our expectations of actual viewership of those emails:
- We average a 25% open rate on emails, meaning around 3,750 people will actually see our pre-order opportunity
- We average a 5% click-through rate on emails, meaning 187.5 (yep, 1/2 of a person) will click to view the pre-order sales page
- To get 30 buyers, we need 16% of the folks who click to purchase
Now, I do share these estimated percentages with a caveat: We've done A LOT of build up for Wandering Aimfully (with having BuyOurFuture mentioned for years prior). We could sell the 30 pre-order spots to the Wandering Aimfully subscribers right away - which would be 😎. That's the point of building an email list for your specific idea/product. Those folks are raising their hand and showing early interest. But, as I said early on in this post, views and collected emails do not equal sales!
Now, finally, one last crucial step...
6. Keep track of customers and follow-up with pre-order buyers
Normally with our products, we'd advocate for setting up an automated email sequence welcoming members and encouraging them to make the most of Wandering Aimfully. But since these are pre-order buyers, we don't know what we don't know yet. We don't want to make any assumptions. Instead, we want to reach out to these buyers in a more personal, manual fashion and ask for feedback on their experience. (We may even create a survey for these buyers as we get closer to launch to record their feedback in a more quantitative way, but I'm sure we'll share that with you in the future if we decide to do it!)
We will be keeping track of our pre-order buyers in a fancy new Customer Sheet in Airtable that Caroline whipped together.
What's really cool about this specific sheet is that it shows our existing cash runway (BuyOurFuture payment plans) and the addition of Wandering Aimfully Memberships.
We're going over this spreadsheet in detail in an unedited meeting tomorrow. If you're a fan of hearing "the numbers" behind a business, we go pretty deep on where we stand, what our financial goals are with Wandering Aimfully, and how we hope the next few months pan out.
A reminder: Business just isn't set-it-and-forget-it
You might think with all our previous experience everything would be automated and we'd just send a few emails and make "internet money." But alas, it just doesn't work that way, especially when you're building something new. Every new idea needs validation, testing, and tweaking based on customer feedback.
We absolutely believe in trying to automate as many tasks as possible, but for where we are on the Wandering Aimfully journey, we know there's plenty more manual work ahead before we get there..
Automation will happen in the future. But for now, we're ready and prepared to do things that require a bit more effort (which we're hoping our pre-order buyers will notice and appreciate).