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Darren Chow is a full time writer, web developer, and Internet marketer. He graduated from the National University of Singapore and started dabbling in web design while still studying. Today, he spends his time writing for established websites and promoting websites for clients.
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The last couple of weeks have been really busy. I’ve managed to soft launch 2 information products and 1 website within the space of 14 days.

First, I’d like to take the chance to thank all those who have shown your support. I want you to know that I greatly appreciate the support that you have given to me over the past 2 years.

Every time I see a sale come in, I tell myself it’s not just about the numbers. Sure, making sales is cool. But it’s also an indication that someone out there could really use some assistance.

Of course, it’s not all a bed of roses. Some things go right (sales coming in), and other things go wrong. As a business owner, it’s not wise to only embrace matters that have gone our way. We should embrace both.

Why? – There are valuable lessons to be learned.

1) Be careful who you are dealing with.

I believe this would make an interesting story. During the week of the launch, I went to a popular webmaster forum and started asking for solo mailings. For those who are not sure what solo mailing is, it’s a single Ad that is mailed to the entire mailing list.

I got a few private messages from list owners, offering me to do an email blast for X amount of money. I looked through the offers, and finally decided on a few. But out of the handful, one deal caught my eye. It was an offer to mail out a solo ad to 50k double opt in subscribers.

I was promised the sky…good click through rates, hungry buyers, mailings for reputable marketers, etc. I was curious how the list would respond to my offer. So I paid for the solo ad in full, and then wait to see what would happen.

As it turned out, the mailing was a disaster. I got thousands of clicks, but the visitors were mostly from India and other non-English speaking countries.

Final sales figure?

I made zero sales.

So I emailed the list owner, and asked her what happened to the hungry buyers?

I was shocked when the reply came in – she quickly said that she didn’t guarantee sales, and pressed to verify how I came to the conclusion that the visitors were non-English speaking visitors.

Obviously, she knew what was coming and was prepared for it. I wasn’t.

It was really a dishonest offer because I was under the impression that there are some buying customers on the list. Zero sales from a 50k mailing is NOT acceptable.

If the list owner had come to me and be upfront with me, mentioning that the subscribers were mostly JOB SEEKERS instead of “hungry customers”, I would have let it go.

I acted on wrong information and became a victim. The only way out, is to contact Paypal and see if there is anything that can be done. Here is where I learn another important lesson.

2) Paypal dispute.

I quickly filed a Paypal dispute, but to my horror, the dispute was closed before I even had time to upload supporting documents (incredible, but 100% TRUE).

Reason? – The buyer protection program doesn’t cover intangible products.

That means if you’re the victim of a fraud or con scheme, there is no way you are going to recover your money…or at least you can’t depend on Paypal to investigate on your behalf.

Somehow, I get the sense that a disgruntled employee was behind the desk…probably dealing with too many disputes.

Whatever.

So, I’m out of $XXX, and back at my computer, working hard to get the other products out.

I’m really happy that the article writing guide did so well. Till today, I’m still getting sales…perhaps from the momentum of the soft launches.

If you take a look at the sales later, you are probably wondering, “What happened to the SUPER LARGE HEADERS, highlights, exclamation marks, and extra bonuses?”

I’m the first to admit that it’s one of the most mundane sales letter on the Internet. And yet, it was working like magic.

Why?

3) Ability to deliver results works.

I think it’s because I have personally gone through the entire process, and I know for SURE, that the process works!

Sales copy writing is really no rocket science. As long as you can show the reader that you have something that truly works, even the ugliest looking web page will make sales.

So if you know nothing about copy writing, but you want to write your own sales page, just remember one thing – do whatever you can to let your customers know that your information WORKS!

But no matter how well your solutions work, you are bound to encounter some refunds.

4) Handling refunds.

Refunds is just part and parcel of doing business. A customer buys something, and then come back to you and say, “hey, I don’t think this is for me. Can I have my money back?”

These are legitimate refunds.

My reply, “Sure, thanks for making a purchase. Here is your refund: [paypal txn ID]”

I received only 2 such refunds.

Then, there are those who are out to take advantage. How do you know if someone is trying to take advantage?

1) They ignore the sales letter and head straight to the sales button. (Who cares what is written on the sales page? I’m claiming a refund.)

2) The refund request came very quickly – right after they have grabbed the product.

3) This is the most telling – they go way out to how your product su*ks, just to justify their refund request. (Really, you can almost smell their guilt…)

How do I handle such requests?

I refunded the money promptly.

Waiting for something more?

Well, there isn’t more.

I just refund. No email replies, no anger, no nothing.

Reason?

Well, it’s professional – we should all honor refund requests. But more importantly, I feel that my duty is NOT towards these people. My time and attention should be given to those who GENUINELY want to learn from me.

These are people I care about. They bought products and when they have doubts, they email me. I then gladly offer my assistance.

I like to think that the dialogue is a never-ending one. To really help others, it’s best to be in tune with them…

5) Getting in tune with your clients.

From just a few tiny launches, I learned so much about the subscribers on my list. What they are interested in…what they want to learn…how they want to improve their businesses, etc.

I think product launches work a lot better than surveys because when you conduct a survey, there is no real investment involved. It’s just a bunch of questions.

Subscribers click on what they believe they will do. But ACTUALLY DOING what they say they will do is a completely different thing altogether.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t conduct surveys. Surveys are convenient tools to have, and they can be useful when done correctly.

But survey results will never come close to actual product launch figures.

You did a launch, and these people paid you REAL MONEY to learn what you know. That speaks volumes of their desire to learn.

So, even if you have a very small customer list, that doesn’t mean you can’t use product launches to stay in tune with your customers.

Do some tiny tiny launches every now and then (like what I’m doing) and you’ll find that you’ll learn a whole lot more about your customers. Don’t worry too much about sales figures.

If you’re not making sales from your product launches, you need to take a closer look at the stats and figures. What are the click through rates? How many sales did you make? Who is buying? I guarantee you, the solution is right WITHIN those numbers.

And when you finally understand how you can help your customers achieve their goals, making sales and achieving success is just INEVITABLE.

3 Responses to Product Launch Lessons for Small Business Owners

  • Darren, super content and spot on!!!]

    I am actually writing the same type of content for my inbound marketing website. Mine specifically deals with how companies should launch online promotional campaigns for new services and products.

    Not only is being able to implement a proper strategy to a product launch important, but being able to later analyze its performance through analytics is vital in today’s online marketplace.

    Thanks again for the ongoing great content. You are a true friend!!!

    Dave Hale
    The Internet Marketing Professor.

  • Good Stuff, Darren!
    Thank you for sharing and especially for sharing the things that went wrong. Most people tend to hide that, but you’re sharing exactly what we need to know. Lisa

  • Darren,
    Thanks for the advice on the Paypal dispute process, I did not know there were exclusions.