The Critical Importance of the Pre-Sell

What stops people buying from you? Why do some launches fall flat?

In this episode join Chris and Tony as they reveal the key strategy that will allow you to not only sell more of your products and services to more people, but will also reduce refunds and improve your audience’s relationship with you.

In this episode Chris and Tony discuss:

  • The key reason that launches fail
  • How people really buy
  • The best way to communicate your launch narrative
  • What marketers can learn from Star Wars
  • Why you need a waiting list

The Critical Importance of the Pre-Sell

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Welcome everybody, this is The Mainframe. I’m Tony Clark, and I’m the COO of Copyblogger Media, and I’m here with my co-host Chris Garrett, the CDO of Copyblogger Media.

Today we are talking about the critical importance of the pre-sell. In the first episode we talked about how we grew Copyblogger Media to an 8-figure company using the MVP, which is the Minimum Viable Product, and a MVA, the Minimum Viable Audience. And we went into more detail about that in episode two.

Now in this episode we are focusing on the next step in that process, launching your product.

How are you doing today Chris?

Chris Garrett: I’m doing great. I’ve got a full cup of coffee, ready to go.

The Key Reason Launches Fail

Tony Clark: Good. So let’s focus on one area to begin with, and it’s a big one. Why do launches fail?

Chris Garrett: Well, if you were asking me in particular why launches fail, it’s because I am scared to death of them! And I think a lot of people are like that. When it comes to selling, a lot of us get locked up and get defensive and think, “Well people are going to hate us because I’m asking for money” and you see that a lot. I’ve coached people through it as well.

Sonia tells a story of getting up on a stage at a big event where everybody expected sales pitches and she started by apologizing, and afterwards when she got down off the stage people were telling her off saying, “You shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t apologize for having something to sell.” And we know that. The rational part of us says that we are selling something that’s going to help people and it’s good and it works, but we still feel afraid. So one of the big reasons why launches fail is, we are just afraid of it.

Tony Clark: Yeah. That’s a great point. No matter how confident you are in what it is you are offering, there’s still that trepidation in the back of your head about having to sell it and is it something that people will want. Which carries us to our second reason why a lot of launches fail is, a product that somebody doesn’t want. And that’s because the research wasn’t done beforehand.

A product was built and then tried to be sold or marketed, versus building something for a specific audience, right?

Chris Garrett: Exactly. And I always say, you can have very little confidence in yourself, but have confidence in your value. Confidence in your knowledge, your experience and the service you deliver.

So when I give speeches, I am always nervous when I’m giving public talks, I focus on the content and with your product you can do the same. You can focus and have confidence in your product, your service, the delivery and the outcome because you’ve had that Minimum Viable Audience, who’s told you what they want and you’ve built a Minimum Viable Product, which delivers what they want. So you should have more confidence.

Tony Clark: Yeah that’s a great way of looking at it actually. So if you’re an introvert with not much of an ego, you might actually have a better shot at doing this because you can focus 100% on the product, instead of on yourself.

Chris Garrett: There is something to be said for humility. And not just from a marketing point of view, because people really do resonate with that, but also if you are transparently and authentically building something as a solution, then it will work better.

It’s like we weren’t arrogant enough with Rainmaker to say, “This is perfect. It’s ready for you to use. Buy it or not.” We said, “Okay we need some people to help us pilot this thing, and steer the ship a little bit” and people responded to that, both in terms of engagement and also giving us all that feedback. So we know we are building something people want and need, because they are telling us, “Okay, this is great and this needs a little bit more feature set” and all of those great things.

Tony Clark: Right, and that all started at the early stages of what we would even consider way back, is the pre-sell, which started originally with the podcast. Although it wasn’t a hard sell by any stretch, it was a way to start to engage the audience, warm up the audience, which the first step of the pre-sell is preparing your audience.

Chris Garrett: Exactly. And Brian started warming up the audience back when he was doing Entreproducer because he was talking about that whole “media not marketing” message and how you need to own your platform. All of those things started even earlier than the podcast. It was a previous podcast.

Tony Clark: Right, because the idea is you start generating buzz without making it a hard sell. One example that we see a lot now, which is common, is the teaser trailer. And we talk about this a lot.

Chris Garrett: Oh, we love these.

What Marketers Can Learn From Star Wars

Tony Clark: Yeah, waiting around. I remember the Star Wars teaser trailer for the new upcoming version, Star Wars Episode 7 dropped on Thanksgiving and I took time away from my family and friends to sit and wait for this trailer to drop, and it was a teaser trailer, it wasn’t even a full trailer.

Chris Garrett: It just shows your priorities Tony. You were sat there refreshing.

Tony Clark: Exactly. But that’s a great example of how Disney has done this. They have done it with Marvel, their Marvel properties. They’ve done it with the Star Wars properties. Really catering to that audience. Getting them warmed up and excited about something far enough in advance.

Yesterday we saw that they announced the next Star Wars movie and also the standalone Star Wars movie, Rogue One, and what I saw was interesting. I follow James Gunn, who did Guardians of the Galaxy, along with numerous other cool indy horror movies, and people have been asking him about it, because it’s about the same time the next Guardians of the Galaxy comes out. There are people actually planning to doubleheader, or planning their schedule, around movies that aren’t even going to be released for years because they are such fans. And this early warm up, this early excitement has already started to build. That’s a key part of a launch. Is getting people excited about what’s coming.

Chris Garrett: Yeah and it’s a perfect example because we know very, very little, but that’s actually increasing the buzz. We know there’s the name of the film, we know who’s going to be in it and that’s about it. We can speculate but we don’t know any facts yet.

How People Really Buy

Tony Clark: Right. Exactly. And you say this often, and I’ll let you go into detail because this is one of your favorite phrases is that “People buy, before they buy.” What does that mean?

Chris Garrett: What that means to me is, and I’ve seen it in person, I’ve seen it with coaching and I’ve seen it as a consumer, that you decide to buy something before you get your credit card out. And if you are given the opportunity to warm up to the idea and to fully understand the benefit, or even the future pleasure of a purchase, you don’t just buy, but you buy with confidence.

And just think about this in terms of your own behavior. Would you buy a car on impulse? Most of us probably wouldn’t. Even a laptop, there are debates going on about the new Apple MacBook saying, “Oh, it’s terrible” or “Oh, it’s gorgeous.” And everybody is discussing it. Chances are if you are going to buy a laptop, you are going to do a little bit of research.

If you can do the pre-sell correctly, at the very least you have established in people’s minds what the benefit or outcome or solution is. You know, what the problem you are solving is.

And a lot of the time, people need to be given a little bit of information about a problem, even a problem they have self identified to say, “Okay, this is bad and it’s not going to get any better by putting it off.”

But then when you give people a vision of the future, you know the other side of the purchase and implementing the purchase, then they can imagine ownership. They have got time for it to settle in and ferment in their minds and then they are ready to buy.

So not only do you sell more, because people understand what it is that you are selling, but you also get fewer refunds because people have gone in with confidence, it has not been an impulse purchase, it’s not been a pressured purchase. They’ve actually gone in happy and excited.

Tony Clark: Right, and that’s the key part of this whole warm up process is presenting the opportunity to solve a problem, which you have already identified using the steps that we covered in the first two podcasts. So you already know that your product will solve this problem. The warm up is to start getting people thinking about the fact that they have the problem and that you are offering a solution to that problem.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, and a good example from Copyblogger is, Brian, Demian and Jerod have recently been talking about Adaptive Content. We don’t actually sell the full solution that they are talking about yet, the vision of the future, but they are establishing right now that there is an Adaptive Content solution that will make people’s business work better.

And part of the Adaptive Content solution is what we have built with our membership features. But we are also saying, “Just think about what you are going to have in the future that is going to make this even better and easier.” So people are starting to come round to the idea and talk about it. So when we actually deliver the solution, they are ready to buy.

Communicating Your Launch Narrative With the Hero’s Journey

Tony Clark: Exactly. That’s what we are really talking about here is developing a narrative and an overarching story. The Hero’s Journey is an example of taking people where they are now, to where they will be with the solution you are going to be offering. And the pre-sell part, the warm up part is really about getting them thinking about being that buyer, being that hero in that journey, coming from this problem area to the result that you are going to be providing.

Chris Garrett: And the trick is to deliver the right information at the right time and we’ve all seen this where people have tried too hard and over delivered.

Sonia and I have done webinars before where we have given people 90 minutes of solid information and people have felt like they didn’t need to buy anything afterwards. They went away saying, “I can’t believe you gave all that away for free.” It’s like they already feel like they made the purchase but they didn’t spend any money. Because it’s like “I’m completely satisfied and full up. I don’t need it.”

Or, this is even worse, people over deliver in the wrong information. One of the big criticisms I have of The Game of Thrones books, the Song of Ice and Fire books is, he’ll spend like 20 pages describing the oils dripping down the chin of the guy that’s eating the turkey leg. I don’t need to read that. I skip all of that. It’s like you are giving me a lot of information but it’s not value.

Tony Clark: Right. Right. Or you are giving the wrong kind of information or changing the narrative halfway through.

We talk about this a lot, it’s not really a hero’s journey, it’s more of a villain’s journey, but a lot of people think of Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker as an important character in the Star Wars series.

Chris Garrett: It’s a redemption story.

Tony Clark: Right, it is. And then you have one type of redemption story that’s portrayed in the original trilogy that everybody loved and they felt confident and they have sort of built this back story in their head of what Anakin was like, and then the prequels come out and he turned him into a whiney little, well this is a family friendly show, so I won’t, but…

Chris Garrett: We can all imagine the words you were trying to say.

Tony Clark: But the idea is now the narrative has changed, so even though you are delivering, you are delivering the wrong narrative and that’s an important part of a launch is making sure your narrative, that journey, stays focused on the right things, at the right time and you do that through engaging with your audience and getting their feedback through that process.

Chris Garrett: Exactly. And what you should always do with the Hero’s Journey is talk about adversity and talk about the problems. What did you overcome?

A hero’s journey where everything goes right, is not only boring, it feels unrealistic. You’ve got that second act where everything goes wrong. You need to use it. I’m not saying make things up but draw from your actual experience. And this is another warning, if you do make things up, people will find out and they will call you on it.

Tony Clark: Yeah that’s true. That goes back to the narrative. See this part of the launch, this pre-launch period, this pre-sell/pre-launch is actually my favorite part because you can really tell the story of the solution you are offering. And if you are really confident in the solution, which we always are, because we have built it around something that we know that people have a problem for, you can deliver this story in a way that really gets people pumped up. You do want to highlight the positives, you do want to highlight the key things that you are going to be offering but you can do it without really overselling what you are going to be providing.

Chris Garrett: Yeah and if you build it around reality, then you’ve got a lot to draw on but you can also say, “This is where I was, this it is what I had to overcome, this is where I am now.” And you can be honest. And that Hero’s Journey kind of case study works really well with customers as well. So once you have got through that first launch, if you do it the MVP way, they are going to be very engaged and they are going to give you those testimonials and case studies.

Tony Clark: Yes it’s going to help with the next launch.

Chris Garrett: Exactly.

Tony Clark: Because really, launch is iterative and we’ll go into that in future episodes, in the next episode when we talk about the launch itself. But that’s a good point. That’s part of the whole process.

Chris Garrett: And they are going to be excited to tell you the results because they are so engaged and they are so connected with you. And that connection is where you are going to get all of that feedback.

But if you tell people “This is what to expect” if you give people a roadmap and say, “I’m not going to go into detail in each stage but this is what you have to do. This is what you have to implement to get the best results.” Then people know what they are getting. They know what to expect. You are not giving people a shopping list. You are not saying, “This is what my solution includes,” you know 300 pages, 40 hours of video. What you are saying is, “These are the stages” and that’s a very different thing. And it gives people context.

Tony Clark: Right and that roadmap leads into the next step of your pre-launch period, is that level of engagement where they can really start engaging with you and offering their objections, which you can then look at how you are going to overcome in your copy, both in the launch and continuing through the pre-launch process.

Chris Garrett: If you don’t do the engagement at this stage, they are still going to give you their objections, but they are going to give you it mid-launch when you are trying to sell the thing. And it would be a distraction. You wouldn’t be able to course correct as well. So doing it in the pre-launch phase, when you are warming people up and when you are testing bits of content, and when you are testing messages, getting the objections and the questions then, allows you to fold it all into the marketing and into the message.

You will see us actually course correct when we are doing a launch, when we are doing a promotion, you can actually see us changing headlines. It works during the launch but if you have all of that information and you have that confidence that you are on the right track, the launch will go much better because of your pre-sell.

Tony Clark: Yeah and just a simple thing, something that was really powerful but was really effective during our early Teaching Sells launches was having comments open on the actual pre-sell education pages. These are basically explaining what it is we are going to be delivering and then using the comments to, a lot of times they are not direct objections, they are questions, they are concerns people have. So you are not necessarily going to get somebody who says, “Well that sounds ridiculous” or “Well this isn’t going to solve my problem.” It’s more of a question, “Well will it do this or will it do that?” and that you can use as a way of modifying your copy to better answer those objections, those questions. Both in the pre-launch and preparing for your launch copy.

Chris Garrett: And always have the confidence to say, “Perhaps this isn’t for you.” You are not going to develop something that’s perfect for the whole world.

Sonia talks about skin care manufacturers saying, “This is for anybody with skin.” Well that’s ridiculous. You are not going to be able to help everybody. So you do need to focus on the people who you can best help and sometimes people fall outside of that, and that’s fine.

The new MacBook is a perfect example. People are saying, “It’s only got one port” and “Why does anybody need a gold laptop?” Well, then it’s not for you. That’s fine.

Tony Clark: Yeah and that’s a good point because one of the things that you’ll find is that there is a difference between objections or concerns, or legitimate questions and then people that are just not your customer. Sometimes they are trying to justify the fact that they are not your customer by using objections in a way that maybe combative, because they are really trying to justify their own position. And by taking a position of “Well this might not be for you” you sort of lessen that.

Chris Garrett: Yeah and how many times have you seen a whole conversation get derailed because of “Mine is better than yours? My previous purchase has to be better than this new thing, otherwise I’m going to feel bad about my decision.” You know, Apple versus Windows, iPhone versus Android, Commodore 64 versus Spectrum, Amiga versus Atari ST, Marvel versus DC. We could go on forever. But a lot of the time “It’s my ego will not allow me to accept that there is another choice, therefore I have to bash this one.”

I was at a user group meeting last night for a 3D CAD system and, no exaggeration, this 3D CAD system is revolutionary. It runs in the browser. I was very excited. And one guy just derailed the whole conversation because his objection was about the category of solution, not the specific solution. He didn’t agree that it should run in the browser and use your bandwidth, therefore everybody had to listen to all of his expertise for an hour. So I left. And that is one thing you have to look out for. Don’t focus on those people.

Being a person who lacks confidence, I am shy and introverted, I focus on the negative people and they can ruin my day for a week with one comment. But don’t focus on those people. They are not your customer.

Tony Clark: Right. And that’s what we were saying earlier. There’s a difference between an objection or concern, versus somebody who really just wants to make it all about them and that’s the important thing to look at. And again, the engagement is really what will help identify that.

Chris Garrett: And if you have got an engaged audience, often they will come to your rescue and that’s another good reason to develop your strategy in this way because you are bringing friends along. You are going to have people who can stand in front of you and say, “Hang on, don’t be a jerk.”

The legitimate objections you are going to get are things like, price objection. That’s something everybody thinks about. Another one to consider having an answer for is, “Okay, it looks like this will work but will it work for me? My specific situation, my type of situation, my type of problem.”

We have that a lot with education products and with software products because people say, “Okay, I can see it working for a big business but I’m a small business. Or I’m a one person business.” So you need an answer for that because it’s a legitimate concern. Especially if it’s a lot of money to spend. It’s a legitimate concern “Will it work for me? I can believe it working for those other people, but will it work for me?” So they are not saying, “I don’t believe you.” They are saying, “I believe it works in that situation but I’ve got a different situation.”

Tony Clark: Right and that’s part of that engagement and part of that journey that they see themselves going from a person who is not a buyer, to somebody who’s interested, all the way to the end where they become a buyer. So that’s again, part of that second step, of that objection and engagement period.

Chris Garrett: So you need to have a way for them to connect with the people who you have helped before or the people who are currently going through this process with you. It’s another good reason for engagement but it’s also a really good reason for that social proof so they can see the faces and the names and the businesses of the people who are also in this pre-launch, going into the launch. And another great reason why Apple is so good at marketing is, those lines around the block, that’s social proof and you can do the same thing online.

Tony Clark: Yeah and you do that through testimonials, comments on things. You can look at the fans of your existing work. If this is your first launch you are not going to have a lot of that to build off of, so you can build a smaller part of your community that can be that evangelical team, that group that will help cement that social proof. Then later on that’s another great reason to do pilot launches because you get that core group that will provide testimonials and also provide feedback. And they are the ones that have already demonstrated that it works for them.

Why You Need a Waiting List

Chris Garrett: And it’s a counterintuitive reason to actually restrict the numbers in this first pilot release because as that number ticks down, that’s further social proof.

Somebody who does this very well is Sean D’Souza over at Psychotactics and he sells out his courses well in advance because he gets people to join a waiting list and then when that waiting list is filled up, nobody else can join. So when he opens the course it sells out because his waiting list has sold out all the seats that he needs to sell. And people can see that. In his forum they can see people saying, “Yep, I’m in. I’m joining. Add me to the list.” And everybody says, “Oh, well there was 12 seats and now there’s ten seats, gosh there’s nine seats. Maybe I need to get on this thing.”

Tony Clark: Yeah the waiting list is the third key most important part of a pre-launch period because this becomes another step in the funnel and you are getting people who are really interested at this point and you can further refine your waiting list by providing an early bird list after that. But the idea is exactly what you are saying. It works in two areas.

It works on the social proof because it is now demonstrating that, “Well if you are not on this list, I can’t even offer you a spot” but it also gives you an indication of what the build up and excitement has been, by how many people are on the list.

Chris Garrett: People always ask us, “How do I know when to launch? How do I know when my Minimum Viable Audience actually has translated into an audience that is big enough to sell? And it’s the waiting list. That gives the idea of okay, you are not going to sell to every single person on this waiting list because people are in there out of curiosity, they might be competitors, but you know if you’ve got a good number of people on that waiting list and it’s much more than the number of seats you want to sell, you are ready to launch.

Tony Clark: Yeah and that’s the idea of a landing page with the early introductory pre-sell, pre-launch copy in an opt-in form, as one of your most powerful weapons in your launch. It’s really not explained a lot out there. It’s one of those things that people tend to forget about or they just put up an opt-in page, they don’t realize how critical this waiting list is to the whole overall process of the pre-sell and eventually your launch.

Chris Garrett: And also your future launches because you are going to want to have that waiting list fill up after your first launch.

Tony Clark: Right, it goes back to the iterative process that we will cover in the next episode.

So one of the things that the waiting list also does is a way for you to deliver additional content and get additional feedback, it becomes a small, almost a focus group or a large focus group, depending on how big you make your waiting list of serious buyers. Because what you are trying to do is create the “serious buyers only” mentality.

Chris Garrett: And it doesn’t annoy all the other people that are maybe not ready for this. So your serious buyers are in one list, and all the people who are not interested at all are over on your blog list, your podcast list, whatever and you are not distracting them. You are not annoying them because you are only sending these emails to the people who’ve said, “I’m ready to hear about this” and who are interested. They’ve elected to hear this marketing material.

So a lot of times we don’t want to launch or sell something because we don’t want to annoy our blog audience, we don’t want to drive them away with our sales messages, this is a good way of not doing that. You can get people onto the waiting list in your blog posts, in your emails with call to actions. They are low key. They are not annoying. You’ve given people justification for that and then the actual marketing messages go to the waiting list, the launch list and nobody else even sees them, so they don’t get annoyed at all.

Key Takeaways

Tony Clark: And that leads into where you start taking that list and using it in your next phase which is launching, which we will cover in the next episode.

So Chris, kind of sum up what we have talked about today, about this pre-launch, this pre-sell period.

Chris Garrett: We talked about three different stages, and the first is the most important, which is prepare your audience. Tell them the problem you are solving. Talk about the problem, talk about how it feels to have the problem, talk about the solution, so give people the idea that there is a solution out there and warm them up. And especially if you have a valid Hero’s Journey. Again, we have to have the confidence in ourselves that we have something to share, so talk about that Hero’s Journey and the roadmap to the solution. Don’t give all the solution. Don’t give all the details but tell people what to expect and the stages to go through.

Then move into phase two which is engagement and answering objections. Find out what people’s objections are, what is there resistance to buying, so when you do open your shopping cart, you’ve answered as many of these questions as you can in your copy, in your sales materials in your launch phases.

And finally, build a waiting list. The waiting list will tell you how many people are ready to buy and it will give you a channel to communicate with which will not annoy the rest of your audience.

Tony Clark: Cool. So that covers the pre-launch phase and then in the next episode we’ll go into the launch and how this kind of carries over into it. So until our next episode, thank you for listening.