Welcome to my second Income Report for 2017! It seems like this year is one of those years that’s going to fly by, because I felt like it was just yesterday that my January 2017 income report was published.
I’m always happy to share my progress with you. Sometimes things go well and the numbers climb higher, and other months the numbers decrease. Either way, it’s really not about the numbers at all, but about what made those numbers happen. It’s about the lessons I learned, and both the wins and failures I experience, shared to help you as you grow and scale your own online business.
February was an intense month for a number of reasons: a new course launch, some amazing speaking opportunities coming up in March, new features on the SPI blog, and more.
So, without further delay, let’s dive right in!
Important Goings-On in February
First, before we get into some of the business stuff, on February 21, my wife and I celebrated our eighth-year anniversary! We took a trip with the kids to Disneyland to celebrate, since they had that same week off from school.
We reflected a lot on the journey we’ve had together since the beginning. We met in high school, although when I was a freshman, she was a junior, so of course that was never going to happen (because if it did, April would have been voted off the island, lol), but we grew close, and after years of friendship, we ended up getting engaged in 2008, two months before I was told I was going to be let go from my architecture job.
Then of course, I started my online business, and we had no idea where anything of this was going, but the fact is that if it wasn’t for April, and her support and belief in me, especially through those tough times in the beginning, we definitely wouldn’t be where we’re at today.
Beside the week of our anniversary, which was super chill, the rest of February was a mad rush.
Why? Because my course, Smart From Scratch, was set to launch on February 27. This was the first public launch after the beta launch last October!
I’ll talk in more detail about that in a minute, but to start February, I was excited because I released a brand new epic (and free) tutorial, called How to Start an Email List, and it was a result of some major focus in January.
At the end of last year, I validated the need for more email marketing related content using a small and controlled experiment, my 100 Emails Challenge, created to help people get their first 100 subscribers to their email list.
Almost 10,000 people signed up during the 72-hour challenge, and although that experiment has since ended, you can still go through the process (now automated) if you missed it at 100Emails.com.
Now that I knew that email content was hot, I decide to put together an epic tutorial, similar to the style of my most popular blog post on this site, my podcasting tutorial, that went through the whole gamut of email marketing, from the start, through broadcasting and autoresponders, all the way to segmentation and more advanced strategies.
I spent every morning for two weeks at the end of January and early February getting the content together, which includes six videos, and on February 10 published the post, and the response was exactly what I had hoped it would be. I was amazing.
I utilized an old domain I registered back in 2012 that was forwarding to an old email related post on SPI, and reconfigured it to forward to the new tutorial.
StartAnEmailList.com is now where this new tutorial lives.
Over 15,000 people have visited that page over the past month, and the videos have been viewed a total of 13,393 times. Not bad for a month!
It’s part of the new strategy moving forward here on SPI. We’ll have more tutorials like this (and the podcasting one), and through the process people will:
- Share the free content with others.
- Use affiliate links for recommended products.
- Get a ton of value, and want to continue to consume content from me in the future.
A big thanks to the team for helping put this tutorial together in such a short time period. We are also looking forward to future tutorials like this, including one related to setting up your blog, authoring a book, and even how to setup a challenge like the one I did for starting an email list (which, although free, helped to grow my email list by about 4,000 subscribers in 3 days).
Smart from Scratch Re-Opening
Within Team Flynn, the most anticipated date for us was February 27, which is when Smart From Scratch was going to go live again.
We had been refining the course since November of last year, which is when most of the founding students (who joined in October 2016) provided feedback on what they thought was great, and what they thought could be improved upon.
The feedback was seriously gold, and another point of confirmation for me that launching with a “beta” group is always the best way to go. There were a number of small holes to fill that we could never have predicted until students finally started going through it, but with a few months left before open enrollment, we had a lot of time to rework the content and make sure it was great before the public launch on February 27.
One piece of feedback was related to the written content that went along with the course. Initially, I kept it minimal because the main content was in the videos. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time and just wanted them to watch the videos right away after starting each new lesson.
Turns out, this was not the way to go. The students wanted more written content leading up to the video in each course, and reminders about where in the course they were before watching each one, and what they were about to get into.
And it makes complete sense. I was so deep in the trenches of the course, so I could easily remember where I would be and what’s coming next. But to a brand new student, the more context, the better.
Also, when you think about it, people don’t go through the courses straight through in one sitting. That hardly ever happens. After lessons are complete, it’s a good spot to take a break or come back to the next one later, and it’s easy to forget where you were in the process.
I ended up rewriting the entire course.And, in the end, it definitely felt like it was more complete. A big thanks to the founding students for that insight!
Another thing I noticed with the founding group is that certain lessons were a lot harder than others, and at times I’d get a lot of questions about the same steps. This led me to think about how to best address the struggles people go through at certain times during the course, and if there was some way to automate the help I was giving.
A couple solutions came to mind:
First, I could simply include written content in the course at those moments acknowledging those struggles and how one might be able to break through them. Even if people read it before they get to those struggles (if they do), it’ll be a great way to anticipate what’s coming and be prepared for it.
Second, there was nothing I was doing via email and automation after people subscribed to the course, and I remembered some of my favorite courses were ones where I was sent emails specifically about the parts I was at in the process.
Michael Hyatt does a fantastic job of this, and I know for a fact he’s not personally sending me an email after I complete a certain section of the course.
It’s all done through automation, and so I decided to figure out how to make it work.
Smart From Scratch was built through Teachable, and I integrated the course with ConvertKit, my email service provider, to tag new students and to be able to send them broadcasts down the road. [Full Disclosure: I am a compensated advisor and affiliate for Teachable.]
I initially didn’t want to set up an autoresponder sequence for new students because everyone takes the course at a different pace, so I researched how I might be able to auto-trigger emails after certain lessons were completed in the course.
This would come in handy down the road if I could find this out because after a person completes a course, it would be nice to send them a congratulatory email with next steps (and perhaps another offer), too.
It’s not fully integrated, but I was able to find a solution by using Zapier to have the two pieces of software talk to each other. Zapier is a great tool that can have two tools work together to create some fun automations. There are thousands of “Zaps” you can find to create these cool workflows, and there was definitely a zap for a Teachable and ConvertKit integration.
It’s a little hard to explain, and probably worth a tutorial in the future, but here’s what the Zaps look like for this course:
In other words, emails get sent automatically as people complete certain lessons (not all of them), which prepare them for some of the struggles ahead and answer the most common questions. Some emails are sent immediately, and others are sent after a specific number of days, which is handy because then it’s only sent if people haven’t moved onto the next lesson within a few days.
Fast-forwarding a little, the response to those emails have been fantastic!
Okay, let’s go back to the pre-launch.
To set things up, I decided to publish a number of posts and podcast episodes leading up to it. This is one of the benefits of planning your content ahead of time!
So, for example, on February 20 (a week before launch), I published 7 Lessons I Learned While Testing & Launching My First Online Course. Then two days later, a podcast session on the same topic that dives a little bit deeper into the subject was published.
Sharing your how-to and all of the behind the scenes information is a great way to build trust, provide a lot of valuable content, but also tease your upcoming course at the same time. I actually received a lot of compliments on the strategy, and I’m here to say it definitely wasn’t an accident.
It also confirmed for people why the course was being sold, who it’s for (and not for), and thus marketing it without making it seem like I’m really marketing it.
On February 26, the day before the launch, everything was ready to go, and on February 27, we flipped the switch, and the enrollment period was open for the first time in months.
Sales started to come in immediately, even before an email was sent, but as soon as I sent that first announcement email to the waitlist, it was on!
I also sent a couple of emails to specific segments of my list who this course was built for:
First, there’s my Bucket 1 segment, which are people who have confirmed through my email survey questions that they have not started any business at all yet (a strategy shared in video 6 of the Start an Email List tutorial).
Second, there are those who were registered for my free Will It Fly? Companion Course, who are at the same stage but took a different approach to let me know.
The waitlist email list, the Bucket 1 segment, and the companion course students all received separate emails announcing the same product, because that’s how you maximize, well, everything. Open rates, click-throughs, and conversions, if you can get the messaging right to the type of person you’re sending a message too, you’re on fire.
So, for the waitlist, I already knew this was coming. I sent an email the week before letting them know another one was coming on launch day, so their email was super quick and included little explanation.
Here is the copy of that email:
Ok, I guess it wasn’t that short, but the announcement and lead into the product was. I mean, look at the subject line. It’s very clear what this is.
The major chunk at the bottom was a statement about the cost, which I also included in the other emails to the other segments.
Here are the results of this particular email to the waitlist:
The email that went out to Bucket 1 looks like this:
As you can see, it doesn’t mention the course upfront. But it uses the same language this particular segment is already familiar with to validate what’s coming. The subject line, for example, matches a subject line they get when they first segment themselves, which was “Welcome, future entrepreneur.”
Here are the results of that particular email:
There are more than 26,000 subscribers in this segment, but I excluded those who were already founding members, those already on the waitlist, and a few other tags I didn’t feel would want to see this email.
And lastly, here’s the Will It Fly? Companion Course email that went out:
As you can see, it’s a lot of the same content, just framed in a different way. One thing I knew people were going to ask about was the difference between my book, Will It Fly?, and this course, which essentially runs through the same process, but at a much higher level.
If I didn’t address that, I’d be in trouble, so I made sure to do that, and even tell people that if the book did the job for them, then they don’t need to purchase the course. This provides a lot of trust for those who may be on the fence, literally telling them to not get the course if it doesn’t make sense for them. And I like that, because I don’t want people to get the course if it doesn’t!
And here are the results of those emails:
All in all, the numbers are amazing, and I think it’s because of the transparency, messaging, and amazing feedback.
I’m hoping this provides inspiration as you move forward with some of your launches and emails into the future, too.
Launch week was upon us, and so when I woke up the next morning, I was ready to fire all emails and get this thing going.
Unfortunately, it didn’t start out so well.
There were a bunch of last minute, unplanned technical things that happened which delayed the emails, and all of this then climaxed the next day when the Internet decided to take a day off.
A human error at Amazon caused a huge Amazon AWS outage, and millions of websites were affected as a result, including ConvertKit, and Teachable.
Those sites were still accessible, but only to a point. They were not working properly. Neither was Trello and a number of other services that my team and I use, and so I couldn’t help but feel like crap.
The team was working hard too to fix some things on our end that were unplanned as well (yay, Murphy’s law!), and I was just not in a good mood. I tried to keep my head up, but blow after blow, it seemed, had a big impact on me.
Finally, come Wednesday, all systems were go, emails were all sent out, and we were off to the races.
This was a sort of untraditional launch, not just because of the Amazon fiasco, but because I like to take the more honest, authentic, and non-aggressive approach. Revealing my thoughts about the price, for example, was different than what many people on my list had ever seen before. Also, I did not bombard people with email after email each and every day.
What’s really cool is that other people on my list didn’t get any promotions for this product at all, because they don’t need it. That’s why knowing who your audience is and segmenting them as such is so incredibly important. Yes, they might have seen the blog post or listened to the podcast episode related to the product, but that was primarily value-based content; helpful for anyone at any stage.
And to know that’s going on and not get any promotions for it, I hope it shows those people on those other segments of my list that when I do have something coming their way, it will definitely be useful and obviously for them.
That’s the idea at least! Hehe!
So how’d the launch do overall? Well, part of the launch did carry over into March, so I don’t have those numbers to share in the income breakdown below, but the later half of the launch performed extremely well.
My goal for the course launch was to reach $100,000, and we hit $97,000 in the end. I count that as a win!
Okay, now let’s get to the income breakdown for February.
Full Disclosure: Some of the items in the list below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through that link, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Important Lesson Learned in February
During the launch, when the whole Amazon thing was going down (literally), I was a little sick to my stomach. After all of that planning, and all the time since the beta launch last year to get it right, I just couldn’t believe that it happened.
I’ve learned from the past one very important lesson, though. The things you can’t control, you shouldn’t waste time over. Yes, you’re going to get angry, and be frustrated, and get upset, and that’s totally okay. But reacting in a way that makes things even worse, that takes you away from the things you can control. That’s not good.
I decided to hang out with my family during the downtime. Nothing else makes me feel better.
I shot a few videos, which was good to pass some of the time, but I decided to just stop working and hang out with the family. Nothing else helps me remember why I do what I do more than when I’m with my kids.
They were a little surprised to see me come out of my office, actually. I had told them ahead of time that the launch period was going to definitely take up a bunch of my time. Again, another reason I love April. She understands the ebbs and flows of my work as an entrepreneur. Sometimes we’ll be on vacation and I can help take care of the kids, and other times, I’ll be in launch mode and she knows to sort of take massive charge during those times. It’s so helpful.
I also had a conversation with my right-hand man on my team, Matt, just being honest about my feelings, and he sent this back, which really made me feel a lot better:
Thanks, Matt. I needed that. And it confirmed that there was nothing we could really do on some of this stuff, and the team was behind me all the way.
To know that my family was there, and my team too, it was a good reminder for me that it’s the people we surround ourselves with that matter the most. Sometimes that’s not always apparent and we may not always “need” them, but during times when things seem out of control, they are definitely there to help keep us up.
What an incredibly exhilarating month! I’m so thankful for the experiences it provided me, and with the success of the launch (especially after what happened).What an incredible way to top it off!
Cheers, and thanks again for reading these reports!