In January 2019, our marketing department set an ambitious goal: to write, publish and market a physical book by Q2, 2019.
But not just any book: the best e-commerce marketing book for online retailers. (#NoPressure.)
By March, we had a professionally-copy edited manuscript, a beautifully-designed front cover, and a proof copy from the printer.
Having never published a book before, we sought after what experts recommended. But after Googling “how to launch a book,” we found that many of the strategies were, at best, general (“email your subscribers”) and at worse, obvious (“share on social media”).
So, we looked at what others were doing and devised a robust strategy that could turn the book into a bestseller.
In April, we began taking preorders. And to our surprise, we made €7,410.80 ($8,268.54) in pre-orders in the first 7-days, alone.
The best part was, due to “residual” promotion, we continued taking orders after our pre-launch campaign (PLC) ended.
Today, to celebrate the launch of our book, Built to Scale, I’ll share our three biggest revenue multipliers. Plus, I, with inputs from Rikke and Seray, will share our biggest learnings and what we would do differently if we were to do it again.
How to Launch a Book
Should You Even Write a Book?
Before getting into our book launch strategies, it’s worth mentioning briefly why we wrote a book, to begin with, as our goal informed our entire launch strategy.
Despite the earnings I mentioned in the introduction, our goal with Built to Scale was NOT to earn a lot of money. Nor was it to publish an Amazon bestseller (although, it would have been nice). Both are fair goals, of course, but we wanted to set our sights even higher.
Our 50,00-foot goal, to borrow David Allen’s analogy, was to write a book that would be the go-to marketing resource for e-commerce marketers; something they would refer to again and again for years to come.
Our 30,000-foot goal, though, was to write a book that would:
- Minimize customer churn;
- Win back churned customers;
- Position Drip as an authority in our field;
- Reward customer and partner loyalty;
- Upsell new and existing customers to an annual subscription;
- Warm marketing and sales qualified leads for Managed Solution, our done-for-you service; and
- Warm marketing and sales qualified leads for our software.
So, now that you know our Why, our reason behind writing the book, let’s discuss the three strategies we used to pre-sell it.
1. Create World-Class Pre-Launch Bonuses
Launching a book used to be a publisher’s responsibility. Today, though, it’s down to the author(s) to get the word out about their work and create as much buzz as possible (especially if they’re self-publishing).
One way to create anticipation before and during a launch is to offer pre-launch bonuses.
Here’s how the strategy works.
To incentivize orders before the book goes live, you offer several time-sensitive bonuses that go away by a predetermined deadline (this is often the end of the PLC).
If a customer buys the book directly from the seller, you redirect them to a dedicated landing page where they can access their bonuses.
Here’s an example from Brian Kurtz’s launch for his book, Overdeliver:
Alternatively, if the book is available from an online book retailer like Amazon, the customer forwards their receipt to the seller to claim the bonuses.
When Michael Hyatt launched his book, Living Forward, he offered $360 worth of bonuses if buyers forwarded their receipt.
Although our goal wasn’t to launch a bestseller for reasons mentioned above, we settled on the latter approach due to it giving us greater control over our launch.
How to Create World-Class Book Pre-Launch Bonuses
During the brainstorming process, we considered several ideas, but not all of them were viable.
For instance, one idea we had was to record an audio version of the book with all three authors reading their respective chapters. But after factoring in recording and editing time, not to mention the book’s length (500+ pages), we decided to shelve it and returned to the drawing board.
It’s important to mention here that we wanted to create bonuses that were as good as the book. We didn’t want to cobble something together last-minute; we wanted to create bonuses that complemented the book and, much like our content upgrades, invited readers to refer to them again and again.
Finally, after much back and forth, we settled on five pre-launch bonuses we felt proud of:
- A 30-day free Drip trial (including all our products and features);
- An eBook with plug-and-play copy formulas for popup campaigns;
- A swipe file of e-commerce email templates;
- An activation guide to help readers take action on the key insights and takeaways from the book; and
- A bonus chapter.
But that’s not all.
We didn’t want to direct customers to Google Docs bonuses after purchase, so we sent them to Design to ensure that they matched the book’s design.
One of our beautifully-designed pre-launch bonuses courtesy of our Brand Designer, Damien.
Again, we didn’t want to give the impression that we threw something together last-minute. “We go the extra mile” is one of our company values, and it’s something we take seriously. Our goal was to convey that with the book as well as the bonuses.
Should You Add a Value to Your Bonuses?
One practice we followed for our bonuses was adding a monetary value to each resource. For example, instead of writing a bonus as “Built to Scale: The Activation Guide,” you would write it as “Built to Scale: The Activation Guide (Value: $49)”
We added monetary values to our bonuses two reasons:
- To increase the bonuses’ perceived value. It’s easy to overlook the value of something when you’re getting for free. In one study, Dan Ariely found that when candies were offered for 1 cent, students, on average, took 3.5 candies. But when candies were free, they took 1.1 candies. To increase the perceived value of each resource, we added monetary values to remind potential buyers how much they would pay if they were to buy the bonuses individually.
- To create a price anchor for the book. We knew that we would retail the book at an above-average price of €97. But we also knew that many potential buyers would feel €97 would be too much for a book. To offset that cost, we anchored the book against the bonuses’ combined value of €314. Moreover, we positioned that book in such a way that even implementing one of the book’s strategies would deliver a return on the reader’s investment manyfold.
If you’re going to add bonuses to a launch, consider creating new bonuses rather than repurposing content (i.e. eBooks, etc.) and adding an arbitrary price tag. It’s far too common online. Not only does it devalue the resources because you KNOW they’re normally free—it creates mistrust between you and your customers.
The Essential Elements of a Book Launch Landing Page
Much like with the rest of our launch strategy, we based our landing page’s design on best practices for other book launches, including sections promoting the bonuses…
Details on how to claim them…
And information about me, Rikke and Seray.
Because the landing page was built using Elegant Theme’s Divi Builder WordPress plugin, we were able to remove any modules relating to the bonuses at the end of our pre-launch week.
Sam’s Key Learning
As mentioned above, we created an “activation guide” to help readers take action on the key insights and takeaways from the book. The problem, though, was because we weren’t shipping the book for another month, we risked spoiling the book’s content.
To solve that problem, we added a personalized handwritten note to each book with a link to the bonus. Not only did it show we were willing to go the extra mile; it created another memorable and meaningful moment in the buying experience.
2. Market Where Your Audience Are
Given we were self-publishing the book, we needed to gauge interest quickly as doing so would inform the number of books we needed to order.
One way we gauged that interest was announcing the book’s upcoming launch on LinkedIn. While LinkedIn isn’t a normal marketing channel for us, it did give us greater reach due to the potential virality of publishing posts. (If you publish a post and it’s visible for public, not only do your network see it, but their network, and so on.)
We experimented with two approaches to promoting the book on LinkedIn:
- Hosting a competition; and
- Promoting our pre-launch bonuses.
Let’s look at each.
i. Hosting a Competition
To celebrate the launch of Built to Scale, we offered five readers a chance to win a free copy of the book.
Here’s an excerpt from Rikke’s LinkedIn post:
We also added a video to show the book in physical form.
Following from Rikke, Emil, our CMO, offered 10 readers a chance to win a copy of the book. But he added a twist: in addition to giving away 10 free copies, he offered to give commenters a 30% early bird discount.
And the results were astounding…
Total: 1,267 comments (and counting).
Granted, Emil has a big network in Denmark and beyond, so the above results aren’t common. But if you’re rubbing shoulders with the who’s who in your industry, it’s a great way to gauge initial interest in a product or service.
ii. Promoting the Prelaunch Bonuses
Given my LinkedIn network isn’t as extensive of my colleagues’, I tried another LinkedIn promotion strategy: promoting our bonuses.
Here’s how it worked.
First, I explained how to claim the bonuses.
Then, when readers replied, I contacted them privately and gave them the discount.
Here’s the template I used:
Thank you so much for your interest in Built to Scale. We really appreciate it 🙂
Here’s what to do now:
First, order the book by clicking the link below:
Then, click, “Pre-Order Built to Scale Now” Next, enter the coupon code [COUPON] at checkout. (You’ll get 30% off your purchase.)
Finally, check your inbox. We’ll send you a link to your free bonuses in the confirmation email.
Finally, to drive as many people to the post as possible, I sent two emails:
- To people on my personal email list; and
- Anyone that clicked through to the post but didn’t reply.
To track the results of each approach, we created a coupon for each team member in Selz, our e-commerce software. And, as you can see, hosting a giveaway outperformed promoting the pre-launch bonuses.
The above isn’t conclusive, of course. (Emil, for instance, has a bigger LinkedIn network than Rikke, Seray or I). But if you’re hedging your bets, go with a giveaway.
Seray’s Key Learnings
One mistake we made with our LinkedIn promotion strategy was that we failed to realize the amount of time it would take to contact each commenter.
Due to setting our post to “public,” people from outside our networks were able to see and comment on our posts. That’s great, of course; the more people that saw it, the greater our reach.
But it also meant we needed to connect with each commenter before we could send contact them. If we were to do it again, we could ask commenters to connect with us to avoid having to reach out and wait for dozens of connections to go through.
iii. Write a Pre-Launch Email Sequence
You know email marketing is effective, so I’m not going to bore you with third-party statistics or banal, empty platitudes, here.
I’d rather show you what thoughts went into our email campaign. So, let’s dive in.
If you’ve ever launched a new product, you’ve likely asked yourself:
- How many emails do I send?
- When do I send them?
- What do I write?
We asked ourselves that, too.
After a brainstorm, we outlined five emails; one for each day of the working week and with a specific goal.
Here’s a brief overview of how it looked:
- Email #1: Introduce the Offer
- Email #2: Incentivize Orders
- Email #3: Overcome Objections
- Email #4: Use Social Proof
- Email #5: Help Prospects Make a Decision
Let’s look at each in more detail.
Email #1. Introduce the Offer
One week before our PLC, we teased the announcement of the book in the P.S. of our weekly newsletter.
Then, on day one of our PLC, we mailed our list to:
- Introduce the book;
- Set expectations for the coming week (“We’re going to email you every day this week”); and
- Tease the bonuses (more on that in a moment).
We got a lot of positive feedback and many readers replied to say that they were looking forward to getting the book.
Email #2. Incentivize Orders
Here, we incentivized orders by introducing the bonuses I wrote about above.
We also reminded readers that access to the bonuses was limited and that we would remove them at the end of the week.
While it’s hard to say for certain, introducing bonuses had a big impact on our number of orders, given that our “Incentivize Orders” was our best performing email in terms of converting into orders.
Email #3: Overcome Objections
You’re always going to get questions during a product launch. That’s a given. So you can’t always write an objection handling email in advance.
But what you can do, is address the biggest barriers to making a purchase by offering a satisfaction guarantee, clarifying whether you ship internationally, and more.
And in email #3, that’s exactly what we did.
Email #4: Use Social Proof
Given that the book wasn’t available on Amazon during our PLC, we didn’t have the luxury of showing the number of reviews our book had.
But what we did have, was testimonials from Danish e-commerce influencers that had read parts of the book. So, we included them in this email to assure readers it was worth the investment.
An example of one of the testimonials we included in this email.
Email #5: Help Prospects Make a Decision
We all have a tendency to procrastinate. It’s why promotions have deadlines, and why influencers like Jeff Walker says mailing at least twice on the last day of a launch.
We didn’t go that far, (that seemed excessive for a book) but we did remind readers that it was their last chance to get the bonuses before they went away forever.
Unsurprisingly, the email converted well, albeit not as well at our “Incentivize Orders” email.
Rikke’s Key Learnings
i. Use Scarcity to Your Advantage
We realized later that we could have leveraged scarcity much better throughout the email sequence.
For instance, given that we were selling a physical book, we could have reminded readers that we only had a certain number of copies in stock. Or, we could have limited the number of discounts we gave away during our LinkedIn promotion.
Scarcity is about more than reminding readers over again that your bonuses are going away; it’s about triggering a feeling of missing out on savings, the offer itself, and more.
ii. Segment Users Based on Interest
We also realized that, given the frequency of our email sequence, it would have been nice to give users a chance to opt out of the pre-launch sequence but remain on our list. We had a few unsubscribes that we might not have had otherwise had we done this, but having said that, it meant that we also removed leads that weren’t a good fit for Drip, to begin with.
Writing a book, or even co-writing a book, for that matter, is an arduous and at times, challenging process. But like any worthwhile goal, it’s also a rewarding experience—if you follow it through to the end.
To repeat our earlier goal, our vision, with our book, was to write a THE go-to marketing resource for e-commerce marketers to refer to again and again for years to come.
We hope we’ve done that.
Our new book, Built to Scale, is available to buy on our website now. To learn more, read this page.