098: TECH for Online Program Pre-Launch

Today we are breaking down what it means to pre-launch or pre-sell your online program. We’re going to break down what needs to be in place for the pre-launch to be successful and the factors to consider when using this launch method.

Pre-launching or pre-selling an online program essentially means that you create your sales page and start receiving payments before the program content is complete. There are two primary reasons why businesses choose the pre-sell method which are:

  1. To validate the idea
  2. To raise funds to produce the product

And because there is an investment on the customer side of things, more often than not, pre-selling an online product requires one or more of these customer sets:

  • An established customer base asking for the product
  • Loyal followers on social media
  • Direct outreach to potential customers

And there are other customer bases too — but for now, these are the most likely who will be up for buying your online product before it’s complete.

For the rest of this episode, I assume that you know where your initial customers are going to come from and the work required to get them to the sales page… let’s get to what needs to be setup and what can wait.

The final action our customers are going to take is to go through the checkout process. Therefore, this is the most important element to have setup properly when you’re pre-selling. The checkout cart that I most highly recommend is ThriveCart… Episode 82 of the podcast was a deep dive into this robust platform.

For our purposes today, ThriveCart is where our customers are going to pay for this new online product.

They are going to be presented with the checkout page which you’ll want to fully build out. This includes:

  • A well defined product name
  • Price and payment options
  • A list of “what’s included”
  • An image or graphic representing the product
  • Your terms of service and refund policy

It doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be complete. And if you don’t know the full extent of what will be included in your product yet, ...and more! always works well.

After your customers pay for this pre-launch product, they will be directed to the thank you for purchasing page or another page of your choice. This page is likely the second most important pre-launch asset you can have.

This is where we set expectations, double down on our commitment to product creation and let them know how much we value them. This page is where you reassure your new customer that their success with this program is your utmost priority. I like to throw a video on this page because it adds a personal touch.

Right on the heels of the thank you page, there needs to also be a thank you email in addition to the payment receipt. They could be done as one single email customizing the ThriveCart receipt email or as two separate ones with the latter coming from your email marketing system.

I like to do two emails — ever so slightly customizing the ThriveCart one and then sending a more complete one from ActiveCampaign. So, yes, you will need to make sure that your cart is properly connected with your email marketing platform. And this is because we’ll be using that as the mechanism for keeping our pre-sell customers in the know as far as the progress of the program they have purchased.
So far: we have a place for our customers to purchase the product, a thank you page, a thank you email and hooked the purchase into our email marketing system.

But for most of us, that’s not enough — we need a sales page to help our customers see that this product is truly right for them at this stage in their life or business. The sales page is kinda like a cover letter on a resume. The resume can stand for itself but the cover letter gives the resume context and warmth.

It’s the same thing with the sales page.

Your sales page can be more simplified at the pre-launch stage than it will be during your public launch. The key elements of the sales page are the same as the checkout page, but usually it’s going to be more aesthetically pleasing.

I have three questions for you to ask yourself that can help you figure out if you need a sales page or just a checkout page:

  1. Is my customer interacting with me during the sales process? If so, then you might not need one. If they are not, then you probably want one.
  2. Is my audience already used to buying things online? If so, then your checkout page might be enough because they understand the process. If they are not, then the more we can warm them up to the idea of an online product, the more likely they will be to follow through and make the purchase.
  3. Is this product more than $100? If so, then a sales page is highly recommended. If it’s more than $500 then a sales page is absolutely necessary.

So, do we need anything else?

Well… not to make the sale but to efficiently create the product that we are preselling, then yes, we’ll want to have a few other tactical pieces in order.

The first is how we are going to ultimately deliver the online program.

  • If it’s a live video session based program, then we’ll be using Zoom to deliver it. And it’s time to get your Zoom Pro account squared away.
  • If it’s an online membership program or an online course, know what platform you’ll be using. I recommend either Thinkific or MemberVault… and if you want to know more about those platforms, I did mini-series on each of them earlier this year on the podcast.
  • If it’s a done with you or done for you type product, again, you’ll want to make sure you know how this program will be delivered.
  • If it’s being delivered via email, then your email marketing system is soon going to be your best friend!

The bottom line on this is that it’s super important that you’re clear how the product is being delivered so that you can refer to that in your language on the sales page, checkout page, thank you page and emails.

Next, what type of content are you going to be including in this program? Is it going to be video content? Is it going to be printable PDFs? Is it going to be fill-in-able PDFs? Is it going to be audio files?

What tools are you going to use to create the content? Does your chosen delivery platform include a mechanism for storing that content or do you need to source out Vimeo PRO or a cloud storage location?

One other thing that I would highly recommend getting in place is your pixels — this is going to vastly help your public marketing phase so the sooner you have your Facebook pixel installed in all the right places the happier your marketing team will be. This is most critical if you have an in person or offline established customer base that you want to start doing online business with.

And then we get into the bells and whistles side of things. What else can you throw into your online product to wow your customers, help them progress through the program and win? While it’s not necessary to have all this stuff figured out at the presale stage, it’s super helpful and can streamline the decisions that are coming next.

Are you wondering what doesn’t need to be in place since I’ve talked so much about what does need to be there…

  • You don’t need to have all your content created.
  • And you don’t need to have all your emails written.
  • And you don’t need to have your public launch marketing plan in place.
  • And you don’t need to have your customer service automated or a chat bot.
  • And you don’t need to even create your entire online product before letting your pre-launch or pre-sell customers gain access to the product.

What I mean by the last bullet point is that if you’re doing an online course or online membership, you can be two or three weeks ahead of your audience so that they get access to Week 1 content while you’re working on Week 4 content.

At this stage, your customers are going to people that already know you, already trust you and truly believe that you’re going to serve them right. Making the purchase experience smooth should be the primary focus.

I would love to support you during your pre-launch. Join us in the Expand Online Facebook group which you can access by going to techofbusiness.com/community/

And if you want any assistance with ThriveCart or any of the other tools we mentioned here, use any of the links below to get in touch!

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