Joe and I recently went through a full-on launch of IntelliTheme that included hundreds of thousands of emails going out, more than 1,000 sales, and nearly $50K in gross revenue in one week.
It’s been an amazing experience and now that it’s over, I’d like to share with you a behind-the-scenes look at exactly how it all went down.
True to form, we won’t be holding anything back. We’ll share our costs, revenue, and our experience. (the good and the bad) We’re pulling back the kimono and giving you a peek with the hope that this will provide you some tips you can use as you continue to grow your online business.
We’ll be putting all of our learning experiences here in a Product Launch Checklist we’ll be releasing soon. If you’d like a free copy, sign up with your email below! (Don’t worry…if you’re already on our email list you’ll get a copy too!)
Now…on to the details!
Investigating Our Options
Joe and I released IntelliTheme publicly back in November, 2012. We sent out an email to our list, put the blog post up, and sold some copies. We didn’t do much to massively promote the theme at that time. Our thought was that we’d make our money back on the theme internally and any additional sales would just be gravy for us.
We actually considered giving the theme away for free at one point, but this was an actual product that improved profits both for ourselves and the customers who used it. Plus, we’d spent quite a bit of time/energy on it!
We ended up selling around 98 copies via Clickbank and 35-40 copies directly via PayPal. We’d spent approximately $7,000 developing IntelliTheme and had earned around $6,000 from sales. We were still a bit underwater from a pure cost/profit standpoint.
Still, these sales were enough for us to prove the concept and the feedback we were getting from the buyers was incredibly helpful. The problem was that 140ish users for a product like this is fairly underwhelming…we needed a way to get this out to the public.
We knew that Spencer from NichePursuits.com had just recently been promoting the hell out of LongTailPro. Everywhere we looked we were seeing new reviews and videos promoting the product.
We reached out to him in January to find out a bit more and he enthusiastically recommended we talk to Mark Thompson. He’d been working with Mark on a JV partnership promoting LongTailPro through Mark’s affiliate network and the results had been incredible. He’s done so many sales in recent months that he might have a good shot at competing with Market Samurai…or at least snatching up a decent size of the KW research market! Joe and I had a phone call with Mark and he laid out the gist of what he does.
Effectively, he’s a Joint Venture (JV) affiliate manager. His job consists of finding useful and interesting products, testing them out, and then helping to promote them to his list of hundreds of affiliates through which the products get sold. He gets the product owners to offer discounts, puts together the packages and promotes to his affiliates, and shares in the profits received through that promotion.
Our Joint Venture Agreement And Splits
Single License – $17
Unlimited License – $27-$37 (dime sale…goes up after X amount of sales)
One-Time Offer #1 – Developer/Resale license – Buyers can use the theme for clients and can sell the sites with the theme included. (Also included was a PDF and video series from us on how to sell sites for a profit)
One-Time Offer #2 – Niche Packs – Offer from Mark
Affiliates: 60% of site licenses, 50% of OTO’s
Mark: 20% of site licenses, 25% of OTO’s
Us: 20% of site licenses, 25% of OTO’s
Before getting on the call I had some reservations about the approach. I was explicit in explaining marketing strategies we thought were acceptable and not acceptable. I thought I’d get some pushback from Mark, but he was in total agreement and told us his job was to sell within our boundaries. We wanted to discuss things privately after the call and Mark told us he’d have a slot he could fit us into in April if we were interested.
Joe and I discussed our play here and it seemed like a no-brainer. Mark was throwing around some awfully large numbers on the call that seemed a bit unbelievable, but we realized that the majority of the “work” would be on his end anyway. If the project crashed and burned, it would be mostly his time, efforts, and energies wasted. In fairness, Mark told us he really couldn’t say definitively how our launch would go, but we did ask him to share some previous launches he’d done and the numbers were pretty astounding.
Other than creating OTO #1, Mark really took care of everything for us. All sales copy, graphics, email swipes, setting up affiliates, building pre-launch interest, etc…that was all him.
Honestly, I didn’t think much of Mark or the launch through March. He was a nice enough guy, but I just didn’t think it likely that there would be much of a payoff. I figured even if he only brought an additional 80-100 sales in at least we’d get the additional exposure and buyers, even if we didn’t make much money out of the deal.
It was a bit of a mess. We’d just re-branded our business from AdSense Flippers to Empire Flippers. Many of the sales materials and information that was going out online was still mentioning the old AdSense Flippers brand and we had to try to adjust the best we could for Mark and the affiliates. (Sorry guys!)
In early April, we had our mastermind here in Davao and they beat us up a bit for not knowing more of the details. I’d asked Mark about it a few times throughout the process, but I wasn’t as clear on some of the details as I probably should have been. This put us at risk in a few areas:
- Brand Management – We began to notice a TON of crappy content out there about Intellitheme. Some of it was spun, put up on Web 2.0 feeder sites, article directories, etc. Would this have a negative impact? What kinds of promises were being made to new customers?
- Payments – Up until launch, we weren’t exactly sure how payments were to be processed and who they would go through. We were using JVZoo for affiliates and ForumSpecialOffers for our sales page, but Mark had said something about using his Paypal (with PayPal’s “adaptive payments”) to handle the orders.
- Refunds – Some of the trusted JV’s are on instant payments/commissions. Doesn’t that leave us ripe for refunds? If we’re paying the affiliates immediately, are we left holding the bag on refunds?
As we got closer to the launch date, I could see the buzz online starting to pick up. I did a few interviews both via email and video right before the launch. Joe and I had to scramble to put together our PDF and video for OTO #1. I collected all of our content around the web regarding selling sites, rewrote and formatted it, and had it made into a nice PDF. We recorded some audio and covered some of our best tips regarding site sales and had our team create the videos around the audio.
One of the most fun things we were able to do was create the launch video. We ended up not using it on the launch page for the promotion, but it’s something we can now use on the site:
We originally looked at some of the done-for-you services that provide launch videos, but they were a bit pricey and more than we wanted to spend on marketing materials. We ended up having our newest Intern (Erik) coordinate with our team to get the video completed. Here’s our cost breakdown:
- Script – I spent about 10-12 hours putting together the script for the project – Free
- Voiceover – We used Voice123.com to get a professional voiceover done for the video – $150
- PowToon Video Service – A great service for making cartoon-ish videos and animation – $19
- Custom Graphics And Images – We had one of our guys spend two days creating the custom images and graphics – $30
- Intern Erik – He spent two days putting together the voiceover and images from our team – $200
My time isn’t actually free, but aside from that we were able to put the video together for under $400 in total spend…not bad!
Speaking of costs, Joe was pushing to get Version 2.0 before launch. We were using a great new developer, but he’s expensive…we ended up spending another $3,000 to add the additional features we wanted for IntelliTheme. (We didn’t get this done before launch, unfortunately…we had to push it back so that we had time to test. We should have an automatic update out in the next couple of weeks.!)
Total Cost Through Version 2.0: $10,400 approximately
As soon as the sales page went live, things were NUTS! My worries about payments and whether Mark would come through were (thankfully) unfounded.
Joe and I were both bombarded with PayPal emails…we were selling several copies per minute right after launch.
Thankfully, Joe and I were both on with two support staff to handle all of the emails, questions, support tickets, and comments that were rolling in.
Total Sales 24 Hours:
Unlimited License Sales 24 hours:
“Almost $24K in only 24 hours! We were looking at a 3.19% conversion rate and $0.88 per visitor.” – Click To Tweet!
We asked Mark about these numbers and he said they were a little low. After the first day he mentioned that we’d probably be at around $50K – $60K in total sales when the week’s finished…not too shabby.
By the second day, we realized we were in the top spot for JVZoo sales on both our first and second day:
This led to us being featured by JVZoo in the email out to their list over the weekend. It seemed odd to us that Mark wanted to launch on a Friday (April 12th) but, (again) it turns out he knew what he was doing.! Launching on a Friday with JVZoo put us in a prime position to be the top seller for the day and got us on an email out to all of their subscribers and affiliates.
From the start, we weren’t planning on making much money on the launch. With a discounted product, giving 60% to affiliates, 20% to Mark, etc. that really didn’t leave a ton of cash for us.
Still…we know that if we could increase our exposure and get our product and brand out to a new audience, they would find opportunities later to purchase products, buy and sell websites, etc. This strategy seemed to be working out well, based on our email signups from Day 2:
We were extremely happy with how the launch was going after the first day, but there were a few challenges that we were forced to deal with. Some of them were expected, while others were completely foreign to us.
We were beat up a bit (rightfully so) about our sales process being a little confusing. Potential buyers weren’t sure whether they needed the single site license, multi-site license, etc. One of the worst mistakes we made was not explaining the OTO #1 very well. Buyers weren’t sure exactly what the developer/reseller license was for. We had to explain through support tickets, emails, and comments that it was the ability to sell site(s) with the theme and/or use the theme for clients. I’m sure this cost us some sales. :-(
Surprisingly, we had quite a few support tickets from buyers who thought this was a plugin and not a theme. They tried to add it to their current sites as a plugin and were confused as to why it wasn’t working. This was easy to explain and fix, but probably hurt their expectations when they realized they couldn’t use it on their current theme.
We knew this was pretty salesy for us, but it was a bit disheartening to read some of the criticism from our supporters. Here’s an example of some of the emails we received:
And support tickets:
Ouch! We were able to resolve most of the complaints or issues, but the sentiment still rang true. For every email or support ticket we received, there were probably another 10+ buyers that thought it and just didn’t say anything.
Ultimately, we felt that the trade-off between having a promotional launch and adding a ton of new buyers and audience was worth it. We were able to help everyone that was struggling to get access relatively quickly and you can always unsubscribe from emails, eh?
Cracked Software Downloads
We made a decision during development that we wouldn’t spend a ton of energy trying to lockdown the software. We thought it was more important to get a working copy out, test the market, and add some of the really cool features and functionality down the road.
While we avoided showing up on any of the free download sites previously, we found our theme available for free from those sites within 24 hours of launch this time around. :-( This is something we definitely expected, but we were a bit surprised when it was the reason for a buyer’s cancellation/refund. Stating something about not being able to “in good conscience” pay for something that was stolen and distributed for free. WTF?
It’s not so bad, though. Future updates and features will effectively lock out unauthorized copies, keeping the theme from working on those particular sites. They can avoid the updates of course…but they’ll eventually find the theme not working very well and probably be forced purchase from us anyway.
Haters And Trolls
We’ve been pretty lucky in that we’ve largely been hater/troll free since we launched our site. Some have raised concerns (whether niche sites are really worth it, maybe we should be building authority sites instead, etc.) but most of them have provided some helpful/useful criticism for us and our audience.
This…well…this was a bit different!
A couple of guys were hammering us in the sales thread. We responded to legitimate concerns or complaints but avoided the nastier comments. Most of the trolls and haters tended to comment on the “ugliness” of the theme. They’re right, of course, the theme is a bit ugly. For those of you who’ve been with us a while you’ll know that we tested the design pretty heavily. As much I wish the better looking themes converted well that just isn’t the case.
We also had a few hate emails and one guy in particular that spammed our comment form on IntelliTheme with something like, “Mark Is A Miserable F#@(ING SPAMMER!!!” over and over again. What a sweetheart he was! :-)
As you can see, it wasn’t all sunshine and PayPal payments and there were definitely a few bumps in the road. - Click To Tweet!
I do wish we would have been more clear regarding the product offer, but the rest we can deal with!
We were very happy with how everything played out and Mark certainly delivered the affiliates and sales. Here’s a look at all of the products sold by the end of the week:
And here’s a look at our Unlimited License sales:
Here’s a breakdown:
- 1,130 Total Sales/Licenses
- $47,244.80 Gross Sales
- $11,000 Development Costs (approximate)
- $400 Marketing Costs (approximate)
- $1,275 Affiliate Bonus Costs (Split with Mark)
And here’s our revenue from this promotion:
- $11,811.2 – Revenue from affiliates (Approximate – $47,244.80 X 25% for affiliate license sales, OTO’s, and unaffiliated purchases)
- $4,840.54 – Our commission on affiliate sales
- So…$7,000 (previous sales) + $11,811.20 + $4,840.54 =
- Our Total Revenue: $23,651.74
- Our Total Expenses: $12,037.50
- Our Net Profit: $11,614.24 (approximately)
On the surface, it seems like a hell of a lot of work for $11K net…even if was only one week! Still, a few things to consider:
- This doesn’t account for the additional $$ made on our own sites
- The brand exposure for Empire Flippers
- The new audience and email signups we’ve picked up that may purchase our other products/services, buy/sell websites, etc.
We’re really happy with the results and appreciative to Mark for taking on this project. We’ve had some great feedback and success stories from some of the new users which is so exciting to hear. We’ve got some pretty major plans for IntelliTheme through the rest of the year and can’t wait to start kicking out the latest versions and updates!
We’re working on a product launch checklist that will include all of our lessons learned during the launch of IntelliTheme. Want a copy? Sign up here!
We’re planning to have Mark Thompson join us on a future podcast episode. He has a really interesting job and he’s done some major launches – We’re excited to have him share with you exactly how he’s done it.
Anything we missed that you would have liked to see included? Do you think this was a worthwhile project based on the final numbers? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!