My first book made nearly $250,000. Here's everything I did to make that happen (part 2)
I wrote the best-selling growth hacking book in the history of Kickstarter. Here's my FULL guide of every step I took to make that happen (part 2 of 3):
The above picture was taken halfway through launch day. Notice how mashed I am from jetlag and not sleeping, ha
Lesson 3: Caveat: No silver bullets
If you’re waiting for the “one strange trick” which set our campaign on fire, you’re not going to get it.
We didn’t create a fake Tinder profile as a girl in the San Francisco area, ask boys what they do for a living, and tell them they could become a startup millionaire if they bought this book
(Yes, many tech startups have done variations of this dastardly “hack” lmao).
We had a slow, steady, logical campaign hitting up each of our networks and bringing them into the pre-launch community (the queue).
I’ve been telling people for a while now that growing your personal network on Twitter, LinkedIn, email list, and Facebook in particular (your personal Facebook, not a company one) is so valuable.
I’d never sold a product through my network before, but had been growing my community aggressively for the last year.
Honestly, it wasn’t calculated:
It’s a no-brainer that your digital rolodex is a key asset.
Once you have the contacts, direct marketing is the key here:
Let every single person in your network know what you’re doing and when it’s coming out.
The WORST thing you could do is send one tweet or one Facebook post and expect everyone to see it.
Most people don’t see most posts.
Lesson 4: Pre-launch campaign
Jeff Walker helped invent “drip-feed email marketing” (or “Product Launch Formula) a few years back, and I’ve still never found a better way to warm an audience up pre-launch.
It goes like this:
Send three emails/messages to your community before you launch.
The first is all about why you’re launching this product- i.e. what it means to you, how it will benefit them, etc.
The second is what the product is, i.e. diving deep into it’s features, and the final email is how they can purchase it, i.e. the release date is coming up in a few days. here’s how you can purchase it.
His book dives into this in a lot of detail, and is well worth reading.
So we used this format to keep our community informed, as well as the emails to everyone in the pre-launch queue.
The amount of invites went up after every email.
We had no expectations that people would naturally be sharing- people need to be prompted.
Seeing that, we decided to set up a Thunderclap for the day the Kickstarter launched, and supposedly its reach was about 1 million people.
(2023 update: Thunderclap shut down: It used to allow you to have people pre-load up tweets and Facebook posts then it automagically releases every post in the same minute, causing a “thunderclap” across social media. there are alternatives out there)
As we mentioned before, this whole campaign was very last minute, so we actually only invited people to join the thunderclap with 24 hours notice, and mainly to our close network.
(So again, think what you can do with proper preparation).
I also gave one growth hacking talk in London two weeks before and two talks in Canada the week before launch, to capture emails and get people hyped about the forthcoming launch.
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Lesson 5: Sleepless in San Francisco
We made $10,000 in the first four hours.
We had a following which was roughly 50% UK and 50% America, so we launched at 2pm UK time, which meant New York could jump on it at the same time, then L.A. would join in three hours later and the party would be rocking.
I had to get up SO EARLY in San Francisco to get this going but it worked.
Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin status update that we’re live, immediate replies and troubleshooting.
Thunderclap (as mentioned above, many people posting about the Kickstarter at the same time)
Tweets going out once every 30 minutes per Twitter account, either to the Kickstarter, or content or podcasts about the Kickstarter.
If a tweet isn’t seen in the first 17 minutes, it will likely never get seen, so keeping a consistent flow of tweets will mean a consistent flow of traffic to the landing page. There’s not much better than consistent, targeted traffic when you’re marketing something. (2023 update: This caused many people to unfollow me. But I wanted them book sales so I went for it haha)
Posting to key Facebook groups & Reddit.
While I posted in some key Facebook groups, my book co-author Austen wrote a “how we hit our target in four hours” post which made it to the top of r/startups and r/entrepreneur on Reddit, and although the point wasn’t just to promote the product it drove a heap of traffic, discussion, and…some sales :)
There’s a slight misconception on what growth hacking is, which people discussed in the Reddit comments.
Growth hacking is often just solid, scalable direct marketing executed in a logical way.
In terms of hyping up the pre-launch community, we had given everyone who joined the queue a free chapter to whet their appetite
- A movie director used this strategy to get over 200,000 views on his trailer on YouTube.
When you give away a sample of what you’re doing and it’s good, you don’t have to ask them to come over and try your food
- They’ll turn up with a knife and fork on opening day.
On a side note: no sleeping for more than four hours in a row for the first four days.
I bought a week’s worth of food and pretty much didn’t leave my apartment in San Francisco until I left to give a talk in Dallas.
It’s round-the-clock replying to everyone who pledged, questions from all over the world about different pledge levels, and continuing to update your community.
On the second day, I did an AMA (Ask me anything) with #TechLondon, one of the busiest slack groups in the world.
After that I wolfed down breakfast and did a webinar with Startup Socials.
After that I took a nap for 45 minutes then did a podcast with “The App guy”. The second day was monumental in sales also ($8,000-ish).
If we had more time to prepare and had lined up more days like this, the numbers would’ve been bigger, but again we kind of did this on a whim at the last minute.
Lesson 6: Bookless book tour/launch party brings the internet to real-life
I gave talks in Dallas, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, having previously spoken in Vancouver and Victoria in Canada, and a pre-launch party in London in the pre-campaign.
Planes from city to city cost around $250 each, so you soon make that back with more on top with just a few sales if you can speak to 50+ people in the room, as well as growing your personal network/email list.
At the time of writing this article, I believed that public speaking was one of the best ways to make a real connection and begin a sales process with multiple people at once, particularly if you’re selling a high value item (like consulting, the main product my company sold at the time).
We had multiple packages in the Kickstarter which were hundreds of dollars also.
If you don’t know how to start public speaking, do the following:
Search your niche/keywords for every meetup/event on Meetup and Eventbrite, and any meetup Facebook groups. Find anything that looks active/has a lot of members/people attending
Message all the event owners through these platforms something like the following: “Hey, your meetup looks great. I give a talk on the 10 things everyone gets wrong in our industry/10 ways to get better at what you’re doing in our industry (insert catchy title herE)”, and I’d love to come and give a talk at your event.
I will invite my network to attend. Can I come and give my talk at one of your forthcoming events?
Tweet all the event owners at the same time “Just emailed you through Eventbrite/Meetup regarding your event. Hope to hear from you soon!” which will send them over to the page if they didn’t receive it.
About 25% of *active* meetups/events will reply positively and you’re off to the races.
Always mention that you’re looking to give more talks and the audience will help you out by recommending you to others.
As for the talk, at a basic level just write down everything you want to say on the slides if you don’t think you’ll remember it or are super nervous.
Then just riff around it.
Give away more secrets and value than you’re comfortable with- people will appreciate it, recommend you to others, and even those who could take your info and use it tend to be too lazy and will hire you/buy the book to get one of their staff to implement it.
Put your Twitter handle in the corner of every slide and have an intern collate all the positive tweets people write while watching you- killer social proof to get you better talks in the future
Have your email on the last slide if people want your slides.
Now you have their emails to contact them, if you didn’t get them already from the Eventbrite signup.
Those emails are handy when you have a book to promote! :-)
(I wrote an updated version of the above article here):
Below: A list of some of the top referrers, and the £ amount they made us
Lesson 7: Alongside solid methods, have some moon shots too
Marketing is all about trying new things.
The problem with tapping your own community is there’ll always be a limit.
I tried a few different things as experiments.
I went on four or five different podcasts, and could see from the analytics that a couple of them brought some sales, so it’s likely if I had done more there would have been more sales.
I was interviewed on TV/Radio in Los Angeles which was difficult to track but went out to a huge number of people.
Maybe it caused a bump for those few days?
We have so many sales each day & so many sales from that mysterious *direct traffic no referrer information* makes it’s difficult to tell.
We also got into as many peoples’ mailouts as possible- anyone who had a mailout which reached entrepreneurs/founders and was in my close network we reached out to.
This brought some traffic and sales.
For those who didn’t have a mailing list, we asked for social shoutouts.
No one of these methods brought a considerable spike, but as an aggregate they were all worth doing, in the spirit of HUSTLE.
Lesson 8: Introducing the one-person mailout
One growth hack we utilised which was extremely manual was one of our secret weapons.
We emailed people who had seen me talk, told them where they could see me talk for free, and let them know the book was out.
This took a lot of time.
Traditional thoughts would have been to bung them all in one mailout and be done with it, but guess what- people are wise to that and your engagement rate will be close to zero. (2023 update: In 2016 there were less off the shelf softwares to do this easily, and I personalised as many emails as I could)
We always ended every email by asking if there’s anything we can do for them or any marketing problem they’re having.
My email got comically blocked up the first few times I did this, with person after person getting free consultancy from me for their companies.
But because there was no mailing list, we landed front and centre in their inbox (whatever you do, you’re likely to end up in the promotions tab on Gmail if you’re sending to a lot of people unless you’re some sort of email ninja who knows every hack necessary, i.e. not the majority of us).
As a side note, Labelizer was AMAZING for tagging groups of emails that you can then share with other members of staff, i.e. you don’t want to give team members or interns access to all of your emails for data security reasons, but obviously you shouldn’t be spending time on manual tasks, so this allows you to effortlessly tag different groups of people and have someone else reach out to them.
TOMORROW: (The final part) Starting an Indiegogo after the Kickstarter, and how we doubled our sales AFTER all crowdfunding was finished :)
Talking of books…
My Chat-GPT book launches on Saturday!
My first book is *still* the best-ever selling growth hacking book on Kickstarter, eventually doing a little under $250,000 in sales.
My second book made $10,000 in it’s first hour.
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It will only be given to paid subscribers.
It will be a short, actionable guide on how to make money from Chat-GPT.
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