Back when I was a songwriter, fans of my music – specifically, women – asked the same questions after every show:
How did you do it? How do you follow your dreams? How do you live your bliss?
Answers quickly outgrew the post-show chat. There was enough to easily fill three whole days… so I decided to start offering retreats on the topic. Just because.
I held the events at a retreat center just outside of Asheville, where I live. (Bonus: I didn’t have to go on tour to make money. Yay!)
But I’d never “launched” or “offered” anything before. Contact with my list had just been about shows and performance dates. I’d literally just email my tiny list and say, “Here are my show dates.”
Offering my retreats taught me how to “launch.” And I’m grateful I learned how to do this before launching became a big major, crazy, online dealio that makes many people tear their hair out!
Now, most launch gurus will tell you NOT to launch to a small list. Anything under 1,000, they’ll tell you, don’t bother.
With all due respect… Those gurus are wrong.
Though I have almost 50,000 on my list now, back then I had WAY less than 1,000…
And I SOLD OUT three to five retreats EVERY YEAR, using very simple and authentic email marketing and sales pages.
No big deal… but very big income. (Again: without touring. This was my favorite part!)
I say: You have to start somewhere! Start small!
If you want to launch something to a small list, here are the five strategies I used to sell out my retreats:
1 – Outline your offer
I know this sounds obvious – but you have to know what the heck you’re offering!
Meaning, every single detail…
How many days? Where?
Or: How many weeks? How delivered?
Slap a giant sticky note on the wall, and spend an hour hashing out the basics.
It’s amazing how many people don’t do this part. They just “put it out there,” and their prospective customers end up confused.
Remember: A confused mind never buys.
Once the offer is crystal clear, write it out in detail – so YOU know exactly what it is you are selling.
Then, price it. (Yes, this is sometimes the hardest part. I remember the day I finally tripled the prices on my retreats -I was shaking!)
2 – Schedule your launch time
Plan the timing of your campaign, in advance. Choose the exact days emails will go out.
I recommend, at minimum, 4 emails over 10 days.
It really depends on HOW small your list is, and what the typical response is.
Typically, response percentages are larger with small lists, so pay attention to the open rate you’re getting (and the questions that arise from your peeps) and adjust your emails accordingly.
3 – Create an email sequence
Write out the email sequence in advance.
Now, the temptation is to write a series of announcement emails. The kind that basically say: “Come to my retreat!”
Resist the urge! Put more thought and creativity into your emails… People love stories and emotions and data… They will respond to this in your emails.
For me, the best responses came when my emails focused on the WHY of my retreats.
So at least one email was about following your dreams, and shared a piece of my own story.
And THEN I would introduce the retreat.
I’d let them know space was limited because it was – and because this creates a sense of urgency that makes people take action.
The last emails in the sequence were more of the final-announcements/doors-closing-type emails. (Hey, they have a place, too. But don’t START there.)
Begin your sequence by anchoring people in the reason WHY they’d even want what you offer.
4 – Write a sales page
Before you send out a single email, write your sales page or letter.
I believe EVERY business owner should write a sales letter about ANYTHING they sell. Even if they are not a writer. (Especially if they’re not!)
Because the process of writing a sales letter teaches you the VALUE of what you sell. It locks it in. It’s not just “out there.”
You begin to see it, own it, and CLAIM it.
You can articulate the value of what you do.
Here’s a great book on how to write a sales letter.
The sales letter is what you’ll send when people ask for more information. (See #5). At first, I replied with the letters as pdf attachments. Later on, I created actual web pages. Either way works.
5 – Call to Action = “Hit reply”
My favorite CTA for small lists is simply this:
“Hit reply to get more info.”
Now, if your list is 5,000+ and you don’t have a customer service person on board, then you don’t want to do this. You’d create a sales page where people click a link to register.
But here’s why I like “Hit reply”: when someone replies, they’re telling you that they’re interested.
They’re starting a conversation. You have permission to check in with them if you don’t hear back.
If they simply click a link, sure, you can track that. But then you become that creepy stalker person when you write them and say, “Hey I noticed you clicked the link but didn’t do anything else. Do you want to come to my retreat or not?”
Don’t be a creepy stalker person.
Just tell people to hit reply – and then field the emails that come in.
(Plus you get the added benefit of learning the questions people have – which could become the very last email in your sequence!)
The key thing about launching to a small list is to just DO it.
The first time is always the freakiest. Every time after gets a little easier. And you realize that launching an offer or product or service or retreat is actually the ultimate service to your clients.
Your list will thank you for stepping up to this new, higher level!