#191: Failed Digital Course Launch. Here’s What to do Next


Have you ever found yourself getting jealous as you read through social media because you want to post on social media that your course launch was a rousing success? You want to shout from the rooftops that you didn’t just get one sale, but you in fact got more than you planned for AND your audience has grown exponentially.

You’ve seen the posts that share that exact news, but when it comes to your launch all you can post is that you had low or no sales after months of effort, a course that is detailed and packed with valuable information, and you even spent money on ads that ended up costing you instead of adding to your bank account.

Now, what? Well there are two paths forward. You can throw your arms in the air, proclaim it to be unfair or you can take 5 steps that will help you get back on the horse AND have a different outcome with your next launch.

Which will it be? Continued effort to get to the rewards you have on your vision board, or head back to the 9-to-5 job that left you feeling unfulfilled?

What Happens Now?

All too often I hear and see course creators sharing that they have finally launched their course. They created the email sequences, the lead magnets, the webinar or challenge, the sales page, the welcome emails, they’ve triple checked that Stripe is correctly connected to their sales page and then nothing.

Nothing happens. No clicks, no sales, no new students.

Despite having followed everything on the to do list that leads to a profitable digital course business, the profit and loss statement is still trending more steadily toward loss than profit.

It is heartbreaking because we’ve put our heart and soul into the course, the content, the materials, and every little piece of the business only to find out that something isn’t working and there isn’t a clear sign pointing to what piece isn’t working optimally.

It is common to go into a first, second, or even third launch of a digital course and expect six figure success. We see gurus sharing their 7 figure course launch results, we see million dollar business owners sharing that they hit that 6 figure course launch target and even blew past it.

It leads digital course creators to adopt the belief that six figure course launches are the norm. Because those 6, 7, and 8-figure business owners had massive ad budgets we see their businesses daily, up close and personal. We are inundated with their success and their positive energy. It is easy to understand why we also adopt these launch beliefs.

But the truth is that there are far more digital course creators who have zero sales during their first, second, third, and even fourth launches. I mean, if every course creator were successful with a six figure launch right out of the gate then we wouldn’t need memberships that support course creators to figure out why their launch didn’t quite work or how to grow their next launch so that it worked better.

We have to take a closer look at launches and what creates success, what creates a launch with zero sales, and what is completely out of our control.

I remember my first launch, I was so excited. I had over 20 people with confirmed interest. I had heard that the first $1000 in business was the hardest and after that it got easier. I launched my first offer and had 4 people join me. I hit that $1000 mark and rejoiced. After all, the first $1000 was the hardest and I got there in my first few weeks in business. I thought the hardest part was over. Let me tell you, it wasn’t.

That second launch added one person, and the third launch was a complete flop with zero sales. My launches were getting more refined, my process smoother, my offer more aligned with what my audience wanted, and my confidence was higher. I felt comfortable with the process and really excited. The more I researched, the more I read and listened, the more I realized that this wasn’t unusual. In fact, the first launch is often filled with people who know us, they are ready for our offer, and eager to say yes. It is the second and third launches that are harder.

There are 5 keys to stopping the momentum of a failed launch and turning it toward the profit side of the profit and loss sheet.


# 1: Take Some Time

I’m about to share with you the very first step that I encourage even the most dedicated and fast-moving entrepreneur to take after a failed (or successful launch) because it is critical to all of the remaining steps.

Most people, when they have a failed launch fall into one of two groups. The first group wallows for months and mourns the failed launch without making a plan for moving forward. The second group of entrepreneurs goes gung ho toward the next launch and pretty much steam rolls through the failed launch.

If you have watched Gilmore Girls, you might remember when Rory and Dean broke up the first time and Rory just plowed through life. She went to a school party, she wanted to go shopping with her mom for all kinds of things for the house, and generally stuffed her emotions into a tupperware container and sealed the lid on them. Then after a few days, her mom, Lorelei came home to Rory on the couch with a tub of ice cream and Rory said that she was ready to wallow. She was releasing the emotions and feeling them fully.

If you take Rory’s first approach and just plow through the feelings and emotions, there will be very little growth and introspection that happens. Without that introspection, looking within, and reflection on the launch and your business there isn’t much growth that is likely to happen. Without that growth, your next launch will likely come to the same conclusion as the first launch – zero sales.

If you take Rory’s second approach and grab the tub of ice cream and settle into the couch to wallow, you risk putting your business on the back burner and getting stuck in the wallowing.

So what is the solution? The middle ground. Wallow and then move forward.

You need to take some time to wallow, feel your emotions, let them out. It is ok to be disappointed, angry, frustrated, scared, sad, and cranky. You put a lot of effort into the process and something didn’t work. You don’t have to hide that. In fact, when you take time to process those emotions, it can have a positive impact on your mindset and even your creativity that leads to taking action and trying again.

I’m sure you can think of a time when you tried something that didn’t work and when you took a walk around the block, you came up with an idea that solved the problem. We need some time and space to think clearly and creatively. And if we stuff our emotions down without expressing them they are bottled up, they act just like a dam acts in a river. It stops up the progress. When a dam breaks, there are often catastrophic results. Flooding, injury, infrastructure damage.

Our business requires that we master our mindset and part of that mastery comes from expressing and managing our emotions in a healthy way. If you do this, the creativity, adjustments, and next steps become much more clear.

This is so critical to business longevity and avoiding burnout. Now if mastering your emotions in the wake of a business setback is new to you or you’d like to be more effective in the future, be sure to stick around to the end of today’s episode. I’ll be sharing my top 3 reflection questions in the Sixty-Second solution to make emotion mastery just a bit easier.

#2: Look at Your Audience

When you have managed your emotions and done just a bit of wallowing, you can take the next step to adjusting for your next launch. I’m about to highlight one of the biggest reasons that launches fail. Most digital course creators become so immersed in their course and their expertise that it is difficult to take a step back and really understand their audience.

I’ve seen countless course launches where the audience isn’t aligned with the course offer. This might be because your audience includes friends and family who, while supportive, are not ever going to buy the course you’ve created, it could be because you don’t have a large enough audience of qualified buyers. People who are ready, able, and willing to invest in your course and in themselves.

So often, when we look at an email list it simply doesn’t have enough people on it. If we are thinking about a 5% conversion rate from the email list to your paid offer, and you have 20 people on your email list, that is 1 person who will purchase. If you want a launch with 100 sales, it stands to reason that you need 2000 people, if we are sticking with a 5% conversion rate from list to course.

Now when we are talking about a first launch, you likely have a hotter and more engaged group of people you are selling to. It is a little easier to make those initial sales. Remember my first $1000? Those folks were ready, willing, and able to make an investment. With second and third launches and even beyond that, our list will likely be colder. By colder I mean that these people are likely newer to our world, we haven’t built up as much trust with them, and they might not be ready yet to say yes to our course offer, even if the offer and everything else is perfect. This is even more true if you run ads. It is also possible if you ran ads that the audience you created for your launch was mis-aligned with your offer and once that alignment is fixed your next launch can be successful.

When you take the time to look at your audience, you are not only going to get into better alignment, you learn about your audience, and be able to create realistic expectations for your launch.

Skipping this analysis of your audience and a deep dive into your numbers around your audience before launching again is the equivalent of Groundhog Day. In all likelihood you’ll re-launch and get the same results.

#3: Review Your Offer

A failed launch is no fun, but a solid post-analysis can make a world of difference. Most people automatically assume that one or a few things are off with their launch. One of the most common questions that comes to mind is whether or not the course, membership, or offer is “good”. It is very unlikely that your offer doesn’t have amazing content, bonuses that will help your students, and support that will help them succeed.

What does “good” mean? As a scientist who has conducted research over the years, I’ll be the first to tell you that we need to define, “good” if that is going to be a measure that we use for our launch.

Without a definition you can adjust things and tweak this and that without ever making progress. Instead, what if we define a good offer as one that,

  • Is based on what the potential student needs?
  • Clearly states the benefits of the course or offer in a way that has someone raising their hand and saying yes!
  • Invites the potential student to be the hero of the story.

All three of these come back to a foundation of messaging that is engaging and hits home for the audience you are launching to. I’ll never forget the day when I was on a call with a client and they said that they wanted to be the Go-To Resource in their industry. I routinely talk about my clients being the Go-To Resource and this client was using this in their everyday language.

We want our audience to resonate with, and begin to use, the language of our messaging. We want them to raise their hand and say yes! It doesn’t even really matter what name you assign that hero, it is the explanation, the stories, the examples that make them sit up taller and listen more intently. We want them to identify with your messaging.

Without messaging that resonates and calls out their pain, their needs, their struggles and successes, they won’t see themselves being reflected. We want our messaging to act like a mirror and not a funhouse mirror, but one that accurately reflects who they are and who they want to be even before they can put that into words for themself.

#4: Assess Your Emails

With some of the hard concepts tackled post-launch, like taking time to reset, looking at your audience, and your offer we can look at some of the easier things to work on. Again, these will all require mindset mastery, a willingness to shift what we have done to this point, and being ok with shifting your beliefs and perspective on what will be needed. If you find that your emotions are near the surface and you are constantly feeling a push to say, “no” or “but”, stick around to the end of today’s episode and I’ll help you walk through your emotions with an eye toward moving forward.

Looking at your emails post-launch can be filled with trepidation because we often have strong beliefs around the emails that we send. They are personal, they represent our ideas on the screen for people to consume, delete, hit spam, or say yes to.

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve likely sent an email but only after hovering over the send button for 5 minutes wondering if you could make it better. You’ve probably pulled back on sending another email so that you don’t risk annoying your audience, and then wondered if that one email would have made a difference.

We experience so much trepidation around emails. If you send emails that don’t make a clear offer, share the exact reasons why someone should say yes to your offer, and send enough emails to get noticed in a crowded inbox, you are likely limiting your launch success and revenue.

Spend some time going back through your email content, the metrics, and even how many emails you sent. I will tell you that you often need to send far more than you think you need to send. Emails need to highlight the importance of making a change, ie choosing your offer, and not making a change, ie continuing on as they have been.

#5: Revisit Your Launch Mechanism

We’ve been talking about failed launches and steps to take after experiencing a failed launch. Now a failed launch means something different to everyone. It might mean missing your sales goals by 10% and it could mean making no sales at all. Regardless of how you are defining an underperforming launch you want to take action to correct the issues so that you have a truly solid launch the next time.

I’m about to share with you our fifth and final thing to look at after your failed launch. With any launch it is key to look at the launch mechanism that you chose. Most people learn about one launch mechanism, like a webinar, and just run with it. The problem is that not all audiences will respond similarly to each launch mechanism. If you have an audience that absolutely loves a challenge, then consistently running webinars to launch your offer is going to result in lower sales. You have to look at what your audience prefers and adapt.

There are so many wonderful launch mechanisms out there that you can explore what works best for your audience. I watched a course creator recently share that he wasn’t going to run a live challenge anymore for his audience because they didn’t have time to show up live and interact. He is switching his approach to better fit the needs of his audience. This is key to launch success.


Action Item: Start Reflecting

We’ve talk about different facets of a launch that need to be examined when your sales goals are not met with a launch. Whether that is a launch of a course, membership, coaching program, or some other offer, we have to be objective and look at the data, look through the different pieces of the process and identify areas for improvement. I love to call this a process of trial and correction.

With each launch we will learn something and can correct our course based on the data that we receive. As you take action this week, what is one aspect of your launches that you can re-examine. You can, and should do this regardless of the success of your launches.


Become a Six Figure Course Creator

Today, we’ve been talking all about coming back from a failed launch to get different results. This is very much a strategic process, but if you’ll remember, we started with a more mindset based task.

Mindset is something that I’ve been managing in my own business, with my students, and in my own college courses for over 15 years as a psychology professor, mentor, and entrepreneur. Too often in the world, we are bombarded with learning solutions. Learn this and you’ll be able to do that. It puts us into a cycle of learning without taking action and often without recognizing the importance of mindset.

We can’t just rely on learning to get up to that six figure mark as a course creator. The books, podcasts, courses, and workshops get us partially there, probably about 10% of the way there, but the other 90% often comes down to mindset work through 1:1 support.

If you are listening today and realizing that you are ready to take the next steps in your business and get 1:1 customized, tailored help with building your digital course creation business, let’s have a talk. Send me a DM at DigitalCourseCreatorGuide on Instagram or Facebook and we will sit down to figure out the next right steps for you and your digital course business.

Now I know that not everyone is ready for a 1:1 Coach or mentor, but you might still have questions, need help getting unstuck, or just plotting out your next step. I’m here for that as well, because we all deserve to have support in our business. If you need a little extra support, I hold at least two slots each week for strategy calls that are designed to help you get unstuck and take action in your business. These are free, no obligation calls and you can schedule your call at coursecalls.com.

If you are ready to make the next 12 months THE year that you go from being an uncertain Course Creator to a Six Figure Course Creator, schedule a strategy call today. Again, the link to schedule is coursecalls.com. I’ll also pop that link in the show notes for you.


Sixty-Second Solution

We started out today by talking about mindset and that is where I want to wind back to as we wrap up this episode. Mindset is such an important part of a successful digital business, but often it gets pushed to the side as something that is fluff. When you experience a course launch it is easy to dive into the numbers and look for ways to improve. In fact, that is what most entrepreneurs do after a launch.

But if we just jump into the numbers, we aren’t going to see the growth that is plastered on our vision board. Becoming a six figure course creator won’t be a reality because mindset mastery is at the core and foundation of success. If you find that mindset is tricky to navigate and your emotions after a launch are pinballing all over. Take 15 minutes and reflect or journal on these three questions:

  1. What emotions would I like to set aside and what emotions would I like to lean into as I prepare to dissect my launch?
  2. What would it look like if my mindset didn’t try to sneak in and undermine my efforts?
  3. What is one affirmation, one quality that I adore about myself that I can put on a sticky note that I see each day?

Use these questions to start getting settled into your emotions, but in a way that allows for growth rather than chaos.

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