I recently signed up for a free week of masterclasses about using LinkedIn to make sales.
Or more accurately, I opted into a launch.
Within the first few days I was assaulted by a shit ton of emails reminding me to attend the live training, asking me to join the Facebook group, making sure I watch the replays, and inviting me to enter a contest for a free audit…
Every time I sign up for something like this, I’m reminded of what’s wrong with launches.
Since 2014, I’ve been involved in the design, planning, and execution of more than 50 launches. As well as consulting hundreds of entrepreneurs with their launches.
One of the main reasons I started a minimalist biz was to never have to do a launch again. Unless I did it my way.
Not the way most launches are done.
For over 2 decades, the launch has been the sexy high-potential marketing activity of choice for many online businesses.
It all started with Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (PLF) in 2005.
Jeff is the self-proclaimed “pioneer innovator of online marketing launches.”
Pretty much anyone who has grown an online business by launching has followed PLF.
It doesn’t matter what the formula is, what matters is that at its core, it is a coercive container.
And nearly all launches are rooted in this formula.
How Launches are Coercive
“To coerce” is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
- to compel to an act or choice
- to achieve by force or threat
The launch container is set up to compel people to buy a high-priced product – usually $1000 or more.
Launching is forceful and pressure-filled. Pressure is applied to potential customers to make a decision based on false scarcity, unrepresentative social proof, and only being shown a small part of what actually happens after you buy.
It’s an onslaught of activities to compel people to purchase by using coercive tactics like:
- time-limited bonuses for ‘fast action takers’
- masterclasses for VIPs (aka those who paid for the privilege)
- countdown clocks
- copy that’s meant to inspire but actually serves to make you feel like you’re missing something, like you’re missing out
- testimonials that represent outliers and atypical results, don’t reflect reality but a specific, often not repeatable, point in time
- sales calls where you’ll be told if it’s not right for you (which almost never happens)
- longer payment plans (e.g. pay over 12 months) unveiled in the last few days
- false sense of what the program will be like because you often get more support and access to the business owner during the launch than you do in the actual program
- and other crappy things like this
What’s worse is that we’re more susceptible to these kinds of coercive tactics when we aren’t doing well. When we aren’t making enough money, when we’re feeling depressed, lonely, stuck etc.
Those millions of dollars that some launches bring in are in big part on the backs of people who can’t really afford the programs and won’t get what they need from them.
No matter how it’s rationalized, a launch is not in the best interest of the customer.
It’s all about the numbers. About getting as many people as possible into your program.
When it comes to providing services, it’s almost always better to devote your resources to fewer people and focus on giving them what they need to get results.
Launching is Not Sustainable (for most people)
Launches can also be coercive to business owners.
It can feel like you’re not a ‘real’ business unless you prove yourself with a splashy launch that shows the world you can do it.
It is not true that “if I can do it, you can too.”
Not everyone can sustainably do launches.
From working with many different founders, I’ve noticed how they show up and what matters most to those who keep launching.
It takes a lot of energy, risk-taking, endurance, and a particular kind of motivation.
The ambition required for this kind of model is neither good nor bad. It just is.
However, what people are willing to do, overlook, or blatantly perpetuate to reach their ambitions is a whole other thing.
I’d say that the majority of those 7 or 8-figure online businesses have used some shady psychological techniques to get there. Even if they tell themselves they haven’t.
I do believe that you can make a great living with your own business, and even grow it to 7 figures (if that’s what you want) without using the ‘tried and true’ (and ethically questionable) tactics that are all too common.
It will take longer. It will be a slower process. It will not look like you think it will.
But it has a better chance of long-term viability without burning out.
So never do launches?
We can rethink them and how we approach them.
I call them campaigns with my clients. It feels better.
My kind of campaign is a time-limited container so it still applies some pressure but it acknowledges this pressure with transparent communication.
There is always a way for people to opt out of the promotion.
It is set up to serve people better.
It’s not about getting as many people as possible into a program. It’s about getting a meaningful group to increase the odds that they’ll get what they need.
Here are some ways to re-evaluate launches:
- Don’t rely on them for the bulk of your revenue.
- Have a solid marketing and sales approach for consistent sales.
Launch when you think it will serve your potential customers best.
Sometimes bringing people together can help them assess how the program might help them – if done right.
- Know that you don’t have to do them to be a ‘real’ business.
- Consider the words you use in your marketing and communications.
Reframing language that dehumanizes or has violent undertones is always a good thing.
Lara Eastburn calls for ‘releasing’ your product instead of ‘launching’ it. I like that.
- Create a launch-free model that prioritizes quality over quantity.
A minimalist business serves fewer people better while remaining highly profitable.
Marketing can definitely be gross but it doesn’t have to be.
Being critical of existing best practices or methods helps us understand what doesn’t feel right about them.
Then we can be more intentional about how we make our offers and do marketing better.
P.s. If you’re still unclear on your model, book a no-obligation 45-minute call with me to map out your profitable minimalist biz model to get you to steady monthly revenue.