Note: This is the second post in a short series designed to help artists, designers and creatives build a following and earn a living doing what they love. You can read part one here.

Forget about launch day.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when selling our first digital product is to focus all our efforts on a launch day. Typically this involves queuing up all our sales and marketing efforts to go live on that one day. Tweets, blog posts, and emails begin invading inboxes to let the world know our new plugin or theme is now available for sale.

We'll see a spike of sales on launch day but things will ultimately fizzle out to nothing in a matter of days or weeks.

After hundreds of hours of hard work we're back at square one.

There's a few key reasons why focusing all our energy on a single launch event doesn't work. Specifically, our potential customers:

  • Probably have no idea who we are. No trust = no sales.
  • They're learning about our product and being asked to buy in our very first interaction.
  • And this is likely the only time they'll hear about our product.

Why are these things deal breakers?

  • Most customers prefer to buy from people they know.
  • Selling is about building a relationship. If I stopped you on the street and said "Hey, you don't know me but you should buy this shiny new thing I made", would you?
  • Buyers need to hear about something several times, often 7 times or more, before they decide to make a purchase. We can't do that with one interaction.

Fortunately we can fix these things and greatly improve our sales. It's just going to take a little time and planning before hand.

It starts with a following.

Almost everyone has a handful of websites or blogs they frequent for news or inspiration. You probably follow a few people on Twitter that share useful resources. And you might even subscribe to a few email newsletters.

You're part of someones else's following. They have a relationship with you and you trust them, to some degree. More importantly though, if they recommend a new product or service to you, you're 10x more likely to check it out than if a stranger were to email you out of the blue.

Without that kind of relationship, you're the stranger on the street looking to peddle your wares.

That's a horrible position to be in.

But if we instead build a following over time we can:

  • Introduce our product without asking for the sale right away.
  • We have a chance to build trust with our potential customers.
  • Our following will help us come launch day with word-of-mouth marketing.
  • And finally, our following will become the customer base for our next product when we're ready to release it.

So, forget about email blasting anyone with a pulse on launch day. Instead, we need to build a following and in the process cultivate relationships with a select group of potential buyers.

When the time comes to launch our product we'll be much more likely to make a sale with people we have relationships with.

Sounds better, right?

What does a following look like?

You may be thinking that 5,000 Twitter followers is a following. Well, it's a start, but not quite what we're looking for.

A following is all about quality, not quantity. Twitter followers are great but they are a poor indicator of sales.

Instead, think of Twitter, and other social media channels, as a megaphone. If you have a great message or product, social media will help you spread that message.

Social media won't however convert many fans or followers into buyers.

Enter email.

What we really want is a targeted email list. Finding our way into the inbox is incredibly powerful. It gives us the opportunity to have one on one conversations without all of the noise of social media.

Better yet, we can use email to build a relationship over time. Each email we send gives us the opportunity to earn trust and provide value. And come launch day, we'll have an email list of like minded people that trust us and that we've built a relationship with.

That's pure gold when it comes to sales.

We can convert this kind of following at a rate of 20-40%. That is, 20-40% will buy our product on launch day. Compare this to social media where we might get a conversion rate of 5-10% if you're really lucky.

But I'm not a rockstar.
Why would anyone want emails from me?

Everyone feels this way. Really.

A following isn't just for rockstars or mega-creatives or ridiculously good looking people. If you can add value to others lives then you're in a position to create your own following.

What kind of value you ask? Well, if you can make someone look good or save them time than you've got a start.

So how do we actually build a following and in the process grow our email list?

I'm glad you asked :-)

In part 3 of this series we'll walk though the process, step by step, for building our following. We'll talk about:

  1. What tools to use
  2. How to craft an incentive (to get more email signups)
  3. How to capture and deliver our incentive
  4. And the basics of email marketing / messaging our new email list!

Stay tuned!