What to send your list before, during, and after your launch

Your new product is ready to roll out.

You’ve marked Launch Day with a big red X on your calendar.

So when’s the right moment — nay, the best moment — to send a launch day sales email to your list?

ANSWER: On Launch Day. Big red X, remember?

..…. c’moooon. There’s so much more to it than that.

On its little lonesome, a launch day sales email isn’t going to do much.

This launch sequence guide teaches practical ways to show a little empathy for your cold, cold audience — and warm them up to your launch before (and after!) it happens.

The big mistake I keep seeing people make with their launch day emails

Oh cool, I got this,” thinks the eager beaver entrepreneur.

I put Launch Day on my calendar next Thursday, so next Thursday I’ll just send out my big announcement.

Thursday rolls around. Hit send. Lean back in chair for approximately 0.04 seconds before jamming that refresh button. Watch the surefire sales rolling in. Wallpaper house with money. Rejoice at how simple this was.

Wrongo, kemosabe. Your meager (yet oh-so-earnest!) announcement is going to meet cold ears and closed wallets.

Sending out a mass announcement email to a cold audience is the equivalent of someone running up to you on the pavement gesticulating wildly about some gizmo you’ve never heard of.

Who the hell is that guy? And who the hell wants gizmos?

Anyone in their right mind is going to surreptitiously slide their hand over their wallet and attempt not to make eye contact.

Which is why before even thinking about hitting that launch button, you’ve got to plot out your messaging across your entire launch period.

That means frequent communication with your list both pre- and post-launch. And ideally, you’ve got it all written out and automated before even a single email reaches your list.

The key to crafting the perfect launch sequence is empathizing with your audience’s states of awareness throughout the entire launch period.

How aware is your audience?

In the marketing classic Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz breaks states of awareness down into five potential categories.

1. The Most Aware: Your prospect knows your product, and only needs to know “the deal.”

2. Product-Aware: Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for them.

3. Solution-Aware: Your prospect knows the result they want, but not that your product provides it.

4. Problem-Aware: Your prospect senses they have a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.

5. Completely Unaware: No knowledge of anything except, perhaps, their own identity or opinion.

Note that the array of good folks on your list likely fit into more than one of these stages.

At which level is your audience? That depends on how you built your list and its segments, combined with all previous communication you’ve sent out, via email or otherwise.

The key question to determine audience awareness level is: “What do my prospects already know?”

Empathize with your audience. If they’re already on your list (assuming you haven’t, like, paid for their emails [if so, SHAME.]), then they’ve already had contact with you. They know you at least a little.

Before planning your launch sequence, have a sit-down research session with yourself and get the answers to questions like these:

  • What messaging have they received from you before?
  • Are they educated about the problem your product solves?
  • How many of them have bought from you before?

Another way to get these answers is by directly asking your list. Try a Typeform survey, or embedding a poll directly into an email if your email program permits it (I use ConvertKit, which does). However, keep in mind that the direct approach will show a strong bias towards the people who are most engaged with your brand anyway.

By the time Launch Day rolls around, you want your list as warm as possible. That means getting the vast majority of your audience to “The Most Aware” and “Product-Aware” levels.

How to warm up your audience: The Pre-Launch

Your pre-launch sequence is a series of emails you’re going to be sending out before you ever open up your cart for orders.

Goals to accomplish during pre-launch:

  • Open a conversation about the problem your product solves. Intrigue and encourage replies. Your emails should be a two-way street, where your One Reader feels like you’re addressing them and them alone. Remember Joanna Wiebe’s Rule of One: “one reader, one big idea, one promise and one offer.
  • Build trust. One of the big problems with Gizmo Guy on the street is that you absolutely do not trust him. By being authentic, straight-shooting, and even emotionally vulnerable with your audience, you can build up how much they trust you and want to hear more from you.
  • Talk to their hearts. You know your audience by now. What’s their number one desire? Talk to that “big bad want” of theirs — and explain how you found the solution.1
  • Anticipate and address objections. Talk about the elephant in the room. What’s going to keep your potential clients from hitting buy? Price? Reluctance to commit? Lack of confidence? Even embarrassment? Address it head-on in your pre-launch sequence, and educate them on a solution.
  • Educate using your free content. The more you give your audience for free, the more receptive they’ll be to your eventual ask. Not to mention, they’ll be way more aware of what problem they have and how your product solves it.
  • Breadcrumb your product/service. Talking about your upcoming sale is absolutely part of your pre-launch. No need to be bashful about the fact that you’re about to launch something new and exciting — but don’t let this be the majority of your pre-launch sequence. It probably shouldn’t even be in the first few emails you send out. Give, educate, and build rapport first… and then sell.
  • BONUS: Pre-segment your audience. Copywriter Anna Hetzel uses pre-segmentation to “help keep unsubscribe rates low, write more targeted copy, and speak more directly to my audience.”
    If you use a nifty email program like ConvertKit, you can ask your readers to segment themselves via links embedded within your emails. Get them to tell you why they’re interested in your brand or what their biggest struggle is. From there, you can send out follow-up emails specifically tailored to their needs.

Throughout your pre-launch emails, ensure you’re amping up your credibility by sprinkling in social proof and linking to your own content as much as possible.

Online marketing copywriter Samar Owais calls pre-launch “the prepping stage” — because “you’re not selling anything yet. You’re priming your audience to expect an offer later. Right now, you’re establishing common ground, cementing your authority, and hinting at an offer that will solve their problem.”

Copywriter and email expert Val Geisler adds that when “you’ve built up anticipation for weeks — or even months — your list is primed to hear about it. It’s when you get lazy and cut straight to the sales pitch that your launch starts to hit the danger zone.”

IIIIIII went tooooo the DANGER ZONE. But you probably shouldn’t during your launch.

How many emails should you send in your pre-launch?

How long is a piece of string? A snotty, frustrating answer — but it’s the only real one anyone can offer you.

How many emails will it take for you to accomplish the goal of warming up most of your audience to the top two stages of awareness? You know your audience better than I do. You tell me.

How long should your pre-launch sequence last?

There are approximately a squintillion ways to go about it. You could spread it out during an entire month before you launch, or squeeze it into a power week coming right up to the big launch day.

Think about how frequently you’ve communicated with your list in the past. If you’ve only sent them the occasional missive, consider spreading out your pre-launch push so as not to overwhelm any inboxes. However, if they’re used to hearing from you, you might want to bunch your emails closer together to keep the conversation flowing.

Remember: the reason for every pre-launch email you send is to raise your audience’s level of awareness. Warm them up as much as possible for when that launch day sales email hits their inbox.

But what happens after that?

Curious about the launch day sales email itself?
Watch The Ultimate Guide to the What, When, and How of Launch Emails (including two great annotated examples for your swipe file + a handy-dandy template to jumpstart your own).

How to wine and dine your audience: The Post-Launch

After you’ve sent your launch day sales email into the wild and opened up the cart for clients to hit buy buy buy, your job is far from over.

Everyone knows that you’ve got to hammer home urgency in the the days (and hours… and minutes?) before the cart closes, but that’s not the only thing that you should be doing post-launch.

Goals to accomplish during post-launch:

  • Lean heavy on your big WHY. Because you’re not selling features. You’re selling benefits. Your launch will succeed based on the emotional response you provoke. You know this.
    So don’t get caught up on describing your product. Instead, help them envision what their life is going to be like when they say YES. Share a personal story of what this product means to you. Bet big on vulnerability and emotion; people choose to buy with their hearts.
  • Overcome objections. You started addressing them before your launch, and you’ll keep addressing them here. If someone didn’t buy at the first available opportunity, they’ve got an objection. If you can be the one to bring it up and resolve it, you’re that much closer to a sale.
  • Share relatable testimonials & case studies. Especially in story form. Stories help your audience put themselves in the place of someone who had a problem, then used your solution to make their life better in a tangible way. It primes them to imagine hitting that button as the next logical step in their lives, too.
  • When the cart is closing, spread that urgency on thick. Like, peanut-butter-on-Texas-toast thick. It’s a classic for a reason: loss aversion is hardwired into our species. You’ll want to send several emails bunched closer together during the urgency period, warning of an ever-shrinking window of time left. Urgency is potent medicine, though, so don’t use it throughout your campaign. Lay into it in the end of your launch campaign, when the offer you put on the table really is expiring.
Now I’m hungry.

By the time you reach the post-launch phase, the part of your list in “The Most Aware” level — a.k.a. your Fan Club — will likely have purchased from you already.

The important group to speak to now are those in the “Product Aware” phase. They understand what you do, yet still need some convincing that it’s the right solution for them.

Once you’ve sent your launch day sales email, don’t rest on your laurels. Speak directly to everyone who’s interested, yet still on the fence. What are their objections? Can you appeal to their personal story? Do they need more proof that this solution is the right fit for them?

At then end, of course, you’ll want to crank that urgency lever. But don’t abuse it, or people will stop listening.

“When we push for urgency too soon, readers — our prospects — become immune to the idea of urgency and it loses its effectiveness,” warns conversion copywriter Suzanne Hamilton. “If you use a count-down timer and it shows 5 days to go — it gives people permission NOT to decide right now. And we NEED our readers to MAKE that decision. One of our biggest threats to a conversion — to making that sale — is when our readers simply don’t make a decision — at all.”

So when’s the right moment to play the urgency card? Conversion copywriter (and email super specialist) Sarah Anderson advises: “Typically the last 48 hours of a launch is a good time to highlight the ticking clock. People love to wait until the last minute, so don’t be shy about sending those reminder emails.

However, Sarah explains that FOMO can be executed strategically throughout your post-launch: “You can also add urgency to the beginning and middle of the launch with early bird offers and mid cart bonuses. These reward your action takers and boost sales early on in your launch.”

Ready to launch?

The launch day sales email is just one piece of the launch puzzle.

Keep your list’s level of awareness in mind to send the right message at the right time. Warm ’em up to the highest level possible with education and empathy before whipping out your hard sell. And make sure to take advantage of the open-cart window to keep convincing before hopping onboard that urgency train.

Curious about the launch day sales email itself?
Watch The Ultimate Guide to the What, When, and How of Launch Emails (including two great annotated examples for your swipe file + a handy-dandy template to jumpstart your own).

Shout-outs and gratitude to Anna Hetzel, Samar Owais, Val Geisler, Suzanne Hamilton, and Sarah Anderson for their launch sequence insights.

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Janel Torkington

Content designer. Sassy futurist. Ukulele plucker. Ottolenghi acolyte.