How my biggest business failure has become a powerful turning point
I recently launched the second round of my online program Money and Marketing Makers. In short, it was an absolute failure.
In this episode, I want to peel back all of the gory layers of what failure looks like in business because I know this is something EVERY business owner faces. I also share exactly what went wrong and show you how to use a framework that you can use to analyse failure in your business if things don’t quite go to plan.
In this Episode:
- 08.14: What did I do differently this launch
- 20.30: Reflecting on my launch with the 7 Marketing P’s
- 29.00: Biggest takeaways from a failed launch
- Shifting to an online business model with Emily Osmond (Ep 19)
- Lessons from a launch (Ep 20)
- Tarzan Kay Website
- Amy Porterfield Website
- Behind-the-Scenes on the Money and Marketing Makers (Ep 36)
- Denise Duffield-Thomas Website
- Reflections on a retreat with Denise Duffield-Thomas (Ep 38)
- Lauren Vanessa Zink Website
- Manifestation Babe (Ep 114 – What It Means When Your Desires Are NOT Manifesting)
- Manifestation Babe Website
If you’ve been following me, you’ll know that I recently launched the second round of my online program Money and Marketing Makers. In short, it was an absolute failure. In this episode, I want to peel back all of the gory layers of what failure looks like in business because I know this is something EVERY business owner faces at some stage. I also get super specific about exactly what went wrong and show you how to use a framework that you can use to analyse failure in your business if things don’t quite go to plan.
Before I get started on this episode, I do want to flag that in this episode, I really feel into a lot of the emotions around failure, and I acknowledge that these really are first world problems… I know I am really blessed, and some of the emotions that I talk about are pretty self-indulgent, but I really do want to explore them in this episode, as I know that these are things that a lot of business owners feel, experience and struggle with when faced with failure.
A bit of background, I’ve been a business coach for over 4 years now and had been considering creating an online program for a while to share with a wider audience the tools strategies and frameworks I use with my one-on-one coaching clients, then I had a guest on my podcast Emily Osmond late last year. I decided to stop delaying and just bite the bullet and launch.
From when I decided to launch to when I actually launched was a matter of 2-3 weeks. I had no launching runway. I hadn’t mentioned the program at all prior to my launch and had no strategy, no framework for the program, no testimonials. I decided rather than trying to grow my list, I would just launch to my existing engaged audience. I put a small budget of $1k behind Facebook ads, but only as retargeting ads. So my launch looked like- a few emails, a couple of social media posts and some retargeting Facebook ads to anyone who looked at the landing page.
The first round had 24 people join the program, which in hindsight, is pretty impressive for my first, very unplanned launch!
I’ll share a little about what my program is… If anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about, I launched a program in October 2019 with a pure focus on teaching business owners how to grow their PROFIT and not just their sales numbers, because I find that too many entrepreneurs focus on the big sexy sales line, but don’t take the time to understand profit and so as their business grows they still don’t feel like they have more money.
The program ran from October to February as a 12 week program, and I literally developed the content week by week, sharing how to go about creating a really strong marketing strategy for service-based business owners and then how to teach business owners how to structure their financials to ensure that the additional income they were earning as revenue translated into profit (so teaching people about their Marketing AND their Money). This was one of my FAVOURITE things to do because I realised so many courses teach a particular marketing strategy for example Facebook advertising or Instagram, but very few actually teach you what an end-to-end sales funnel looks like and how to make sure that you have multiple ways of cultivating relationships with your dream clients. And then use my background as a qualified accountant CPA to teach the Makers how to analyse their financials, how to create a budget and a cashflow forecast.
So I LOVED developing the content and then I also loved the live calls. I was really nervous in my first call and I am sure it was super awkward at the start, but as it went on, I got more and more comfortable presenting and because I am so passionate about what I’m teaching, I know I showed up in a really enthusiastic way. I was blown away by the attendance rates in all the calls – SO many people showed up to the live calls each week which means that people were loving the content and learnings. I couldn’t believe the results that the Makers achieved! Now like I said, the program launched in October last year, so it was running over Christmas and January which small business owners will know can be a tough time of year financially. So I was thinking that the actual results achieved through the program would be a little slow over that period, but I figured that people could implement changes and see the results over time…. But to my surprise, even through a really slow time of the year, we had some EPIC results in the program, we had Makers who grew their profit results month on month, several people who successfully increased their prices without decreasing their demand (earning more money by getting paid more for it!), and just as importantly we had people whose confidence in their marketing and managing their money had grown and they felt super excited to make big changes in their business
The second launch.
So, with all these amazing results and testimonials it was with much excitement that I planned the launch for the second round of the program. I was absolutely PUMPED. I figured, if I could achieve 24 people in the first round with no real strategy, no content and no testimonials, imagine what I could do the second round!
So, with 100% belief in myself, I went to my hubby with a proposal. I had created a spreadsheet and said I wanted to invest $25k into the launch, which included Facebook ads, a launch copywriter to write my sales emails and the landing page and a few other minor expenses such as web development. I showed him the numbers, and under my worst case scenario, we would end up ahead. Now I think it’s important there to talk a little bit more about this from a profit perspective. Purely from a launch/ profit perspective, I was not planning that this launch would make a heap of money, especially when you realise that the results are for 12 weeks of work. However, I was super excited to invest the money into growing my list and building a larger audience, and also that I know that the more people that come through the program, the more results I’ll have to share, the more people will share about the program with their audience, so I wasn’t planning to make heaps of profit off the launch.
So anyway, I digress. I showed hubby the numbers and he said “I believe in you. Go for it!”. Now $25k is certainly NOT loose change for our family. I mean, we didn’t have to borrow anything for it, but this was a significant ask to take this much money and invest it into my business with no guarantee of an outcome. But hubby believed in me and entrusted me to go for it.
What did I decide to do differently this launch?
So, firstly, I invested A LOT into Facebook ads as I’ve shared. I have never really used Facebook ads for list growth before, as a result of working with my FB ads manager, my list grew to 2.5 its original size so I was excited to really see my list expand.
I also decided to invest with a specialist launch copywriter and me wanting the best, I reached out to a lady called Tarzan Kay who is Amy Porterfield’s copywriter (if you haven’t heard of Amy Porterfield, I’ll share her website in the shownotes, but essentially she is one of the world leaders in the online course space). I figured, if I am really going for this, who is the best person I can work with and how can I hire them. Anyway, Tarzan wasn’t taking on any new clients, but she did recommend me to Lauren Vanessa Zink who Tarzan had personally trained and as soon as I spoke to Lauren I agreed to work with her immediately.
I created a launch runway and started actually shock horror, talking and sharing about the program weeks before I launched. I invited 3 of my Makers students to appear on the podcast and actually had a whole podcast episode on Behind the Scenes on the Makers.
I also decided to stop coaching through the entire launch period… which was a significant financial cost, but again, after my lessons from last launch, I did not want to burn out and wanted to give myself heaps of space during the launching period.
I also attended a retreat with my all-time favourite money mindset coach Denise DT JUST before my launch week, so I felt in a really relaxed and abundant state from a mindset perspective heading into the launch.
As you can see, I had some really strong strategies in terms of:
- Stronger structure and framework to the program so people knew what they were actually signing up to
- A strategy around the launch and timeframes
- This round I offered a 3 day challenge and I also offered a webinar on a separate subject
- Excellent testimonials and proven quantifiable results from the program
- Expert help in the sales and launching process
- An excellent money mindset
- Significant financial investment into the launch
The first night the cart opened with a really strong earlybird offer which was one-on-one coaching session with me, I had ZERO sign ups. I started freaking out and thinking something must have missed the mark so I reached out to a few of my business peers/ mentors and asking for some feedback. I was reassured that everything looked really strong from a marketing perspective, and just to be patient as sometimes people take a while to join. I started to get a really sick feeling in my stomach that I wouldn’t hit my minimum number to break even which was 24 but I just kept believing and doing my meditations and hypnosis practise and I just kept showing up on social media with a bright smiling face and trusting that it would all work out ok…. Over the Sunday, Money and Tuesday, I had 4 people join the program, and I celebrated with absolute GUSTO at each new sign up and was so incredibly grateful for each person that joined. But I also questioned…. Why weren’t more people buying?
I reached out to more and more people in my community asking for brutal feedback about my socials, my emails, my sales page, and I did get a few tips which I took on board but mostly people just said it all looks really good.
I asked the universe what was the lesson that I needed to learn…. And I felt compelled to listen to a podcast so I did a search and immediately found episode 114 of Manifestation Babe podcast “why you aren’t manifesting what you want”. Is it just your EGO at play? Would you respect it? Am I saving money a set amount of all my new earnings now? In this episode, Tony Robbins also said if you don’t know how to give away $1 out of $10 out of every $10 you have you won’t give away $1m out of $10m. Donate 10% of your income NOW! That was a huge AHA moment for me. One of my motivators for making more money is that I wanted to give more, and yet I wasn’t donating unless it was convenient or easy for me. So mid launch, I made a commitment to save 10% of all income received and to donate 10%. I have always donated to charities, but it has always been on an ad hoc basis and usually (I’m embarrassed to say) when I had the capacity I would give rather than saying yes this is important to me,. I also recognised that my savings took a very similar pattern. We weren’t investing that magical 10% of income that so again I made a commitment. I also really connected with her words around how you need to have gratitude for what you DO have. Each day, I wrote a list of everything I have in my life to be grateful for. I acknowledged that I have a loving and happy marriage, beautiful healthy children, a nice car and live in a nice home, a fantastic business doing what I love and working with incredible clients that I love. As much as the launch wasn’t going well, every day I was recognising just how many blessings I DO have in my life.
As the final few days of the launch were approaching, despite all my gratitude work and my learnings about giving and investing and continuing to do my mindset work, my mood started to plummet. And I mean plummet. Outwardly I was saying “yeah it’s tough” but I couldn’t stop crying. I just felt like an absolute failure. How could I be so stupid to put so much of my family’s money into a launch? Why did this not work? How can I help SO many other people to grow their businesses, and yet this was such a disaster. I started questioning everything. Was this my path? Am I even supposed to be a business coach? Is this even what I want to do?
The doors closed for the launch and on the final day the doors were open, 3 beautiful emails written by my amazing copywriter Lauren were scheduled and went out at the 3 x times suggested in the online course world – morning, afternoon and the evening, as quite a few people in the online course world reminded me, most people buy on the final day. So with the optimism of Labrador puppy, I refreshed my Stripe account every 20 minutes… checking… checking…. Checking for sales… I kept posting on social media, “guys, it’s the final day” and still nothing. I didn’t sell a single course on cart close day.
At 11pm that final night when the cart closed, after drinking a bottle of wine, I sobbed into my husband’s arms. Obviously my ego was massively bruised and I was so embarrassed to have to share to the Makers group that there was a grand total of 4 people who would be completing the next round of the program. I was so disappointed, but also I was so confused what could have possibly gone wrong and I was SO incredibly upset that I had lost and taken that money away from my family. I had asked my husband to trust in me and believe in me and he did… and then I didn’t deliver. Not only did I not deliver on a tidy profit that was a possibility, I didn’t even come close to delivering my absolute worse case scenario. I had let myself down, which sucks, but I had let my family down, and that is what absolutely kills me. I couldn’t’ live in the moment. All I could think about was how can I possibly invest more of my earnings and essentially our family’s money into the business in the future if I’ve just proven it doesn’t work?
Post launch was the worst. We had been expecting a windfall of money from the launch and it badly hurt us financially. Our rent bounced, we started getting default notices on bills… every time another bill arrived it was another slap in the face reminding me what an absolute failure I had been. For the next week, I barely showed up on social media. I was just too embarrassed and exhausted and I just started questioning everything… for the first time in my 4+ years of business, I was over it and I just wanted to quit.
I started bouncing around options of what alternatives I had… corporate job was probably not a real option anymore, but maybe I could be a much more hands on mum. At the moment, hubby and I each only work 4 days a week and our house is usually a disorganised mess, so I thought I could pick up a lot more time with the kids and cleaning and let my hubby focus on his business a lot more and go full time. Then I remembered that I am definitely not cut out for stay at home mum life, so I started thinking how much I could help transform hubby’s business if I worked in his recruitment business. I could be his admin girl. No pressure, just help support him to succeed. Or I could become a recruiter. An amazing recruiter. Then I realised that didn’t light me up at all..
What DID light me up? And I came back to ummm business coaching. I am so freaking passionate about it and I LOVE the impact I have made in so many businesses… and also I realised I absolutely loved delivering the Makers program.
I have heard many of my clients and biz buddies talk about quitting many times and I always think “surely they aren’t serious” and have talked many people off the quitting ledge, yet in the moment of it happening to me it felt so real and raw and rational. After a week of wallowing in self-pity, I called a few biz friends and got some amazing advice “It’s ok to grieve” “You CANT quit, you are amazing and you have made such an impact”. I slowly started to pull myself out of the hole and get back to the gym and start showing up on social media again. But I was in an absolute dilemma. I had no idea where to go from here. Do I go and fill my books up with coaching clients again? Will I launch Money and Marketing Makers again?
After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realised there was a massive learning in this. I needed to do things differently if I wanted to achieve a different outcome.
Reflecting on my launch with the 7 Marketing P’s
So I did a bit of a reflection on the launch using the 7ps Marketing mix which was originally created by Edmund Jerome McCarthy in his 1960s book Basic Marketing and then updated in David Chaffey’s book Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice to gain reach online.
So the 7 Ps are Product, Promotion, Price, Place, People, Processes, Physical Evidence.
So lets dig into each of the areas of this launch and see where the strategy might have gone wrong in conjunction with feedback that I had received from people that had clicked on the Makers landing page and not purchased.
Product. So this is about the actual program. I feel like the quality of the program is SO strong, and this isn’t based on just my thoughts about the program, this was feedback from people who had completed the first round AND the results they had achieved. I was also so sure the content was bang on that I offered a 7 day money back guarantee for this round!
Promotion. Again, I might be biased, but I felt this was really strong. I was working with a world class copywriter, a 6 figure launch coach, I had amazing testimonials… but something that I think really missed the mark in the promotion area was the messaging. And the reason I say this is that quite a few people reached out and said “I need help with the marketing side, but I’m right across my numbers” or vice versa. This to me demonstrates that I hadn’t properly sold the concept. I’m even questioning whether the program name is the right fit and the program is ultimately about profit. So something I need to consider for this round! Also something was definitely not coming together with my Facebook ads for this round and my FB ads manager is really digging into this and we look forward to sharing some of this in the podcast in a later episode!
Price– I did put the price up for this round of the Makers and I also did something that I thought might be risky for my Australian audience and I priced it into USD. However, I did market research and found that most online programs were priced in USD which makes sense as my international audience grows and as much of my expense base is in USD for example, online platforms and hiring a copywriter from the states. When I did the market audit of prices for an online program, even at the new price point, I sat WELL below anything else on the market offering a 12 week fully supported program with direct access to me. I was given the advice that I should be charging more than double what did this round, so I definitely don’t think price was a factor.
This was WHERE I promoted the program and I think this is a huge opportunity for me. The first launch I did, the program was shared A LOT by my business community into their audiences. This round, I didn’t quite have the hype with my business partners and also as much as my list had grown, as lot of them were coming in cold and probably didn’t have the trust factor as yet. I’ve noticed that with referrals or recommendations from people in my community that this really helps with this as people know that I am coming in with someone else’s stamp of approval, so I really need to focus more on my organic growth in this next little while as well and leveraging some of the amazing business relationships that I do have.
My team are pretty amazing and I felt that I was able to personally contact/ respond to all of the enquiries that came through this round. I did have someone who played a major role in my team who was unavailable that week and moving forward I will make sure that critical roles in my team are available during one of the hardest and most stressful times in business which is launching.
Next is processes. This is a real opportunity moving forward to streamline the enquiry processes and any questions during the launch period, although this round I don’t think was an inhibiting factor as there wasn’t huge volumes of enquiries.
Lastly, is physical evidence or the experience your customers have when interacting. In terms of branding, again I felt like the workbooks, challenge etc was all presented well. With the actual website and landing page, this round I invested with my web developer this round to make the checkout process more streamlined… last round you had to click through 3 x different pages to buy, whereas with these tweaks, it meant the checkout process was much smoother, so I don’t think physical evidence was a big issue.
There was one more factor that doesn’t fit into any of the above categories that I believed played a HUGE part in the failure of this launch and that is timing. Unbeknownst to me when I was doing the launch planning, my launch period was happening exactly at the same time as Marie Forleo’s B School. If anyone doesn’t know who that is, she is probably one of the biggest coaches in the world, and her program sells primarily though affiliate marketing so pretty much every well-known name promotes and sells her program for her! They offer epic bonuses, some people throw in their entire courses for free just as a bonus so this thing always is huge. There were also another few well-known names doing launches at the same time here in Australia and there is often cross-overs in audiences. SO I do think timing is a bit thing to consider again, although sometimes you do just get unlucky as you wouldn’t know other businesses promotional calendars, but also it’s a powerful reminder that there is a lot of competition in the market place so there is a responsibility on me and others to ensure we nail our messaging in a busy marketplace.
So purely from an analytic perspective, the biggest opportunities for me to improve the launch process were:
- Messaging, getting super clear about how I am selling Money and Marketing together and whether I need to change the messaging, or possibly even the name of the program to better get the message across of what I do and how I help
- Facebook ads. Making sure that the retargeting ads convert as well as they did the first round
- Using partnerships to reach more people in the lead up and during the launch period
From a growth/ learning perspective I also grew a lot during this process.
In the face of a difficult time, I realised that I am ready to work with a business coach myself again which is something I have been putting off for a while, but this was finally the push that I need to commit to working with someone regularly to work ON my business as I spend so much of my time helping others, that I can let my own stuff slip. I also think energetically it’s really powerful as it shows the universe and my clients how much I believe in the value of coaching.
Secondly it has really challenged me to question my business model and work out how I can continue to best serve both my one-on-one clients and a wider audience. I’ll be working with my coach to really hone in on what I love and most importantly, what my clients value and need. I LOVE one-on-one coaching so I will definitely continue with this, but I might need to revaluate how I can best deliver the Makers content moving forward.
Biggest takeaways from a failed launch
There were also another few big takeways I had.
How powerful having the right people around you are in the face of a crisis (I use this word loosely, of course, as I mentioned earlier, I do acknowledge that a failed launch if very much a first world problem!) Anyway, I digreess.. I reached out to several of my business communities and my biz besties and I was greeting with nothing but support, compassion and constructive feedback and lots of love. When I was falling apart, they were lifting me up, and if you are listening, and you know who you are. Thank you. If you are listening and you don’t have a biz crew, my gosh, you need one. Join a Mastermind, go to networking events, but your power is in your people so make sure you have some.
And on the people front, it would be absolutely remiss of me to not acknowledge my husband. I asked him to believe in me and he did. And even when it all went to the poo, he stood by me, cheering me on and unfaltering in his love. He would have been well within his rights to be really disappointed, but instead he was so incredibly proud of how I kept showing up and trying my very best throughout this process and didn’t give up. Again, in business, who stands by your side can make all the difference.
In summary, I just want to use some more words that I have borrowed from Manifestation Babe (I will link to her in the shownotes for this episode as she has had a big impact on me through this launch!)
She said “Failure and Success are not Separate they are one and the same. You cannot have success without failure.”
I know in my very core that I am going to be successful. I know that I will have the opportunity to work with tens of thousands of women across the world and help them transform their businesses and their lives, and I know that financial success will follow. This is coming for me and this is inevitable for you too if you believe in the core of your soul. No matter what failures come your way on this rollercoaster journey of business. Don’t give up. Just look for the lessons and keep on believing. Your success is coming.
I want to share the truth of business, the good and the ugly and I want all business owners to know that failure is ok. In fact, it’s essential. If you have enjoyed this episode, please make sure you share it on your social media and tag me in at clare_wood_coach.
About your host
Hi, I’m Clare Wood – I’m a numbers geek, a travel lover, a reality tv addict, and a passionate business coach. I’m here to empower you to create an extraordinary business and an amazing life; because I believe you don’t have to choose between the two.