Building in Public January 11, 2021

How I got $10K in preorders in 3 days

Linda Zhang @lindaxyz

This was my first paid product launch since quitting my traditional tech job. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was definitely not 10K straight out of the gates. Grateful for my 4000 newsletter readers who set me up for this launch.

Product Toolkit: a comprehensive toolkit that covers full product development cycle + strategies to fast-track your product career.

Wanted to share my process, what worked vs. flopped, and questions for this community:

TLDR:

  1. Dynamic, FOMO pricing works! It gives people a reason to buy now vs. wait and forget about it. It also rewards your early supporters with a better deal before you have reviews and testimonials as credibility signals
  2. Use visuals to illustrate what you're making - it's the fastest way to help people "get it". Sales copy only goes so far
  3. Monetize depth, not breadth. Give away the "what" and "why" for free; consider charging for the "how". Most people don't care for the nitty-gritty details, and just want the glam summary. By turning the nitty-gritty details into a paid product, you select for the right audience that cares, while keeping the general audience engaged for when they are ready for the "how".

My process:

  • I knew my readers would be the best first audience, so I did a series of interviews where I learned that while there's an abundance of content, there's a lack of depth that helps people apply theory into their lives
  • I screenshot an outline, put it at the end of a post, and said I was opening up 25 early access seats for this new product that would go into the nitty-gritty. I settled on $50 / seat as an early way to gauge demand
  • I expected 25 people over a few days, but I got 27 people in under 2 hours and had to shut down the link early (27*50 = $1350)
  • I shared updated outlines every week and collected 300 emails on the waitlist
  • Friday night, I shared early-bird special for the waitlist which would expire on Sunday. Since then, I've received over $9K in preorders, totaling just over $10K in 3 days

What worked:

  • The outline screenshot and continuous visual updates clearly explained what I was making, and drummed up excitement
  • Staged the preorder launch phase into two: early access (to gauge demand, get feedback / early testimonials) and early-bird special (to reward waitlist people with a good deal and gather momentum)
  • Dynamic, FOMO pricing: I gave people a reason to buy by specifying how many seats there were, and that the prices would go up afterwards
  • How I settled on the price: this is always a black box, and I didn't have the luxury to AB test. I picked $50 (which is on the pricier end for a product that does not exist), but I knew that many of my readers would be able to expense this since it applies to career development. Comparable products are in the hundreds of dollars, if not thousands (pretty insane)
  • None of this would've happened had I not built trust with a base of readers! I've published every week since May 2020

What flopped:

  • Launched early-bird special over weekend, but people check emails more on weekdays. A number of people reached out saying that they weren't sure if they could expense this, and needed a weekday to check
  • Because of the short early-bird window, I only sent 2 emails; each email boosted sales, so I should've mapped out the cadence in advance and considered time for a third
  • The way I executed dynamic pricing was confusing because I had mentioned the starting price in static emails, but I increased it after every 20 copies sold. I should've updated Gumroad with the # copies sold to make it clear why the price had gone up. Alternatively, I could've left the price off the emails and used the link instead to avoid mixed messaging which anchored people

What's next:

  • Promote publicly on Twitter
  • Iterate on feedback and make the Toolkit awesome
  • Build a proper landing page, not a random Notion page
  • Launch on Product Hunt
  • Experiment with paid ads
  • What am I missing? Anyone have tips on how to do the above well?

Special thank you to @janel for reminding me to use my pre launch wisely!!

If you'd like to follow along my journey, I'll be sharing more updates in my newsletter: productlessons.xyz

  1. 2

    Wonderful Notion product. Thanks for sharing your launch story as well. Really appreciate it.

    What’s your next milestone and how can we be helpful on IH?

    1. 1

      Aw thanks Felix! That's very kind to offer.

      I would say please spread the word to the PMs in your network, or just support my journey on Twitter :)

      Will continue sharing new learnings as I try to scale this thing!

  2. 2

    Thank you for sharing this breakdown. Great read and you also did a great job on aquiring this many subscribers to your newsletter as well!

    1. 1

      Aw thanks! Will probably reflect on learnings with newsletter and share down the line as well.

  3. 2

    How did you grow your audience so quickly? 7 months, once a week is incredible! I've been shipping essays every week day for 2 years, distributed on social, reddit etc., and I've gone viral on HN several times and I still don't have that lvl of growth some of y'all seem to have.

    Wondering if there's smth I'm missing?

    1. 2

      Every weekday? Wow that’s consistency.

      From a numbers perspective, it comes down to traffic x conversion to subscriber. My traffic numbers at least hundred per day, but conversion is typically at least 10%. Sometimes 20% if the traffic is from a qualified source like a PM community.

      I think it’s easier to grow when the content is hard to find elsewhere as well. People have told me I dive into a unique level of detail. Great question though, will reflect on this some more and share any learnings down the line.

      1. 1

        Interesting! What are you doing to get traffic to your newsletter? Also, do you think that high conversion is in part because of substack or do you feel like you'd have the same/bttr conversion on your own platform?

        1. 2

          The subscribe button is easily accessible, but that's possible outside of Substack too. Most traffic is organic (direct links), so it's probably shares and sites that have me listed as a resource. And there are occasional spikes from popular posts on Twitter or FB groups for product communities.

          1. 1

            Goes to show the importance of niching. Thanks for your generous elaboration.

            1. 2

              Yes exactly! Niche down before you expand up

  4. 2

    Thnx for sharing, great take aways! If you had the time, do you think the AB price testing would have made a big difference?

    1. 2

      That would’ve been very interesting, and I imagine it would make a difference.

      My issue was not time but sample. Don’t have enough traffic to get stat sig results. Plus AB testing pricing can also be a touchy subject.

      1. 1

        True, ab testing is an art on its own. Thnx for elaborating!

  5. 2

    Interesting insights which can helps us all out. Thank you!

  6. 2

    Awesome Process and Strategy. I admire your strong grit to carry out such execution.

    1. 2

      Thanks! I like to say that execution is the only strategy your customer experiences :)

  7. 2

    Bravo 👏 also well structured post.

    I think what's even more impressive is the fact, that you collected 4000 readers since May 2020

    1. 1

      Thank you! Ya this would not have been possible if I didn’t have an engaged base of readers. Very grateful for them

  8. 2

    Great Job! Also thanks for sharing all the details, super interesting 😄

    1. 1

      Of course! Devil is always in the details, so it’s important to share.

  9. 2

    Congrats Linda! Thanks for sharing this. Saving this post and your Twitter thread for reference.

    Great Work.

    1. 2

      Thank you Swastik!

  10. 2

    Great! well explained...Egar to know how prodcut hunt works out...All the very best

    1. 1

      Ya! Me too, will share what I learn

  11. 2

    Love your story.Right now I am learning how to code and documeting my journey on twitter while sharing other tips for developers there

    In the future I want to release an info product/SaaS to and I'm curios where the people that bought your product from?(twitter, blog, etc)

    I'm afraid of building my product in public because I don't really have an audiance around it and I'm afraid of losing my existing audiance

    1. 2

      Almost all my preorders have come from my newsletter readers. Twitter is good top of the funnel, but they're more likely to subscribe to newsletter than jump straight to buying.

      I think building your product in public will help you attract an audience for when you are ready to launch. As for losing your existing audience, if you think that what you're sharing is completely irrelevant to them, you can choose to make a separate account. But in general, find that people are curious and supportive of those doing something new.

      1. 2

        Oh, thanks for the help. Looking forward to read more about your journey

        1. 1

          No problem, good luck with your journey!

  12. 2

    I love it. Concise and useful advice. Congrats!

  13. 2

    Nice work, congrats! Thanks for the good read.

    1. 1

      Glad you find it helpful!

  14. 2

    Thank you for taking the time to share and being brave with all the details 💪

    1. 2

      Of course! Devil is always in the details :)

  15. 2

    Excellent advice; thanks Linda!
    And congrats for the successful launch!

    1. 1

      Thank you Sébastien!

  16. 2

    This is gold, very helpful as I am planning to launch a new product soon. Will share my experience in here after launch.

    1. 1

      Thanks Leon! Glad it helped, look forward to learning from your experience

      1. 2

        Thanks Linda, just signed up your newsletter. 😃

        1. 1

          Oh yay! Hope it's valuable to you. Look forward to any feedback

  17. 2

    Awesome and congrats! Thanks for the detailed breakdown of your process and learnings.

    1. 1

      Thanks, hope it was helpful! They're things I wish I knew earlier.

  18. 2

    This is great, thanks for sharing!

    1. 1

      Thank you, hope it was helpful!

  19. 2

    Congrats Linda! Having had a sneak peek into the product, I'm so glad that you've achieved this level of success. It is a valuable resource for anyone working in product, and I dare say, anyone who wants to grow their careers.

    1. 1

      Thank you Janel!! ❤️

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