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Launching is tough.

It’s stressful and full of anxiety. There are not just psychological barriers to bust through but real ones as well: Will anyone show up to my thing? Will the webinar work? Will anyone buy this new offer? How do I capture the right leads? How do I do retargeting ads?

And so on, and so on…

But what if I told you that the majority of entrepreneurs I see launching are focused on the wrong things?

As you probably know, as a business owner, I’ve grown up online in the company of other business owners. I was lucky that, because I was selling a service to other business owners, online groups for entrepreneurs were a great place for me to be. And, as my marketing strategy has pretty much always been along the lines of “show up and be helpful,” it worked out well for me.

But what I’ve seen as I’ve matured as a business owner is that more often than not, when an entrepreneur is focused on launching their new thing, they are focused on the wrong things.

They are worried about building the product, where to host it, how to create a membership site, how to manage affiliate sales, what program to use their webinar… But those things aren’t what’s going to make or break a launch.

BELIEVE ME. I know this from experiencing underwhelming launches of my own.

What they should be focused on instead is getting their message out to the right number of the right people. In other words, generating leads.

The difference between an opt-in and a lead

There’s lots of advice out there about how to grow your list; I’ve written some of it. And much of the advice is good advice.

But what I learned the hard way is what’s missing from that advice — namely that you don’t just want opt-ins, you want leads.

What’s the difference?

An opt-in is just someone who is interested enough in whatever you’re giving away to give you an email address; a lead is someone who is primed to buy.

In my case, I was focusing on the opt-ins, and one major mistake I made was not qualifying my leads better. When I was working to actively build my list in 2016, I did a bunch of webinars, and when I got introduced to a woman with more than 10,000 “business moms” on her list, I jumped at the chance to work with her.

She was great! We did an awesome webinar and I got my highest-ever attendance; more than 800 people signed up for the webinar and more than 50% attended live. It was incredible!

But what I didn’t understand (or bother to figure out) going into it was that her “business moms” were doing things like selling worksheets on Teachers Pay Teachers, selling on Etsy, and just getting started with multi-level marketing businesses. There’s nothing wrong with any of those business models — except that most of those moms weren’t earning much money, and therefore my $400 course was waaaaaaay out of their comfort zone, and maybe not even a good fit for their businesses.

The were great opt-ins and poor leads.

See the difference?

This is not an uncommon scenario. And I am not ashamed to tell you that I have run into this problem more than once in my business. Even now, my best lead magnet on my website isn’t really generating great leads for me since I’ve pivoted my business to focus more on strategy than tactics. (That’s more a version of “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” problem than not knowing any better!)

Focusing on the math

The other problem that often shows up when it comes to leads is simply not having enough of them.

I don’t know about you, but I never saw a course called “business math” when I started my company (though, I know my friend Adrienne Dorison has started focusing on these kinds of critical business skills in her programs) yet some simple math can help us see why some of our launches are doomed to “fail” from the very start.

Again, let’s take me as a great example. 😉

For one of my launches of Content Intelligence Academy, I set an arbitrary goal of wanting to sell 50 spots in the program.

There’s nothing wrong with setting a goal like that — or a dollar amount goal — but what you have to do from there is reverse engineer your marketing strategy to ensure you have enough leads to support that goal.

Which I did not do. Or, at least, I didn’t do it correctly.

I knew that sales pages convert at an average of 1–3%. So, I thought with an email list of over 5,000, I was golden to sell 40 spots.


Those 5,000 people on my email list were opt-ins but they weren’t leads. (And some of them weren’t even active — as in, opening and clicking on my emails.)

I ran a smart content marketing campaign and got something like 750 people to sign up for a webinar. I killed the webinar and made some sales. I kept going, I sent emails, I followed up.

I worked my TAIL OFF and only sold about 30 spots.

And I was devastated because I didn’t hit my goal.

What I realized in the post-mortem was that I actually converted at around 4% — better than industry standard! — for the number of actual leads I had, that is, the number of people who raised their proverbial hand and said they were interested in what I had to say by signing up for the webinar.

Put your focus where it counts

The point of me telling you all this is that if you want your next launch to be successful, you have to focus on the things that will actually determine your success.

  • Yes, of course, you need to create the product… but maybe you don’t have to do that until after it’s sold.
  • Yes, you need a good sales page… but even the best sales page is only going to convert, on average, 1–3% of the people who see it.
  • Yes, you might need a webinar program to deliver your message… but even the slickest, most expensive webinar program isn’t going to help you sell if no one shows up to watch.

For most people, the single most important thing you can focus on before and during your launch is growing your pool of real, actual leads — not just opt-ins.

And a strong and comprehensive content marketing strategy is the best way to ensure that you can get them! That’s why, when I do Strategy Sessions with clients, we do the math, back it up, and make sure that their goals are both reasonable and achievable.

In truth, I’ve yet to see a goal that’s totally out of the realm of possibility; the only issue tends to be whether the business owner is willing and able to do what it takes to reach it.

And I think knowing is much more valuable than just blogging out into the void and hoping, don’t you?