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EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

In This Episode:

  • How Katie Hunt adapted her largely events-based business in the wake of Covid-19
  • Why a product she’d been working on since December 2019 was the key to serving her people in the most valuable way
  • How Katie adjusted the messaging and marketing campaign to reflect the current state of affairs
  • A complete breakdown of the social media posts and email messages that made her sales campaign a smash when it was time to launch

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to launch and sell a new online course or program.

Heck, there are a lot of misconceptions about selling in general—but this is just one podcast episode.

“Launching”—depending on when and where you started your small business—means many different things. I’ve talked to plenty of people who swear it’s not a launch if you don’t have a Facebook ad funnel. Others will swear it’s not a launch if there isn’t a 3-part video series to warm up your audience. Still others will swear it’s not a launch if you don’t have a list of 15,000 people to blast with 30 different emails.

Launching a new online course or program has become so misunderstood and, simultaneously, blown out of proportion, that I often outlaw the use of the word! As my friend Amy Walsh once said, “Launching is for rockets.”

Instead of launching, I plan—and talk about—sales campaigns.

Today, we’re diving straight into an incredibly successful sales campaign to get the nuts and bolts of what worked.

When the economy ground to a halt earlier this year, many small businesses were forced to think fast and make big changes on the fly. At this point, we’re probably all familiar with the local restaurant that figured out an ingenious takeout model or the local clothing store that created virtual shopping appointments or the local yoga studio that started sharing classes, workshops, and meditations online.

And while many digital small business owners kept operating business as usual—or as usual as one can operate in a pandemic—there were a few groups that were deeply affected by the shutdowns.

Two of those groups were small business owners running in-person events as a component of their otherwise online business and small business owners who depend on trade shows for the majority of their wholesale orders.

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

Now, let’s find out what works for Katie Hunt!

Katie Hunt: We were pushing a lot of different type of content. It included podcast ads. We had email sequences that we sent. Again, we were changing the messaging on those a bit. We had social posts. I reported several different videos that we shared on IGTV and elsewhere, and our sole call to action on all of those pieces was asking people to join the wait list for Proof to Product Labs.

Tara McMullin: There are a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to launch and sell a new online course or program. Heck, there are a lot of misconceptions about selling in general. But this is just one podcast episode. Now, launching, depending on when and where you started your small business means many different things. I've talked to plenty of people who swear it's not a launch if you don't have a Facebook ad funnel. Others will swear it's not a launch if there isn't a three-part video series to warm up your audience. Still others will swear it's not a launch if you don't have a list of 15,000 people to blast with 30 different emails.

Launching a new online course or program has become so misunderstood and simultaneously blown out of proportion that I often outlaw the use of the word entirely. As my friend, Amy Walsh, once said, launching is for rockets. Instead of launching, I plan, and talk about, sales campaigns. After all, that's what we're doing. We're on a campaign to sell our product or service. Now, today we're diving straight into an incredibly successful sales campaign to get the nuts and bolts of what worked.

I'm Tara McMullin and this is What Works, the show that takes you behind the scenes to explore how small business owners are building stronger businesses. When the economy ground to a halt earlier this year, many small businesses were forced to think fast and make big changes on the fly. And at this point we're probably all familiar with the local restaurant that figured out an ingenious takeout model or the local clothing store that created virtual shopping appointments or the local yoga studio that started sharing classes, workshops, and meditations online. And while many digital small business owners kept operating business as usual, or as usual as one could operate in a pandemic, there were a few groups that were deeply affected by the shutdowns.

Now two of those groups were, one, small business owners running in-person events as a component of their otherwise online business, and two, small business owners who depend on trade shows for the majority of their wholesale orders. Today's guest is Katie Hunt, who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group. Katie is the founder of Proof to Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Now, not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof to Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most. And the launch of Proof to Product Labs, well, it was a smash. Katie and I get into all the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it. Now let's find out what works for Katie Hunt.

Katie Hunt, welcome to What Works. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Katie Hunt: I am so excited to be here, Tara. Thank you so much for having me.

Tara McMullin: Of course. I cannot wait to hear this story. We're going to talk about the launch and initial sales campaign for Proof to Product Labs. But first I would love to hear the origin story behind Proof to Product Labs.

Katie Hunt: Yeah. This is something I've had on my brain and in my heart for years, if I'm being honest about it, because I wanted to have a program that was financially accessible to people and affordable and accessible. In my world, I work with product-based business owners. I wanted them to have a way to get the professional development help they needed without having to invest in our huge courses or my coaching programs. Not everyone needs those things or not everyone's able to get to our in-person conference in California. We all have life parameters and things.

So this has been something that's been on my mind for a long time of like, I really want to have something that's at a lower price point but that gives so much value to them and will really help them elevate their business. Not just another PDF or a quick course or anything like that. Like I want them to have an experience, like community experience. And so, again, this was something that's been on my mind for years, but we started working in earnest on it last summer probably is when I started talking about it with my peer mastermind group and kind of laying out the format of it and what I wanted to include and talking about pricing structure and all of that stuff. But then my team and I when we really started building out the sales plan and building out our Mighty Networks account and all of that stuff, that started December/January of December 2019, January 2020.

Tara McMullin: Okay. And so you rolled this out. Well, this is airing in September, we're talking about June.

Katie Hunt: It's okay.

Tara McMullin: You rolled this out, I think, about a month and a half ago.

Katie Hunt: Yeah, pretty much. End of April is when we opened cart. So we opened cart for a wait list. I can get into the details of that too if you'd like. I don't know, do you want me to cover that now or do you want me to-

Tara McMullin: No, we'll get into that though.

Katie Hunt: Okay. So yeah, we opened cart end of April closed it early May. Yeah, we're about a month and a half in now.

Tara McMullin: Okay. So it was kind of in the midst of the great pause of 2020.

Katie Hunt: It was.

Tara McMullin: How did COVID impact your timeline on roll out for this?

Katie Hunt: Yeah, I will say we did take a moment in March after everything locked down. It was a very interesting time in March for me. Just for a little background for the audience. I had just wrapped up our in-person paper camp conference. I was in the middle of teaching my online paper camp program, which runs twice a year and it's live classes and all of that. And in the background we were working on Labs. And I also had my mastermind retreat coming up in April. So there was a lot happening and a lot of moving parts. This was such an important thing to me that we did really take a pause and say, "Okay, should we be postponing this? Should we wait and see what people need?"

But I was doing so much front facing work in March and April listening to people and what their needs were in my community, what they were struggling with, how they needed immediate help in their business. I was doing extra podcast episodes. I was bringing in people to talk about PPP loans. Like we were really flying quickly with what our needs of our community were and I realized this is all the same kind of stuff I want to do for them inside of Labs. It'll be structured a little different, but like... So I did grapple with, is this the time to launch this or should I wait? Is this going to make people feel like we're trying to be opportunistic or will they see it as we're really trying to help them?

And so we decided to move forward at the same pace, the same timeline. We did make a few tweaks to the offer. We lowered the price and we extended the sales period for the founding member launch. We also changed our messaging in our emails and everything to really make sure we were being sensitive to what was going on. I'm not a high pressure sales person in general, but I also didn't want it to come across that way because we did have deadlines. I had a fast action bonus that had a deadline, but I wanted to be careful of how we frame that too.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. That's smart. I'm sure we'll get into all the details. There's one thing that I want to revisit of what you just said though, which is that you spent... you said you were doing a lot of front facing listening to your audience. And I think that listening to your audience is something that we often just kind of gloss over like, "Yeah, I was listening to my audience." But I'd love to know what that actually looked like for you. What kind of activities were you doing that you would classify as listening to your audience?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. I mean, I have intimate contact with my mastermind coaching clients, for example. And so, listening and hearing what the different hurdles they were having. I also, as I said, was in the middle of hosting my paper camp e-course, which included live calls. So I was listening to the questions and concerns that they were bringing into the group. We were still focused on teaching the things we teach in that program. But you see a shift naturally when these life things happen. So listening to my immediate inner circle of students and then peeling back that onion in my larger community, people on Instagram. Also just watching the content I was putting out and seeing how people would engage and resonate with that. How they share it or how they'd comment on it. That kind of helped me see where they were needing the most help, I guess.

Tara McMullin: Okay. Awesome. Thank you for explaining that, especially the piece around listening to your mastermind clients and listening to your students, because I think that we can get really caught up in, I'm delivering a product. And so you're in delivering product mode instead of also being in listening mode. And hearing you explain that I think is going to be an aha for a lot of people. Okay. So you're listening, you're thinking about where do I go next with this, is this the right time or not? Once you decided this is the right time, we're doing this, how did you start to prime your audience for the launch of Proof To Product Labs?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. I break things down into prelaunch and then also launch zone. I'm sure you do the same. And so in our prelaunch phase, we were pushing a lot of different types of content. It included podcast ads. We had email sequences that we sent. Again, we were changing the messaging on those a bit. We had social posts. I recorded several different videos that we shared on IGTV and elsewhere. And our sole call to action on all of those pieces was asking people to join the wait list for Proof to Product Labs. Now, some of that content was educational-based, meaning it was on topics and sharing speakers that were going to be teaching inside of our Labs program.

But some of it, because this was a whole new program and my community wasn't familiar with how I was running it, it was also educational of like what the format of Labs would be and how it was different from my other programs, and helping them kind of hone in on which one's best for me, because that's always a question people have, right? So we tried to really weave in storytelling. And then also really what my main focus in Labs is is reminding people that strong businesses are built through slow strategic growth. And so I wanted to show them that you can build this business any which way you want and it's up to you to decide that, but we're going to give you lots of tools and resources so that you can make the best decisions for your business.

Tara McMullin: I love that. I love that very much. Okay. Once you got through that prelaunch phase, walk me through the campaign that you used to sell the offer.

Katie Hunt: Yeah. Like I said, we were asking everyone to join our wait list. And that was about a two week span, I think, when we did all those warm ups stuff. And then we had, our launch phase was 13 days total. And that was for our founding member drive is what I'm calling it. The first two days were only open to our wait list members. So that was like a secret sale that we had. And we had a special bonus, we called it a fast action bonus, if they enrolled before we opened to the public. Now, the fast action bonus is actually an interesting story. We grappled over what to give. Like I said, I wanted this to be an experience, not just here's another PDF or here's the class or whatever. So we decided that that fast action bonus would be a mini mastermind with me and four other people in Labs.

I had a little bit of anxiety about this because I kept thinking, well, what if we have like a hundred people sign up in this time and that's 20 hours of coaching? I had a little bit of nervous there. But ultimately we decided to go with no limit to it. We did not limit it to the first 20 people or whatever it is. We said, anyone that joins in this window will get a free mini mastermind with me and four other people and it'll be an hour long and you'll get a hot seat and all this stuff. I'm so glad I did it because I have spaced them out and they've been one of the most rewarding experiences that I've had.

I mean, these are things I do with my higher end coaching clients, but to do it for Labs people at a low price and they get to connect with one another. It's building relationships, it's giving me that face-to-face time with them. It's been really good. So we did have more register in that window and get that bonus in we were expecting. But I think in the end it was time worthwhile there.

So then from the point when we opened to the public, we did a series of emails. We had special podcast episodes that went out. We did social posts, of course. Some more videos and things like that. But that window was longer than what we had originally planned, so it ended up being about 11 days that the founding member cart was open and like most launches, we did have a dip in the middle where there were crickets. But we had strong numbers overall at the front end and at the end and I was really pleased with where we landed numbers wise from a quantity of members perspective.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha. Let's break that down a little bit into its component parts. You mentioned emails, podcasts and social posts. Let's focus on those three because I think that that's pretty common. I mean, at least among podcasters, that would be common and I think you can extrapolate podcasts out to video or other kinds of media as well. So when you're thinking through an email campaign, what are some of the pieces that you make sure you have in that email campaign and what did that look like in this particular campaign?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. I did hire a copywriter to help us with the emails. And so we had... Gosh, I should have looked this up. But I think, I mean, we had almost one email a day going. There were a couple of days where we took a day off. But again, going back to something I mentioned earlier, we were really trying to weave in storytelling and the educational component too of how this was new and different from anything else we'd offered. We're trying to really articulate the value, the benefit. It's interesting because a lot of programs, they have a big promise and you should have a big promise. But my big promise felt a little more arbitrary of like, you are going to move your business forward and you're going to do it in a way that feels manageable to you.

The timeline is going to be manageable. You're never behind inside of Labs. We want to meet you where you are and help you get to that next phase. And so the big promise felt a little more arbitrary than somebody say that's like, "Here's five Facebook ads you can do or whatever." And so I wanted to kind of articulate that this is more of an experience. This is more of a long-term growth strategy and we have concrete... I'm all about action and concrete, strategic steps, but we're going to do it in a methodical way over a year. I don't know if I'm explaining that very well, but the emails were kind of a mix of storytelling logistics and educational pieces too. So some of it was content educational and some of it was like program detail educational.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha. Was there a particular order that you put those at in?

Katie Hunt: We did. Yeah. And some of the emails too focused on my community highlights of things people had accomplished in their business by working with me to just show kind of proof of concept, if you will, I guess. We did have a flow to it and I can't recall the exact details of it at the moment, but we kind of wanted to intersperse the storytelling with the technical stuff so that we weren't just hitting over the head with sale, sell, sell; like buy, buy, buy kind of method. Of course our call to action every time was, here's why you want to buy. This should be a no brainer for you. Here are the bonuses, here are this. All of that.

But we wanted to do, I'm, again, not a super high pressure salesperson. And so I wanted to make it more of a, if this is right for you, we welcome you with open arms. If it's not, that's okay too. But ultimately if we're not talking about our stuff and the value that we bring to people, people aren't going to buy. So it has to be a nice mix of specifically telling people to buy and then also weaving in the niceties around that.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Can you tell me what your last like two days looked like with email? Because I think this is always someplace where people are like, they know what's out there, they know what they receive, but they don't necessarily think about it from a here's how this is going down perspective.

Katie Hunt: Yeah. And I will say too, we did segment our lists. Like I said, we have the wait list group and then we had our all list. And the whole sales sequence for those 11 days it was open to the public, for the most part they did go to the entire list. But there were a couple of days where we did specialize. We also were using tags. We use convert kit. So we were using tags and things like that to tag people that had clicked over to the sales page. And we were also tagging people that had purchased. So we'd remove them from our email list and they won't get the sales sequences. They started getting our onboarding stuff.

But yeah, we definitely leveraged different types of segments. Those last few days we did an email to the entire list one morning and then we did a reminder that afternoon to just the wait list with a special thing of like highlighting some of the benefits of like don't let this pass you by. And then the next morning was another... so the last few days was morning email to everyone, afternoon email to the wait list or interest list. And then the morning was everyone same thing. And then we actually did three, I think, emails the last day, which I was a little bit nervous about because it was more than we normally do. But it was everybody. And then the wait list and interest list. And then we had a segment for just the people that had clicked that day for the third email. So that third email didn't go to as many people, but it was the hot lead basically that hadn't purchased yet.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. And that last email drove sales?

Katie Hunt: Oh yeah, yeah.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. I'm glad you shared that. I also tend to send three emails on the last day as well and it also makes me nervous every single time I do it. And then every single time I do it, I'm glad that I did.

Katie Hunt: The name. And when I look back at the stats, the number of people who unsubscribe because they got three emails is minimal. There's barely anyone unsubscribes, but yet the sales that come from it are so powerful.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. It's because those people are your most engaged people, right? They would never dream of unsubscribing from your list.

Katie Hunt: Right.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. So worth it to send those three emails on the last day. Completely agree. Okay. Let's take a look at the podcast. What did you do sales wise on the podcast?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. I think our strategy here could have been stronger. Actually I do a weekly podcast rather. So we did stretch the sales cycle to be over to Tuesdays basically so we would have the ads from that. We did try to weave in some of our upcoming speakers into the podcast episodes and trying topics that were tied to what we were teaching to really show what they would experience inside of it. I think we need to be better about our call to actions on the podcast. I don't really like interrupting in the middle of episodes with ads, but I think we need to be doing that because, again, if we're not telling people to buy from us, they're not going to. So yeah, I think our strategy there could have been stronger.

But it was a mix of, we had our regular episodes. I think we did one extra bonus episode in there too. But it was just our once a week episode and we used call to actions at the end and the beginning, in the intro. I built it into the intro. We didn't do midrolls though. And then show notes and everything. All of our website and our show notes on iTunes and Apple podcasts or everywhere else that were on. They had the links out to Labs to.

Tara McMullin: Okay, awesome. And then social posts. This is something I think you're really good at that I could learn a lot from.

Katie Hunt: The social side of it I felt like that feels better to me too because I... well, you can plan all this out, right? But I feel like that's where I could be the quickest responding to people's requests and questions. I did more videos and I will say that was fun for me. I sat down and recorded a whole bunch of different clips that, again, mirrored... I repurposed a lot of the same content that we did in our emails. So once those emails were done, I would pull things from there. But then I also went to my clients and I was like, what are you working on? What do you need help with? And I recorded videos that were tied to what they were doing.

Some of it was cover related. Some of it wasn't. I really tried to mix it up. And then at the end and the beginning I tried to say, "Hey, go join us in Labs if you want to work with me or if you want to learn more from our community." So I did do a better job there on the video portion of tying it in. But with regards to the post itself and stories, we did create templates for stories that we would share. We did create templates that we asked our new members to share that said, "I'm excited to join Labs. Here's what I'm focused on this year. Or I can't wait to get started in Labs." We had a few different versions that they could pull from, and that got a lot of traction because then the new members came in and they shared it and then we re-shared it and so that was fun. We definitely used the swipe up in stories. So I was definitely leveraging a lot of stories and then doing about one post a day in our main Instagram feed.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha. And what platforms did you post on?

Katie Hunt: Yes. Thank you. Instagram's our main one. That's where we have the most followers. We push stuff over to Facebook. There were a few things that we natively posted on Facebook as well. Most of our people, because it's a product world, they're very visual. So those two formats work best for them. We're not really playing with Pinterest right now although I'd like to get into that more. I grew up on Twitter in the social world, so I still like to dabble there but I'm not as strong in it anymore because I'm spending so much time elsewhere.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, totally. Ads. Did you do social ads?

Katie Hunt: That's what I was going to tell you. We didn't do. Yeah. I think this is an important piece of the story. We did not do any paid ads. We did not do an affiliate program and we did not do a referral program for members that joined. Those are all things that we do plan to do in the future and we had kind of on our back burner to do. But given everything that was going on with COVID and given everything that I was also working on, like all the other trains we were keeping on track in the business, we decided let's not do any of these things. Let's just make this truly an organic launch through email and social and the podcast and see how it does. And then we can build the building blocks after that and add to it. So we didn't do any paid ads for this although there were a few times where I'm like, we should be running at least like a couple of-

Tara McMullin: Like join the wheel [crosstalk 00:23:35] retargeting ads.

Katie Hunt: Yeah, exactly. Retargeting all of these. I know. But my team had to keep pulling me back because they're like, "No, that's not the focus right now." Because we were crunched for time and also with everything else going on in the world, we had to be sensitive to how we were spending money. We didn't know... Here's the other thing too. We put so much time and effort and money into building this whole program. And it had been months before COVID so I wanted to be conservative in how we approached it but I wanted to make sure it was excellent. I wanted to make sure we were giving people everything we possibly could. So it was an interesting thing where they had to keep pulling me back because I was like, "I think we could be doing this." And they're like, "Nope, we're not doing that." I'm like, "Okay, okay."

Tara McMullin: Those are some good team members.

Katie Hunt: They are. They're amazing.

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I want to get into what challenges you ran into and also what worked better than you expected. But before we get into that, do you mind speaking to results, some? I mean, you told me, but for podcast audience, what are you willing to share results wise?

Katie Hunt: Sure. We set good, better, best goals for our launch. And I will say we tweaked it in the final week of prelaunch because I think I was playing small. My mindset was small. So our final good, better, best was 100 new members, 150 new members was our better, and then our best was 200. And at the end of this launch, we ended up with 202 members.

Tara McMullin: Oh my God.

Katie Hunt: Yeah. It was pretty exciting.

Tara McMullin: So exciting. That is so awesome.

Katie Hunt: Thank you.

Tara McMullin: Congratulations again. I know I already said it, but jeez. Okay. Go ahead.

Katie Hunt: I did mention too, just for context, our founding member price was $49. We also had an annual price. I share that just because I think a lot of us think we need big ticket product and a big ticket course or program or coaching program and that's not necessarily the case. I think there's a lot of people that need help right now and having something at that lower price point that's accessible to them, it can still lead to... I worried about the price point just because I'm like, well, what if only 10 people sign up and then we built this whole thing and it's not really... the amount of income coming in doesn't really sustain the program. But we are fortunate that it did.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Okay. That brings up a question about audience though, because your audience is part of what, like the size of your platform is what is part of what allows you to drive 200 plus new members to a program like this, which is not a bad thing, but I think that people-

Katie Hunt: That's good context.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, I think that the reality of that is important. So can you give us just sort of an idea of what your platform looks like?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. That's a great point because the context matters, right? We don't have a huge email list. We have about almost 3000 people on that email list. And we had roughly, I think it was 350 join our wait list. And so from that we have really amazing open rates on our first two emails that went out just to the wait list. I think it was like 75% opened and there was some outrageous click through rate too.

Tara McMullin: I believe that.

Katie Hunt: I'm all about I'd much rather have a smaller list that's more engaged and interested in what we're doing and the same for social media too. I think we have about 12,000 or twelve and a half thousand on Instagram followers there. But I feel like those are just friends hanging out. Sometimes they're buyers, but I mean, it's definitely... it's where we warm people up. But my email is where, I think, that's where I'm connecting with people. That's where I'm engaging with people. Those are the people that listen to the podcast. Those are the people that purchase my programs. I will say too we had a large number of people... I've been doing this for nine years so we had a large number of people who have been through my other programs and they were excited for something new that was on a more ongoing basis too. Building that community takes time for sure. But yeah, that's like the list level we were looking at in the audience level.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha. Thank you for that. I think that context is so helpful for people. Okay. What were some of the challenges expected or unexpected that you ran into during the campaign?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. There were a couple actually though I think the re-messaging of everything was tough because I wasn't quite sure how to approach it. And when I say re-messaging, I mean that we rewrote a lot of our sales emails which had already been written and wanted to make it sensitive to COVID and make it sensitive to people who didn't have the budget to buy something and didn't feel pressure to buy something. I did have somebody reach out to me and say they felt like this was not me. They felt like it was a pressure situation that I was telling them to buy and they felt really disappointed in me for selling something right now. I think that was it. There were a lot of people in this timeframe that were not comfortable selling. They felt like it was a weird time to sell.

So some of those people reached out and said, "I can't believe you're selling right now." And in my head I kept thinking, it's our responsibility to sell. We are running businesses here. If we don't continue to sell our products and services and help other people, especially in my world, I'm helping other people advance their businesses, which then has a ripple effect of helping the economy and helping them and their family life and their personal lives, right? So that was a little bit of a challenge, but that was very specific to the time that we were in. So that's not something that I foresee being an issue later.

But it was tough because here I'm feeling like I'm presenting something to the world that we've been working hard on that I knew was going to make a positive impact and other people are seeing it as an opportunistic move. And it was a very small percentage. I don't mean to make it sound like it was a lot of people, but that was tough. And so that was when I also changed some of our messaging of here's why you need to be selling your products, here's why I'm selling my products.

And like trying to lead by example too of like, this is how we can do it differently. This is how we can change our messaging. This is how we can adjust our terms and conditions and our pricing. There's so many things that we can do to be flexible and serve our audience well, and I think that helped the situation too. But it was tough. It was tough to hear that feedback. Otherwise, I feel like things ran pretty smoothly. We had a few hiccups with Mighty Network just because it was their first time we were running it on the backend, but otherwise it was pretty smooth sales process.

Tara McMullin: Awesome. Awesome. And I mean, I know. I heard from a lot of people too about people who were selling things during that period and people reaching out and saying, "How could you be selling right now?" I think there was just so much fear going around and that there was going to be some sort of response no matter what you did. And if you weren't selling, you were going to hear about that too.

Katie Hunt: Exactly. I agree with you. I feel like that's where it's our opportunity as coaches and leaders to stand up and be like, "Well, this is what I'm recommending people do and I'm doing the same thing." Leading by example as best we can. But I wasn't going to... We did hesitate at the beginning before we were launching to say, "Should we be doing this?" There was a lot we considered but decided, yes, it's absolutely the time to do this.

Tara McMullin: All right. Let's talk about what worked better than expected. Anything that jumped out at you as like, whoa, I wasn't expecting that.

Katie Hunt: Yeah. Well, sales were obviously stronger than I expected, which gave me a really good indicator that people needed this help and wanted the support. So that was a real happy surprise. I would say our onboarding systems were excellent. We put a lot of thought and care into the customer experience as we were building this down to the welcome emails they got and how we structured the Mighty Network community, how we even took it off, like the whole goal of taking it off of our Facebook communities, for example. Like I purposely built it off of Facebook to reduce distractions. So there was a lot of intentional decisions that were made early on that as we started to see people join, they felt like big successes because we were seeing that the thought we had put into it and the planning we had put into it really were paying off and making it a much better experience for everybody.

So that felt really good too. Our project manager for this whole launch was amazing at the tech automations and systems and creating a workflow for how we were welcoming people and how we were doing it in a way that wouldn't inundate them with too much information, but at the same time really welcomed them. And I know you guys do the same thing in your community as well. So I think that first step of them coming in is an important one and you want to make sure they feel appreciated as they come in. So that was a pleasant surprise too.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, absolutely. And I'm so glad you brought that up as sort of like part of this larger conversation about sales too, because it's really easy to think that the sales process stops when someone puts their credit card information in. But those next few steps, there's the kind of human component of it. Like you said, you want them to feel like they belong. You want to feel like it's an experience that they're excited to be a part of. And also every step following that credit card entry is validating or not validating their buying decision. And that's when so many people start thinking about refunding. Have you had any issues with refunding?

Katie Hunt: We did. Just a couple. It's very minor though. We had two people, because we require a 12 month commitment for this. Again, going with that whole stance of like, this is going to take time so we want you to put the time in. We did have a couple of people the very first week after they joined that said, "Oh, I didn't realize this was an ongoing monthly payment kind of thing." So they backed out. We did let them out of that. I don't want to hold anyone's feet to the fire if they don't want to be somewhere. So we did have that. And then we did have a couple of payment issues the first month that recurring payments came up, but we've created it now. It's given us a chance to practice our processes and see where we need to tweak those and all of them got worked out. So it's good. But yeah, it's just part of the process of figuring it out.

Tara McMullin: It sure is. Okay. Let's shift gears a little bit. It looked to me from your sales page that you've made the decision to make buying sort of ongoing, that it's not something you're closing and opening the cart on. Why did you make that decision and how is that working out so far?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. I have a lot of people that are like, "I think you're crazy for doing this." And I'm like, "Well, it's common sense. We'll see how I feel." But ultimately the whole purpose of making Proof to Product Labs is that I really want people to get the help they need when they need it most. And from my past programs, our paper camp program runs twice a year and people have to wait months sometimes to be able to enroll and get that content that they need. And so to me it feels like I want Labs to be like my house where I stop in, come talk about these things that you need help with. I mean, it's not my house obviously, but my point is just, I wanted to make it more accessible.

And so right now the cart is always open. I am assessing whether or not this is what we're going to do long-term. We do plan to run a couple of launches, probably once a quarter or every four months; two to three times a year. We plan to do launches with some additional bonuses and things like that or maybe we'll bring back a live component or something. But basically an incentive a couple of times a year to get people in. But we have had people join after the founding member launch just from it being open. And so that is something we're working through right now of what's our marketing strategy going to look like if that's ongoing as an evergreen option.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Okay. Let's talk about the bonuses piece because I wanted to ask about how you keep up momentum between those sales campaigns. And I love the idea of having it being an ongoing enrollment, but utilizing bonuses to really kind of spike enrollment every so often and get people thinking about it. You mentioned the mini mastermind for your very early fast action wait list folks who were going to join. What were some of the other bonuses that you offered or you're thinking about offering in the future?

Katie Hunt: Yeah. So for our founding members, they received your presentation that you gave at our business camp conference a few years back.

Tara McMullin: That was a very long time ago.

Katie Hunt: It was, but it's such an impactful program still. So we pulled that and they had that. I created a profit calculator where they can look at their product pricing and their profitability of different product categories that they offer. I also created a production calendar. So these things are very specific to the product world, but it's basically a production calendar where they can type in like the date they want to launch a product and it automatically populates all the other due dates for all the other tasks they have to do to get that thing out into the world. People are loving that one. So that's been fun. And then I had another past presentation that we gave out and then the opportunity to do hot seats with me too. So that will be on the air on our podcast.

Tara McMullin: Ooh, that's clever.

Katie Hunt: Yeah. It's fun. So they basically still have to apply and then if they're selected, they would come on the podcast and we do hot seat on the air. And they know in advance that it would be shared publicly and all of that. So we have had a lot of people apply for that and it's been fun to see what they're working on. You had mentioned what we're doing in between sales cycles and really it's to keep that momentum up, and it's really twofold. I feel like it's working internally inside the community to keep people engaged and happy and moving forward because when they're happy, they're going to tell their friends and recommend it to other people. And I think that those are going to be our strongest advocates for gaining new members. That's what I've seen in my business and other programs.

And then the external marketing component. That's where we're highlighting our community managers. I'm sorry, not managers, our community members, topics of conversation, different successes people have shared really trying to bolster and boost those guys up because, one, again that kind of ties back to making the members feel validated and welcome and happy. And then it also shows the world outside of the community what people are doing inside. So those are two of the tactics that we're trying to do to keep up momentum in between these launches and just kind of, again, get people coming in while we're open evergreen right now.

Tara McMullin: Perfect. Looking toward your next sales campaign then, what are you planning on keeping from this very first campaign and what are you planning on doing differently?

Katie Hunt: Good question. We're definitely going to shorten the sales cycle so it won't be as long of a timeframe. We want to add a lot more storytelling and do highlights of our community members and the changes they've made. I want to leverage a lot more like, this sounds silly but I think it's important, screenshots of what people are... their success stories and building that into our blog and our podcast. Like I really want it to be storytelling focused. We are raising the price. So after that founding member cart closed, we did raise the price to $79. And we also have an annual option that saves us some money. But I anticipate, like that was one of the perks of joining as a founding member too. They were going to get our lowest rate ever and lock it in for as long as they stay a member.

When those people come up for renewal next year, they'll stay at that rate. So that price will continue to increase. But we will do some of the additional bonuses, some new things we've been working on. But yeah, we'll still learn. And then two, like I mentioned, we'll probably layer in some affiliate type stuff or ads or referral type network for the current members too. Lots of options.

Tara McMullin: Awesome. Well, you've given us such a great overview of how you pulled off this incredibly successful campaign in one of the weirdest market environments that any of us have ever lived through. So I just have one last question for you, which is, what are you excited about right now?

Katie Hunt: Yeah, I'm really excited about Labs, which I know sounds like an obvious answer given that this whole podcast is about Labs. But I'm really taking a hard look at my business too and how I want to be spending my time and where I want to be, how much money we want to be making and how we want to be leveraging that in different ways. And I'm in the midst of making some changes on my team and the programs that we're offering because I built this business to give myself more flexibility from a personal standpoint, and I also want to make a very large impact and I've been very excited to see that Labs is allowing me to do that. I am able to serve a lot more people in a really strong way, and it's not coming at a sacrifice to my family or my personal life or anything like that.

Now, we're in the midst of a really strange year and a really strange time and we don't know what that future is going to hold, but to know that I'm still continuing to do strong work through these different channels and people are benefiting from it, that makes me feel really good. So I'm excited about what's to come in the future and the changes my customers and clients are making. And two, that I have the flexibility to make changes in my own business as I need, which, I don't know, that's what I'm excited about these days.

Tara McMullin: That's awesome. I'm excited for you.

Katie Hunt: Thank you.

Tara McMullin: Katie. Thank you so much for everything that you've shared, the transparency with which you've shared it and thanks for giving us an inside look at your sales campaign.

Katie Hunt: Yeah, my pleasure. I'm happy to provide any other followup you need too for this. I really appreciate your time today, Tara, and this was a fun conversation.

Tara McMullin: Okay. Wow. I love this kind of What Works conversation. All right. Yes. I love them all. And there's just something really special about those opportunities to really dig in and get all the juicy details from someone. Katie laid out her whole sales campaign for us, which is incredible. And hopefully it gave you some hope on how to replicate something similar for your own sales campaigns. And there's something I want you to keep in mind here. Katie is a seasoned marketer and salesperson who has built both the operational capacity and audience to pull this off.

And while this launch didn't have some of the fancy bits and bobs you might've expected like Facebook ads or affiliates, it was still a sophisticated operation. What I hope you really take from this is that you can go all in on a sales campaign without doing hashtag all the things. Katie made key choices about how she was going to approach the campaign, what they were going to do and what they weren't going to do and what would be in the best interest of her audience at the time. No matter what sampling of sales techniques you use for your next campaign, you can take that same thoughtfulness with you as you commit to your plan and follow through to make the sale. Find out more about Katie Hunt at, and listen to the Proof to Product Podcast wherever you listen to What Works.

Next week I'm sitting down with my friend, Kate Strathmann, to talk about how we can still be effective salespeople without appropriating manipulative or exploitative sales techniques. What Works is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode was edited by Marty Seefeldt and our production coordinator is Kristen Runvik. What Works is recorded in what is now known as Lititz, Pennsylvania, which is on the homeland of the Susquehanna people. The Yellow House is located in Northwestern Montana on the homeland of the Ktunaxa Nation.

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By Tara McMullin

Writer, Podcaster, Producer. Founder of What Works.

Sep 8, 2020

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

Do You Assume People Don’t Want To Buy?

Do You Assume People Don’t Want To Buy?

A few weeks back, I shared that Sean and I went shopping for some kayaks. I was nervous about the purchase because I knew it was going to be a significant sum to drop all at once. But I really wanted to have the freedom of owning our own equipment and I was prepared...

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support