So last week I did just about the dumbest thing yet in my career as an email marketer.
Here's what happened…
Recently my business partner John and I launched a new product for Simple Programmer, a short video course called 10 Ways to Make Money from Your Blog.
Now it might seem a little weird to launch what sounds like a “make money online” product to a list of software developers.
But John's been preaching for years that, “Every software developer NEEDS to have a blog.”
And consequently a huge chunk of our audience is either bloggers or aspiring bloggers.
This product is designed to give them a leg up when it comes to figuring out how to use their blog to earn side income.
The launch for this product CRUSHED my expectations—generated more than twice as much revenue as I'd predicted.
Funny thing about getting a big win like this is, it can go to your head real quick.
You start to feel invincible, like everything you touch will magically turn to gold.
John and I met after the launch, and one of us had a “brilliant” idea—
Why don't we rerun the same launch sequence to my email list of 65,000 Sublime Text fans?
The backstory on this is:
When John and I teamed up last winter, one of the decisions we made was to “merge” my Sublime Text side business with Simple Programmer.
They're still separate sites, but the list is part of Simple Programmer now, and we've done some small-scale cross promotion for the Simple Programmer email courses and such.
So even though the Sublime list isn't super familiar with John and Simple Programmer yet, promoting one of our products didn't seem like such a stretch.
And since the Sublime list is much bigger than Simple Programmer's list, I figured worst case scenario we'd earn 5 to 10 g's.
What could go wrong?
I crossed my fingers, queued up the same exact 3-day launch sequence we'd used with the Simple Programmer audience, and waited to see what would happen.
Around 11:30 a.m. the Tuesday of the “big launch,” John pings me.
“When's that email gonna go out?”
It went out an hour ago, I said.
Not a good sign.
I check our sales.
We'd sold like 2 copies of the course.
Then… the complaints start trickling in.
Several people report that the email wound up in their spam box.
Others were confused and annoyed by the off-topic email, which hit them like a bolt out of the blue.
One guy demanded to know how we got his email address.
Meanwhile I'm keeping an eye on sales, and we are getting NO love in that department either.
By the end of the first day, I'm feeling like a complete idiot.
Goodbye feelings of invincibility, I barely knew ye.
The exact same email that generated more than $5K in revenue when sent to the Simple Programmer list…
Brought in a measly 5 sales from nearly 65,000 emails—a hilariously, mind-blowingly awful conversion rate of 0.007%.
And between that and the (justly deserved) complaints, I decided to pull the plug on the whole miserable experiment.
I'll definitely laugh about this someday.
Not just yet—still a little too painful to contemplate.
Two takeaways from all of this:
1. Far and away the biggest factor in the success of your marketing is your OFFER, and the natural level of interest that your list has in whatever it is you're selling.
The role of email and sales copy is to intensify that preexisting interest and prompt action—NOT manufacture excitement out of thin air.
2. Even successful copywriters can strike out, big time.
This marketing stuff ain't easy—if it was, every business would be doing it.
So don't let fear of making a mistake hold you back.
Like a former boss of mine used to say, “At least when we make a mistake, it's only seen by thousands of people!”