This broke my head

A few weeks back, I mentioned that I was doing a test to see whether “pre-launch content” really helps sales.

For the test I split a large list (88,000 subscribers) in half.

The A segment got 5 emails over 3 days that sent them straight to an offer page.

The B segment got the same emails, only the “call to action” sent them to an optin page for a 3-part training series that then segued into the same offer.

I promised to write about the results, so I am.

However I have to say that almost NOTHING about this campaign played out the way I expected.

For starters the “direct-to-offer” group made zero sales for the first 2 days. I've never seen that before. All of the sales came in as the offer was expiring.

Super weird.

By contrast, the group that got 3 days of prelaunch content first DID buy on the first day like I'd expect—but then very few sales came in towards the end of the campaign. They were nearly all front loaded.

The prelaunch content group ended up bringing in twice as many sales, which also was more than I expected.

Just about everything about this experiment contradicted the “rules” of product launches that I've learned over the years.

So what's the explanation?

Honestly, I'm not sure.

And while it brings up a lot of ideas for future experiments, I'm not going to try to shoehorn this head-exploding experience into a neat theory.

Why is that?

Well, I'm a huge fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

If you don't know Taleb, he's the author of The Black Swan and Antifragile. These are must-read books in my opinion. They'll fundamentally shift the way you see the world.

One of the themes in Antifragile is that “scientific” explanations for WHY things happen tend to be fragile—meaning they don't stand the test of time.

For example:

People have known for millennia that if you lift heavy objects repeatedly over time, you tend to get stronger.

However the scientific explanation for why this happens has changed multiple times over the last few decades.

The trouble with concocting “scientific” explanations is they SEEM so precise.

You start assuming they're true.

You start blindly following your theory without questioning whether you're really getting the promised results.

This is why I get so hoppin' mad when gurus start peddling the “the latest marketing breakthroughs based on deep neuroscience,” and why I rail about putting too much weight on psychological studies.

Experience drives theory, not the other way around.

And the real world is a lot more complex and nuanced than reductionist “cause and effect” theories can capture.

That said, I do have a takeaway from this Twilight Zone launch—something I'd do differently next time.

I'll explain tomorrow.