Last year, I posted about how we generated $100,855 by segmenting to 6500 emails. In this year’s follow up, I’ll explain how we were able to beat that.
At the end, I’ll show you the emails we sent and a checklist to follow that you can use for your own sale.
How we Make Dollars at Examine.com
Examine.com is the #1 (not being hyperbolic here) resource for unbiased information on nutrition and supplements, with all of that information being backed by scientific research.
Nobody comes close to what we do.
We have three primary products – Stack Guides (for people who want to be told what to do), Supplement-Goals Reference (a reference tome that just tells you what each supplement does and does not do), and our Examine.com Research Digest (aka ERD – for professionals – analyzes and contextualizes nutrition studies).
If you’re a professional in the health/fitness industry, ERD is basically a must-have. Instead of trying to analyze research yourself (good luck with that) or making sense of insane media headlines (will never happen) or trusting one guy to be your source (no one is infallible), it’s the easiest way to stay on top of the latest nutrition research.
Don’t want to be left behind? Then you need ERD.
So when we first launched ERD, we made it available at:
- $19.99/mo (regularly $29.99)
- $199/year (regularly being $299)
- $599 lifetime (3x year, regularly being $999)
Tip: People forget that credit cards have an expiration date. We’ve found that the average credit card expiry is 36 months away. Thus, if you can get that amount of money up front, that’s a smart return.
Furthermore, as a digital product, the marginal cost of supporting an extra lifetime customer is near nil.
Lifetime Value (LTV) Upgraded
As mentioned, we had previously segmented down to roughly 6500 emails, and generated $100,855. That # is slightly out of date – as we’ve been able to bolster the LTV of ERD Monthly to $523 and ERD Yearly to $486. Recalculated, the lifetime value of our sale last year is $120,702. Not too shabby
A few reasons why our LTV went up:
- We’ve become more in-tune with what kind of studies our customers want. A bit of a no-brainer, but it’s an ever-ongoing process that people often drop the ball on. Give the customer what they want.
- Our graphic production has ramped up hard. This matters, as conveying information in a visual manner cannot be beat.
- We’ve added CECs – continuing education credits. Anyone in the health professional (personal trainer, registered dietitian, medical doctor, etc) must obtain a certain # of professional credits every year. For example, a registered dietitian in the US need 75 hours every 5 years. ERD is now CEC-approved for most personal training organizations and The Academy, the governing body for registered dietitians in the US.
Challenges for Year #2
We were running into some strong headwinds this time around. A few sales-dampening issues that we did not have before:
1. We pitch ERD more regularly
Every month, we publish one of our reviews to our site (eg: A second look at protein quality after exercise). This creates exposure and drives sales for us, but it also means that a pent up demand (like last time) is not as strong.
Furthermore, as we segment our audience (something we were not doing before), we pitch to our target audience (health professionals) more often.
2. We have a trial option
An extension of pitching to our audience more often, we now have a trial option that lets someone jump in at only $1. In the last 90 days alone we’ve had 90 sign up for ERD Monthly and 37 sign up for ERD Yearly. These are potential sales we’ve already realized.
3. Not new
At the end of the day, ERD is nothing new. Is it awesome? You know it. Has it gotten better and better over time as the team develops better rapport? No doubt.
But it’s not fancy or shiny, which is what usually gets people hyped up. Plus, we’ve now been selling ERD for 2 years. You’d think people who were on the fence would have jumped by now.
Our biggest problem was that ERD was nothing new. Thus, we really had to hammer home the value of what it offers
Before the Sale
The strategy of the pre-sale period is pretty simple – you must present the user with the problem, show them why it’s important, and finally show how your product solves it for them.
We doubled down on what we did last year, and added a few items:
If anything hammers home our point about how hard it is to understand research, it’s our Study Guide. It basically breaks down the process of how to read research and make sense of it.
You know how sometimes you read a how-to guide and mid-way through your reaction is “I’m never gonna figure this out… I should just hire an expert.” That’s the reaction you get when reading our Study Guide.
So we took last year’s version, updated it, made it look nicer, and offered it to our list.
This yielded 2945 optins.
The Study Guide reminds you how hard it is to understand research (pain point)
The next step was to show how amazing ERD is. After reading the Study Guide, the goal was to show “look at what we’re doing with research.” Billed as “12 must read nutrition studies from the past year,” it hammers home how much research there is to stay on top of.
Anyone who reads it has to admit: “Examine.com takes their work very seriously, and they put a lot of effort in putting it together professionally.” This helps as fitness is full of people who are incredibly unprofessional and cannot even keep with deadlines.
So we took 12 studies we thought were very pertinent to our audience, and put it into an ERD 2 Year Anniversary Issue.
This yielded us 9821 optins.
The ERD Anniversary Issue reminds you how much research there is, how hard it is to stay on top of it, and how good we are at analyzing it (pain point)
I’ve never done a webinar. Ever. Everyone says they’re amazing, so the team put together one breaking down the analysis of a “red meat causes cancer” study. Our thought process was to show in an interactive format all the work that goes into putting together our analysis makes you really appreciate how much time ERD saves you.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disaster (more on that later). We did get roughly 1000 optins.
We put on a webinar dissecting a study to show all the effort that goes into it and how you cannot just do it yourself (pain point)
What the pre-sale REALLY does
Most marketers see the pre-sale as a chance to get people in a buying mindset. To get a subset of your audience primed to buy.
What it really lets you do is segment your users.
The power of segmentation is that you can email specific people about things they like. Because of how big Examine.com is, people on our email list cover the entire spectrum of nutrition knowledge.
By having these pre-sale items, we were able to figure out who would be most interested in ERD. This is incredibly powerful as it lets us repeatedly remind these specific people about the sale without pissing off our entire audience. It’s akin to doing mass bombardment (emailing your entire list repeatedly) versus targeted strikes (just the people on your list who are interested)
Lastly, people buy from who they trust. And to build that trust, you build buy-in. And by showing them amazing quality and fantastic production value, we really built up the trust on what we’re offering.
The most important part of the pre-sale was segmenting our email list, so we could email the most-interested people more often
Sale & Results
Just a reminder – our baseline of optins was 6500 and $100k from last year. Our goal was to hit $100k again.
At Nov 2, 12:02pm EST we launched our sale. It lasted 72 hours.
We had 5 areas of attack:
1. Social Media + Facebook Ads
More proof that social media sucks 🙂
We posted on twitter a few times, and we posted on Facebook a few times. In the last 24 hours we posted twice – once saying there were 24 hours left, and then once saying 4 hours left (and that this post will self-destruct).
Organically we got almost 5000 clicks (the highest overall!). Unfortunately, the earnings per click (EPC) was a dismal $0.31. Organic social media did not deliver.
Retargeting via Facebook Ads was interesting. We focused mostly on retargeting people who visited the sales page. We spent $523.41, and Facebook said (via the conversion pixel) that generated $8210.06 in sales. Our frequency (how many times a person sees an ad) was really high, at roughly 9.0, but that made sense (this was a short 72 hour sale, and so were trying to make sure our customers would notice).
With that said, the direct sales yielded from someone clicking on the FB ad and then immediately buying was just $638.96 (with a lifetime value of $1645). If you haven’t bought FB ads, keep an eye on this.
Organic social media sent a lot of traffic, but did not directly convert. Facebook ads were a great way to hammer home the point that a sale was going on.
My favorite one. It boggles my mind how many people have a sale and never mention it on their own site!
Two things to consider:
- You have fans who just won’t subscribe to your email list. Let the fans know there’s a sale going on!
- Your audience will maybe see your email, and decide “I’ll buy on my other computer” or “I’ll buy later.” They then visit your site and then… where’s the damn sale?!?
- Extension of the above, if they see an FB ad and later think about buying and visit your website.
Thus a reminder… make it easy for someone to buy during your sale!
What we did was add a big link to our homepage, and then use SumoMe to have it obviously both via our scrollbox and smart bar.
The homepage did great – generating a massive $31.24 EPC. Collectively, the website generated 37 monthly sales, 16 yearly sales, and 6 lifetime sales from just 1519 clicks. That came to a stunning $20.22 EPC, which was just a shade below email!
I do believe that the combo of social media (especially paid ads) combined with the obvious “we have a sale going on now” helped bump up the conversion.
Making it obvious on the site that we had a sale going on generated great returns.
The big one. Multi-pronged:
When the sale started, instead of saying we had a sale, we took a very soft-touch approach with a blog post How to win friends and influence people (using nutrition research). I mean it when I say soft pitch – just a shade under 3% of people who read that page clicked to the ERD sales page.
The EPC was fantastic – $30.83, but we could have made the offer more obvious.
Emails to our Segments
We then sent out one more email to our primary list, but we did not want to burn them out (as Cyber Monday was coming up – more on that in another post). Instead, we focused on the users we had segmented:
- Opted into Study Guide
- Opted into Anniversary Issue
- Visited ERD Sales Page (but did not buy)
- Existing Customers
- Cancelled Customers
We focused primarily on #1 + #2 + 3. If you are using ConvertKit, we tagged any user that clicked to the ERD sales page (unfortunately no conversion pixel, which would have allowed much more powerful targeting).
We hit that audience with 4 emails (the totality of the sale was 72 hours):
- Sale ends in 24 hours
- Sale ends tonight
- Sale ends in 6h
- Sale ends in 2h
(This is on top of the initial announcement blog post)
This may seem like a lot, but as it was to a segmented audience (that expressed interest in the topic), the return was amazing, and the unsubscribe rate very low.
Segmentation is so damn powerful, as …
- You don’t burn your email list out (more on that later). You only contacted an audience that showed they were interested.
- You don’t worry about unsubscribes. Because you are only hitting people who care, your unsubscribe rate stays low. That last email (sale ends in 2 hours) had an unsubscribe rate of only 0.64%. Considering it was the 5th email in under 72 hours, that is more than acceptable.
People who read the Study Guide generated $10,201. People who read the Anniversary Issue generated $27,016 in lifetime value. Per email we segmented, it was $3.03 per email for Anniversary Issue, and $3.46 per Study Guide email.
Collectively, email generated the bulk of revenue, clocking in at $63,078 lifetime value.
Email is your bread and butter, but segment your audience. This lets you hit them more often without burning out your email list, and also allows you to target to what people want
We had two segments to upsell:
- Previous members who had cancelled
- Existing members (to get them to upgrade – from Monthly to Yearly, and from Yearly to Lifetime)
In my viewpoint, the cancelled members were basically a Hail Mary. They had already bought and were not interested… so why not offer them a one-time exclusive price? We had nothing to lose.
It worked. 11 of them re-purchased. This may not sound like a lot, but that should generate roughly $5000 for us. Found money.
We also pitched our members to upgrade. In fact, 18 customers upgraded to ERD Lifetime ($599). Every other channel yielded only 13 lifetime sales…
We sold cancelled members an exclusive price, and let existing customers know they could upgrade for cheap.
Our one big fail. I’ve never ran a webinar, so the team ran this.
Two major problems:
1. Bad Topic
The team decided to do a webinar on red meat and cancer. An interesting topic, but… where’s the direct connection to ERD itself? In retrospect, it would have been smarter for us to have done the study guide as a webinar.
Reminder: people like consuming content in different ways. For example, I hate videos, and rarely ever watch them. I prefer to read. A lot of people are the opposite. Make your content consumable in whatever format people like.
The team used Webinar ninja. They tested it out 24 hours before. It worked.
During the webinar? It crashed twice; it was a technical disaster.
The upside was that people were super friendly. They trusted us, and empathized with our plight. I believe only a couple of people were trolling, and they were easily removed.
The team made it up by staying extra long to answer Q&A, and the audience appreciated that.
The webinar did make money, but not on the level we expected, generating just 7 sales (from 1000 optins).
Make sure your webinar topic smoothly connects into whatever product you’re selling. And test it out so you don’t have a major technical fail.
Last year we were on MailChimp, which let us track who visited the checkout page but did not buy (through their conversion pixel). Unfortunately, ConvertKit does not explicitly support such conversion pixel tracking.
Thus, that killer last email (“I saw you were about to buy but did not”) was not something we were able to send.
We also did not send any targeted email to our “Health Professionals” segment. These people would have been primed to purchase ERD.
Last year, we generated 93 monthly, 128 yearly, and 19 lifetime sales
This year, we generated 139 monthly, 70 yearly, and 31 lifetime sales. This yielded us a cool $114,504 in expected revenue.
It was an oddity last year that we had more yearly than monthly sales. I think this time it’s more of the status quo – people are interested, but do not want to commit to a full year.
By using a smart strategy and segmenting our email list, we generated over $100,000.
REMINDER: Keep the list healthy
In order to keep our email list healthy (responsive to what we’re sending), two things to remember:
- We segmented to keep our email list from burning out. Average Joe may not care about getting 5 emails from us about ERD (“how does this help me?”), but at least RD Jane sees the value of it (“okay, but no thanks”). This keeps your email list engaged, which is the critical factor you’re going for.
- We had regular content ready for the few weeks between the ERD Anniversary Sale and Cyber Monday. Between those two days, we sent out emails on:
We sent out 3 emails covering those 6 topics.
Thus, when Cyber Monday came around, the first thought is not “jesus christ these guys are always selling.” Instead, it becomes “okay, they’ve been sending me solid content, let me see what they’re offering…”
You better be sending interesting and useful stuff between selling.
We’re not done yet…
The sale is only the first part. We now need to nurture our customers to ensure that they stick around (and thus increase our LTV). Far too many people forget this – your job is only starting once someone becomes a customer.
If you’re interested, pop in your email address below, and I’ll send you a quick checklist and what emails we sent to ensure your own sale does great. Or join the SJO.com family on the right – I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and enjoy sharing what works (and what does not).