Our $1,000 launch disaster: Why your marketing is not bringing in sales
Author Terence Leong Edited by Candice Neo
Financial advisors, property agents, coaches, consultants and service-based business owners, I am sure by now you know things aren’t going to be the same as before. Cold calls trying to make that meeting happen is just not going to be as effective; going online is the future.
Many of you might have started your online marketing campaign:
✅ You hired good freelancers or a digital marketing agency
✅ Came up with great content ideas and your posts look fantastic, with good visuals and copywriting
✅ You put in money to do Facebook ads with good audience targeting.
Everything looked good at the beginning, but when you clicked the publish button, you waited, 1 day, 2 days... You probably saw some traffic coming in, but you're barely getting any enquiries for your services.
If this sounds like what you are facing, guess what, we actually also faced the same problem with our content marketing course launch earlier this year, even with our content marketing experience creating content that generated 1 billion page views.
This is because this is not a marketing problem, but a crucial problem with our positioning we failed to see.
And if this is not done right, any form of marketing would fail, no matter how awesome your marketing campaign is.
Before we dive deeper into dissecting our mistakes, let us first define what we mean by positioning in marketing.
What is positioning in marketing?
Traditionally, positioning in marketing is defined as how a brand wants to let their customers perceive their products/services, using the 4Ps of market positioning. But as they are often directed by what brands want instead of their customers' needs, many doubts have been raised about this approach in recent years.
This is exactly what caused our launch failure – we failed to see our customers' needs and pain points.
After discussions within our team and market research, we realised we need to focus on our customers.
Here's our positioning framework:
- Audience targeting: Who are we targeting?
- Pain points: Does our product/services solve their needs?
- Unique selling point: What makes us different?
- Proof: Are customers convinced we can solve their problems?
It's only when you can address all of the above that you can get your positioning right. Our course launch failed because we failed to do.
Let me bring you through our journey so you can avoid this expensive mistake we made.
Dissecting our $1000 positioning mistake from our product launch disaster
We created this content marketing course because we thought that it would be good to put together all our content marketing experience and learnings over the past 6 years – these learnings have helped our digital travel media TripCanvas establish authority and drive millions of dollars of sales for our clients.
We honestly think this course has some of the most comprehensive stuff about content marketing we are able to find out there, including hacks and templates that most people rarely get through other free channels.
We spent 2 months putting this up, using strategies that have been working well for TripCanvas:
- Traffic-generating content: Generating loads of content with great visuals to market it (A/B tested to ensure good click-through rate)
- Funnel: Putting up a lead magnet and sales funnel (you can download this content marketing e-book for free)
- Facebook ad strategies: Putting up comprehensive Facebook ad strategies (with multiple audience segments and hidden interests targeting)
- Pricing strategies: We used a tripwire promo strategy with up-selling elements packing in a bunch of values (some other online courses with similar curriculum cost USD $99 onwards) and included a real scarcity limited-time promotion.
We thought this is going to be our 6-figure launch, but boy we were so wrong. When we pushed the ads out on the first day of our launch, we were excitedly looking at our dashboard.
It was an absolute disaster. We immediately started dissecting what might have gone wrong.
What went wrong with our positioning
We thought we had so much content marketing experience under our belt that we didn't need to do the dreaded market research and we could just "smartly" guess it. But this humbled us again and nothing beats the good old way of just talking to customers directly and asking quality questions. Sometimes, we just have to do things that don't scale.
How do you ask your clients/customers the right questions? Download our free template below.
Download our "Customer Journey Questioning Strategy" Template
After a few conversations and digging, we found some interesting insights. Using our positioning framework, here's what went wrong:
- Audience targeting: We previously assumed that people who sell stuff online would be interested in content marketing. But we were dead wrong on this. Most e-commerce sellers told us that content marketing is good to have but it is not their utmost priority. Some e-commerce webinars also pointed out the more pressing issues e-commerce sellers are thinking about on a daily basis.
- Pain points: We thought that people are tired of competing in a competitive market and that we can help them stand out. But seems like people are not really biting it.
- Unique selling point: We thought a full-stack content marketing course would be our special sauce (i.e. from positioning to content marketing to sales funnel to ads strategies) but people straight out told us that they are confused by too many things. Hence, it was not a good thing to sell our USP as a full-stack content marketing course.
We were selling the right stuff to the wrong people.
- Proof: We only have track records for hospitality, travel and F&B industries, with almost nothing to show for the e-commerce industry.
Making assumptions is simply.. deadly.
How we eventually found our product-market fit
We eventually ruled out all most e-commerce sellers as our target audience. And we made a further hypothesis that complex products sellers like healthcare products sellers or service providers would more likely understand the value of content marketing and how it can help them build authority and trust with their customers.
So this time, besides doing experiments, we also made sure to talk to our prospects.
And the results showed. After spending $1000 on ads, we saw significant improvement in audience response with 43 checkouts initiated (a huge difference from the initial results of one sale):
I personally even received a few direct personal messages from financial advisors and real estate agents wanting to know how we can improve their content marketing efforts. And when we chatted with them, we further identified their pain points:
- They are simply tired of paying expensive Facebook ads to drive sales, it's not sustainable.
- They also straight out told us that content marketing has a lot of moving parts and it's very hard to get it right on their own. They didn't mind paying more to have us take over their content marketing.
Some of these contacts eventually turned into 5-figure content marketing agency work which we never expected.
And we had greater clarity on our target audience: We help consultants, advisors, agents, coaches and complex products' sellers build demand through content marketing.
This was how we found our positioning.
How can you do it too?
We'll share with you 4 simple steps you can use to find your positioning. If you read till the end, we have a special gift for you.
How you can find your positioning in 4 steps:
Step 1: Find your niche so you can identify your target audience
Many people confuse their industry or products as their niche or positioning. For example, if you are in the real estate industry and you say "helping my clients buy a condo" is your niche, you are competing with every real estate agent in your industry. The same goes for if you are in the financial advisory industry and if you say "retirement planning" is your niche.
Retirement planning is your service but not your niche.
Most of our clients tell us they want to target everyone, fearing that they will lose out on potential revenue. But we have demonstrated that the opposite is true.
Think about this, does a general mechanic or an automotive electronic engineer earn more?
By niching down, you can identify a specific audience you want to target, and you can get a better idea of who they are. If you have no clue, we suggest listing down a few audiences whom you identify with and do some experiments to test if they can resonate with your offer.
Let's take a look at the financial advisory industry, for example. Most financial advisors want to target everyone with high disposable income, which is too generic and you are probably trying to compete with everyone. Instead of doing this, you can list down a few audiences with different financial planning needs (in our upcoming module, we will dissect step-by-step how to do so), for example:
- Young families
- Millennial salarymen
- Independent women
And do experiments to figure out who your best customers are, instead of hypothetical ones.
Step 2: Discover their pain points
After figuring out who their best customers are, most marketers simply "guess" what's their pain points. This can be another deadly mistake. As we have demonstrated above, it's very easy to just take superficial information and run with it.
But nothing beats having a face-to-face conversation with your prospects and customers. The best practice is to have a good questioning strategy to uncover the unsaid things – ask follow up questions and watch what your prospects/customers do instead of taking what they say at face value (if you do the latter, you might instead find "imaginary pain points", meaning pain points that are not really there, and using those would only lead to ineffective sales and marketing campaigns).
For example, in the financial advisory industry, imagine if you are a financial advisor: If your prospects are just thinking about earning enough to buy their condo or to travel around the world, touting retirement planning as your USP might probably be tone-deaf.
It's also very common for your customers to have more than one pain point. And it will be very tempting to want to include everything, but the truth is your prospects/customers will only be able to pay attention to just one thing. Grow and Convert, a renowned content marketing agency in the US, described this interesting phenomenon that we really resonated with.
The most common way to do this will be through what we called the "ultimate pain point approach".
Let's take a look at the accounting industry, for example. Accountants solve many pain points for business owners:
- Preparing accounting reports every year is messy and tedious
- Missing out on tax savings due to incorrect bookkeeping and wrong business structure
- Missing out on government incentives due to lack of information
- Fines from authorities due to incorrect tax filing
But imagine trying to highlight all these in your ads campaign – most people would be overwhelmed with too much information. So when we helped our client, an accounting firm, write their landing page, we chose to focus on one pain point that matters to their clients' bottom line – which is not wanting to deal with the tedious paperwork.
Below is a screenshot of our client's landing page that highlights this major pain point their clients face, and how our client, as an accounting firm, can help them solve this problem:
Step 3: Figure out your unique selling point (USP)
After you have niched down, found your best customers and identified their true pain points, the story doesn't stop here. You have to demonstrate to your customers why they have to choose you over other people offering similar services in your industry.
Some examples of common USPs we often hear from our clients from various industries:
- Hospitality: "We have excellent service"
- Food and beverage: "Our restaurants serve only fresh ingredients"
- Financial advisory: "We help our clients do comprehensive retirement planning"
Your USP can only be your competitive advantage if you are one of the few in the market who provides it. If another provider across the road can do it too, it renders your USP ineffective. For example, for our clients in the hospitality industry, 7 out of 10 hotel clients told us that their USP is excellent service, which means that is clearly not a good USP.
One problem businesses often face is that they don't have a USP that really stands out, one that is significantly different from their competitors' USP.
If you are in an industry where many companies offer a similar range of services, all the more you need to provide something that many of your competitors are not providing – something that closes an existing gap between what your customers need and what your competitors are not providing.
Let's take a look at the financial advisory industry, for example. Most financial advisors help you do your financial planning, retirement planning, advise you on the insurance products you need to get, invest in ETFs, unit trusts and other financial products for you. So how can one financial advisor stand out from another?
One financial advisor we worked with has a unique investment strategy that focuses on defensive growth stocks to hedge his client's risks, when most financial advisors use bonds to do so. This is his USP, and during the current financial climate when interest rates are low (which means one can't earn much from bonds), this USP gives him a competitive advantage over his competitors.
Step 4: Show and prove your offer works
This might sound like the most straightforward thing to do, but it's actually not that easy to do it well. When being asked by customers/prospects the results they can bring onto the table, most businesses in these various industries might respond like this:
1. Accounting firms: "I helped my clients save x% taxes"
2. Real estate agents: "I helped my clients sell their condo in x days"
3. Financial advisors: "I helped my clients achieve x% annualised return for their investments"
But think about this, will your customers/prospects just take what you say at face value and proceed to buy from you? They will likely ask: How do I know what you say is real? How do I know if I can achieve this too?
Hence, showing the results alone is not good enough. You need to provide the following:
- Context – It shows your prospects the situations in which you have achieved the said results, and they can then better understand if you can help them achieve it too
- Details – It shows your prospects your problem-solving processes, and makes your proof look more solid.
Here's the good news – all these can be achieved through content marketing. You can show your proof through creating content like these:
- Case studies: Show your prospects how exactly you have achieved results for others. Here's an example of a case study from the hospitality industry:
- An expert-level "how-to" article: This kind of content demonstrates to your prospects the inner workings of your problem-solving process, and it helps you develop your authority too. Here's an example:
Here's how content marketing earned $30k for this villa with $0 ads
If you're interested in working with us for an A-to-Z done-for-you content marketing for your business, reach out to us by filling in the form below. We're revealing our content marketing strategies and proven methodologies that have helped us generate 78 million traffic and USD $5.7 million in sales for more than 120 clients in our viral content marketing course.
Putting it all together: Crafting your positioning statement
So to summarise the above steps, here's what you need to do to find your positioning using our positioning framework:
- Audience targeting: Find your niche to identify your specific target audience
- Pain points: Find your customers' pain points
- Unique selling point: Find and show your competitive advantage and how you are different (something that most of your competitors can't provide yet)
- Proof: Show and prove your offer works
Using this framework, you can then craft a positioning statement for your brand so that your clients are very clear on what you can provide for them.
Take a look at the positioning statement we crafted for our client in the financial advisory industry:
"We specialise in helping millennial salarymen escape 9-to-5, by achieving financial freedom 10 years before their peers through our Defensive Growth Stocks investment blueprint that maximises returns and manages risk."
The above checked all 4 criteria of our positioning framework:
✅ Speaks to a targeted audience group: Millennial salarymen
✅ Tackle pain points: Escape 9-to-5
✅ Shows their unique selling point and competitive edge: Their investment strategy using Defensive Growth Stocks
✅ Articulate results based on proof of what they have done for other clients: Achieve financial freedom 10 years before their peers
Most people assume they know their customers and jump straight into their marketing campaigns based on their assumptions. And if their marketing efforts don't work, they change their visuals, copywriting or ad strategies, only to find out later that they have to scrap the entire campaign because what they are creating is not what their prospects are really looking for.
We face this problem all the time too. It's just not enough to just assume who your customers are. Every customer is more than just a number, understanding them as a real person and giving them a persona is crucial in getting your positioning right.
Failing to do this will cause any sort of marketing to fail - no matter how much money you have.
It's very easy to get your positioning wrong, including us at times, because it's actually not that straightforward; you can't just do a few hours of Google research, make a few assumptions and just run with it.
Feeling unsure of how to start?
Here's our special gift for you:
Sign up below to get an exclusive discount on our upcoming course where we elaborate more on positioning, we will share with you a step-by-step guide on how you can create content like the above, how to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to create a solid case study, and how you can determine what to share and what not to share in your free content so that you can build trust and demand for your services without giving it all away.
Meanwhile, if you're a business owner and interested in working with us on content marketing, you may reach out to us by filling in the form below.
Book your free digital content marketing game plan session with us
At Academy T, we execute on digital content marketing campaigns that stand out from others. Drawing from our experience of: ✅ 6 years running a digital media company TripCanvas that has attracted 70 million visitors ✅ Referring USD $2 million annual booking revenues for our 120 clients (including Airbnb, Marriott and more) ✅ Consulting dozens of established entities, including Indonesia Tourism Board and Malaysia Tourism Board Our expertise is in tourism, hospitality, and F&B, specialising in content marketing.
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