Email Wars: A teardown featuring Jeff Walker's Product Launch Formula affiliates
May the force be with them.
That's 7 affiliates like whoa.
This teardown is a 3,030-word behemoth about the 7 email sequences that inundated my inbox during the 2018 Product Launch Formula (PLF) launch. So without further ado, ladies and blokes and non-binary folks, may I present to you... *cue Star Wars opening music*
BILL BAREN, president and CEO at Bill Baren Coaching and mentee of Jeff Walker.
CHRISTIAN MICKELSEN, founder and CEO at Coaches with Clients and member of Jeff Walker's Platinum Plus mastermind.
DENISE DUFFIELD-THOMAS. She describes herself as "...a colonic irrigation technician, but for your finances. Wait, that sounds weird... I’m like a gateway drug to a life-long love affair with money. Oops… that sounds dodgy too."
MASTIN KIPP, author of Claim Your Power. Arianna Huffington calls him "...a leader for a younger generation: for those who long to live lives that are more passionate and more soulful."
RAY EDWARDS, communications strategist, copywriter, and author of the Amazon bestseller How to Write Copy That Sells. "Ray Edwards is kind of a big deal," says Amy Porterfield.
RYAN LEVESQUE, CEO of The ASK Method® Company. Enough said.
TODD BROWN, founder of MarketingFunnelAutomation.com. Kevin Rogers says, "It’s no surprise for you to see top entrepreneurs such as André Chaperon and Jack Born glued to their seats at a Todd Brown event."
Note that our players didn't start promoting PLF at the same time. Some began as early as August 23 — looking at you, Denise — while others kicked things off on September 17.
All players sent their cart close emails either on September 28 or 29. Here's a quick and dirty tip: When announcing the deadline, always indicate the time zone. I received a few panicky last call emails beyond the supposed midnight deadline, and I realized later on that the JV launch actually ends at 3 a.m. my time.
Phew! I did the math for you. The players sent 126 emails in total, and I ain't gonna critique each one of them. I may be crazy about emails, but not that crazy. I have to have extra time for self-care. And by self-care, I meant N̶e̶t̶f̶l̶i̶x̶ reading a thought-provoking business book. ;)
So I'll tackle this teardown in phases, and I'll pick a winner in every stage.
But first, some housekeeping...
The idea behind this teardown came to me by accident. It so happened that I'm already subscribed to the lists of all 7 players. I didn't know beforehand that they were Jeff Walker's affiliates. Hence, I wasn't as intentional as I could have been.
There were times when I didn't open the emails right away, and I received follow-up emails (same content, different subject line) the next day.
Other times I opened the emails immediately which means I may have missed the follow-up "let's try again to get Chanteuse finally open the email" emails.
I clicked on some links. I ignored the rest. So maybe my action (or inaction) triggered an automation. Maybe not. Blame my erratic behavior on the moon.
Lastly, since I was already a longtime subscriber, I wasn't privy to how the players drove new traffic to their email funnels for this launch. Welcome emails or any emails meant for new subscribers will then not be discussed.
So... you ready?
Oh, wait, let me do more housekeeping with my lightsaber and eliminate two players from Email Wars right away. Bill and Christian, you gots to go.
Because my inbox didn't appreciate being flooded with multiple offers on top of PLF.
How is overwhelming me with too many choices gonna help convert me into a paying customer? I'm humbly asking this question using my I'm-less-successful-than-Bill-and-Christian tone.
Stu McLaren, founder of Tribe, has this to say about causing confusion among your potential clients:
...having too many offers is not only stressful for you and your team, but it’s also confusing for your customers because they don’t know where to direct their attention. And when they don’t know where to direct their attention, they stay there, not buying, like a deer in the headlights. When there isn’t a clear path to buy, it creates a ton of friction, and people stall.
Let's look at my journey inside Bill's email funnel during the PLF launch season.
(Note: Yellow = PLF; Pink = non-PLF)
11 of the 20 emails from prelaunch to cart close had nothing to do with PLF. Did I mention that the PLF prelaunch masterclass is 12 hours long? This isn't enough, apparently. Bill wanted me to attend 3 additional non-PLF workshops. Sleep? What's that?
He also emailed about random blog posts and video, and for the life of me, I don't understand their connection to PLF.
At one point, I heard nothing about PLF for 5 days, and then... BOOM! He sent his cart open email on Day 14.
Christian's email funnel is not too shabby compared to Bill's, but I'm still giving him the boot.
(Note: Yellow = PLF; Pink = non-PLF)
24% of Christian's emails during prelaunch had nothing to do with PLF.
He disrupted the email flow by offering his own coaching package right before the PLF launch. Uh-huh. He wanted me to open my Michael Kors wallet for his program even before Jeff opened the doors to PLF. Smart tactic? Or nah?
Although his purported $43,000 worth of bonuses sounded enticing — it's the biggest bribe of any player! — it induced bonus fatigue in me instead. More on this topic later.
Aaand just like that, we're down to 5 players. Let's proceed, shall we?
This round is a little boring. Denise wins it, no contest.
Well, she's the only one who had a pre-prelaunch content. #attagirl
While the rest of the affiliates were busy promoting other programs or events, Denise was busy stoking the curiosity and gauging the interest of her subscribers about product launches.
Here's the summary of the pre-prelaunch portion of her email funnel:
Email 1: I HATE launching but here’s why I do it (This is a blog post + self-segmentation email. It gave me the option to either opt in or opt out of launch-related emails.)
Opt in >>> Thank you! You’re on the list… landing page >>> You're on the list! confirmation email
Opt out >>> Thank you for letting us know... landing page
Email 2: Lessons from TWO $750k launches (This is another blog post email that mentioned PLF.)
One miss in this email: I already signed up to be on the PLF Notification List and should have been tagged as an interested party. It's unnecessary to ask me again if I want to opt in. Oopsie!
Email 3: he said, she said (This is a PLF case study highlighting a 6-figure launch for a $197 product.)
Again, this is just the pre-prelaunch period. I haven't even attended Jeff's free masterclass yet, but I'm already salivating like a Pavlov dog over PLF. Good job, Denise!
Now for the big question: How important is the pre-prelaunch phase?
In his book, Launch, Jeff Walker explained:
...one of the areas that's almost always overlooked is the pre-pre—because it's the most clandestine. The cool thing is that it's also one of the simplest and easiest part of the formula. The whole idea of the pre-prelaunch is to begin to activate your tribe—or start building a tribe if you don't have one yet. [...] Your Pre-Prelaunch Sequence is all about grabbing your market's attention without actually trying to sell them anything at all.
When you build anticipation around your offer during the pre-prelaunch, you get to attract more qualified leads to convert later down the line.
In this phase, I'm looking at how the players contributed to PLF's prelaunch success.
What does prelaunch success look like?
Here’s Jeff Walker again:
“The way you put together a great Prelaunch Sequence is by delivering massive value to your market. […] Don't just tease them—give them some substance. […] Teach real content that people can actually use… — and you won't have to wait long until the payoff. That comes on the launch day when you Open Cart.”
For Jeff’s PLF prelaunch, the great value comes in the form of a 4-part live masterclass + The Product Launch Blueprint.
So did the players effectively drum up enthusiasm for this free training?
In the case of Ray, Ryan, and Denise, they lost this round for the following reasons:
Not promoting the masterclass on time. Sure, no one consistently sent an email about all 4 masterclasses and video replays. All players skipped emailing about a masterclass or two. But the rest of the competition is miles ahead of Ray and Ryan when it comes to rallying their subscribers to attend the live training. Prelaunch period began on September 12, and the other affiliates had a 3-5 days head start.
Not promoting other important resources. Denise did say something about "PDF downloads and exercises" in her first prelaunch email, and then... nothing. Not a peep about the uber-valuable 18-page product launch blueprint. In fact, she went radio silent for 6 days during the prelaunch period. Why d'you temporarily ghost my inbox, Denise? Color me confused.
Now, how did Mastin create buzz around Jeff’s prelaunch content?
Mastin emailed me since Day 1 of the PLF prelaunch. For easy reference, his initial invite had the complete schedule for all 4 masterclasses. Subsequent emails were the customary heads-up on (almost) each masterclass, replay, download link, and more. And instead of simply pointing me toward the direction of these prelaunch offerings, he peppered a few of his emails with storytelling that made them more interesting to read.
Sounds like he won the prelaunch round? Not so fast. It's a close fight, but in the end, I had to hand the win to Todd.
He sent way fewer emails by comparison, but they are sharp enough to slice through the noise in an inbox crowded with PLF prelaunch emails.
Todd's emails = a breath of fresh cyber air.
Email 1: WATCH HIS TRAINING
Who is "HIS"? That's very strategic of Todd. He piques your curiosity by not telling the specific name on the subject line. And when you finally open the email, you'll read about his personal anecdote about Jeff Walker, his experience with PLF, and the 3 reasons why you should register for the live masterclass. (<— He used the 'rule of 3' which is another powerful copywriting technique.)
Email 2: I DESPISE affiliate stuff like this
In this email, Todd talks about why he hates Reciprocal Mailing ("you promote me, I promote you") and how you should do an affiliate review process instead. By the time he segued into discussing the PLF masterclass, I'm already convinced at that point he's not just another affiliate who wants to earn the big bucks, but an affiliate who truly believes that PLF is gonna be valuable to me.
Email 3: These 6 psyche triggers drive launch sales
Todd shares the marketing factors behind the most lucrative, big money product launches — including the use of social psychological triggers. He noted that Jeff calls these "mental triggers", and he provided a preview of one of them. Then he linked to Jeff's masterclass where you can learn more about these mental triggers. Smartly done, sir. Smartly done.
Email 4: will marketers copy this new funnel model?
Email 5: Jeff Walker's "Open Cart System"
As a departure from the format of his previous emails — tell a story, pour in the value, then invite the subscribers to the training — Todd swoops in for the kill in his 4th and 5th emails. Errr, I meant he dove straight into discussing the PLF masterclass. Both emails are about amplifying the value of Jeff's prelaunch content. How did he do this? Two words: Persuasion Psychology.
SOCIAL PROOF: Todd is a marketing veteran, and the fact that he's also attending the training is a testament to the impressive quality of the PLF masterclass.
EXCLUSIVITY: Todd mentioned that Jeff has only previously shared the open cart system with his private clients.
SCARCITY: Todd stressed that the free masterclass is available for viewing for just a few more days.
It's also worth noting that Todd kept mum about bonuses during this period, while the other players already started trumpeting their offers. The only other player who sent non-sales emails was Ray.
So... to recap: First round winner: Denise. Second round winner: Todd. Ready for the third round?
Jeff Walker scheduled his open cart for 5 days — September 24 to September 28. If we are to go by his own recommendation, as explained in his book, a 5-day launch period could look like this:
His affiliates, on the other hand, sent launch emails ranging from 2 emails to 14 emails.
SPOILER ALERT: This round's winner is the player who sent 2 emails only. Personal bias may have been at play, but boy-oh-boy, did the winning player's 2nd email made me fist-bump the air!
This is not to say that sending 8 emails or 14 emails that use proven psychological sales tactics are not as effective in ushering a prospect from Point A to Point Buyer. But since I created Email Wars — my game, my rules, and I chose Todd as the winner of the launch phase because of how different his 2 emails are from the other sequences that followed the traditional launch email format we are accustomed to reading. Huge fan of pattern interrupt over here!
His first launch email is a marketing lesson on social proof with the call-to-action leading to the PLF case study page. The second launch email that made me do the fist bump went like this:
Subject: Access to PLF Masterclass (no optin or purchase needed)
[He talked about the PLF masterclass]
[He mentioned the deadline for streaming the masterclass]
[He suggested a tip on how to binge-watch the masterclass at a faster pace]
Then he ended his email with this:
Let's see my favorite part again...
"Also, if after going thru this free masterclass you decide you want to enroll in Jeff's PLF coaching program..."
I don't know about you, but, oh, how I love this no-pressure technique compared to the cart close emails that blare LAST GOSHDARN CHANCE!!! ENROLL NOW OR MY TICKING TIMER WILL MAKE YOUR INBOX EXPLODE!!!
Well, there's no winner in this round. Because I don't have a copy of the postlaunch emails. Ha! We can only wonder what emails were sent to those who bought PLF. But during this phase, we should not also forget about those who didn't buy.
This is how Jeff Walker suggests you should treat these prospects:
You just spent considerable energy romancing them in your prelaunch, and even if they didn't buy this time, they are still great prospects for future offers. Don't let that romance go cold. Send them some more content in the days after you close your launch. Then they'll be primed for a follow-up offer or for your next launch.
On that note, we've finally reached the end of Email Wars. It's time to declare the victor.
The Email Wars champion who gets a pun as a prize is...
Yoda man, TODD BROWN!
Todd, with the non-slimy way he promoted PLF, won me over... even if he had the bonus with the lowest monetary value ($400).
Which brings me to the topic of affiliate bonuses. I'm curious how it helped the players rank in the PLF leaderboard, especially those who touted 5-figure worth of freebies.
Is affiliate marketing all about the bonuses?
I've noticed some players overselling their bonus packages instead of PLF itself. It's as though they're enticing me with the gravy instead of the turkey. I turned to Tarzan Kay, an expert affiliate marketer, during her Digital Course Academy affiliate launch debrief and asked her to bring clarity to my gravy vs. turkey dilemma.
In summary, here's what I gathered:
When promoting a popular product of a well-known marketer (e.g. Jeff Walker, Marie Forleo, Amy Porterfield), it is generally acceptable for affiliates to double down on promoting their own bonuses much more than educating the subscribers about the product creator or the product itself.
Makes sense. Relevant bonus packages help you stand out among your affiliate competition. Emphasis on relevant. Because you'd want your bonuses to be a good complement to the product you're promoting. Avoid bundling together random freebies just to increase the monetary value of your bonus package. Bonus fatigue is real, yo.
As important as dangling bonuses in front of your audience, let them know:
Why do you care about promoting the product? (Hint: Affiliate commission is not the right answer.)
What's your personal experience with the product you're promoting?
How do you think this product will transform your subscriber's life?
In short, stir up in your subscribers that powerful emotion that Princess Leia uttered in the final shot of Rogue One:
You're still here? Cool!
As your reward for staying until the end, I created an email funnel map based on the PLF emails sent by Jeff Walker. Grab your copy inside Funnelflix by signing up for your access below.