2 weeks ago, I asked my ethical squad whether they’d like to get a debrief of my recent Email Muscles launch, and most of them said “yes”.
This debrief is divided into 5 sections, going from the driest details all the way to the juiciest, longer parts.
A fair warning before I start unfolding everything:
This debrief is extensive. It’s 3,182 words long and it is not your usual launch debrief. I put an emphasis on parts that a lot of business owners are not so public about, for a good reason -
Launching is not easy, no matter how experienced you are in it, how much help you have, and how strategic you are with it. More than anything, launching is stressful, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Alright, let's go.
In brackets you can find the numbers of the previous launch, which I held during 2022’s Black Friday)
Number of emails sent: 8 (10)
Length of launch: 2 weeks (10 days)
Lowest open rate: 36.39% (37.56%)
Highest open rate: 46.75% (52.07%)
Highest click-through rate: 4.11% (4.59%)
Lowest click-through rate: 0% (0.47%)
Unsubscribers: 14 (13)
Softly opted out: 9 (3)
List size at the beginning of the launch: 344 (218)
Even though my list grew significantly between the two launches (more than 50% in about 4 months, all organically), and even though this launch was stretched across a longer period and had fewer emails in it, you can see that the stats are somewhat similar, if not better this time around.
My hypothesis here is that my welcome experience, the value I provide in the ongoing ethical Friday newsletter, and my pre-launch efforts helped me in achieving these stats.
Goals and Achievements
Before starting the launch, I defined these goals for myself:
Realistically, double the size of the new group - 6 participants. Stretch goal - 10 participants.
Clean the list of subscribers who aren’t my ideal clients (at least now).
Make my life easier by writing all the for this launch emails well in advance - in the previous launch, I was visiting my family in Tel Aviv and wrote each email either on the day of sending, or the night before. It was exhausting.
Despite how hard this launch was, I see it as a successful one:
Grew the size of this cohort: The new group has 4 Musclers at a higher price point, and there's also 1 Muscler who is going through a 1:1 process.
… Which I’m testing and will crystallize into a stand-alone product.
A few subscribers showed the way out for themselves, despite having a soft opt-out option. I couldn’t have been happier about cleaning my list this way, although I do hate to see each and every unsubscriber leave.
But I didn’t make my life easier at all. Here’s what happened behind the scenes:
I actually had 2 different strategies going into this launch. And during the launch, I went for a third.
Here are the stories I mapped out for the first strategy (in no particular order):
Why templates won’t be your email list’s saving grace
How Email Muscles is different from similar programs, merely thanks to the fact that you’re getting a tailored email strategy for your business
Why I’m being careful about promising to get you sales if you join Email Muscles
Why I’m not going to make any profits by launching Email Muscles again, and why I’m launching it again either way
The new things in Email Muscles starting from this round - 1:1 tech support included
The origin story of Email Muscles
Why Email Muscles is a 90-day program, and what does it have to do with building healthy habits
How to create a sustainable email marketing plan, and how this launch is no different (tying everything back to strategy and careful planning)
My 1yo newsletter and how to get things right yourself
As you can see here, I mapped out way too many ideas. Some of them might even be useful or used in future launches (if I’d even launch the same way again either way).
But a few days after mapping out this strategy, I noticed that I was focusing too much on myself and the features of Email Muscles, rather than the value beyond the value, and my subscribers/future Musclers.
Today, I know to say why my mind was in that unhelpful space. More on that in the following sections.
That’s when I revised some things and made a few changes. It was time for strategy no. 2, this time in a particular order:
The origin story - my mom is responsible for this
What’s new in this round of Email Muscles - included tech support + longer onboarding call
Testimonial - Ivana
Linkedin/the internet is all about templates. But what happens when you run out of those? Why not develop something that actually sounds like you to begin with?
I’m not going to make a profit from launching EM again, But I want to do it anyway.
My newsletter is 1yo now, but I only cracked the code for it in the past 3 months. You have the opportunity to be ahead of your own game with someone who isn’t 10 steps ahead of you, but only 3 steps ahead of you - Friday newsletter
Joining Email Muscles won’t guarantee sales. Here’s why you need to join anyway.
Why a 90-day cohort and habit formatting
Testimonial - Daniel
Marketing your business sustainably - why only 1 newsletter a week?
I was actually halfway through writing the emails for all of those while I was still in Valencia (wow, that feels like ages ago now).
Don’t get me wrong, some of those emails were good enough, and I also took their drafts and reworked them into the launch emails that I did send out.
But something didn’t feel right about this strategy.
It was also way too email-heavy for my taste and for what I knew my subscribers would like to get as well.
It was time for strategy number 3, which resulted in the emails my list received during the launch, in the following order:
The origin story of Email Muscles, featuring my mom
Ivana’s testimonial + video
Hedvika’s testimonial + how to make email marketing work for your business (by not sticking to “best practices” that don’t resonate with you)
Future pacing email - where would you be if you join Email Muscles this time around in 1 week, 1 month and 3 months from now?
The importance of repetition in building your habits and business
How you’d be easing up into writing your emails every week, even if you’ve never done it before - and how pressure-free it is to be in the cohort
The Musclers that already joined, and why I decided to relaunch Email Muscles despite it being a “bad” business decision
“Last call” email, minus the FOMO - there’d be a next time for you to join, if it’s not the right time right now
Despite having 2 strategies and loads of drafts to work with, and even though I had every intention to make my life easier and not write those emails on the day of sending them -
That’s exactly what I did.
I also had every intention to repurpose every email in advance into social media posts, align each email with posting on socials, and post twice as much on Linkedin as I usually do -
That didn’t happen either.
As I tell my Musclers, strategies are a great thing to have and rely on. But we also need to leave some room for our humanity and life and innovation.
And goodness, did I need that sort of flexibility during this launch.
When I came up with the first 2 strategies for this launch, I stayed in Valencia. My experience there was far from what I expected.
During the month of March, I rented a room right in the city center that looked very promising on paper, and in reality, had no access to natural light whatsoever.
My sleep cycle got completely fucked and my mental state degraded, fast. This wasn’t what I escaped the Berliner winter for.
You must think “Okay, but you could’ve gone out and enjoyed the sun” - hold your horses right there.
March is the month when the Fallas festival is taking place in Valencia. We’re talking about 3 full weeks of the loudest festival in Europe, including a daily firecracker display at 14:00 for 5 minutes that makes the entire city shake.
Think about it like New Year's Eve in Berlin (which I hate), times 21, in unexpected and ranging degrees of severity and loudness.
Having mild PTSD, I was sure I would cry daily. But that display always reminded me of this scene from Mary Poppins, and also, with an inner room, the bombing sounds didn’t seem so loud after all, at least most times.
As I’m nomading with the purpose of finding my next place to live in, and had Valencia as a contender, I wanted to see the city at “its worst” to decide whether or not I could see myself living there, long term.
Even though I didn’t live in a constant panic attack, I did not enjoy March at all, and coming into this launch, my energy levels were suspiciously low.
A couple of days before the launch started, I also got a message from a prospective client that despite me being "the most impressive professional" they spoke with, they decided to hire someone else for their email marketing.
Long story short, stepping into this launch, I was completely depleted and burnt out.
On day 3 of the launch, I took a day trip to Barcelona. It was fun and wrong for all the possible reasons.
I was already very low on energy, and taking this trip only made me weaker, physically. It also weakened me mentally, as I was going to a meetup with a panel of successful business owners who built their brands through Linkedin.
Feeling already insecure and exhausted, listening to them speak made me spiral. Hard.
At that point, I didn’t get as many inquiries about Email Muscles as I hoped. The combination of those things made me go into a whole “dark mode”, where I only could see the negative aspects of what I’ve done or what it resulted in rather than the positives.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise that I also didn’t take good-enough care of my physical well-being during that first launch week either.
At the end of March, with a fucked up sleep cycle and little compassion for myself, I packed my bags and found solace in the town of Cartagena.
(I wanted to get to Granada right after Valencia, but it was Easter week here and the prices were ridiculously high. Cartagena was the only place that had some vacancies and was within my budget for that week.)
As soon as I arrived in Cartagena, I decided to switch things around. I knew that I’m getting close to a mentally dangerous point, and the only way I could help myself was by focusing on the basics.
I slept a lot, did lots of yoga, listened to my body, spent hours on the hostel’s sunroof, and chose to do one thing every day to move the needle forward for my business. Just one thing.
To add salt to injury, the internet in my hostel was down for a few crucial days during the launch. I found ways to go around it, of course, and went to work in cafes that had wifi - even though, at times, it felt like I was the first-ever person to show up with a laptop to those places.
That week in Cartagena felt like a reset. I wasn’t in “exploration mode”, but rather a “recovery mode” - I did very little compared to what I usually do (especially when arriving at a new place) and reminded myself that I’m human before being a business owner or anything else.
I wasn't fully back to my good old self by the time I moved, but I did get out of that serious funky patch.
I left Cartagena with two days remaining for the launch, arrived in Granada, and settled in the new place I found.
By then, I had all 5 new Musclers on board. So anyone else coming in during those last 2 days was the cherry on top. But I was tired.
I decided, yet again, to do one thing to push the needle forward in those last days. I also made sure that everything was ready on time for the new cohort.
Before I knew it, the launch was over. The new cohort kicked off. And I granted myself a day off on the following day.
Two weeks after this last launch, I’m still struggling to find balance or harmony, and still fighting the burnout - which is why this debrief is arriving a week later than I intended.
The new cohort is doing fantastic - the new Musclers are already sending emails, promoting their lists on social media and speaking engagements, implementing their welcome sequences, and having a better handle on the technical aspect of their Email Service Providers (ESPs).
I couldn’t be prouder of the new Musclers and of the previous round too. I know that they all have so many great stories to share, and it’s just the beginning for them.
But at the same time, I need to do some homework and understand what I can do differently and better next time around. And whether it’s even a wise idea to have a “next time” like that.
Which leads me to what I think is the most interesting part of this debrief, aka - what have I learned from this launch (and the one before that):
As a strategist, my role is to lower friction whenever and wherever I possibly can so I convert prospects into clients/customers.
But with Email Muscles, I intentionally placed friction into the process of signing up (you can’t join just by paying on my website).
I still don’t think that Email Muscles is the right solution for everyone, at all times. I also know that someone who’s not willing to take the first step, inquire, or hop on a call with me to ask some questions is not ready to join the cohort… yet.
Look, Email Muscles is one of the most comprehensive group programs out there. And I’m not only saying that cause I came up with it or tweaked it myself. 8, 10 or even 20 emails can’t explain how thorough it is to help you write and send emails that you confidently stand behind, week in and week out, and keep up that momentum.
That alignment call, or even a few message exchanges, is crucial for every prospect to realize whether it’s the right time and the right solution for them.
The friction is necessary. I still believe that.
But I’m also thinking of ways to keep that barrier up while making it seem easier to join or hop on a call with me. I still don’t have all the answers, but I’ll get there by the next time I’ll open a new cohort.
Given the circumstances, I’m not giving myself a hard time about my pre-launch phase this time around.
If anything, I’m proud of the fact that I strategically mentioned the launch about a month in advance in my ongoing newsletters and on social media too.
That said, I will prolong this period next time around. I’m going to talk about Email Muscles much more wherever I am, include mentions of what’s going on inside the group regularly in my Linkedin and the newsletter content, and keep the buzz about it and around it.
I have already opened a waitlist for next time (which you can join here) - something I haven’t done after the first launch. I already have several people on it, and expect it to grow so it serves my business and makes my next launch easier.
Strategize earlier, create earlier, and just be more damn organized
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the strategy I ended up with, and wouldn’t change it.
Are all the emails as good as I would’ve liked them to be? Of course not. But it felt right enough, and that was more than I could wish for, again, given the circumstances.
When it comes to the next time I open a new cohort, I want to develop the strategy earlier, stick to it, write everything in advance and schedule it wherever I publicly am (for once!).
I wholeheartedly believe that I needed to experience the hardships that I went through in those first 2 launches to learn my lessons.
So the next time a new cohort starts, I’ll have all of my ducks in a row, or at least more of them.
Possibly hire help
I’m working toward getting to the point in my business where I can hire some help. For me, having extra accountability, as well as getting help to repurpose emails into social posts and graphics, would be extremely helpful.
But even if it won’t happen like that, I know that I’ll manage. The next point is key as to why I believe the next launch would be even better.
Collaborations with other ethical marketers/business owners
A part of being more organized for the next launch would include notifying trusted colleagues to support me and spread the word for me about the new cohort.
The idea of affiliates is on the table, but I also know that Email Muscles is a great offer that my colleagues would be happy to mention to their audiences, especially if I’d be the one doing the heavy lifting for them and writing the copy of the post/email for them to share.
Find a different solution instead of launching 3 times a year
As I mentioned at the very beginning, launching is hard. Launching 3 times a year, for the love of pasta, I can’t even think of this scenario. It’s too much.
I’m now thinking of different alternatives for having this offer out there. There are so many business owners who could use this help, which is why Email Muscles isn't going anywhere. But the launching part is driving me mad, and I can't see it as a sustainable effort in its current format.
One of my new Email Musclers, Laura Zug, is a community strategist. During her onboarding to the program, she already gave me some ideas for making my life easier the next time, and I’ll book a strategy call with her soon to see what’s possible.
And that's it. That's my Q2 Email Muscles launch debrief. I'd love to know what you thought about it - leave me a comment below or reply to the email that led you here!