How We Kicked This Thang Off
If it weren’t for Mariah Coz, I probably would have gone full throttle with my law firm (a separate business) and The Contract Shop® would not exist.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a lot of amazing support from my team and mentors alike and each and every single one of them deserves a dang parade in their own honor. But I had a conversation with Mariah in April 2017 that changed everything for me in an instant.
At the time, I was at a real crossroads in my business. Things just felthard. My products were doing amazing, but I couldn’t see that. They didn’t have a big multiple six-figure revenue number attached to them yet, so I just figured I was doing something wrong. It seemed like everywhere you looked, everyone was making bank, driving Teslas, and here I was struggling to scale my little digital product shop.
All the while, my firm was rockin’ and rollin’, making money hand over fist with more clients than I knew what to do with.
It seemed like an easy decision, until Mariah said something that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up-- I asked her why she didn’t offer any 1:1 coaching or group masterminds, and she paused, thoughtfully, and said, “I had to Mariah-proof my business.”
Here was someone who was so young, making so much money, with barely any overhead, and she could have launched a half-a-million dollar mastermind easily. But she chose not to up until that point because she knew she wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of supporting others in their business at such a personal level.
I knew in that moment I had to go all in with what would become The Contract Shop® (it was just my name at the time).
Mariah had made her fortune with online courses. So had my friend Jenna. And many other entrepreneurs before me, but I didn’t know what I could teach about at the time that would be of value. And, when you’re basically running your biz by yourself (as I was at that time), your time is in short supply.
With minimal resources, and DEFINITELY no time to create a new course, I had to sell the products on tap, which are and always have been my contract templates.
Shortly after that call with Mariah, my second-ever semi-annual sale was coming up.
Rewind to 2016 and My First Ever Product Sale
To give you some history… I had done a July 4th sale in 2016 as a way to test a new email software I had upgraded to from Mailchimp. The software wasn’t cheap, and some of my favorite stores (okay, literally just Anthro) were running a one-day 40% off sale. I figured, “hey, why not me!” and wrote up two emails-- one announcing the sale and one announcing the cart was closing, because I knew enough about online marketing to know you at least needed to send those two emails.
The first email shocked me-- over $2k in sales poured in from it, so I figured I’d write a few more emails. But back then, I was really, really scared of stepping on toes, so I only added two more. With a total of just four emails, I netted a little over $7k that weekend. “Yeah. I’m definitely going to try a Black Friday sale this year,” I thought.
Black Friday of 2016 brought in about double with just two more emails added to the same sequence, which brings you up to speed with my conversation with Mariah.
Between bites of gluten-free pumpkin pie, some falling out of my mouth, I couldn't believe what I saw as I pulled down to refresh the sales. I was addicted to the sales popping up as notifications while we played cards and did basically nothing as a family.
When the dust settled, we made about $14k, double our summer sale, but still less than half of what we did our first day of BFCM 2018.
I pretty much rinsed and repeated Black Friday 2016 with better results from the exact same content. So then...
Black Friday 2017
I created a monster chart of segmentation and a brand new training that was specific to the person's level of business. This was mostly borne out of my frustration with getting excited about an offer, buying it and then being very disappointed that it was for someone more beginner than I am. Even though this training was free, I still wanted people to be pleased with their experience in it. It was a massive undertaking that I did mostly by myself, and was busy segmenting and nurturing all the way until Cyber Monday. It paid off, and we more than doubled our previous year's sale totals.
This was also the first time our current affiliate program was implemented and tested during a major sale. They did wonderful, and I decided to keep the program.
I had huge plans for this sale, and got sideswiped by market confusion and desire for a GDPR product. I am not a fan of creating products quickly, but I was very upset with the options I saw produced and sold by other attorneys online. They were cashing in on fear, and that's something I've never done and I'm not okay with.
Instead, I decided to create a product that showed people both the most conservative way to deal with the GDPR changes, and the more practical, likely fine way that I chose for my own business.
The product, our GDPReady™ bundle, was a huge hit, selling over 170 licenses in less than a month. In fact, it's still continued to sell well because it's just so dang easy to download, use and understand. My goal as always been to be the "easy" button of legal, and we nailed it with this product.
Things were going so well with our GDPReady™ bundle that I almost cancelled our May sale to focus on the bundle because I was overwhelmed and the product hadn't gotten to exactly where I wanted it in terms of content-- I wanted more tutorials and examples, the ones that are in there now.
There was only one reason we didn't cancel, and it was our affiliates. We had given them all the materials and they had worked us into their marketing calendar. We couldn't pull out now.
But there was one HUGE problem-- I was falling into depression, fast.
I couldn't bring myself to do anything. I knew it was hurting my business and profits but the more bundles we sold the more I felt like I was letting people down since the bundles were bringing in a new audience and this new audience understandably had different + more demands than I was used to. I just constantly felt behind and it took a toll on me emotionally.
With no time to spare and no energy to get creative, I ran the EXACT SAME SALE from BFCM 2017 and we nailed 6-figures in less than 72 hours. It was insane.
While this was great for my business and accomplished a major goal of mine, I couldn't feel better. I won't go through the details here, but I started taking better care of myself. I hired a health coach. I hired a therapist. I bought lights for light therapy. I got my blood tested and supplemented where I was weak, and soon, I started to feel better slowly.
Black Friday 2018
After our May sale (which I told you-- was both a gift, netting nearly $150k unexpectedly, and the sale from hell that sent me into deeper depression), I had no clue how we were going to do this November for Black Friday. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
To give you a quick recap-- I almost cancelled our May sale because all I wanted to do was crawl under a rock and hide. With the GDPR compliance deadline of May 25 that fell right smack dab in the middle of our sale, we were more busy than I ever could have imagined and I didn’t have the systems, team capacity or infrastructure to support the added purchase load. We were getting complaints that we were slow to respond, we had a few justifiably angry customers (okay, like two, but it felt like 8933974973) and I had a ton of pre-sale templates to create on top of the normal workload.
I cratered and let my team do their thing. Thank goodness for them. We had a team retreat in July in Portland, Maine with the four core team members which is bittersweet looking back on it. Shortly after our late night laughs and butter-soaked lobster bib weekend, I’d have to let one of them go for reasons I don’t want to discuss publicly. That was a hard decision, and on top of letting this team member go, I had to pick up all the loose ends, do the work that hadn’t been done myself, and scramble to find someone to fill her spot (actually, two gals-- Jessie + Kaela, you are angels).
But my ‘whoa-is-me’ saga raged on in my mind. Things just felt hard. I don’t know how to describe it other than that. I started to see a therapist. I learned things about mental health, namely, that depression is depression. I always knew I had Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I just figured I only got depressed when the sun was shy during winter. But, if you have seasonal depression, you have depression. I don’t know why I didn’t know this, but I didn’t.
I started to go see a therapist and that’s been helpful. Also helpful-- when someone you care about looks at you and tells you the pity party is over and it’s time to stop playing small (thanks Jenna). These two things happened just in the knick of time (September) for me to pull together the biggest Black Friday promotion we’ve ever done.
I hired a copywriter I’d been working with on blog posts. Like me, she can’t sit still and wrote most of our Black Friday copy from Canada and Doha. Our content team (myself included) edited it and approved it for your viewing. With the content uploaded and scheduled to send, my team worked on the backend-- making sure the product prices were discounted and all the tech worked. We swapped our custom site for a template (YES! Templates really are better for everything!) thanks to Ethercycle.
And then we had Thanksgiving (well, not my International team members, but they were welcome to enjoy the holiday!!) Around 10pm ET on Thanksgiving, we opened the doors. Each sale, I schedule some bonuses to go to the first 10, 50 and 100 purchasers to reward the fast-action takers. They’re my most loyal customers and if I could hug all of them I would. Our first 10 bonuses sold out faster than a sack of Beanie Babies in 1998. The first 50 were gone by the time I woke up, and the first 100 were gone by the end of our first day.
Shockingly, we actually kept pace with our May sale most days of our Black Friday sale. We ended up doing about half of what we did in May when all was said and done, which was better than I had hoped for, and double our sale last Black Friday.
PRACTICAL TIP: If you’re ever wondering what metric to aim for, you can steal mine. I always want to do in all metrics (revenue, conversion rate, returning customer %, etc.) better than the previous sale. However, with the case of May + the GDPR deadline, we just wanted to do better than Black Friday 2017 since May was an anomaly.
I’m sorry for the boring blog post-- this sale was relatively uneventful from an operations standpoint! That’s a good thing. I no longer launch to panic and worry that things will go wrong. I expect to have some hiccups and when they strike, I have to sigh and deal with them (but I don’t run out of the room screaming at unsuspecting family members any more).
When I launch, I check my numbers, hop on chat, go to bed and do the same thing throughout the next day until it’s over. It’s pretty lame-- there’s no pump up music, no fists pounding on chests or complaining about “omg I’m so stressed out, you wouldn’tbelieve what happened to me.”
In fact, the last day of the sale-- traditionally our second biggest day for sales-- I just took off and went skiing.
Proof from an Instagram Story:
- We doubled our sales from last year!
- Our conversion rate went WAY up with this new template.
- Our returning customer rate was outta this world.
We connected with nearly 30% of our previous customers to make a sale! That number dipped down to about 20% by the end of the sale. This number made me really happy because it means our initiative to improve our products by year end was working, and that we had a solid content strategy that was a risk, but paid off.
- Our emails + email strategy were really, really good.
Speaking of content, our emails and email strategy were killer. My Shopify coach and I were talking about how disappointed we were in the emails we got from most merchants during BFCM. An email here and there, usually with the same image every time, reminding us about their sale (where you know that everything but the good stuff is actually on sale).
Instead, my team and I worked for months on our BFCM emails. I wanted them to be funny, fun to read and informative about our products. Our past emails had worked really great (and you can buy them here for your own sale), and these did even better with increased attention on our customer pain points and FAQs.
- I felt great about my chat support.
I tried to re-up my subscription with Teachable during our BFCM sale, and I was super disappointed when I ran into tech glitch after tech glitch.
Even worse, they didn’t have chat support-- only slow, disjointed email support. It made me really grateful that I’d set up and manned the chat lines for our customers. Yes! I did this personally. You got to chat with me if you chatted on TCS during our sale.
It felt great to help people in real time-- I even talked a few people out of items they would have otherwise bought. Huh? Sounds weird for someone selling a product to talk someone out of it. But it’s true! My goal is to make your purchase at The Contract Shop® the best purchase you’ve ever made for your business, and if I steered people towards products they didn’t need, I wouldn’t be meeting my goal.
The point is, it felt great to be there for my customers when they needed support the most.
- And y’all said some really nice stuff about us.
I’m really glad I manned the chat. It surprised some people, and a lot of you had really nice things to say about The Contract Shop® and the things we’ve been trying to do for you lately.
- Our affiliates killed it.
Once again, our affiliates did a great job, collectively buying themselves a nice car. I’m so proud of them, and of Zoe, our affiliate manager who managed their success. The great thing is that we started to see “micro influencers,” aka, those of you who have 500-1500 followers, make an impact. If you don’t have a product to sell yet, and you’d like to get in on the action, all you have to do isclick here to become an affiliate.
- We sold product so fast Zapier went haywire.
One of the major customer service issues we had was that people were buying so fast, our Zaps couldn’t keep up.
If you’re not familiar with Zapier or “Zaps,” it’s a software that connects different software to each other. We sell everything through Shopify so our affiliates get credit for their sales, and once it’s sold, Zapier sends a message to our other apps to deliver all the goods because they’re housed in multiple software locations.
That works great on a regular basis, but our system got flooded with order and Zapier struggled to keep up. We’re looking into how to improve this for next time by either upgrading Zapier or looking into reducing the number of post-purchase Zaps that happen.
- Our discount software quit on us on our encore day and pushed all our prices back up to full price.
We ran an encore day the Tuesday after BFCM ended, so really it was BFCMET… get it?
Truthfully, I run an encore day some years for two reasons. First, there are always tons of emails and DM’s from people who are so upset they’ve missed our sale. I hafta kinda shrug because we ramp up for our sales starting about two months out, whether you know it or not. But nevertheless, we sometimes will offer a very limited (a few hours only) encore period where we’ll still have the sale pricing up.
The second reason for our encore day is because our affiliates are typically promoting their own products through Monday, so Tuesday, they can come back to their audience with one of our products without taking sales away from their own biz.
- We lacked clarity around some of our product listings.
Being in chat definitely helped me resolve a lot of issues, but only for the people who bothered to reach out to me. Doubtless, this was just a handful of the actual people who needed more clarification. But, this is one of the first things I’m fixing with a copywriter. All the praise hands.
- We had a technical snafu that ended up costing one of my team members unexpected hours of her time to fix.
The worst part was this was a contractor I pay on commission, and this change wasn’t her fault. I am so grateful to my team who stepped in and fixed this for her and I. In the past, it would have meant late nights and lots of tears. Add to that I would have had to figure all this out on my own, and I would have been in a royally screwed sitch.
Thankfully, I’ve hired out these tasks which help tremendously to spread the load when poop hits the fan. It made it a bearable mistake for my commissioned contractor, myself and even my team.
I’m so grateful to the gals and guys who help The Contract Shop® in these times of need. Every single person on my team is so special and I try to show them that all the time!!
- We forgot about some of our subscribers and only launched to a portion of our list.
We spent so much time changing, improving and segmenting our emails to deliver only to the people who would want them, that we forgot to share the news of the sale with those who were on our general email list. Can you believe that?!
In the end, we sent out a last minute email announcing the sale, and it doubtless cost me sales, However, we made up for this by nurturing, educating and selling to only the most engaged fans and it showed with their love in the chat, in their replies to our emails and in my DM’s.
- This blog post!
I like to write a post-mortem of our sales after they’re completed to give you guys the most transparent view into our business I possibly can (admittedly, this is getting harder with so many people ripping us off now).
I meant to have this written with lots of bells and whistles a long time ago, and indeed it started during our sale, but here I am writing the last bits of it the night before it’s due to go out to you. In the future I will give myself a little more time to make this a more interactive, fun experience for you to read!
This was a great sale that more than doubled what we did last year, and exceeded all our expectations + projections.
Thank you to everyone who purchased and became a member of The Contract Shop®’s new K CLUB™!