PLF, or Product Launch Formula, is the brainchild of multimillionaire Jeff Walker. His approach hinges on sending high-value videos to your audience in the lead up to the actual launch, and it’s spread like wildfire.
PLF consists of four phases: Pre-Pre Launch, Pre-Launch, Launch, and Post-Launch. Pre-Pre Launch is for building the email list using a squeeze page. In Pre-Launch, the sideways sales letter goes out, which is 3-4 videos explaining how the product you sell came to be and how it made you or your life better. During launch, you make the product available with a limited-time offer and email your list every day for 3-7 days. Post-launch then finishes up the PLF by providing more valuable, free content to your buyers and asking for their feedback on the existing product. You can see a condensed, illustrated explanation of PLF here.
Beginning in 1996, Walker helped launch several small businesses that, by 2014, had amassed over $400 million in sales using his formula. Walker’s book came out in June 2014. Since then, entrepreneurs across the globe have used Walker’s Product Launch Formula to successfully release new products into the marketplace.
Troy Dean is one of those entrepreneurs, best known for being a marketing speaker, coach, consultant, and podcaster who helps creative entrepreneurs build online empires. Over the course of two years, Dean led nine product launches using a combination of Walker’s PLF (plus Brendan Burchard’s Total Product Blueprint).
We talked with Dean about those nine launches and what he’s learned, and have boiled down his best advice here for those considering using the Product Launch Formula.
Is Your Business Ready to Run a PLF Launch?
Launching a product using the Product Launch Formula is attractive, of course. A proven method for selling thousands and reaping millions? Yes! Sign you up, right?
Not so fast.
Dean suggests a few requirements for businesses considering this approach.
Is Your Product Proven?
“I think the only people that should consider doing a PLF style launch are those people who have an existing product or an existing business model that’s already proven to be profitable, and they want to leverage it,” Dean says.
Yes, you have stumbled onto another of those ideas that only works for people who are already making money, in touch with their audiences, and finding a measure of success with their products. If you haven’t yet reached those goals, don’t worry! Foundr’s got your back. We have a host of articles designed specifically to help you grow your business.
Do You Have a Sizeable Email List?
If you do meet Dean’s advised requirements of having a successful product and business model, then consider his next thought. “You shouldn’t do a PLF if you’ve got an email list of 100 people and $100 to spend on Facebook ads. You’re wasting your time.”
Part of what makes a PLF work well is being able to reach the same audience multiple times throughout the launch. If you don’t have a large email list already (preferably in the thousands), then that is your first order of business.
Are You Comfortable on Camera?
“You must be able to tell a story convincingly on video, in my opinion, otherwise PLF just won’t work,” Dean says.
If being in front of a camera makes you break out in hives, don’t despair. Being camera-ready can be taught. Consider hiring a media coach to teach you the ins and outs and then practice by using your own phone as a camera. Little tips like keeping your chin level with the floor, looking directly into the lens, and having your talking points visible off camera can help those less seasoned in serving as on-air talent. Or maybe hiring talent to share your message on camera is a better way to go.
If you are a natural, kudos! We can’t wait to see what you create.
What it Looks Like to be Ready to Use PLF
Meghan Telpner is a good example of someone who had a proven product, sizeable audience, and natural camera ability.
Meghan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2006. As Dean describes it: “She got really ill. The doctor said, ‘You’ve got this rare condition, it’s not going to get any better, you’re going to be dosed up on meds for the rest of your life.’ She went, ‘No way.’ She went all organic, all vegetarian, and basically healed herself within six months, symptom-free. She lived in a loft in Canada, her kitchen was full 6 nights a week because she was teaching her friends how to cook these amazing meals.”
But then she maxed out her own kitchen’s capacity. There weren’t enough days in the week to seat everyone who wanted to learn.
“So what did she do?” Dean asked. “She filmed her cooking classes, put them up online, knocked it out of the park. She’s now doing over seven figures a year. She’s got students all over the world who are certified through her course.”
Meghan is a stellar example of someone who had a business model that was profitable, an audience with which she could communicate repeatedly, and a personality and presence that worked well on camera.
What Will You Need for a PLF-Style Launch?
Okay, so you’ve gotten this far and all the boxes are checked. You have a proven product, a successful business model, an email list in the thousands, and a personality and presence suited for the camera.
Great! You could be a perfect candidate for a PLF-style launch. But what will you need?
A Clear Objective
The first thing you need for a PLF-style launch is a clear objective. Yes, this is basic, but it’s a step that can be overlooked on the race to chase down the shiny new way of doing things. So, pause and think. What is your primary purpose in doing this launch?
You might be thinking, well, it’s a product launch, so I want to sell products. But launches can have other underlying goals in terms of how you want them to serve your company. Are you trying to grow your email list by generating some buzz? Establish authority in your brand space? Simply sell products? Pick your main goal and then tailor your process to achieve that goal.
Second, you’ll need a period of devoted time for this effort. While you could probably spend an entire year preparing for and then executing a PLF-style launch, it can be done in one to two months. “I know that because I’ve done it in two months,” Dean says. “If you’ve got everything templated and you’ve got your checklists, and you do nothing else, you can also do it in four weeks, which we’ve done as well.”
But if you’re going the four-week route, you’ll need to devote yourself fully and completely to the launch. For the four-week launch, Dean managed, “I worked seven days a week for four weeks straight for that launch. I did nothing else. I wasn’t doing client work, I wasn’t servicing any other customers. I was 100% focused on that launch.”
Video Production Equipment
Your third consideration is video equipment. There are many options when it comes to the type of equipment required to produce the four required videos for a PLF-style launch. Professional-grade cameras, lenses, lights, and backdrops will run into the tens of thousands and that might be an unwise investment if you don’t yet know that your launch will meet with success.
A less expensive alternative could be hiring a production team to produce your video. Those teams should come with their own equipment.
An even less expensive option is to use the equipment you have on hand (your phone, for instance). Just make sure you have decent light and good sound. When light stands and spotlights aren’t a part of your shoot, going outside is often the best choice. There’s a reason that the hour before sunset is called “magic hour.” The lighting during that time of day often works very well on camera.
Next, think about who will be the on-air talent. As we said before, you’ll need a good presence and personality to be in front of the camera. Troy Dean serves as that on-air talent for most of his product launches, but he has also begun outsourcing some of the talent duties to another person. This allows Dean to produce videos that have two distinctively different feels. His personality is high-energy and animated, which comes across on camera. The other talent’s personality is more relaxed and calm.
By having both types of persona on camera, Dean is able to reach a wider audience, as he is capturing both people drawn to high energy and those who are more drawn to a calm demeanor. When choosing your on-air talent, consider what will best resonate with your desired audience.
A PLF-style launch will require four videos, and you’ll need a plan for each one. The options here are to write full scripts for each video or make broad notes about what you will cover in each video and then improvise the performance.
Which option you choose depends directly on the preferences and style of the talent that will deliver the content.
Good video production requires post-production. This is the phase where the raw footage is combined to produce a finished, smooth visual experience for the viewer. When shooting your videos, consider gathering some b-roll (shots of the product, the environment, etc.) that can be interspersed within the dialogue portions.
By breaking up what is on the screen, you provide a visual relief and interest to the viewer. For instance, you could begin a video by saying, “I’m here in Fiji making money while I sleep and I’m excited to show you how to do the same.” As the audio of your dialogue plays in the background, describing the success you’ve found with affiliate marketing, the visual cuts to images of Fiji. Those images are your “B-roll.”
Or perhaps you’re launching an actual product. Shoot some video of the product being made, being used, or being present in unique places. Look for imagery that will bolster what you are saying in the video. For example, are you claiming the product will make the viewer’s life better? Then show video of smiling, happy people using your product.
Prior to executing your launch, you’ll want to have email automation in place. This describes emails that automatically get sent based on the person meeting certain parameters. For instance, if the person adds your product to his/her cart but doesn’t purchase, then an email campaign is triggered. Within a few hours or a day, the person should receive an email reminding them that they abandoned the cart and encouraging them to come to complete their purchase.
It is imperative that you not only have online automations for your PLF-style launch but also that you monitor those automations for efficacy.
Dean learned early on that he didn’t necessarily need automatic emails going out to spur people toward the second video in the four video series. His efforts were better spent on emails urging people to go interact with the first video. If that video did its job correctly, then it served as the catalyst for the viewer to proceed to video two. Anyone who came to video one automatically opted into the invitation for video two. There was no need to persuade the person to engage with video two.
So, sit back and really think about the experience your customer will have. At what point will it make sense for them to receive more communication from you? Schedule your automatic emails around those behaviors (e.g. the aforementioned abandoned cart email, or an email notifying the person when the product is available for purchase).
A Good Product
Finally, make sure you have the most important element: a good product. Yes, I know we already covered product in the first criteria, but it’s worth repeating and emphasizing the importance of quality. Do not go to all the work of a PLF-style launch only to incur very public poor reviews and comments on your product. Make sure your product is ready to be consumed by the masses.
Tell a Product Story
Storytelling is key to keeping viewers tuned in to your videos. Each one should include valuable, useful information for the viewer as well as a hook that grabs the viewer for the next video.
In one launch, Dean promised to give away $1,000 to someone in video two. To enter the contest, the person had to fill out the template that was made available in video one and submit it. This allowed Dean to build a relationship with his audience. In video two, Dean waited until the very end to announce the winner of the $1,000. This gave him a full video’s opportunity to engage the reader enough to go on to video three.
While you do want to embed a reason in each video for the person to proceed to your next video, remember that each one should be valuable in and of itself. Each should pose and answer a question or problem for the viewer while telling a story about that viewer’s experience. Overall, the four videos come together to tell a larger story.
For tips on how to tell a good story, Dean recommends checking out Donald Miller’s Storybrand. “It’s an amazing framework, it’s a seven-point framework that tells you how to tell a great story,” Dean says.
“And all you’re doing is positioning yourself as the guide that can help the superhero out with a plan that helps them avoid disaster and achieve success. So you position yourself as Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi and realize the hero of the story is not you or the video talent, it’s the person watching the video. They are Luke Skywalker. Your job is to help them defeat the dark forces. As Miller teaches, the hero of your story is not you. It is your buyer.”
Read more: How Do You Launch a Product?
Launch Your Product and Grow Your Business
“The point of the PLF is to build trust in a rapid time frame,” Dean says. Why is trust important? Because a customer who trusts you buys from you.
Now that you’ve got the PLF down, it’s time to scale your ecommerce business. Check out our free ecommerce course taught by Gretta van Riel, the founder of 4 multi-million dollar ecommerce brands.