Revenue projections sometimes feel like a wild guess.
Yet here’s the rub: In my experience, even when they feel like a complete stab in the dark, they’re almost always spot on.
We’ve run three digital product bundle sales for The Write Life, a media brand that caters to writers: in 2014, 2015 and 2017. For two of those years — 2014 and 2015 — our projections were right on the money. In 2017, we missed the mark.
We’re launching this online product again this year, in August. So last week I ran sales and revenue projections, leaning on a combination of our data from previous sales and, well, my intuition.
Here’s what the matrix spit back out at me…
Revenue goal: $58,000
Reach revenue goal: $74,000
If we hit that reach goal — and let’s be honest, it’s a stretch — that would make this our most successful sale ever.
Can we do it? In this blog post, I’ll walk you through how I came up with these numbers and what happens next.
First, let’s back up a bit and cover the basics.
Our online product is called The Writer’s Bundle. We partner with about 10 creators in the writing space who have courses, memberships and tools, and bundle those products together for a three-day sale.
The bundle is typically worth around $1,500, and we sell it at a significant discount of $99. It provides massive value for writers, a revenue-generating opportunity for our affiliates (who sell it to their audiences for a share of the profit) and a money-maker for our company. As an example, here’s what was included in The Writer’s Bundle in 2017.
When I sat down to run revenue projections for our 2020 sale, I GOT SO EXCITED. I remembered how much I love these projects, because they require a mix of business metrics, sales strategy and smart marketing, three of my strengths. And the best part is, we don’t actually have to create a course, membership or tool of our own; the act of bundling is the product. Some people love creating courses or other types of digital products, but my passion lies in what comes after that: figuring out how to sell it.
In this video, I walk through our spreadsheet, explaining how I developed our sales and revenue projections for this year:
My original spreadsheet, by the way, did not look as pretty as what you see in the video — but it still did the job. When I decided to share this widely, my husband Ben worked his magic on the Sheet, making the information easier to digest. (Ben knows more about Sheets than most of us; he teaches how to build dashboards in Google Sheets.)
Don’t let this intimidate you; a simple spreadsheet will work just fine!
In addition to helping us nail down goals for the sale, going through this exercise reminded me which levers will make the biggest difference in the outcome of the sale.
If you’re looking to offer an online product, pay attention to these factors, as they’ll affect how many sales you’ll make.
This assumes, of course, you’ve developed or are developing a fabulous product that offers real value to your audience.
Here are the three most important factors for us to focus on in the coming weeks.
I ran our projections with several different prices to explore our options. The difference in revenue if we sell the bundle at $99 versus $79 is significant. In the scenario we’re aiming for, it represents an increase of $12,000 in revenue.
While we want to keep the price under $100 to make it accessible for as many people as possible, I don’t believe cutting the price by $20 will result in more buys. In other words, I suspect just as many people would buy at the $99 price point as at $79. So we’re going with $99.
We sold the bundle for $99 in 2017 and 2015, and $79 in 2014.
How many sales we make to our own community really moves the needle. That’s because when we sell the bundle to our community, we keep 100 percent of the revenue from those sales.
When affiliates sell it to their community, they take either 20 or 40 percent, depending on whether their product is included in the bundle. So for those sales, 80 or 60 percent of revenue goes to us.
We offer the bundle to our community in a variety of ways: through our Facebook group, Pinterest feed, and on our website. (We see pretty significant traffic, about 460,000 pageviews in May 2020.) But the most effective way to get buys from our own people is through our newsletter.
Back in 2017, we earned 155 sales from our community. Our email list was at 42,000, so it converted at about .62 percent. (That math’s not perfect because it doesn’t take into account sales elsewhere from our community, but it’s close enough for this calculation.)
Now our email list is about 40,000 subscribers strong. Why is it smaller than three years ago? Because we heavily culled the list six months ago, eliminating inactive subscribers. As a result, our open rate averages about 26-30 percent, far higher than the 18 percent we saw in 2017. In theory, our list should bring in more sales this year than a slightly bigger list three years ago.
One of the best ways to improve the outcome of this sale is increasing the size and open rate of our email list. Right now we add a net of about 1,600 subscribers per month, mainly by offering free opt-ins like this one. (I say net because that factors in unsubscribes.) I have some thinking to do re: how we might add to our list in the coming weeks.
The final lever that matters — and this is where we’ll spend the bulk of our energy while preparing for the sale — is how many affiliates we get on board to share the bundle with their community, plus the size of audience each of those affiliates brings.
This was one of the trickiest variables to build into the dashboard because our data relating to affiliates from the last three sales is all across the map. We can hustle hard, leverage our connections and make participating a financial win for other brands, with the goal of engaging as many affiliates as possible. But two related pieces are somewhat out of our control: how they share the offer and the size of their community.
In the past, we’ve had some affiliates sell dozens of bundles and take home thousands of dollars. We’ve had others who seemed keen to participate, then drop off and not share at all.
It can be difficult to predict which affiliates will fall into which camp. Some brands that we’ve expected big things from in the past have come up flat even when they shared the offer, leading us to believe their community engagement was lower than it looked from the outside. Other times, bloggers that seem “small” have made dozens of sales because their community trusts what they share and eats it up, resulting in high conversion rates.
We accommodated for this in the dashboard by using averages for the number of sales from affiliates. Because we tend to have a lot more affiliates who sell a few bundles and only a few who sell a lot, those averages feel low. But we still hope to have at least a handful of high performers who walk away with a big check.
I didn’t do a roundup for 2017 because I was busy leading a startup and nursing a newborn (revenue that year = $53,000).
Have questions about our revenue projections or strategy? I’m happy to answer if you drop them in the comments 👇🏽