Guide: How to Build Your List During a Product Launch

One of the best sources of new subscribers for my email lists are product launches. Whenever I release or re-release a product, it always means getting lots of new, highly valuable leads.

As outlined in the post where I describe my entire system for building product-based businesses, it’s very important to get the lead generation setup right when you first launch a product. In this post, you’ll discover the exact setup (including recommended tools) for the three types of lead generation you should put in place to get the most out of your next launch.

Product Sequence

For the purpose of this guide I’m assuming that your product launch consists of at least one free product or piece of free content and at least one premium product or subscription. Usually, there are multiple pieces of free and premium content lined up in a sequence.

Example of a short sequence:


Example of a more complex sequence:


Both of these examples are taken from the Impact System post, where you can learn more about, well, everything relating to creating and launching a product.

For this post, we’re interested in the parts of the sequence that add new subscribers to your mailing list. Regardless of how many steps you have in your sequence, the three types of lead generation you’ll set up are the Opt-In Option, the Opt-In Gate and the Product Purchase. Let’s start with the simplest of them all:

Opt-In Option

In this setup, you make your free content available to anyone and you simply invite your visitors to join your mailing list. This requires that you add a strong call to action to your content. Don’t just place an opt-in form on your page and wait for people to sign up. Instead, declare the opt-in clearly as the next step to take, after your free piece of content has been consumed.

The beauty of this setup is that it requires almost zero budget: all you need is an email marketing system of some kind (like Active CampaignAweber, GetResponse etc.). Just create an opt-in form, grab the code and slap it on to the same page or blog post where you’re presenting your free content.

Low budget setup: free WordPress theme, YouTube video & Aweber form.

Low budget setup: free WordPress theme, YouTube video & Aweber form.

I highly recommend that you add an additional opt-in incentive – something that you deliver to your new subscribers in return for signing up. It doesn’t have to be anything massive, a small freebie will do. In fact, you can even re-purpose the free content you’re already offering in the funnel. For example, it could be a PDF mind-map that visualizes the concepts you were explaining in your free video. With very little extra work, you can significantly boost the conversion rate you get on your landing page.

Here’s what the Opt-In Option funnel looks like:


Opt-In Gate

In this setup, your visitors need to opt-in before they get to see your free content. This is the only distinction from the Opt-In Option setup, but in technical terms, that makes quite a big difference.

To make the Opt-In Gate work, you need two components:

  1. A good landing page with a tasty teaser of your free content (you need to make people want it, before they get to see it).
  2. A smooth process that delivers the promised content swiftly, once the visitor has signed up.

Here’s an example of your your Opt-In Gate landing page could look like:

A simple but effective opt-in page. The example is based on the landing page for one of my own free products.

A simple but effective opt-in page. The example is based on the landing page for one of my own free products.

While you could simply deliver the free content via email, I recommend that you set up a landing page containing your free content. In other words, you have one landing page to get the lead and then another one to deliver the free product. For a product launch, having a landing page is invaluable, because it gives your audience an easy way to link to, share and come back to your free content and your offer. A piece of content presented on a beautiful landing page also has a significantly higher perceived value than an email (email is generally something we want less of, while shiny new goodness on the Internet is something we want more of).

An advantage of the Opt-In Gate setup is that it frees up your call to action. Visitors have already signed up by the time they see your free content, so you can call them to socially share and bring in more traffic instead. When you do so, you can further boost your list growth by linking your social sharing buttons to the opt-in page instead of the free content page directly. You can also use a system like WP Sharely to further boost the amount of shares generated.

Here’s what the Opt-In Gate setup could look like:


The setup can involve one or several pieces of free content.

Secure Enough?

You could lock down your free content in such a way that it’s difficult or near impossible for anyone to see it, without first signing up to your mailing list. You could use cookie redirects or even require login. As you can tell, my recommended setup has no such security measures. The only thing I do is set the free content pages to “noindex”, so they don’t show up in (most) search results. The opt-in page is the one you promote, but if someone knows the direct link to your free stuff, they can easily circumvent the opt-in step…

…and that’s just fine by me. Keep in mind that people are looking at your marketing material, here. Sure, it’s nice if you get the lead first, but if people want to share the direct link or if they feel sneaky by figuring out how to get to your page directly, let them. In practice, it doesn’t noticeably impact the number of subscribers you get and it just means more people are watching and getting interested in your launch.

Product Purchase

When someone buys your product, they also become a subscriber. Unfortunately, this is the step that most often goes horribly wrong. As ever, you want to ensure a smooth process and you want to make sure your new subscribers know what’s going on and what to expect.

The worst scenario is when your new customers make a purchase and are then sent to a page where they need to sign up or register. I’ve even seen this taken to a comically absurd level where the sequence was: submit payment information -> sign up (to the mailing list) -> register (to log in and access the product), effectively asking me to fill out three very similar forms in succession.

It comes down to this: don’t ask your customers to submit the same information multiple times. Use a membership system that properly integrates your payment provider service with your mailing list, use a service like Zapier or IFTTT to create an integration if none exists yet or hire someone to build a custom integration.

The basic Product Purchase setup should look like this:


A slightly more advanced setup involves gathering the contact information first, in the purchase process and adding the lead to your mailing list before the purchase is completed. This lets you detect cart abandonment (when someone goes to purchase, but stops before the payment is made) and follow up with those leads. From the perspective of the customer, it should all still be one single, smooth process.

In either case, the new customer is sent straight to a confirmation page from which they can log in and access the newly purchased product. I also recommend that the first thing you show new customers after they log in is a welcome video that informs them about what to expect and what the next steps to take are.

Recommended Tools

What exactly should you use to create an effective list-building funnel like this? While I’d love to just give you a short list of two or three tools that are “the best”, in practice things tend to be a bit complicated. The basics that you need are a CMS to create your landing pages, an email marketing tool to manage subscribers and email messages and a membership/product delivery system (for the Product Purchase part).

Here’s the problem: the tools you use for the different parts of your funnel need to work together and they don’t always do so, out of the box. So unless you can pay a developer to build custom integrations for you, you don’t actually have a free pick among all the available tools. With that in mind, here’s my overview of recommendations.

CMS/Landing Pages

For your landing pages, the choice comes down to either WordPress or LeadPages. LeadPages is a great product (if you want to know more about it, check out my review), but my number one recommendation goes to using WordPress in combination with Thrive Themes and the Thrive Content Builder.

Of course, this is a biased recommendation, because Thrive Themes is my business, but it’s not an unreasonable recommendation because Thrive Themes were built specifically to help you create effective landing pages and marketing sites. You can see how easy it is to do in this webinar replay.

Whichever one of the two solutions you choose, you’ll be able to use it to create all the pages needed for any of the three setups illustrated above.

Email Marketing System

For an email marketing system, my recommendations are Active Campaign, Aweber and GetResponse.

Active Campaign is fantastic because of the many marketing automation features it boasts, but it has the downside of not being as widely supported as the other two solutions. Aweber and GetResponse are both more basic systems (with GetResponse being somewhat more advanced), but you’ll find that almost every system that has anything to do with email integrates with one or both of these services, out of the box.

Membership/Product Delivery

My short list of recommendations for delivering your products and integrating with payment solutions is: Digital Access Pass, Paid Memberships Pro and MemberMouse.

All three are WordPress based solutions that I’ve used or tested myself. None of them is perfect, but they’re all a cut above the rest in one way or another.


The most effective setup is a combination of the Opt-In Gate and the Product Purchase. This is how I launch most of my products: I create a launch sequence with an Opt-In Gate for a limited time launch. After that, new leads will primarily be added via Product Purchases. The free content from the launch can be re-purposed as an opt-in incentive and advertised on the blog (if your product has a blog).

The first method, Opt-In Option, is less effective as you’ll see lower conversions. The upside is that it’s easier to set up. Momentum is very important in business, so it’s usually better to create something “good enough” and launch it now than to delay and delay in the hopes of creating the perfect launch funnel. That’s why I included the Opt-In Option setup: it’s not perfect, but it’s the “no excuses” setup. Set it up now, get your launch going and then worry about creating the perfect funnel once you have all the money from your launch to spend on it.

If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please leave a comment below! Also, don’t forget to share this post if you found value in it.

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About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better marketer and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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