Guide: How to Build Your List During a Product Launch

July 24, 2014 , 31 Comments

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.

[thrive_text_block color=’note’ headline=’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.[/thrive_text_block]

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 ​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 entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Great article Shane (although that doesn’t have a “surprised” voice to it because share such great content). I totally hear you on the integration thing and it can be a real bugger. I do have LP and your themes and content builder. Now to get to work on the pieces. My email management tool is Mad Mimi and I love her for the same reason I love your work: well thought out, fantabulous support, great features. Recently their development team has added a lot of integrations, either directly, or through Zapier, which has been fun!

    Thanks for all you do.

    • Thank you very much! I know of Mad Mimi, but it’s one of the solutions I’ve never tested myself. Maybe when I get around to it…

      • There are a lot of things to test and try eh Shane…maybe one of these days I’ll get I job where I get to get paid AND do that (wrote documentation and did process re-design/improvement for years so have spent lots, maybe too much, time around software!)

        may your day be igKnighted with passionately powerful possibilities!

  • Thanks Shane, its also a great Input from you that really helps to get the right way and don’t wait to long for the perfect Way.
    I also agree that Thrive Themes and the Thrive Content Builder are far the best solution at this Time. None is perfect but from all pro’s and con’s ist this combination the best one that i ever used. And i have testet many (OP2, Leadpages, Limitless, Elegant etc.)

    The Leadpages are great to become Ideas of good Landing and Squeeze Pages, this is a good point for beginners. This Guys make a lot of Split testing and have Results that bring me often to wonder. I have take a subscription to the Leadpages Newsletter and become all that Information and Splittest Results for free now. I use this Information for Ideas that i build with Thrive Themes on more Opportunities.

    The only Thing that i missed at this Time (i written this right in TT Forum) are the Leadboxes. Lightboxes that opens a Opt in. The Old way is to see a Opt in Form on the Page is outdated. The Conversion is too bad. The Lightbox bring the Users Focus to the only one of his Benefits.

    The new Way in my Eyes are: “Download now” Button that brings User to take Action whiteout think on his E-Mail, The Brain from User has now beginning a Process that will be bring it to the End. Now opens the Lightbox with the Opt in. The People Brains will give you their Data now.

    A Second, and in my Eyes the Way of a King is a Double Opt In Lightbox:
    – “download now” Button
    – Lightbox with a question like: “Will you 800 % more People’s bring in to your List? “Yes i will, now!” Button
    – and now opens the opt in Form in the Lightbox.

    This is a 2 step Action that will every ones Brain bring to end. The “YES” on the First Question make the Change in Users Brain.
    And if you want it harder to near a 100 % opt in Chance, put in a Scarcity Counter and give them a Second Link under the opt in Form like this: “No, thanks i will pass this free Chance to better results in my Business forever!” that closes the Lightbox. But i think this last one is a really Hard Selling Method, nothing for Shane’s way. :-)

    I wish to bring this in Hybrid Connect and Thrive Themes. I think a basic HTML Code Lightbox with an option to opens a second one is a easy way to do this!?
    And if you and your Team have a little more Time, the Look from the Hybrid Connect Pre-settings, Templates and Button’s are a little bit out of Date and matches not so good with the modern Design on Thrive Themes. But thanks to the Customizer this is not a big deal. I think more on your new buyers.;-)

    I have last to say: i love all of your Products and i never will missing a single one, thanks!

    …and sorry for my dirty english :D

    Best greetings Joerg

    • Hi Joerg,

      Don’t worry, the lightbox stuff is coming. I don’t know about the 3-step thing, but it could be worth trying. :)

  • Slowly putting together my first ebook so this is going to be very helpful. I think ill hold off from releasing it until I have 1 or 2 other things to give away for free.

    • It’s a bit worrying to see you considering waiting until you have more stuff to give away. Only do it if you create the other things to give away very quickly. Remember that often, you can create something of high value to your readers without having to invest a ton of time yourself.

      • Paul @ IMH Blog says:

        Ye you are right, Ill release the ebook now and build upon it, might as well get it out there and hope it starts to grow my list

  • Hi Shane, great value article, thanks. Regarding landing pages, I did try LeadPages but found it too difficult overall. WP with your Thrive Themes and TCB is much kinder on my tiny brain – much more user friendly. I also use Hybrid Connect but I do wish you guys would hurry and release an update with a reCaptcha solution on-board. My blog floods with automated user crap.

    • Hello Steve,

      Thank you, that’s great to hear! Of course, we’re always trying to make our products as easy to use as possible and I’m glad you agree that we’re going in the right direction with that.

      For Hybrid Connect, this is the first report of spam issues I’ve found. What are you integrating it with? I.e. where are the leads being added?

      • Hi Shane, your question has me thinking. I use Aweber but I don’t have any unwanted users there. All of the rubbish users are in the “User” list in the WP dashboard.
        I have now unchecked the “Anyone can register” box in WP general settings. Could this have been the issue?

      • Yes, that’s quite likely the cause of the issue. WordPress login and registration pages are very common targets for spam bots, so the “anyone can register” option should not be active unless there’s a very specific reason for it.

  • Hi Shane! This is a great post as usual!I’m just wondering why you don’t recmommand you terrific plugin hybrid connect for the optin part?
    P.S: Sorry for my poor english, I’m french ! ;)

    • Hello Alexandre,

      It’s because in this post, it’s specifically about building landing pages and at this point, I think Thrive Themes are better for that than Hybrid Connect. Hybrid Connect is still the preferred tool for creating thing like opt-in lightboxes, adding opt-in forms to a blog etc.

  • Bjarne Racn says:

    Hi Shane,
    Thanks a lot for the cool stuff. However, I have no time to implement your ideas into my busineses. Where do I find people capable of that.
    Best regads,

    • I wish I knew a simple answer to this question. Finding capable marketing people is no easy task. The only way I know of doing this is interviewing a lot of people and then picking someone and providing them with a lot of training until they can do the right kinds of things for your business.

  • Hi Shane,

    I’m surprised you didn’t even mention Ontraport or Infusionsoft which mostly got all the systems together in them. I know you’re not in favor of “one complete solution” alternatives, but then how come you’re using Infusionsoft?:) Just curious.

    • I use Infusionsoft and I’ve used Ontraport in the past. In short, my impression of both these solutions is that they are overpriced and over-complicated. I’ve had some very frustrating experiences with both, so I can’t really recommend them.

      • Then the business wouldn’t have a centralized solution(where you can see all your customer base, your tracking, your affiliate program, email campaigns, shopping cart with upsell/downsell, etc.) and then we face with this major headache caused by all the moving parts of our online business (just like you mentioned in your blog post).

        So is that why you still use Infusionsoft?

      • No, the main reason I still use Infusionsoft is because it’s such a difficult process to move to something else.

        The thing is: Infusionsoft is not very good as a centralized solution. Their shopping cart is awful. Their affiliate program is second rate at best. And in terms of reporting and stats, it’s a joke.

        You’ll find that there’s a huge market of Infusionsoft consultation, services and extensions. The reason for that is because Infusionsoft is notoriously confusing, difficult to use and lacking many of the basic things you’d expect in a solution like it.

      • Thanks for the input, Shane. Then I guess you found Ontraport worse than Infusionsoft:) This centralization aspect of online business is what I found the most frustrating…especially considering the fact that I’m a control freak:)

        Maybe in one of your future posts you can tell us about the system you are using for your online business such as shopping cart, upsell/downsells, membership site protection,affiliate program management, etc. I know you do heavy testing and you’re picky like me, so I’ve been trying to figure out your system but maan you keep changing it:) I guess SiteManPro days are over for you now.

        Good luck with Thrive Themes. I’m a hybrid connect customer but not a TT customer yet.

      • I understand your frustration. The reason that I don’t just publish a post about “my system” and share it with everyone (which would admittedly be awesome) is that I still haven’t figured out a system that I’m really happy with. Even my latest setup only works thanks to extensive customization (as in: requires a programmer to build extra stuff) and is far from what I’d really wish to have.

  • This is amazing content! Thanks!

    If you don´t mind, I put an brazilian portuguese translation of your post inside my blog, adding some aditional tools recomendations according our reality in Brazil.

    Of course, you deserves all the credits and i kept it all clear!

  • Hey Shane, you’ve done a marvelous job covering this topic.

    I wanted to commend you and also let you know that if you haven’t seen the email opt in offer that Tim Ferriss did last week, I would HIGHLY recommend you check it out. I believe it is one of them best opt in offers that I’ve ever encountered and there are intriguing elements there that can be adapted/carried over to anyone else who is trying to build an email list.

    The post on his 4 Hour Workweek blog is titled, “Tim Ferriss Rethinks Email”.

    Not only is the offer irresistible but so is the copy selling it. It’s super low key but also doesn’t make the mistake of being vague and wishy washy about making the offer.

    Check it and see what you think (if you haven’t already) and thank you for making your lessons so clear here. It’s years later and you’re still making an awesome impact here!

  • WP Sharely is No Longer Available. What is an alternative?

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