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The $251,643.20 Cohort Marketing Plan
What worked, and what didn't for Un-ignorable.
I just invited 339 students to start the 3rd cohort of Un-ignorable—our 4-week cohort course where we teach founders how to grow their personal audience.
We netted $251,643.20 in total revenue for this cohort.
This surpassed the revenue of the first two cohorts combined (by about $10k). This was a combo of a higher revenue per student and more sales.
Here’s everything that went into the marketing.
First, some of our core principles:
People who enrolled early got the best deal. Nothing is worse than enrolling early and then seeing a last-minute sale. If someone enrolls early, they’re superstars and should be treated the best.
No random discounts for abandoned carts. Actually, there is something worse. Buying and then finding out there’s a better deal if you just abandoned the cart.
We do not extend sales or enrollment periods. A common sleazy tactic is to extend sales deadlines over and over “due to popular demand.” This just signals to your audience that you’re willing to lie to them for urgency’s sake and signals that you didn’t sell out the seats that you anticipated.
Do not annoy people. Some people are okay with emailing folks every day leading up to a cohort, and then multiple times per day for a sale. We take a more long-term approach and don’t want to annoy people.
And this isn’t a core principle or anything, but we decided to do this 100% organically. We didn’t pay for any affiliates, newsletter placements, or any ads.
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Stage 1: Secret back doors
Cohort 2 happened in April. No one wants to do a cohort course during the summer.
Including Katelyn and I.
So we planned our next one to be in the Fall—a ~5-month gap between. We eventually settled on an October 11th start date (right after Canadian Thanksgiving).
Almost everyone wants to enroll in cohort courses at the last possible moment. So we knew having open enrollment between cohorts wouldn’t lead to many sales.
Unfortunately, you have to play this game of short enrollment periods.
But, we wanted to experiment with letting eager people enroll if they really wanted to, as they might lose motivation between then and 5 months later.
So, we decided to create a secret backdoor.
To do that, I took one of our favorite lessons about Hooks and turned it into a free email course. 12 lessons about the 12 types of hooks spread out over 12 days. I called it the Un-ignorable Hooks email course.
At the end of that course, I added 3 emails that pitched Un-ignorable and pushed them to enroll in the Fall cohort for $200 off (25%).
I then created carousels on LinkedIn for each hook type, and I shared one per week on LinkedIn and pushed people toward the hook course.
I also added it as a free resource to our marketing drip sequence. And as a free sample on the Un-ignorable page.
Katelyn also created an email course about the topic of Pre-suasion.
Un-ignorable Hooks launched in June. Pre-suasion in August.
How did they do?
To be honest, not many people bought it early.
Maybe 10 or so, despite over 1,500 people joining our respective email courses.
We decided to close the back door and emailed everyone on the email courses that the back door was closing and we got up to 40 seats at the end of August.
Which is just over 10% of the total seats—and $28,460 in revenue.
I wouldn’t call this a success, but it was a worthwhile experiment. And in the end, 2,500 people have gone through the Un-ignorable Hooks email course, and that list keeps growing. So that’s a win in my eyes.
Stage 2: Un-ignorable Newsletter Masterclass
As the next piece of marketing, we decided to do an event in early September.
We wanted to do something that was additive to the content of Un-ignorable—not just something straight from the course.
Organic social content is one of the best ways to grow a newsletter.
And it’s a natural next step for a content creator to create a newsletter to own their audience—and monetize it.
So we decided to create the Un-ignorable Newsletter Masterclass. A 2-hour deep-dive into creating a money-making newsletter that people love.
We capped the seats at 200 and sold it for $150.
Alumni from previous Un-ignorable cohorts could get it for $99 and didn’t count towards the 200 people.
As a special thanks to the 40 pre-sale folks, we gave it to them for free.
We promoted the masterclass with:
A plug in our respective newsletters (DC and Katelyn).
A couple of social posts (here’s mine).
Un-ignorable Hooks students (performed poorly)
We sold out a few days before the course and had a ton of people ask to get in after.
But as I said, we’re firm about deadlines and caps. And we wanted a level of FOMO and exclusivity to remain.
In total, we generated $31,833 in revenue from the masterclass. I didn’t count this in the $250k since this was a separate product.
As a thank you to people at the Masterclass, we offered a deal for the cohort:
They only had 37.5 hours to take the deal.
In the end, only 11 people signed up.
The masterclass was a success in and of itself. $30k in revenue and some buzz, but it didn’t lead to as many enrollments as we hoped. We thought the 40 would sell out.
Stage 3: Flash sale
The week after the masterclass (mid-September), we did round 2 of the 37.5-hour flash sale and opened it up to our lists. The deal was $150 off, and they’d get the recording from the masterclass for free.
139 spots were left after 11 masterclass people enrolled.
The marketing efforts were:
1 email to waitlisters the day before (Sept 18th)
1 email to waitlisters on the final day (Sept 20th)
1 email to Hooks course alumni (Sept 20th)
1 email to people who had visited the Un-ignorable page before (Sept 20th).
Katelyn sent 1 dedicated email to her audience (Sept 20th)
A couple of social posts from Katelyn and I (Sept 19th)
My post had 250 people comment for a link to the sale
We considered sending more emails or doing more social posts, but we saw it was selling out and decided to not annoy people.
It took the entire 37.5 hours, but we sold all 139 spots—$95,350 in revenue.
Of course, we had various people contact us asking to get squeezed in, but we said that the sale ended and that open enroll was coming soon.
Bringing us up to about 190 people enrolled in the cohort.
Stage 4: Open enrollment
Then was open enrollment. No discounts. Waitlisters got a day headstart and some free bonuses.
We decided that given the cohort was finishing in November, and that we needed more time to do additional product development and soul searching (more on this in takeaways), we decided this would be the last cohort for 6 months.
We added that urgency to our marketing message (since it was the truth).
Sept 28th: Social posts to push people to waitlist. Mine and Katelyn’s.
Sep 29th: Another social post promoting waitlist
Sept 31st: Email to waitlisters telling them a sale is coming.
Oct 1st: Waitlisters only enrollment. They were emailed a special link that let them enroll. They got free masterclass recording and Clarity Calls Cheatsheet.
Oct 2nd: Email to entire email list for open enrollment.
Social post highlighting Eric Partaker’s success—50,000 impressions.
Oct 3th: Subtle mention in newsletter.
Social post highlighting Alex’s success.
Oct 4th: Email to waitlisters.
Social post highlighting my launch success. This was a bit of a flop.
Oct 5th (final day):
Morning: Email to anyone who had visited Un-ignorable page and not enrolled telling them it’s the last day. Social post making fun of tired hooks.
Evening: Email to anyone who had visited checkout page and not enrolled.
I also used marketing automation from Oct 2nd to 5th to DM people on LinkedIn who had commented on my flash sale announcement post asking for a link to the sale.
In total, 139 more people enrolled at full price during enrollment period with a total revenue of $118,750.
(Yes, I know, odd that it was the same number of flash sale spots we sold.)
Around 2/3 of the people from the “open enrollment period” joined on the last day (Oct 5th).
Ultimately, this is our biggest cohort with 339 people and $251,643.20 in revenue and is slightly more revenue than the first two cohorts combined.
Obviously, this is chocked down as a success. But there are also a few things that weren’t much of a success in the end.
Here are my takeaways:
We could have made more using ads or affiliates. We didn’t pay to promote any posts. We didn’t put ads in other’s newsletters. We didn’t pay for ads on Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram. But, they would likely cause future cohorts to be even bigger.
Social proof is king. The promotions that drummed up the most demand were when I shared success stories of past students—like Eric Partaker hitting 150,000 followers in 8 months. Or the big people who took our previous Audience Building course with Sahil Bloom.
Stories sell. The personal story of my own journey with audience building also resonated strongly with people. I received all kinds of DMs about it for days afterward.
Urgency works. People will invariably sign up at the last moment, whether for a sale or the final enrollment.
People love enrolling late, even if you offer them discounts. The pre-sale wasn’t really worth the effort of doing as only 12% of enrollments were from the pre-sale. And the hooks course audience didn’t convert well.
The newsletter course audience is not the same as the social course audience. Only 11 people from the masterclass bit on the offer despite having rave reviews from the masterclass.
Personal branding cohorts are getting saturated. While launching this cohort, we saw numerous new ones from creators crop up. We did the OG one 3 years ago with Sahil Bloom, but the competitive marketplace has shifted dramatically recently. We need to differentiate more strongly in the future.
Cohort marketing is a ton of work. Because of the short time window and competitiveness, it takes a lot of promotional effort in short bursts. In comparison, our other products and services have more evergreen funnels.
Cohorts may not be worth it long term. If we do 3 cohorts of similar size per year, that’s $750,000 in revenue. They’re a ton of work to run and market. We’re limited in how many we can do. It’s a topic that requires a credible audience builder to teach (meaning we have to do it). So, it could be better to cast a wider net with self-serve courses, newsletter sponsorships, and more evergreen funnels (content and ads). Then, we can upsell with niche productized services.
I know, $750,000 is nothing to sneeze at.
If it were just Katelyn and I doing it as solo creators, that’d be $375,000 each, and I’d be loving life. A cool $30k/mo.
But we have teams and expenses. And we have other revenue streams.
I have two companies already with other products and services. And many of them don’t require my fine-grained direct involvement.
Sure, we could run ads for Un-ignorable, do more marketing, and do more cohorts per year, and we’d get it over $1M per year, maybe even $2M.
But teaching 339 people in a cohort is already pretty intense. 1,000 would require a team of people. And doing that 6 times a year would be extremely draining.
And in the end, Katelyn and I are still in the eye of the storm.
It is a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong. And I love watching my students succeed.
In comparison, however, we launched a productized service for running ads for startups 3 weeks ago—Ad Labs. It’s already at $35k/mo with minimal marketing—and I’m not directly involved. A team of qualified media buyers can handle all of it.
So it may not be the highest leverage thing in the long term.
But we’ll see
Katelyn, my co-founder, and I are meeting in early November to dive deep into whether cohorts or something else is the best way to help founders build personal audiences to fuel their businesses.
I love the brand. $500k in its first 9 months is amazing. And it’s a subject I’ve gotten to know intimately.
I’m excited to continue to grow and evolve it :)
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