On Tuesday, October 21st 2014 Realmac released RapidWeaver 6 for Mac. The product is ten years old and is the first paid upgrade in four years (paid upgrades should happen more regularly but I got sidetracked). It was also the first time I’ve launched an app outside of the Mac App Store since the stores introduction in 2009. To say I was a little worried about this is an understatement. There were certainly things I could have done better, but thankfully the launch was a success.
At Realmac we'd been teasing RapidWeaver 6 for quite some time, but things only really picked up when we gave it an official launch date. I try to only go public with an exact date when I know we're going to ship on time. Finishing software is notoriously hard to predict.
The first tweet from the @realmacsoftware account links to the RapidWeaver page with a list of features that are coming in 6.0 (we did this to manage expectations). The page also had a sign up form on it so people can be kept in the loop about the launch. In total around 1,200 subscribed. Not great, but also not bad considering we didn't have a teaser video on the site and it's an upgrade to an existing product not something entirely new. In contrast the Typed for Mac teaser got around 10,000 sign-ups in the first week alone.
The second tweet went out just over a week before launch from the @rapidweaver account, it links to a blog post with an exact launch date along with pricing information, again this was to manage peoples expectations and gather feedback on our plans.
We should have had a promo video for RapidWeaver. I didn't get around to creating one and I regret it. I honestly think it hindered our ability to generate more excitement for the release. I thought about it most days in the run up to launch, but I got sidetracked with our other products and running the business.
I also didn’t get a build of RapidWeaver out to the press earlier enough for them to review. The final build was only sent around 48-hours before launch, this was because we decided to bring the launch forward a week. Thankfully, we still got mentioned and plenty of sites have said they will follow up with a full review. We only got away with this because we have existing relationships with the press and RapidWeaver is a well known product that has been around for a long time.
Here's the first email I sent to Realmac's press list (~150 people). I include the information about it not being in the Mac App Store:
The fact that RapidWeaver is launching outside the Mac App Store adds another dimension to the story. Recently some other great apps have gone direct (BBEdit and Coda to name just two), so the timing was perfect. We didn't opt-out of the MAS to create this story, it was something we were doing anyway. If we didn't have this angle, we'd have gone with another story.
Simply releasing an app is no longer newsworthy, unless your app is truly groundbreaking (and let's be honest, it's probably not). Releasing a great app with a good story can help you get the press coverage your app needs.
RapidWeaver also has a thriving third-party community of plugin and theme developers who all had access to the beta many-months in advance, this was essential as they needed to make sure their addons were updated and working with the new version. Most third-party developers contacted their customers to let them know about the update. I honestly think this helped raise awareness and drove sales around the launch.
On the day I emailed the press again to let them know the official launch time was 2pm (GMT). We put the site live just before 1:30pm to check all links and downloads were working. We always go live a bit early with the site to give us enough time to fix any incorrect links or typos.
We were honestly very lucky to get the amount of press coverage we did, 48-hours notice is often not enough time for a lot of journalists, especially to review a product. It wasn’t as much as we probably could have got had I been more organised (and followed my own advice), but it was enough. The sites that did give us coverage at such short notice did a great job: MacNN, The Next Web, iMore, 9to5Mac, MacLife, Macwold, MacGeneration, Mac4ever, Beautiful Pixels, and many more.
We Tweeted about the launch on the @rapidweaver (4K Followers) and @realmacsoftware (25K Followers) accounts, and also posted on Facebook. Interestingly RapidWeaver also made it onto Product Hunt and that drove more traffic than Facebook and a lot of the news sites combined, although not as much as Twitter.
Apart from working closely with the press, email is a big part of our marketing strategy at Realmac. In the afternoon at around 4pm (GMT), I sent out an email to most of our mailing list (~250,000 people). As we're using Sendy and Amazon SES it took a few hours to send out the entire mailshot. Here's the RapidWeaver 6 announcement email, notice the there's just one big call to action button:
The effects of sending the email campaign was immediate, the orders started streaming in, one every thirty seconds or less, it was absolutely jaw-dropping to watch. This is something you miss out on when you're on the App Store as you have to wait 24 hours before you know how many copies you've sold. Seeing the data live is very liberating (and the way it should be), here's a snapshot of the orders dashboard in Fastspring:
Post launch numbers
As you can probably tell already the sales were great, not to mention much better than I was expecting. I've included ten days of data in the chart. There's a huge spike on the first day and then it halves after each day until levelling off, this is typical for a product launch. I always hate this part as I'm just waiting to see where it eventually levels out at.
Exactly a week later I sent out another email to remind customers that RapidWeaver 6 was out. Sometimes people miss emails or just haven’t got around to buying the product, I like to think of these follow up emails as a gentle nudge or friendly reminder. As you can see in the graph below this gave a nice little bump in sales.
Take a look at the snapshot below from Google Analytics to see where the traffic came from during the launch week. You'll notice how a huge portion of it is direct or from Fastspring (our online store) this is why email is so important. Unsurprisingly it matches the graph above, more traffic = more sales.
It's now over three weeks since the launch of RapidWeaver 6 and it's still too early to know when the sales will level out, it's currently making anything between $3k to $6k (USD) a day. I have no idea where it will settle but I'll be keeping a very close eye on things.
All things considered I was lucky that the RapidWeaver launch was a success. I know it could have been even better if I’d managed to do a teaser video and given the press access to RapidWeaver a few weeks earlier. I think the combination of already having an established user base, existing press relations, a great third-party community, and a decent sized email list saved the day. Without a lot of those things, the launch would probably have been a flop.
Realmac is on schedule (fingers crossed) to launch Typed for Mac in November, hopefully the launch will go well. I know it will be much harder as it’s an entirely new product and aimed at a small niche (those who like writing in Markdown), so it'll be interesting to see how it does compared to RapidWeaver.