It’s more important than the Academy Awards ceremony. At least for you. It’s the launch of your start up. You are in charge. Like for the Awards ceremony is key to create a great sense of anticipation. Learn it from Apple: for each new product launch they tease and tease dragging on the suspense for as long as possible. The bottom-up speculation generated by media and bloggers create the hype, a free buzz more powerful than a paid media campaign. Ok, even if your product is wonderful and cutting edge, you are not (yet) Apple. But this doesn’t mean you can’t activate some prelaunch tactics. The prelaunch will contribute to define what your product stands for and why it’s unique. Play it right at the early beginning. Make them talk about you and love you…even before trying you out.
1 WHO IS INVITED (and WHY)? Clarify first the usual suspects: define your targets, your positioning, strengths and weakness, your objectives. Those basics will guide you to target the audiences you’d like to attract. Your budget is probably limited: be sure you maximize conversions. It’s your party. Invite first the people you really want in.
2 BECOME A REFERENCE FOR THE SECTOR and ENGAGE BLOGGERS How? Start sharing interesting content. Yes, Content is still the king. You can open a blog or just a Twitter account posting thoughts and articles. Ideally addressing the problem your startup will help people to solve. Create the type of content people (especially bloggers and media) like to share: videos, infographic, lists of top things, contextualized quotes. Becoming a reference for the sector will help you to build meaningful relationships with influencers (media and bloggers). One of the best way to promote your product or brand is to have positive opinions from third-party experts. The Internet is word of mouth on steroids. Best practice: “The startup toolkit “published by BestVendor: a statistical document posted in their blog that obtained a wide coverage in the blogosphere and start-up world, exactly their target audience.
3 WHO IS THE QUEEN? One of the main challenges for startups is qualitative traffic acquisition against limited budget. Acquisition seems to be the Queen, but there are other ladies fighting for the crown like Queen Conversion, Queen Distribution, Queen Context. Get it clear who is (are) your Queen(s).
4 INVITE TO CREATE THE HYPE: A launching soon page is a must to-do even if you don’t have the product ready yet, but just an idea. There are two options: invite people to a mysterious party or claim the reason to celebrate. Giving directions about the dress code. Not saying anything about what you are going to do is known as “stealth start-up” method. It has been quite popular due to some successes like Hipster and Connect.me.
Intriguing and captivating claim, not disclosing what the product was about: 10.000 email addresses collected in 2 days. Enough for getting coverage by bloggers and media alike. But what about conversions? Is a sign up worth if people don’t really know what they are signing up for? Hipster was bought by AOL in 2012 and dismissed in Feb 2013.
The second option for crafting a launching soon page is to share at least one bit of information about the service you’d offer. If you follow this way, remember to add:
- 1. A clear value proposition: What problem will you be solving? Stripe offered a good example of one concise sentence suggesting the service offered: “We’re making it easier to accept payments online.”
- Spark some interest. A “launching soon page” doesn’t necessary look like as a sign-up page, it could as well look like as an actual landing page. Robocat understood it really well. The launching soon page for the iPhone “pocket thermometer” Thermo was tracking your location, fetching the temperature and displaying it in a graphic, asking you to share it on Twitter. It didn’t look like as a prelaunch page and on top it was entertaining, helped you understanding what the product is about and had a viral loop.
- Make use of the interest you raisedby asking for some actions: leave your email address, subscribe, share on Twitter or Facebook, invite friends. You can add some incentives to get a viral loop. For instance Forkly implemented a viral invitation system after you’ve signed up: if you shared your personalized link with minimum 3 friends you gained an earlier access to the service. Whatever actions you are asking them to do be clear and be consumer-centric. How?
- Simple and clear design, avoid overcrowding it with not useful buttons
- Only ONE, yes ONLY ONE simple and clear Call to Action button
- Use contrasting colors to get a stronger call to action button
- Put consumers at the center, highlighting the advantage for them (” email me when is ready”)
- Use the sign up form as a qualifier “Treat your idea as a hypothesis that needs rigorous testing, and treat the emails as people who are happy for you to get in touch to discuss your product idea further in order to validate that it would solve a real problem for them and that they might actually pay. I don’t think the idea of having a conversation with the people who give you their email comes into the minds of new start-up founders enough.” (Joel Gascoigne Buffer founder) You could get the chance to ask your users few questions when they sign up. Watch out not crossing the line between bothering them and make them feel valued.
5 TRACK ALL COST/CONVERSION maybe it could sound obvious but is one of the most important must to-do. Track always. Track everything. Make sure you are not burning money. Check always which keywords, sites, methods were the most effective. Don’t be scared to try innovative ways to get traffic and conversions, but learn fast. Kill what doesn’t work. Maximize what helps you to win.
6 MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO LOVE YOU and to SHARE their love. They could love you for your design, for your ideas, for your innovative or funny approach. For your content or for the solution you promise to offer. If you are able to engage your users during the prelaunch phase they will reward you helping you to get visibility and then, if you maintain your promise, becoming your ambassadors and loyal customers.