- Daman Soni
10 Ways to Up Your Pre-Launch Game
What you do in the months leading up to the launch will determine whether the launch is a big bang or a dud.
Nothing builds more excitement than the days leading to the big launch. Whether it is the launch of the first product in your company or a new product launch years after your company was incorporated, it is always overwhelming. The product, tech, marketing and operations teams have worked hard towards the launch, however, to maximise gains from launch day it is best to have a pre-launch playbook.
What you do in the months leading up to the launch will determine whether your launch is a big bang or a dud. It also helps the company gain some momentum with users before the launch. Additionally, a pre-launch campaign also helps build early insights on what channels can be effective and which users will be your cheerleaders.
Developing a pre-launch plan ensures that there is interest & excitement built up in the new product.
If the pre-launch gives the company a decent runup, launch days become far more fun. Here’s an actionable list of ideas that you can use to build a pre-launch strategy.
1. Build A Pre-Launch Page
The first step in any pre-launch marketing campaign is to create a landing page you can use as the central point for all your promotional tactics. Use this page to collect emails of people who will be the most engaged and excited about your launch. This can be a simple page which tells the users about your product will be, creates some excitement and has a sign-up form. Ensure that you host this page on your domain and that this page is optimised for just one thing- collecting email ids of interested folks.
Use landing page tools like Sunny Landing Pages, Wix or Unbounce to create one quickly. Some features that you may want to include are a count down timer, a video, and the number of people who have registered (social proof). Ask users to refer their friends. Here’s some inspiration for great prelaunch landing pages
If the product launch is still way off, send weekly updates to users who have registered to keep them engaged. This can be done in a number of ways:
Send a newsletter every week with the latest in your industry
Do a partial reveal of a new feature one email at a time
Create a build-up to the launch date with brand content
You can even think of starting a waitlist for a sought after product. Get users to refer their friends to beat the waitlist. Companies like Superhuman and Clubhouse have done this effectively.
On launch day, get ready to get your first set of users from the email list that you have built.
2. Create engaging content
For this pre-launch marketing strategy to work, need to create content that is truly outstanding. Share this content where your target customers are hanging out- think forums related to your product, Facebook groups, subreddits, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Try guest posting on other blogs that talk to your target audience.
Make an awesome prelaunch video. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to grab the attention of your audience. My all-time favourite is dollar shaving club. This video has 27M views to date with a modest production cost.
Another great video is by Dropbox. The video explains what the product does and how it solves a problem in the most straightforward way.
Drive the traffic to your landing page using this content and build your email list. Even if your target audience does not register for the launch, the content can make an impact and drive them to try out the product when you launch it. Additionally, people love to share entertaining and engaging videos, therefore don’t forget to add some humour. Capture the interest of your audience and build a following with a video.
3. Engage with influencers
Reaching out to the right influencers will put your product in front of a significant number of highly qualified leads. Start early on this one. Really early.
Find relevant influencers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Tiktok and build relationships with these influencers. Use Buzzsumo to figure out which influencers use your keywords in their bio and who have tweeted an article on the topic of your interest. Engage with these influencers by retweeting and commenting. Have relevant conversations with them whenever possible. The aim here is to figure out who will be open to help when the time comes and what kind of content interests these influencers so that you can tailor some content towards them. Another option is to also start an affiliate scheme with the influencers.
Here’s a great case study from Arm Worldwide where the executed the launch of Marie Claire in India with the help of influencers.
If there’s enough money in the bank then sign up an influencer for a full-fledged campaign- Like the way Reebok did for its campaign “Reboot 100” where it teemed with Chetan Bhagat for a 100-day body transformation program. The widely known author followed this plan and shared his progress with his followers.
4. Generate Hype with a Stunt
Stunts are a fantastic way to get thousands of free dollars in earned media. If you do a stunt well, people will do all the heavy lifting for you. Almost everyone carries both a camera and a video camera in their pocket these days, and they are more than happy to take photos and movies that they can share online.
The stunt is intended to propel the brand into pop culture, to place the brand top-of-mind in a moment in time, and to get people talking about the brand where they might have otherwise been silent. Don't do a stunt just for the sake of it. Stay consistent with how you see your brand.
There are many ways in which a company can pull off stunts. Ola and Uber do this quite well from time to time when launching in a new city. Dove created a photoshop video of how the photographs of models are glammed up after the photo shoot. Apple comes up with Mac vs PC ads.
Remember the Red Bull Stratos Space Jump by Felix Baumgartner where he literally jumped to Earth from a capsule in space.
Okay, wrong example for a startup considering the costs involved. Here’s a better one: Freshworks and Zoho trolling Salesforce during the flagship Dreamforce conference. More detail on this here.
5. Do Things That Don’t Scale
This one is from Paul graham’s famous essay. It is the manual stuff that cannot scale with time but has a personal touch from the core team. To get initial traction and the buzz going think about how you can engage the audience who show interest in your product.
This can include organising meetups with the target audience and finding people talking about or using competing products and chat with them. This will help you sharpen the product and get in more insights. It is hard work, however, if done right it will pay off. Keep your efforts concentrated to a region so that the buzz can be generated in one city. Most importantly don’t forget to leverage your own network.
Airbnb founders went door to door with a rented DSLR to get their first few listings up. Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann went to design conferences to recruit design bloggers to create awesome content initially. Freshworks team crafted personalized greeting cards post events.
6. Run A Contest
Engage the audience coming to your launch page by creating contests which drive virality. An incentivised referral campaign is a great idea. Get users to share on various social platforms or via Whatsapp. Reward them when a new user signs up for early order. Get users to follow you on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter so that so you build your social audience simultaneously.
The contest can even be around an early bird giveaway for performing a certain action. Offer early adopters something for pre-ordering your product, whether that is reduced prices, VIP service, or some non-monetary reward. By doing that, not only do you create the urgency for a limited time offer, but also possible referrals since your early birds wouldn’t want their friends to miss out on the opportunity.
Partnering up with another brand or an influencer within your niche and running a joint campaign can amplify the contest. If your product is content-centric, get the users to share the buzz to get access to gated content. This helps build exclusivity too.
Remember to promote your product with engaging posts on social media.
7. Prepare for PR
Getting early press for your launch will be crucial in driving signups. This involves identifying the reporters that you would want to cover your launch. Figure out the news portals that cater to your target audience and build stories so that you can get coverage for your product. Leverage existing relationships with reporters (it is never too late to start building relationships with them) but make sure you give them something exclusive to write about.
Tailor content so that it is easy for the news outlets to share your story not only on their site but also on their social handles and newsletters. Plan for as much reach as possible. Build up a press kit (to make it easy for the reporters)- Include the founder bios, high res images, logo, writeup, screenshots and testimonials.
Show up at events and do some networking. You can offer a demo of your product to some influential news reporters to get some extra press.
8. Sign Up Beta Users
Beta Testing enables the dev team to work on flaws, remove bugs, and improve features that can enhance the value of the product. Your beta testers should be representative of your actual customer base and not college interns ( unless college-goers are your target audience). Consider whether you want beta testers with specific product experience. You might prefer testers who have used a competitor’s offering or a product that’s complementary to yours.
Get beta users through not only your landing page but also sites like Producthunt, Hackernews, Quora, Reddit, etc. Some influencers in your space may be willing to become your beta testers or they can help you spread the word, which will lead to more beta testers in the space. Additionally, you can also run a beta tester referral program.
You’re not going to find many quality beta testers without a proper incentive. While early access might be enough to entice them, sometimes you need to go the extra mile with incentives to recruit the right users.
Utilize this initiative to make sure the product is stable and bug-free.
9. Set up the Analytics Engine
Take the time before the launch to ensure that analytics has been set up correctly on the landing pages, app and social media handles so that one can figure out the effectiveness of traffic sources. This will also help figure out the effectiveness of each of the tactics used above enabling you to double down on what is working.
Ensure that Google Analytics is set up correctly across mobile and web with established goals around leads generated and content consumption. Getting the product analytics right is equally important as once it goes live, not having the right instrumentation will be a hindrance in identifying the aha moment, the reasons for dropouts and tracking errors. Incorporate the right tools and SDKs in the product to map out the user journey. Lastly, ensure that the campaigns have the right UTM tags and that social sharing links are tagged right.
10. Don’t Launch
Wait. What? Let me clarify. There’s the marketing launch – Announcing a new product, coupled with the PR campaign and marketing activities, and then there’s the product launch - making a new product available to customers. We spoke about launch activities above when both (product launch and marketing launch) were synchronised.
Quite often there is no reason you have to do these two things at the same time. Launching is a mere tactic, not a strategy. It helps create an initial uptick in user signups and establishes credibility with the stakeholders (customers, partners, investors) but if the business strategy is still being figured out and the insights for the product-market fit are still very nascent, it may backfire.
Therefore, launching the product without a full-fledged marketing launch is fine. Iterate fast to get the right signals for product-market fit and then do a marketing launch. Only when you are sure of stuff like what user problem the product addresses, the growth drivers and the business strategy go for a synchronised (product and marketing) launch.
In conclusion, get the pre-launch right so that you gain good momentum by the launch date. Start with the landing page, build the audience, engage them, drive word of mouth and prepare for the hectic pace post-launch. Use the time during pre-launch to plan well, set up analytics and brainstorm on marketing ideas. Lastly, enjoy the journey.