Everyday I speak with startup founders and marketing execs on the phone or now via Clarity (clarity.fm/jonathanarmstrong). One question gets asked more than any other:
How do I successfully launch a new product for the least amount of money?
Product launches are scary!
Most startup founders have burnt the candle at both ends for months trying to get their product ready for market. Not only is their money on the line but also the company’s reputation. The whole success of the company usually hinges on the initial launch. Do it right and your investors’ confidence will double. Do it wrong.. well lets try to avoid that.
For the article I will reference a couple of personal projects that I have launched recently. I used the same strategy for both and the results were pretty amazing. What started out as a test for clients to see the launch sequence of startups has actually resulted in two new products that are making me money. In fact, we recently had to make new hires just to keep up with the demands.
Background on the new products:
- Rocket Realtor – monthly service provides a platform for real estate agents to own and maintain their own mobile app.
- WP Rocket Fix – monthly service that provides support for WordPress users.
The 3 Steps
“Aim small. Miss small.” – 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth
Honing in on a target whether it be for a golf shot or customers is key. For Rocket Realtor the target market may seem pretty simple. Realtors.
In reality the market is much smaller. We need to find realtors connected to technology that understand the importance of mobile.
When I started the initial launch a friend of mine was bored and offered to cold call a bunch of realtors. I said it wouldn’t work as every realtor is not our target. He insisted, saying that he sold ice to eskimos or whatever salespeople say these days to convey their skills.
So naturally I made a bet with him. He made calls while I targeted realtors on Twitter. He made 100 calls with no sales. I sent out 20 targeted tweets… 11 sales.
Startups that understand their target audience will save more time and money.
One of the biggest errors I see startups make is lacking an email list on launch day. How are you supposed to notify people that your product is out? This step is all about building your email list but it in order to build a list you have to build an audience. Building an audience can be as simple as creating a Twitter account and tweeting news and updates about your product with targeted hashtags.
After you build an audience start funnelling all of that traffic to a landing page that outlines your product. Place a “sign up to be notified when we launch” email form on the landing page.
To maximize conversion the landing page should explain the benefits of the app more so than the features. When people sign up for a product launch they don’t care about features. They care about how the app will benefit them.
Once you have a decent size list you can start blogging about the status of the project, internal news and even something as simple as behind the scenes photos. Create as much content as possible to increase your ability to share on Twitter. Keep funneling people to your landing page and your list will keep building.
Both WP Rocket Fix and Rocket Realtor had over a hundred email signups before we even started development of the products. We viewed signups as product validation. The more signups you have the more confident and excited you can be in your product.
Now comes the scary part.
Now that we have put in all the hard work to build the product, understand who to target, and build huge email lists we need to convert all of that momentum into sales. Conversion is not as simple as how many leads vs. how many sales. With the system we have setup for product launches you have to test multiple conversion rates to optimize for sales post launch.
First we test the conversion rate of our email list. We measure:
How many of the signups actually converted to customers?
What was the key purchasing factor?
Testing our email list lets us know if the product actually delivered on customer expectations we created in the build phase.
Next we test the conversion rate of our website.
Traffic > Leads > Sales
Here we can see points of friction during our signup process or in our marketing material. We use website heatmaps to see where users stop reading. We test different landing pages… basically we test everything.
The more we analyze the more we can optimize and convert.
In the restaurant world, new ventures will have soft openings. Basically they invite a select number of people to dine at the restaurant before the actual launch to iron out any kinks in service and create an initial buzz of positive reviews. In the startup world, especially products that require tons of users to even work (social networks), we don’t really have any options for that. Sure we can beta test but that doesn’t help with sales or buzz. That’s why it is so important to measure everything during the launch to optimize and correct for future sales.
Have you recently launched a startup? Share your story in the comment section below.