Latest posts by Mark Spera (see all)
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If you can’t drive traffic to your website right after you launch, you’re doing it totally wrong…
Launch: a unique opportunity
I launched my first online business in 2012.
This company — an eco friendly ecommerce site called BeGood — went on to make a couple million in revenue.
In our first year of business, guess which day we made the most?
Table of Contents
Why is launch day so special?
- If done correctly, a business can launch with a lot of captive eyes and a lot of buzz. Eyes on your site –> customers.
- For one day, your site gets to be the new kid in school. Press and social media influencers should take notice.
- Your friends and family will buy! If you aren’t telling everyone you know about your online business… well, it would be silly not to.
Many of the same digital marketing strategies work at launch time, no matter what you’re launching — a startup, blog, ecommerce store, small business, web property, mobile application, etc.
I couldn’t find anything comprehensive on the internet about how best to launch your digital “thing,” so I made this guide.
Read on to learn the top 8 ways to launch like a boss and generate revenue, web traffic, downloads and a ton of leads.
1. The long waitlist
If you do nothing more leading up to your launch, collect emails. Email marketing is incredibly powerful.
21% of BeGood’s revenue came from email subscribers in our first year.
And even today, most founders and marketers cite email as their most valuable marketing channel.
So it makes sense to begin capturing emails early, even before you launch. If you’re planning on launching in six months, set up a “coming soon” webpage with an email capture widget now. It’s never too early.
Nothing creates anticipation quite like a big waitlist.
Long waitlists create FOMO (fear of missing out), which 56% of adults admit influences their digital behavior.
People on a wait list have to… wait.
Let me demonstrate:
Stock trading app Robinhood burst on the scene with nearly 1 million users by creating a huge waitlist before launch.
- They had a simple signup landing page with an email capture for a “beta” launch. This beta launch signup webpage was available for months prior to their official launch.
- They had a launch video that was intriguing.
- And they have a value proposition that’s sticky and valuable: $0 commission stock trades.
Things to remember:
- Even if your launch isn’t for a while, collect emails now. Prop up a landing page and begin building an email list with ConvertKit or Mailchimp. Use Hello Bar to collect email leads or a tool like Instapage to create a splash page with email collection. Periodically check in with people who sign up for your list by emailing them reminding them of launch date and giving them some updates on your product/website/blog’s progress.
- Give them a private beta or some early look at your product/website/blog, so that they get some real value from being on your waitlist!
- Search engine optimization (SEO) can be one of the best ways to get eyes on your site and grow your waitlist. It’s never too early to start producing blog content to attract readers. It’s one of the cheapest ways to build a business. If you want to learn SEO, you’ve come to the right place.
Want to learn SEO? Click below to sign up up for my SEO email series and start getting more leads today.
Companies like Uber, Lyft, Eat24 and Postmates use referral programs to multiply their user base. Refer-a-friend programs can be extremely effective at acquiring new users, subscribers or downloads, both pre and post-launch.
Smart entrepreneurs start referral programs even before launch. Razor company, Harry’s launched with a long waitlist and referral program that looked like this:
Amazon competitor (and now Walmart-owned), Jet.com had one of the coolest pre-launch referral programs I’ve ever seen.
If you referred friends to the Jet.com, you were given a chance to win equity in the company. The person with the most referrals before their launch earned 100,000 shares of Jet.com stock. Since Jet was sold for over $3 billion, that person is now quite wealthy!
At BeGood, we had a prelaunch referral program that gave us a few thousand extra signups. Top referrers could win prizes like a free tee shirt or free shipping for life by referring 10 or more friends.
Referral programs are a great way to grow your user base fast, as every existing customer can turn into a new one.
Things to remember:
- Use an out-of-the-box referral software like ReferralCandy or Friendbuy. If your site is built on WordPress, Wix or another big platform, you can check your provider’s app exchange for referral program software.
- FYI: referral programs don’t work quite so well for bloggers and other content-forward businesses — they’re better suited for ecommerce business, software services and other startups.
3. Email friends, family, colleagues and everyone!
If you’re launching, please email everyone you know! Your friends, family and business connections are the most likely people on earth to sign up, download, buy, etc.
Why? Presumably, they know and trust you and they’ll be interested in following your digital story!
When and how should you email them?
The morning of your launch (or earlier if you have a waitlist) and from your personal email.
Even if you have a slick email marketing software like SendGrid, ConvertKit or Mailchimp to contact your web leads, you should still send the launch email to your friends/family/colleagues from your personal account.
Why? Your personal email account is “warmer” — it has higher primary inbox deliverability for Gmail. This means everyone should get your email and 90%+ people will read your message.
Pro tip: if you use LinkedIn for professional connections and networking, you can export the email addresses of your LinkedIn contacts by doing the following.
- Click on “My Network” Tab or Connections
- Click On “See All Connections”
- Click on “Manage Synced and Imported Contacts”
- Step 4: Click on “Export Contacts”
- Step 5: Select Desired Files and Click “Request Archive”
- Step 6: Open Email and Use Download Link
- Step 7: Click Download
Between my friends, family, email contacts and LinkedIn contacts, I have about 5,000 personal emails I can send for the next product I launch! Gmail allows you to email ~200 contacts per day.
What should your email say?
While it’s natural to want to speak about your amazing product or website, focus on the people involved (you and/or any business partners) first. It’s important to be honest and vulnerable. Tell people why you started X company and what it means for you and the world!
Paragraph 1: be vulnerable and tell the story. Hey! Some of you may remember, a couple years ago I was pretty bummed out. My girlfriend had just broken up with me, a bunch of my friends moved away and a close friend was in a bad car accident.
Paragraph 2: explain how you triumphed or had the realization that led to your business — be funny, cute, emotional, whatever! One of positives that came out of that tough time was that I started reading a lot more. Mostly, I read my Reddit feed and sports blogs… but also some real writing by the great authors. With that, I began remembering my own passion for writing as a kid. So I started writing. First on paper. But then I started a blog.
Paragraph 3: explain the labor it took to start your business. I’ve now been writing for 2+ years with my partner, Hailey on Growth Marketing Pro. I’ve put in thousands of hours and continue to tweak old writing and post new pieces at least once per week. You could say I’m a little obsessed.
Paragraph 4: explain your mission — why you built what you did, who it’s for and how it will change the internet! I’d love for you to check out my blog and give me feedback. Plus, if you’re trying to grow your business, or you’re just curious about the internet, you might be really interested. Sign up for my email list and follow my journey here. Thanks so much!
Things to remember:
- It can feel a little embarrassing and nerve-wracking to email so many people. It is. But doing so will be empowering. You will be able to share your story with such a wide audience and you’ll be rewarded with lots of warm email leads, sales, subscribers, etc. too.
- Feel free to use the bcc feature and send groups of hundreds of people emails. Extra kudos if you can give them a special discount or promo to friends and family.
- Everyone is reading on the go. That means most people read emails on screens no wider than 3 inches across. Make your words count. More is less. Use concise and clear language.
- In all forms of writing, it’s more engaging when you vary the length of your sentences. Some sentences are short. Some sentences are long. This creates a more engaging flow.
- We’re scrolling past hundreds of posts every day. Make sure to start with an engaging hook. This will boost the emotionality of your email and make it more likely that your thousands of contacts will take your desired action.
4. Seed the internet
Seeding or distributing your content on the internet on launch day or just before launch, is a free and easy way to spread the word about your business. It takes some time investment, but that’s about it.
When you launch, there are a few foolproof places to get traffic: Quora, Reddit, Product Hunt and any other “user generated” website.
Pockets of the internet where you can ask and answer questions, share statuses and post are great places to seed your company’s mission and URL.
These websites are hotbeds for solid launches. All it takes is a compelling story and an understanding of each platform’s nuances.
Basically, you’re spreading the word, digitally!
Maybe there are forums or other “user generated” websites in your business vertical? For instance, real estate businesses will find many residential and commercial-focused forums and social networks like BiggerPockets.com.
Things to remember:
- Learn how to launch a product on Quora.
- Learn how to launch a product on Product Hunt.
- Learn how to launch a product on Reddit.
5. Take advantage of crowdfunding platforms
I have to explain something:
You know the phrase, “there’s no such thing as free money?”
It’s not true.
I wish I had taken advantage of crowdfunding platforms when I started BeGood. They always seemed too kitschy and amateurish.
But they’re not.
Even if you don’t need more money for your business, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms enable you to raise money from backers for free. Well, actually Kickstarter takes 7% of whatever you raise on the platform, but the money comes with no strings attached. There’s no loan and no equity sold in your business. It’s quite literally free money.
You simply need to fulfill your promise to backers in the campaign.
If you decide to pursue crowdfunding and you offer rewards to people who help fund your project, make sure that they are appealing and useful to your backers. Bonus points if you can come up with a reward that also helps promote your brand. For example, if you’re launching a new line of haircare products, a reward could include some samples of your first line of products.
But remember, your crowdfunding campaign rewards can be things that are “free”:
- Skype sessions or phone call sessions
- A robust PDF guide or special piece of content
- Recognition for the donation
Companies, like smartwatch builder, Pebble raised over $30 million via crowdfunding campaign.
Unfortunately, Pebble has since closed up shop.
Do not despair if you’ve already launched your product or service.
So even if your business has been on the internet for a few years already, crowdfunding is your friend.
If you choose to launch a Kickstarter, creating a webinar to educate your audience about your new product offering is probably a good idea, too. That way, you can directly answer questions that people might have (and of course, convince them to donate).
Webinars are particularly helpful if your business is tough for the average person to understand, like a B2B or SaaS business. Check out our Guide to the Top 15 Webinar Softwares to learn how you can make a webinar work for your company launch.
Other things to remember:
- Raise money via a crowdfunding platform is free money… if you successfully raise.
- It costs money to make a successful campaign. “Build it and they will come” does not work. If you want to successfully crowdfund, you will need to email friends, engage an audience, create cool (video) content and devise a good strategy.
- Crowdfunding lends itself much better to certain types of products and businesses. Generally, ecommerce companies, hardware products and consumer-focused startups/apps do best with crowdfunding. Small businesses and blogs have a harder time.
6. PR: create a hype train
Launch time is the easiest moment in the lifetime of your company/website/blog/small business to get press.
Yup, you’re working long hours and you’re worried about launching AND you should be thinking about press.
No one said launching and marketing your own business would be easy. But you’re up for the challenge!
Plus, getting press is way easier than it sounds. And you can do it all yourself. No agency or consultants required.
Sure, getting a New York Times article is quite difficult, but garnering some lower tier and mid tier press takes a sound strategy, not magic.
A Harvard Business Review survey concluded that 70% of publishers are open to being pitched on a topic via email as long as it’s within their “beat” (area of coverage).
So, all you need is:
- A compelling pitch
- The email addresses of the editors, bloggers and publications you care about
You will want to make a list of 30 to 50 low/mid tier publications with contact information. Pick only publications that are in your industry. Take a few different approaches. For instance, if you’re launching a diet coaching business online, you can find publications in a number of places.
- Nutrition blogs in your area of expertise
- Other coaching websites in your niche that might give you a friendly mention
- Food blogs
- Your local business reporters and news publications
You may be surprised to find how easy it is to get an editor’s email address. Many times, they will appear in the masthead of the site or in the person’s bio. Often, editors include links to their social media accounts — which are also great places to warm relationships and lightly pitch.
Make your email pitch personalized. Never send a mass email and bcc editors and freelance writers. 25% of all pitch emails are rejected by editors for being too spammy or impersonal.
Your email should be succinct and should show thorough research of the editor and should provide value. Include images, offer product demos and quotes from you or your CEO where possible.
Things to remember:
- If you’re a startup or business with a more significant budget, getting some PR consulting or agency help might be a good use of funds. You can do it all yourself, but an individual or agency with connections and/or some good “pound the pavement” work ethic can go a long way.
- Pitch a week or two before launch.
- Include a link to your splash page or live web property so that the editor can see! Send them a free gift, a sneak peek, a promo code or an exclusive something or other.
- Press outreach works for every business. Maybe your niche doesn’t have too many worthy press targets, but there’s got to be a few!
7. Use visual countdowns
If you’ve got a super visual product or business, using visual countdowns can be a clever way to build awareness and stay top of mind leading up to your launch.
That’s what Chobani did before launching two new flavors of yogurt.
While this strategy will not make or break a launch, it’s a well known phenomenon in marketing that repetition makes messages more effective.
A study by Microsoft actually revealed that depending on the industry, a message is optimally delivered to a user when they see it 6+ times.
If you have a visual product and you have a medium to distribute it (your Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.) go for it!
8. Viral video
Viral marketing is the holy grail. It’s the most cost efficient way to acquire a ton of users before launch.
However, it’s quite difficult to make a video of high enough quality for virility. Plus, it can be quite expensive to make a video in the first place!
So, it’s not for everyone. You have to have some major time to ideate and some resources to shoot high quality video.
Jonah Berger, marketing professor at Wharton School of Business says in an Entrepreneur article about viral marketing, “there is a science behind why people share. It’s not chance, and it’s not random. If you understand the underlying science of human behavior, you can predict what people are going to pass on, and you can craft your own contagious content.”
But how? Berger says the six key vehicles of virality are:
- Social currency: sharing things that make people look good
- Triggers: it’s likelier an activation is successful if the content addresses something that is top of mind like current events
- Emotion: does the campaign create an emotional reaction?
- Public: imitating what we see others do
- Practical value: things people can use
- Stories: information that is in the form of a story and can be shared by chitchat
I leave you with three of my favorite viral launch videos below.
Things to remember:
- Viral video only goes viral if the content is amazing. You should spend days dreaming up the perfect video to launch with. If you don’t have that time, don’t use this strategy — it’s not worth the effort to create a mediocre video (I’ve done it before).
- If you want a shortcut to making a launch video, use a tool like Biteable. While I don’t suspect anything you make on Biteable to go viral, it is a great was to make launch explainer videos.
9. BONUS!! Facebook remarketing
Facebook is a favorite channel for marketers because it has vast scale and is pretty easy to implement. While the efficiency of Facebook advertising has gone down in recent years — competition has driven up inventory prices — there are still ways to make it work.
At the moment of your launch, Facebook Custom Audience ads can be quite effective. These are “remarketing” ads. Remarketing ads are the ones that “follow you around” the internet after you visit a website.
At launch time, these ad units are particularly effective because of that “new kid on the block” effect. You will find that conversion rates are very high during your first few days in business. High conversion rates means your ad spend will be very efficient (cheap).
Plus, consumers take a company more seriously when they see you a few times. Remarketing around launch is a way to accomplish this fast.
You’re a very bright and shiny new object that everyone wants to learn more about!
Want to put remarketing Facebook ads to work for you?
- Add the Facebook pixel to your website. The pixel can be found in the Facebook Ads Manager.
- Once the custom pixel is on your site, you will need to create “conversion goals” in the Facebook Ads Manager. Your goal will need to be whatever the action you desire is: email capture, successful booking, lead, revenue, etc.
- Once you launch and your website begins getting traffic, the Facebook pixel will record audiences of your website visitors. Many marketers do a remarketing audience (you must choose a recency window so that you’re not retargeting visitors from a year ago!)
- To make a Custom Audience campaign, you will do so in the Facebook Ad Manager. Once you reach the Ad Set stage, you will be prompted to choose an audience. You will create a Custom Audience.
- Make creative. You should have ~five images created at 1,200 x 628 pixel dimensions (the optimal size for Facebook ads). Video and even GIF ads can and should be used if you have the resources. When you are ready to test video ads, a tool like Lumen5 is quick, easy and cheap tool to use for video creation.
- Create campaign with three Ad Sets — one for Facebook mobile, one for Facebook desktop and one for Instagram. Each Ad Set ad variant should have five images, two copies and two landing page variants. Facebook allows you to duplicate Ad Sets, so this procedure takes less time than it may seem.
- Each Ad Set should be given a budget of ~$20/day. In the beginning, your Custom Audience will be small (because your web traffic is relatively small) and you should not hit this budget anyway.
- Once live, ads will need to be optimized every few days for performance for 3 weeks.
Things to remember:
- Remarketing spend can sometimes be 20% of a company’s total marketing spend. Don’t be afraid!
Launching an internet business is really rewarding.
- You’ll get feedback on a project you’ve probably been working on for a while.
- You’ll begin meeting your customers, subscribers, clients and other industry people via the web.
- You’ll get satisfaction from checking in on your e-baby whenever you like.
- You’ll start making money, getting subscribers, etc.
My only piece of advice is: do not rush your launch. Take the little extra time you need to get the pieces in place to make it successful. Launching is a unique time in your business’ life. You’ll want to take advantage of the press opportunity, launch referrals, FOMO and all the rest that comes with a thoughtfully-executed digital launch.
You can only launch once. Make it count!
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