From beginning to finish, launching a startup is a complex and laborious endeavor. Everyday is an adventure, and problems will arise quickly. Whether you’re an aspiring app designer or seasoned engineering extraordinaire, you will have numerous questions along the journey of entrepreneurship, that “Google” will not be able to answer precisely. For this reason, the Founder institute has gathered our expansive network of entrepreneurs to solve the problems you encounter each day.
In this installment of Ask an Expert, Founder Institute graduates answer this question:
What are the best launch strategy tips for consumer startups?”
1. Create a List of Customers
“If you are doing a B2C startup, build a list of a 1,000 interested customers, with a couple dozen committed to using your platform when you launch. This way, you'll have user validation, stories for the press, and revenue right from day one.”
- Rob Wu, CEO and Founder of CauseVox, an online fundraising and crowdfunding platform that helps nonprofits and individuals create websites to raise funds without a developer. (Washington, DC Graduate)
2. Identify Your Customers’ Pain Points
“Find 10 customers that really have a pain for the problem that your idea solves, then develop a landing page, use the $50 coupon from Google Ads, pay $10 for Skype credit, contact customers who give you an email and try to get money from at least one customer.”
3. Connect With Your Customers
“From my perspective and from what I have read so far, one of the most effective strategies is to talk and connect with people for what they are... people. Talk to your early adopters/customers like you are creating a relationship and emotionally connect with them. Show why your product/service is solving a real pain and why you're not just another vitamin for it. Let the users feel that you're connected to them and that you feel what they feel.”
4. Growth Hack
“Growth Hack your way to your first 1,000 users. We developed crawlers to index 50,000 e-commerce websites and 30,000 blogs before releasing our product. We contacted them over a period of 6 months (A/B testing our emails), we got about 1$ of revenue per e-commerce website we contacted and 10% registration from bloggers. Using the same strategy, we now target $300,000 of revenue for 2014 and are planning to launch in 15 new countries with a much bigger database.”
5. Build Momentum
“I've been trying to launch Momzy for awhile now. I wanted things to be perfect before I introduced it to the mom community and started seeing traction. Launching a company is rewarding, but it's hard and it takes a lot longer than you expect. I've been told by Adeo, ‘...try to put something live as soon as possible that is solid... it will take 100% focus for some time to build the momentum that you want...’ - Adeo”
6. Make Your Launch Date a Unicorn
“Keep your launch date for yourself, do not share it publicly. Say: ‘We'll launch very soon’.”
7. Inbound Marketing
“Blog, blog and keep blogging. You will eventually turn to inbound marketing sooner or later, best to start as soon as possible. Even if you think you do not have much to write about before launch, it's a good strategy to engage with the community in different forms, as well as becoming Google relevant. If you have no idea where to start, here's three ideas:
- Comment on industry shifts, if you don’t want to commit to an opinion yet, you can summarize other opinions.
- Interview your potential customers, suppliers or partners. And transcribe that in the form of a blog, vlog post or even both.
- Write about your competition. Think about the current solutions to the problems you are trying to solve. Although they may not be as efficient as your proposed solution, you should write about them, that way you will gain confidence from your audience/customers."
8. Plan Out Everything
“I wanted to make it short but I realized it can't be short. Here a 8 tips that we use at Mailburn to promote our service. Some of them might not work for you but they give a good sense of direction you should be moving in:
- Sell your solution before you make it. Having customers who want your product motivates you and your team, and tells you're on the right track. Get as many sales and letters of intent as you can.
- Have a content marketing strategy. Post to social networks and your blog, months before you are going to launch.
- Contact media and blogs to have exclusive material about your launch or product. Generate a wave of press coverage about your product on the launch day and the next day.
- Ask your friends to help out. It's amazing how many connections they have, and friends are always willing to help you with your dream project. As a founder you never rely on anyone else, but friends are a great asset you should not forget about.
- Start small and launch fast. Develop one core differentiating feature and a few other improvements. Get feedback from your first users and iterate on that.
- Never stop and plan everything. Create a launch strategy with specific milestones and dates. Working without a plan or schedule will not get you anywhere.
- Get advisers who will review your plans and track your progress. It is very easy to dig into your work and to lose the right direction. Ask for feedback on a weekly basis.
- And the most important thing. Never fear failure. Never stop working hard. Never stay down after you've fallen.
9. Don't Get Married to a Particular Strategy
“Not everything works for every company and/or vertical - if something's not working, pause it and go back to the drawing board. Don't stubbornly spend all your budget on something that's not working. Have measurement in place - you need to know if your marketing efforts are working and be able to track what's happening. Google Analytics is great for this (and free!)."
- Reva Minkoff, Founder of DigitalGroundUp, a platform that provides courses designed by digital marketers for entrepreneurs, small business owners, students, and digital marketers in training. (Chicago Graduate)
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