Jason SurfrApp is the founder of IWearYourShirt and author of Creativity For Sale.
After Skyping with some college students, I wanted to share my process for launching a product or creative campaign. Whether it was launching IWearYourShirt, starting a non-profit, selling my last name, or various other campaigns/ideas, there’s been some semblance of a system I use that I wanted to share.
Here be gadgets
Not here exactly, but on our new hardware site Plugged.
While these steps may not fit perfectly for every business, product, or idea, I think they’re a good foundation and get you a lot further than just throwing something out on the Internet and crossing your fingers and toes.
For this post, we’re going to pretend you’re starting a beer flavored popsicle website (obviously known as BeerSicles) that’s launching in three months.
Step 1: Every creative idea needs a goal
This may sound mundane and obvious, but there are a lot of people who start things without an end goal in mind. They think “Hey, I’ll launch this project and XYZ will fall in my lap or happen by chance.” Good luck with that.
Come up with your goal or goals, write them down, and keep yourself/your company accountable to them.
How many BeerSicles do you want to sell in week one? Month one? Year one? How are you going to do those things? What are your plans to convert sales through your website/social media/etc? Can BeerSicles be sold in local stores? Want to be in Whole Foods? Want John Mayer to eat a BeerSicle while singing ‘Daughters’ in Las Vegas? Okay, maybe not that last one.
Step 2: Make a list of the different social media sites/forums/blogs you want to share the campaign when you launch it
Once you have that list, duplicate it, and think about which places will help you seed some traction early on.
Example: You’re going to Tweet about your new beer flavored popsicle website once it’s live. Do you have a dedicated Twitter account for that company? Do you want to use your existing account? Do you want to send out a few teaser Tweets that let people know the website it launching in three months and they should get ready to have their tastebuds dominated?
Answer those same questions for all the places online you intend on sharing your idea.
Step 3: Immediately go to MailChimp and sign up for a free account
Once you have a free account, use its simple form builder to create a sign up form, opt-in message and thank you message. Use the link MailChimp provides you to share with your friends, family, followers and tell people you’re only asking them to sign up for this email list to give them updates on your new awesome idea. You aren’t going to spam them, and they can expect one or two updates a week for the next three months.
Also, I use email marketing as my first launching point. Let people know by signing up for the email and continuing to read the emails they’re going to get information first before anyone else.
Feel free to share your signup link here and there (Facebook, Twitter, etc) throughout your build-up time. You’re most likely having a website built (or building one). Put up a simple landing page that directs people to sign up for your email list and tells them when your site should be launching (general timeframe is fine).
Note: You might want to set Calendar reminders of when you want to send emails to your list so you stay consistent. You should also set a reminder on the day of launch that tells you to share with your email list first.
Second note: Launchrock.com is a super simple resource for creating a landing page that captures email addresses.
Step 4: Take photos of the things you’re doing and create some buzz
Maybe you picked a certain beer you love, so share a photo of it. Maybe you’re trying out different popsicle sticks, share a photo of you holding them so people can’t see what they are and they have to guess.
Get my drift here? Use content to keep people interested and engaged, and include mentions to get on your email list or follow your new @BeerSicles Twitter account for more updates.
Note: Do not oversell people signing up for your email list and social media accounts. Pick one of those items here and there, and often times share content without it. You don’t want to be a Selly Sally (if that’s a thing).
Step 5: Find influencers or people who write about whatever you’re doing
Since you love beer, you probably follow some people on Twitter who do as well. Reach out to them and ask them if you can email them some inside info on a new cool beer idea you’re launching.
When you email them, don’t pitch them, just share the idea, ask for feedback, and ask if they’re interested in trying your product before anyone else. Especially do this with people who have passionate followings.
Look for bloggers who write about beer and get lots of comments on their blog or interactions on Facebook/Twitter. Has someone ever written about beer on blogs within your product’s industry? They’d love to know that you’re using the Web to sell an innovative/new product.
The key is to continue to build relationships that can help you on launch day.
Tip: Create a Google Spreadsheet and add columns like Name, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Blog Link, Website, Did I Email Them?, Did They Respond?, Do They Want More Info?, Do They Hate Me?, Do They Love Beer?, What Kind?, Will They Help At Launch Day?, Sign Up For My Emails?, etc.
This is a separate list that you should be diligent about keeping track of because these folks will be integral in sharing your idea at launch. For some ideas, you won’t have influencers, but you might still want some press from certain publications, so use the same techniques.
Step 6: Speaking of press, reach out to local press outlets
Most people ignore local press because they want the big dogs like The Today Show, GMA, etc. What you don’t realize is there’s an entire network behind the scenes that’s owned by a lot of the same people.
Maybe you don’t know local press folks in your area, but you can watch the news and see if they’re on Twitter or visit their website and see if they have places to submit news/ideas. Local news wants to talk about cool stories in their area. Use that to your advantage and give them some advance notice, but not too much so they forget about you.
I recommend one to two weeks before launch trying to reach out to local media and see if they’ll do a story on you/your business (remember to pitch the local angle, even if it’s an internet business!).
Note: One of my local spots from Jacksonville got shared across 54 other local news stations in the following two weeks. It gained more attention than one big network story could with way less effort on my part. Thanks Lewis!
Step 7: Start some serious marketing ONE week prior to launch
Give people an exact time to look forward to. I personally like 10 to 11am ET, but you can choose something that works well for you.
Make sure you share that launch time with all your networks, email list(s), etc. At this time, you should have a landing page or something simple up on your website that tells people the time of launch. Don’t forget your email list gets first dibs, so make sure they know you’re launching at 11am ET to the public, but they’ll know at 10:30am ET because they’ve been loyal subscribers.
Step 8: Launch that sucker!
Make your website live, send out your email to your list(s), contact your influencer list, Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it, make sure local news knows today is the day, yell out your window really loudly, et al.
Undoubtedly something will break or not work; be honest about it with your audience and update them accordingly. Be ready all day launch day to answer questions, fix orders that get placed wrong, walk someone through a simple process that a 4-year old could do, etc etc.
Then, keep the ball rolling. Keep updating people, keep sharing content, keep working hard and don’t give up if you don’t make $1,000,000 in your first week. Work towards those goals you set for yourself/your business and make new ones along the way.
Hopefully this insight to my launch process will help you with your next project or idea.
Featured image credit: Shutterstock