You’ve decided to start a business – congrats! Now it’s time to get to work. I’m going to be honest, the transition from the corporate world to running my own business SUCKED. I wasn’t disciplined enough. It took me 6 months to figure out a schedule where I could be as productive as I was when I was working in the office.
How am I still in business a few years later? Two things – luck and my launch strategy. I knew that, no matter how many bumps in the road, the key to a successful first year lies in your launch.
Here are 6 ways to make your launch count and – as with anything marketing related – they work best when they work together:
Know Your Market
Before you start to promote your launch, take the time to do the pre-work that is going to make your marketing efforts 10x more effective. I’m talking about understanding your audience. Know what their concerns are, how you can help them, what they’re willing to invest.
You can go about market research a few different ways. Start with simply polling your contacts. The challenge here is to make sure that they’re IN your target demographic. For example, if you’re in the wedding industry, interviewing your grandma about how you should connect with your clients may not be the best bet.
To ensure you have the right audience, consider hiring a focus group. Identify 8-12 people who are within your target market and pull them together to get their opinion on your proposed products or services. If you don’t know people that you can pull together, there are many online options to get feedback from unbiased sources.
Remember not to get defensive – any criticism is just information you need to get better.
Use Your Network
Your network is powerful. Really powerful. I didn’t know or believe how true that was until I started my business. Before I had a website, before I had a brand, I just reached out to a few mentors to see what they thought about my business concept. I wanted to make sure I was on the right track!
Within a few days, they had referred clients to me, set up meetings with contacts that they knew would help, and provided the encouragement I needed to really feel momentum.
The key with activating your network is to be intentional. Be clear about what you want people to do and the vast majority of the time, they’re happy to help!
Don’t simply announce your new business venture, encourage your contacts to engage with you by writing a testimonial, referring someone they know, or providing feedback on your work. Think about prior bosses, colleagues, mentors, people you’ve volunteered with, clients you enjoyed working with, etc. A simple connection can have a powerful impact.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The value of partnerships cannot be overstated – especially if you are launching on a budget. Most often, the biggest hurdle for new businesses to overcome is the lack of reach. They don’t have a built in audience to promote to yet. This is where partners come in. Find a business that has a similar target market and integrate them into your launch plans. They could co-sponsor an event, participate in a giveaway, feature you in their content or their store. The opportunities are endless.
Reach out to partners with a proposal for how YOU can provide value to THEM throughout the launch process and start building your audience through their reach and connection with their clients while bringing value to everyone involved.
If appropriate, advertising should definitely be a strategy to consider in planning your launch. My recommendation, though – it shouldn’t be the ONLY strategy. Business owners can get caught up in advertising because it’s easy. You can throw a FB ad up in just a few minutes and wait for the sales to come “rolling in.” The problem is that they rarely do.
That’s often because people try to sell their products through advertising rather than inviting readers to learn more. Use advertising to generate traffic and build awareness, not to tell the complete brand story.
For example, run an ad that promotes your launch event or giveaway and collect people’s emails so that you can send them follow up information. This way, the money you’re spending on ads not only is bolstering your awareness, but building your email list as well.
Host an Event
Your business launch is a perfect excuse to host an event! You only get to truly launch once, so maximize your exposure and reach by planning a launch party. People get intimidated by planning parties because it’s really PUBLIC. There’s anxiety that comes along with inviting people and hoping they show up. The nice thing is that this can scale based on your budget and how you want to present your company to the world.
I love the idea of partnering with someone who has an event space to host the event if you don’t have space of your own. Find a complementary business who would love to drive more foot traffic into their space or a new restaurant that is looking to build awareness.
If your target market is not centralized, events can still work for you. Host an online event like a webinar or live sale. Use a countdown to launch day on social media. Attend a conference that is geared toward your target market and use THAT as your launch event.
The key with any event is to have a specific goal and build every detail around that purpose. The goal could be sales, connections, press coverage, or even just awareness. As long as you’re clear on how to measure the results.
Run a Contest
Contests or giveaways are the perfect way to generate excitement during your pre-launch phase as well as getting your products or services out into the world so that people can start talking about them!
When planning your contest or giveaway, start with your goal. Do you want to generate social media followers? Spread word of mouth? Build your email list? That will determine how people enter to win.
Then, consider the prize. This is a great way to offer value to partners if you want to incorporate some of their products or services into the giveaway. This allows them to build their audience at the same time you’re offering a bigger and better prize.
Running a contest allows you to promote a campaign that doesn’t feel “salesy” as well as an excuse to follow up with people who you KNOW are interested in what you’re selling.