Much of the success in a launch is actually going to come from the work you’ve done before the launch day.
A conventional launch would be measured in terms of vanity metrics like website sessions, Product Hunt upvotes, social media mentions, and press coverage.
A better, unconventional way to measure the success of your launch will be in terms of beta conversions, leads, free trials or demos, and of course, customers.
I love the story of Hotjar’s launch, because they didn’t focus on the launch of the product at all, they just focused on their beta. And this principle can be taken to feature launches too, not just your initial product launch.
The key to a successful launch is to have a successful pre-launch, or better known as a beta. A beta is a private period of testing before a product launches to the public to gather feedback, validate demand for the product, and build hype for the public product launch.
Hotjar chose to focus on their beta before even thinking about launching to the public and ended up with over 60,000 beta signups in just six months. Publicly launching with 60,000 people already aware or having used the product was a huge win for them early on.
The success of their beta translated into the success of their public launch, as they managed to get to $1 million ARR within six months of publicly launching, and just one year after conceiving the idea.
Let’s take a look at some of the key strategies for creating a momentous pre-launch beta:
The most fundamental element is your “coming soon” landing page. Using a service like Carrd, Leadpages, or Webflow, you can easily get a simple one page website to start collecting emails.
Don’t worry about your navigation bar, creating multiple pages, or coming up with elaborate copy.
On the page, the most important elements are:
Logo, name, and screenshots are optional at this stage.
For your headline, make sure you’re incorporating your Unique Selling Proposition or tagline. It should be easily understood what the product is and what value it brings.
For the sub headline, further describe what users can do with the product and how it benefits them.
For the email entry form and submit button, use language like “Test the product for free,” “Request early access,” “Help us make a better product,” or “Request beta access.”
If you have a strong network of companies you can tap into to do a guest blog or be a guest on their podcast, a short, shameless plug at the end for your new project can go a long way!
Accessing other people’s audience (and making sure you’re getting in front of the right audience) can help you get traction early on. Ask to blog for them on a topic of their choosing or based on your expertise in exchange for sharing your landing page to build beta signups.
The beta is most importantly about collecting feedback in order to improve the product and achieve product/market fit. Installing a tool like Intercom or Typeform to collect feedback will provide a seamless experience for both yourself and the beta users.
Send surveys, polls, and questions to users even before allowing users into the product. Customer feedback should be a continuous loop of input and output. Not all feedback will be beneficial or relevant enough to implement, but make sure that your users feel heard.
Establishing a culture of digesting and implementing customer feedback will help you stay true to your customer-first philosophy and make your users your best advocates. No one wants to promote a product that made their users feel ignored or manipulated.
Add the url or a shortened version to your social profiles and your email signature for increased exposure. Add language like “Come see what I’m building,” “Interested in <your product category>?” or “Request early access for my new project.”
While these may seem like menial tactics, every user counts, and it’s another way you can hustle to make the launch a success.
Posting the coming soon page to relevant communities will help you expand outside of your network and get it in front of people who are actively engaged in a community. Active community members are often great beta testers, even if they aren’t potential customers. Even then, active community members are much more likely to be active product users, and are much more likely to turn into customers.
Some great communities to share with:
Another great strategy is to create your own beta user community on Facebook, Slack Group, or service like Mobilize. This is a great way to get users interacting with one another and collaborate on ideas, problems, and improvements. Also, all this valuable information will be stored in one central place!
Having your own community to actively participate in is a great way to manage feedback, promote a referral program, send updates, and eventually publicly launch to.
Using a referral or giveaway system is one of the best strategies you can put into place for your beta. Using a referral or giveaway system, you can control who you invite by placing them in an ordered list, usually a waiting list, and incentivize them to climb the rank of the waiting list by sharing with friends and getting others to join the waiting list.
Offering exclusive discounts, valuable giveaways, and free months using the product will help create some virality around your product.
Using a wait list creates scarcity for your product, which is a fundamental part of creating demand. But it also lightens it up and makes it fun!
Establish a regular cadence of sending updates, either by email, in-app messages, or community announcements. Communicate product updates, progress, and ask for more feedback in certain areas.
A regular communication cadence will keep beta users engaged with your product and on track with what you want them to be doing inside the product.
Why even launch? What purpose does a launch serve?
It may seem like a waste of time and resources just to get a bunch of unqualified traffic. The reality is that you can only launch your product for the first time once, so you should do it right. I don’t care what you call it, but at some point you have to “launch” and start marketing your product. You may as well make it into a momentous event that can build a lot of buzz and traction for you.
“One thing every startup needs to do is product launches. Launches are exciting; the planning, the build up, the feeling of all working toward the same goal, the rush of joy and fear as you finally share what you’ve been working on with the world. But more importantly, launches are one of your best opportunities to drive brand awareness and ultimately generate new customers, so it’s worth taking the time to get them right.” - Jasmine Jaume, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Intercom
If you’re a one man startup, that’s all you. But if you have co-founders, a team, or friends who can help, employ help as early as possible.
Create a timeline
Make sure they’re clearly understood as well as realistic. This is where you’ll decide on a working launch date and you’ll want to work backwards from that date and give yourself all the time you’ll need to accomplish everything leading up to launch day.
The reality is that you’re probably not going to get to do all the things you wanted to do to spread the word about the launch. So make sure you clarify which ones are non negotiable so there are no misunderstandings about which tactics get the axe if you don’t have time. You don’t want to run out of time and not be able to use your most effective tactics. Prioritize early.
Get the assets ready
Landing pages, emails, website submissions, journalist pitches, gifs, etc. all need to be ready by launch day. Work on these as early as possible. There’s no harm in getting them done early and then having time to tweak them as you get closer.
Get everyone on the same page
Dates, deadlines, the story, assets, can all be botched without proper communication. Make sure everyone on the team can recite the timeline and tell the same story. When launch day arrives it’s going to feel like a real scramble to respond to feedback, create buzz, and talk to potential customers. Everyone should be on the same page. If it’s just you launching, get yourself in order with a clear-cut plan!
Launch day will likely be a 24 hour endeavor, so grab yourself a red bull and make sure everything is launched at the proper time. The last thing you want is for your product to be Hunted on Product Hunt at 11pm the night before, your email to go out several hours too late, or for someone to forget to open the signup page to the public.
Here’s a generally exhaustive list of places to launch your startup:
• /r/AlphaandBetausers - https://www.reddit.com/r/alphaandbetausers/
• /r/Coupons - https://www.reddit.com/r/coupons/
• /r/DesignCritques - https://www.reddit.com/r/design_critiques/
• /r/Entrepreneur - http://reddit.com/r/entrepreneur
• /r/IMadeThis - http://reddit.com/r/imadethis
• /r/IndieBiz - https://www.reddit.com/r/indiebiz/
• /r/LadyBusiness - https://www.reddit.com/r/ladybusiness/
• /r/RoastMyStartup - https://www.reddit.com/r/roastmystartup
• /r/ShamelessPlug - https://www.reddit.com/r/shamelessplug/
• /r/SideProject - http://reddit.com/r/sideproject
• /r/SmallBusiness - https://www.reddit.com/r/smallbusiness/
• /r/Startups - http://reddit.com/r/startups
• 101 Best Websites - http://www.101bestwebsites.com/
• Addictive Tips - http://www.addictivetips.com/
• AdHipster - https://adhipster.com/
• All My Faves - http://www.allmyfaves.com/
• All Startups - http://www.allstartups.info/Startups/Submit
• All Top Startups - http://alltopstartups.com/submit-startup/
• Alternative To - http://alternativeto.net/
• Angel List - https://angel.co/join
• App 400 - http://apps400.com/
• App Advice - http://appadvice.com/page/about-us
• App Appeal - http://www.appappeal.com/contact/suggest
• App Rater - https://apprater.net/add/
• App Storm - http://formstack.com/forms/envato-appstorm_review
• Appcrawlr - http://appcrawlr.com/
• Appoid - http://appiod.com/submit-app-for-review/
• appPicker - http://www.apppicker.com/
• Apps 400 - http://apps400.com/submit-your-application-for-review
• Apps Listo - http://appslisto.com/submit-your-app/
• Apps Mamma - http://appsmamma.com/submit-your-app/
• Apps Mirror - http://www.appsmirror.com/submit-your-app-for-review
• AppsNow - http://appsnow.us/submit-app-for-review/
• AppsThunder - http://appsthunder.com/submit-your-app/
• AppStorm - http://appstorm.net/
• Appvita - http://www.appvita.com/
• AppZapp - http://www.appzapp.net/en/app-review-request/
• Arctic Startup - http://arcticstartup.com/
• Beta Bound - http://www.betabound.com/announce/
• Beta Page - https://betapage.co/
• Betafy - https://www.betafy.co/easysignup/startup
• BetaList - https://betalist.com/submit
• Beterest - https://beterest.com/submit-startup/
• Boing Boing - http://boingboing.net/sub/
• BreakPoint - https://breakpoint.io/new/
• BuiltInChicago - http://www.builtinchicago.org/send-us-tip
• Capterra - http://www.capterra.com/vendors/sign-up
• Cloud Surfing - http://www.cloudsurfing.com/
• CloudBook - http://www.cloudbook.net/directories/product-services/product-company-search.php
• CloudShowPlace - http://www.cloudshowplace.com/add-your-company/
• Cnet - https://upload.cnet.com/
• Collaborizm - https://www.collaborizm.com
• Crazy About Startups - http://www.crazyaboutstartups.com/index.php/share-your-startup-form
• CrozDesk - https://vendor.crozdesk.com/user/signup
• Crunch Base - https://www.crunchbase.com/#/home/index
• CSS Mania - http://www.cssmania.com/submit/
• Designer News - https://www.designernews.co/
• Digg - http://digg.com/submit
• Discova - http://www.discova.co/
• Discover Cloud - https://www.discovercloud.com/become-a-vendor
• Erlibird - https://erlibird.com/beta-testing
• F6S - http://www.f6s.com/
• Feed My App - https://feedmyapp.com/submit/
• FireSpotting - http://firespotting.com/submit
• G2 Crowd - https://www.g2crowd.com/products/new
• Geek Wire - http://geekwire.com/startup-list/
• Geekopedia - http://geekopedia.me/startupsubmit
• Get App - http://getapp.com/
• Getworm - https://getworm.com/submit-startup
• Gust - https://www.gust.com
• Hackerstreet - https://in.thehackerstreet.com/
• Haro - https://www.helpareporter.com/sources/
• I Am Wire - http://www.iamwire.com/startups/user/register?uType=Entrepreneur
• Idea Hunt - http://ideahunt.io/
• Inc 42 - https://inc42.com/startup-submission/
• Index.co - https://index.co/startup
• Indie Hackers - https://indiehackers.com/
• Just Gone Live - http://www.justgonelive.com/add-listing
• Killer Startups - http://killerstartups.com/submit-startup/
• Land-book - https://land-book.com/guidelines
• Launching Next - http://www.launchingnext.com/submit/
• Launch List - https://launchlister.com/submit-startup
• Launched - https://launched.io/SubmitStartup
• MakeUseOf - http://www.makeuseof.com/about/
• Maqtoob - https://maqtoob.com/submit-a-tool
• Mevvy - https://mevvy.com/submit-app/
• Mobilzed - https://www.moblized.com/vendors/register
• Museum of Modern Beta - http://momb.socio-kybernetics.net/about
• Netted - https://www.netted.net/contact-us/
• New-Startups - http://www.new-startups.com/submit/
• Next Big Product - http://nextbigproduct.net/product-submission/
• Next Big What - http://nextbigwhat.com/
• Nibletz - http://www.nibletz.com/submit-startup
• On the App - http://ontheapp.com/about/
• Paggu - http://www.paggu.com/submit-your-startup/
• pFind - http://www.pfind.com/submit
• Pineapple - http://pineapple.io/resources/new
• Postscapes - http://about.postscapes.com/tools
• PreApps - http://www.preapps.com/
• Product Hunt - http://www.producthunt.com/
• Programmable Web - https://www.programmableweb.com/news/how-to-pitch-programmableweb-covering-your-news/2016/11/18
• PublicityX - https://www.publicityx.com/startups/new
• Rate My Startup - http://ratemystartup.com/submit-your-startup/
• Really-aweso.me - http://www.really-aweso.me/submit-your-startup/
• Reikut - https://reikut.com/
• Rev 2 - http://www.rev2.org/
• Robingood - http://tools.robingood.com/
• Show HN - https://news.ycombinator.com/showhn.html
• Side Projectors - https://www.sideprojectors.com
• Side Projects - http://sideprojects.web3canvas.com
• Signup First - http://signupfirst.com/
• SimilarSites - http://www.similarsites.com/
• SimilarSiteSearch - http://www.similarsitesearch.com/tips.html
• Slant - https://www.slant.co/
• SnapMunk - https://www.snapmunk.com/submit-your-startup/
• Software Advice - https://softwareadvice-markets.questionpro.com/
• Springwise - http://springwise.com/tipus/
• Stack Share - http://stackshare.io/
• Start HQ - https://starthq.com/apps/submit
• Start-ups - http://www.start-ups.co/startup-interview-questionnaire/
• Startup 88 - https://startup88.com/
• Startup Base - https://startupbase.io/submit
• Startup Beat - http://startupbeat.com/startup-beat-featured-startup-pitch-guidelines/
• Startup Buffer - http://startupbuffer.com
• Startup Collections - http://startupcollections.com/
• Startup Dope - http://startupdope.com/submit-news/
• Startup Inspire - https://www.startupinspire.com/submit
• Startup Lift - http://www.startuplift.com/
• Startup Ranking - http://www.startupranking.com/
• Startup Register - http://startupregister.net/register-your-startup/
• Startup Resources - https://startupresources.io
• Startup Stash - http://startupstash.com/
• Startup Tabs - http://startuptabs.com/
• Startup88 - http://startup88.com/
• StartupBlink - http://www.startupblink.com/
• State of Tech - http://stateoftech.net/advertise?submit-an-app-for-review
• Stumbleupon - http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit
• Tabscape - https://www.tapscape.com/
• Tech Crunch - https://techcrunch.com/got-a-tip/
• Tech Faster - http://techfaster.com/submit-your-company/
• Tech Greet - http://www.techgreet.com/submit-your-tech-startup/
• Tech Map - http://thetechmap.com/
• Tech Pluto - http://www.techpluto.com/submit-a-startup/
• Tech Tips - http://techattitude.com/contact/
• The Changelog - https://github.com/thechangelog/ping
• The iPhone Mom - https://www.theiphonemom.com/
• The Startup Pitch - http://thestartuppitch.com/post-a-pitch/
• Top Alternatives - https://topalternatives.com/
• Top Similar Sites - http://www.topsimilarsites.com/add.aspx
• Trust Radius - https://www.trustradius.com/
• Vator - http://www.vator.tv/
• VB Profiles - http://vbprofiles.com/
• Venture Beat - http://venturebeat.com/news-tips/
• Venture Bin - http://www.venturebin.com/submit-venture/
• Venture Break - http://venturebreak.com/questions/
• Web App Rater - http://www.webapprater.com/webapprater-free-app-review
• Webmenu - http://webmenu.org/
• Ycombinator - https://news.ycombinator.com/
• YouNoodle - https://ww2.younoodle.com/startups/
• Your Story - https://profiles.yourstory.com/
• 10Words - https://10words.io/
Here’s a couple resources to find places to get press coverage:
If you want to post to startup directories, I’d highly recommend that you invest money into Instaaa, which will post to 125+ for you at a small fee.
“Thanks to SaaS, we’ve now moved to a world where product updates and improvements are often being released daily. Gone are the days when product updates and improvements were released and announced quarterly or even annually. It’s daily, which means we constantly have things to talk about for marketing.
The challenge then becomes, which things do we shout about and which things are we quiet about? It’s tempting to shout about each and every update and improvement. But if you do, people will stop listening.
When you’re constantly shipping new updates and improvements, the challenge is deciding what is important enough to shout about and what to keep quiet about. Product announcements definitely aren’t the only driver of growth, but they are one of the most effective ways to accelerate and generate new growth if you do them right.
I love Intercom’s framework for product announcements:
“On one axis is value: Is the change most valuable to existing customers, or does it have the potential to attract new customers? On the other axis is innovation: Are we playing catch-up to existing products already out there, or is this an entirely new solution to someone’s problem?”
These axis create a quadrant that will help us sort product announcements and how to treat them.
Your biggest announcements. These are new features and products that solve problems in entirely new and improved ways. They present the biggest opportunity for you to attract new customers, so you want to be sure to shout about them to the world. P1 announcements should be marketed with a dedicated video, email blast, press release, curation and community websites (like Product Hunt, Betalist, Hacker News, etc.), a dedicated landing page, an in-app message, and an entry to your public changes page or roadmap page.
These are new solutions to problems that are mostly valuable to your existing customers. They’re powerful features, but by themselves they are unlikely to persuade a new customer to use your product over an existing solution. P2 announcements should be marketed with an email blast, press release, curation websites, a dedicated landing page, an in-app message, and an entry to your public changes page or roadmap page. P2 announcements are a churn-fighting mechanism and increase feature adoption.
These are the updates and improvements that fix a problem for a customer or match a competitor. Existing customers have asked for it, but its absence didn’t stop them from buying in the first place. P3 announcements should be marketed with an in-app message, and an entry to your public changes page or roadmap page. P3 announcements are “me too” announcements or slight UX improvements worth knowing about.
These things that don’t fit any of the categories above, but are still worth announcing. P4 announcements should be marketed with an entry to your public changes page or roadmap page.
Congratulations, you’ve just launched. You can high five and get back to normal work.
“Wrong.” — Donald Trump.
The reality is that your launch is only the start of the marketing journey. It’s now time to begin a cycle of listening, learning, iterating and shipping improvements based on real customer feedback rather than your assumptions and ideas.
Right after launching, it’s time to do a few things:
1. Take a look at the numbers: Did the launch bring in new customers? What happened to traffic? Where did they come from?
2. Collect feedback: What are people saying about you? What was the response? What questions were asked?
3. Interpret the feedback: Where were the gaps in the launch? How cohesive was your product messaging and story? What were some of the recurring themes?
4. Iterate: What changes need to be made? What can be done better next time? What was learned that can be used for the next launch?
The first thing to look at is the amount of traffic you received. Your measurement for success is whether or not there was a large spike in traffic. This essentially reflects how much “noise” you made.
The second thing to look at is the amount of leads you generated. And by leads, I mean, how many people gave you their email address, whether that's in the newsletter, demo request, or free trial? This is tells you how interesting you were to all the people you just shouted at to come look at you.
Finally, measure how many new customers you acquired. Measure the initial spike in signups as well as the trail days after launch. It’s always going to be about getting customers.
You’ll want to collect both quantitative data and qualitative data. For example, it’s just as important to know your bounce rate as it is to know what people are asking you in your chat widget.
The most important quantitative and qualitative data will vary on your business type, product, and who your customers are. But in general, these are a good place to start:
1. The most common questions asked by prospects
2. The most common problems customers encounter
3. Follow-up questions in a sales call
4. Social media mentions
5. Website traffic source breakdown
6. Most common website pages visited
7. Click through rate on your signup page
8. Website bounce rate
It’s great that you’ve collected and organized all the data, but what do you do with it? Data must be interpreted into something you can learn from. Simply talking about it is a waste of time. If you ever find yourself just reviewing numbers and metrics but never changing anything because of those numbers, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice.
Here are some ways to start acting on what you learned:
1. The most common questions asked by prospects: How can you change your messaging to be more clear? Was the wording confusing? Which wording was confusing? Why did the prospect ask that question? What is the problem that the question reflects? How can you be proactively fixing these problems?
2. The most common problems customers encounter: Are these questions addressed in the onboarding sequence? Is there something confusing about the user experience? Are customers being mislead about what's in the product and how to use it?
3. Follow-up questions in a sales call: How effective is your elevator pitch? Do your benefit statements clearly communicate what your customers can do with the product?
4. Social media mentions: Are the mentions positive or negative? What does the engagement look like in those mentions? What was the reaction to those mentions?
5. Website traffic source breakdown: Which of your launch tactics were most effective? Is there a source that you didn’t previously consider?
6. Most common website pages visited: Do the most commonly visited website pages align with the user flow how you structured it? Which pages are people most often exiting the site from?
7. Click through rate on your signup page: Are enough people getting to the signup page? What are the conversion rates for the sign up form? Is there a specific place users get stuck and don’t move on?
8. Website bounce rate: Is the bounce rate high or low? Does your website or landing page match the messages used in the launch tactic that got them there?
Now it’s time to prioritize and figure out which data is actually actionable.. You’ll want to bucket potential changes into three categories:
1. Definite change: These are all the obvious changes you can make immediately that you feel confident about. For example: Need to add a FAQ section, need to add a “Trusted by” logo pond to the sign up page, need to add a “Get started for free” CTA to every page to reduce page exits.
2. Needs further testing: These are all the changes that you could make, but you’re not confident about them. For example: Maybe a lot of free trial users coming from a certain source are churning and you don’t know why, maybe you’re getting a lot of traffic from a certain source that you were unaware of, or maybe there are a lot of common questions by prospects and you’re not sure where to start.
3. Inconclusive: These are all the data points that you’re not sure what to do with. Get a second opinion on them, keep them, and prioritize the rest for now.
Launching can be one of the most stressful activities because of the strict deadlines and myriad of things that can you go wrong along the way. To sum it up, pre-selling is the key to a great launch, keep launching, and do a thorough analysis of launches for the next one. Because there will always be another launch, whether it’s a new feature, product, or version of an existing product.