Nowadays everyone is in a hurry to see success. This brings a lot of focus on initial traction where information is widely accessible on websites. For many, not being in top 100 charts simply means failure.
It takes several repetitions of checking and testing before launching a quality product for the masses. Bad reviews will haunt you forever. So what should you do – launch soft and then iterate, or iterate, improve, and then launch big?
There can’t really be one solution for everyone. But if you want to launch big, here are some good options for pre-launch iterations:
1) Beta Launch
You can release your product to a controlled and limited group of audience. But the question is – will it, or can it be big enough to be conclusive? Another major concern is how you can distribute your beta smoothly. Testflight, Google play alpha/beta, Hockey are all not very intuitive to use. Even then, if this is your path, start early. Jot down all the beta listing services like betalist.com, startupli.st and similar ones ASAP. Waiting time for them to review you will itself take a couple of months.
2) Closed Communities
Closed communities like universities are a great option for trial because they offer an open communication channel with feedback from the users. If the universities are culturally diverse, it’s even better because you’ll get a broader range of feedback to be ready for a wider audience. Show traction among these “future earners”, and you’re product will be valuable for many. Some examples of successful startups that started off with college audience first are Facebook and Snapchat.
3) Launch In A Secondary Country
This will ensure real randomness and can be a good testing ground. But, make sure that you iterate quickly and respect early adopters. Many popular apps like Temp Al, started in Canada. Once you are confident about the product, go big in your main target market.
While you’re working with your pre-launch iterations in whichever manner, it is important to keep in mind the marketing aspect as well. So now let’s take a look at some simple tips for pre-launch marketing.
Tip #1: Launch a free side-product
If you want to reach a large enough seed audience to make a dent in your industry, you will need good press coverage. One of the best ways to do this is with a free side-product. When you remove the obstacle of payment, the product has a way of going viral with minimal effort on your end.
An example would be what Freckle did with EveryTimeZone. Freckle is a simple, paid time tracking tool, and to promote it they launched EveryTimeZone as a free product, that tells you at a glance what time it is in every time zone across the globe. The aim here is to make sure that you do something that is newsworthy.
Remember that journalism is all about havinf a story to tell. The best stunts have elements fo surprise, humour, and intrigue.
Tip #2: Pull a stunt
If you think that launching a free tool will just be a waste of precious resources, here’s another way to earn press coverage. You can always go for the old-fashioned publicity stunt. The best stunts have elements of surprise, humour, and intrigue. Relevancy must play a part, but it doesn’t necessarily need to come first.
Tip #3: Get the timing right
No matter how you choose to capture press coverage, timing is extremely important. If you start too late, your product launch will flop; start too early, and the fizz will disappear by the time you go to market.
Tip #4: Capture the audience
This step is acutally more important than any of the others. All of that attention and publicity is useless if it doesn’t convert into subscriptions. Despite the hype in social media, email subscriptions are far more effective.
A social following is good to have but it’s better to get brand impressions on a non-algorithmically controlled platform, unlike Facebook. Just think about it- you don’t open every email you see but you at lease see the subject line. But do you dig through your entire Facebook to make sure you didn’t miss anything?
Tip #5:Be press friendly
Finally, you should make it easy for bloggers and the press to talk about you. This means you need to go beyond making sure your stunts are newsworthy and your free products worth talking about. It should be easy to find information and photos so that journalists don’t need to do a lot of digging to turn your story into an article.
Your best chances for success start with a pre-launch audience. Pulling that off takes media exposure, and it’s going to take a product or a creative stunt to make that happen.