Last year, I attended a workshop about e-book publishing during which the instructor urged us to start advertising our book while we were still in production phase. She also said that we should work on a mockup of our book cover artwork, which would serve two purposes: motivation to finish the book itself, while also giving us material to work with for our pre-launch marketing campaigns.
Motivational aspects aside, advertising and marketing your business before it launches is one of the most effective way to create an anticipatory buzz and build your customer base. Not a week passes by without me receiving an Instagram follow request from soon-to-be launched business, be it bakeries, fashion lines, or restaurants in the UAE and the larger Gulf region.
One UAE-based business that has managed to execute a great pre-launch campaign is No. FiftySeven Boutique Cafe. For over a year or so before the café’s launch in Abu Dhabi, the founders threw by-invitation-only lavish dinners at interesting locales known as “The Dinner Club 57.” The staging was interesting and different every single time, and the events were held in collaboration with several luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren. Soon enough, people hoped to be added to the invitation list, and waited eagerly for the café’s opening.
When it did open at the end of 2014, it had a packed house; everyone in town wanted to try it out! But did they stop organizing Dinner Club events after the opening of their café? Not at all. There is always PR coverage about the different events organized either at the café or regarding the Dinner Clubs. Even when I’m not really paying attention, I somehow stumble upon news coverage about the latest café offering, or hear about an event that is being hosted there, or see them as part of a festival around town. This is a great textbook example of how businesses should operate pre and post launch.
As a branding and marketing consultant, I often meet clients who only want to develop a pre-launch and/or launch campaign. These types of one-off campaigns last for the first three months of the business launch, and then you cease to hear about the outlet. Initially, the business is introduced to media and social media influencers as part of their contract, but they do not think it is very important to continue this after the three-month period. When I advise that they should build on their PR coverage from time to time, they assume that they’ve done more than enough.
Some of my media acquaintances often ask me what happened to business X or Y, because they never got in touch with them about new products or services after the opening buzz. The sad thing about this is that some business owners expect that after the initial introduction with the media, they would continue to follow up with fresh product/services.
While this may be the case for some lucky few, if a business owner doesn’t build on PR efforts, soon enough, the media usually will quickly forget about them. The same thing can be said about advertising: many businesses invest a lot of effort and money on this initially, but not so much afterward. Here are my two cents about how this should be done:
Before you launch a product/service, create a buzz around it.
With social media, you do not need to invest so much money, just some time and effort. Start by following your target audience, and ask them to follow you back. Share some creative teaser videos/photos about your business through your social media accounts. I recommend investing in a good digital content creator who can work on highly effective content that would encourage sharing. You do not want just to post a photo- you want it to be shared.
You want your target audience to share your mediums and talk about it with their circles; never underestimate good word of mouth! The Mother of the Nation Festival that took place end of March in Abu Dhabi created a great teaser video. It included behind-the-scenes footage, a couple of words from the entertainers, and a list of participating businesses. Almost every one of my friends wanted to attend, and they did, as a result of the great content shared on their social media pages. Another tip is to work with brand affiliates, or compensate social media influencers who your target market follows- both of these tactics help to advertise your upcoming business launch or product release.
If you don’t think you can afford the services of a year-long PR agent, invest in one for your pre-launch and launch period.
When they do introduce you to media, build on those introductions, and include them in a mailing list where you share your latest news and offers. If you are a fashion designer or restaurant owner, plan a media/press day where you would invite the media for an exclusive preview of your collection/special menu or dishes. Invite some social media influencers as well, and bloggers who report on your sector. These are important channels that should not be overlooked. Keep them in the loop about your business by sharing press releases and relevant photos.
Invest in advertising.
PR is highly effective, but so is advertising. You don’t need to break your bank by investing in TV or radio ads- social media is an important and an effective channel. Instagram and Twitter provide you with an option to promote your post/page just like Facebook. If you are a retailer, invest in one to two posts per week all year round highlighting a different product or service. Namshi, an online fashion retailer, is a business that I consider to have penetrated the social media channels for advertisements effectively. I stumble on their advertisements at least once per week on different channels, such as Twitter or YouTube.
Just think about it for a second. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest brands, and so is Kellogg’s, and yet they still invest a lot of money in advertising and PR coverage all year round. You don’t have to spend as much as a huge conglomerate, but you could adopt a similar proactive approach within your means. So if you don’t believe in the importance of PR and advertising after the launch phase, perhaps you should stop and reconsider matters, and how it will impact the longevity of your venture.