4 Essential Pre-Launch Steps for Startups
I understand that you are working hard every day and night to launch your dream startup as soon as possible, but I want you to pause for a moment, grab a coffee, and read this article. I bet you don’t want to fail in a year just because you were too busy to put the right strategy in place.
According to Gust, 50 percent of angel-funded startups go out of business. Many of these entrepreneurs had great ideas and a smart team. What made them fail was their inability to prioritize and implement the right strategies at the right time. In fact, the majority of them have overlooked four essential pre-launch strategies, which I outline below.
1. Stop perfecting your product.
While having characteristics like leadership, passion and determination can help you lead your startup toward your goal, you should be aware of the most dangerous attitudes that can result in failure. You may be surprised, but being a perfectionist is one of those dangerous attitudes.
There ultimate goal of perfectionists is to beat their competitors by developing a perfect product. Since there is no measurement for perfection, the only thing that keeps happening is they keep revising their product and adding features to make it better at the cost of forgetting to market and grow their business.
The solution to this issue is to include market research as one of the key activities, and adopt a lean startup and an agile development methodology. Building a minimum viable product (MVP) and releasing it to a group of volunteers to provide feedback enables you to understand what features matter the most to customers. This way, while you can develop your product in different sprints, you have the time to adapt to market demand and market your business.
2. Build your email list.
There is a pitfall that many entrepreneurs fall into when applying the lean startup methodology. Ever since lean startup was introduced, many startups tried to embrace it and run their businesses based on that approach. Unfortunately, a large group of entrepreneurs have misperceived the concept of lean.
While adopting a lean startup approach encourages agility and accelerates product development, you must remember that lean itself is a mindset and promotes balance. It’s inevitable that you can only succeed if you have the right audience to promote your product, hence, you should balance your time between developing your product, and growing your list of potential customers.
One of the most important strategies that you must inaugurate is list building. While your team is working on developing your product, you must focus on implementing the first step of any growth hacking strategy. Generally, a growth hacking framework is composed of four steps: attract, engage, acquire and maintain. Although there are several strategies that fall under growth marketing, customer acquisition is among the most significant ones.
The first step to begin your list building process is to set up a landing page that is engineered to encourage visitors to leave their emails in exchange for exclusive tips, early bird membership price or anything that inspires them to opt-in. Remember, never stop building or updating your list.
If you manage to increase your traffic, you can boost your conversion rate, and collect more emails. You should concentrate on participating in forums or engaging potential customers in social media and leading them to your landing pages. This way, you will have a valuable list of people who are interested in testing or even buying your product. General rule of thumb is to never launch if you don’t have a solid email list.
3. Research market trends.
Conducting thorough market research should be part of your business strategy. Large companies invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on a yearly basis to buy white papers and forecasted facts about their industry. While it is understandable that as an early stage startup you cannot allocate that much money to purchase market research data, it would be a huge mistake if you exclude market research from your strategies.
There are plenty of affordable resources that you can rely on to conduct a comprehensive market research. The most convenient and free resource to analyze the trends and understand customer behaviors is Consumer Barometer by Google.
Rather surprisingly, even smart entrepreneurs often overlook the fact that each customer segment requires a unique value proposition (UVP). In fact, if you have discovered more than one customer segment in your business model, you must revisit your business strategy and make sure that your UVP is aligned with what each customer segment demands.
4. Make time for blogging.
It’s an undeniable fact that websites with corporate design themes are not as engaging to customers as entertaining or educational websites are. The same principle applies to e-commerce too. In fact, even if you have recently set up a fashion e-commerce business, not many people will buy from you if you don’t manage to prove your value to them.
If the nature of your business is not that entertaining, or if you have spent too much money designing your website that you don’t want to change the layout anymore, you can leverage content marketing strategies to engage your customers in an efficient manner.
Taking customers through an educational path can be both engaging and rewarding for visitors. Today, you can quickly set up a blog at no cost, and publish valuable content that address your visitors' concerns.
Keep in mind that posting thin content, writing promotional pieces that only focuses only on your product and publishing too often can harm your business. The secret to success is to craft the type of content that helps your visitors address their challenges for free.
Here's one last tip.
A common mistake that many entrepreneurs and marketers make is to direct all traffic to one single landing page.
While your website can act as your sales funnel’s entry, you can increase your revenue by optimizing your pages for higher conversion. Each landing page should be designed for one customer segment and should be tailored base on your customer's characteristics.
In fact, discovering your customer’s persona enables you to enhance the customer experience and boost your conversion rate. This way you are addressing different needs with different offers and grow your business faster.