You and your long-suffering team have spent months, maybe years, locked away in your batcave developing your new product or service. You have consumed an unhealthy amount of coffee and invested your blood, sweat and tears into this project. And finally, you've reached the stage where you are ready to unveil your brainchild to the rest of the world.
But before you hastily compile an outreach list and send your pitch email to everyone who has ever written about tech, let's take a minute to think. Company launches are notoriously hard to get picked up by the media, thanks to the millions of other companies shouting their news at the same time. It's important that you take the extra time and effort to prepare yourself to maximize the results of all of your hard work.
Here are some techy tools and platforms to help you get the best results possible from your company launch.
The problem with a launch is that you are, well, launching. You don’t have any traction to sell to customers, investors or the media. It’s hard to convince journalists that your product is going to change the world on your word alone. Journalists are, by nature, skeptical, and they like to work with hard facts, not speculation.
One way to get some early opinions and feedback -- which can help you to fix early glitches and offer some ratings for the media --is by using a Beta testing service such as UserTesting.
For a fee, UserTesting will arrange beta testers to meticulously run through your beta. They'll share a video with their feedback and comments. The service allows you to target your specific audience -- there is little point in a college kid reviewing your over-sixties dating app -- and offers detailed metrics based responses about the user experience (UX).
Once you are ready to launch your real product, one great way of maximizing exposure amongst people who really care about your industry is by announcing your launch on ProductHunt. The platform is becoming increasingly popular and offers a great way to place your product in front of and engage with people who really know what they are talking about.
However, to get the most out of your campaign, it takes some preparation beforehand. You should contact a moderator who has launched products similar to yours. You could also reach out to popular "hunters" via social media to let them know about your company and product and the date and time you will go live. Platforms like Hunter Data allow you to highlight active members who have a lot of followers. If they post about your campaign, this could win you a lot of upvotes, shares and potential clients.
As mentioned before, launching is a difficult stage because you are effectively trying to sell a dream with nothing to back up your claims. One way to boost the reputation of your product is by getting an endorsement from a well-known figure in your industry or from a social media influencer.
Endorsements by public figures don’t guarantee success. Business Insider recently reported that social discovery tool SUP shut down due to struggling to gain traction, despite endorsements from Virgin founder Richard Branson and Apple’s Steve Wozniak. But it is still worth the time and effort to get as many people on your side as possible before your big day.
If you work in bustling tech hubs like Silicon Valley, it is becoming increasingly easy to connect with people who can really push your business forward, thanks to tools like Lifograph. But if you are outside of the bay, then you will need to take a more active approach.
Tools like Buzzsumo, Little Bird and Klout allow you to search for influencers with huge online followings and who work in or cover your industry. It is then up to you to create an organized outreach list, and send personalized messages on social media to try and get them to back your product.
Before you take the leap and reach out to journalists to cover your story, it is important to create a press kit which contains all of the information a journalist could possibly need. Journalists are busy and simply do not have the time to trawl the internet looking for information. Give them a nicely wrapped digital package, and it will put you in good stead from the outset.
As mentioned before, a company launch is essentially a pretty boring announcement. To maximize your chances of hooking a journalist to cover your story, you need to sell them more than just your product. You need to convince them of the value of your big mission and dream. One way of selling your big mission is to show them why your product is going to make a big change in the world and help a lot of people. The most effective way to do this is by tying into a current or global trend. Rather than just throwing figures at them, you could present the data in a visually attractive infographic using a tool like Piktochart.
Find the right journalists.
When preparing for media outreach, it is important to contact journalists who cover your "beat," meaning they write about your industry and type of product or service. To maximize exposure, the most effective strategy for a company launch is by asking journalists to agree to an embargo. This is when they agree not to publish their story until after a set date and time. In this case, it would be your launch day.
The best way to do this is by sending a brief pitch -- which doesn’t share all of your juicy details -- and have them agree to an embargo before you send over the press release. This keeps your back covered from people breaking your embargo and letting the cat out of the bag before your big day comes around.
Tools like MuckRack and Cision allow you to search for appropriate hacks based on stories they have covered in the past. That said, while tools can make finding suitable journalists easier, it is important to spend time personalizing emails to each individual contact to maximize your chances of getting picked up.
The next step is to create an organized outreach list. There are etiquette rules to be followed when reaching out to journalists, so harness tools to keep you on track and stop you from making rookie mistakes like contacting the same journalist twice, or using the wrong name.
If your plan comes together perfectly, you get a lot of upvotes and attention on ProductHunt, and your launch announcement gets picked up by a leading publication. You'll be in for a busy first day.
You need to be available to answer questions, engage with consumers via chat, and offer essential information to potentially thousands of new visitors. If you don’t have a big enough team of customer service staff to deal with the volume, then it might be a good idea to employ the help of some bots. Twyla and AgentBot both provide trainable customer service bots, which can be taught how to respond to a huge range of customer queries and concerns.
Tracking and analytics.
It is important to be prepared with data analytics that can help you learn from your first day of what will hopefully be many to come. Tools like Google Analytics, Optimizely and TrendKite can help you track traffic, conversions and the results of your launch. This will help you improve your overall service in the future. If you are lacking this data, you won’t be able to determine any weak links in your process or gather leads to target in the aftermath.
While the chances are that as a startup, you won’t have bundles of extra cash to throw around, it is important to prepare for launch day as much as possible. Start as you mean to go on by preparing for all eventualities and creating as much of a buzz around your product or service as possible. Have the tools in place to learn from the experience too. You have devoted so much time, resources and energy into your project to arrive at this stage, so one final push to make your launch the best it can be won’t kill you.