Who, What, Where and Wine Are the 4 Keys to a Great Launch Party
Few people will think your product sucks when the party includes an open bar.
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When you're the new business on the block, nothing gets the neighborhood talking like a great party. Providing the right people with the right experience when you launch could send you down the path to startup unicorn status.
Two years ago, a group of relatively unknown Icelandic app developers created a trivia game called QuizUp. They were looking to make a splash, so they hired ASTRSK, my company, to manage their PR strategy and throw them a launch party in Manhattan.
We hosted a ton of journalists, passed around loads of food and drinks and demonstrated the app. Attendees got a sneak peek of QuizUp and had the opportunity to download it before it officially hit Apple's App Store.
The good press that ran rampant after the party contributed to the app's rapid rise to prominence. Officially the fastest-growing iPhone game ever, NBC just announced its intention to turn the game into a television show.
Launch or pre-launch?
The first thing to decide is whether you want a VIP pre-launch party or a slightly less exclusive gathering on launch day.
For a pre-launch party, you'll want to invite key influencers such as journalists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other people you consider VIPs within your space. Schedule the party a few days before your launch so journalists have enough time to write their stories and build in the best anecdotes about their experiences.
If you decide to party on the day of your launch, invite the same people but open the festivities to a select group of customers as well. If you expect more than 100 people to attend, you need a special area for the press and VIPs. Do something to make them feel appreciated.
Once you know which type of party you want to throw, here are four tips to ensure its success:
1. Location, location, location.
The party venue says a lot about your startup, so make sure it's as weird, professional, fun or serious as your startup is. Convenience is a key factor. When planning parties in Manhattan, I know most media outlets are located in a certain area. Throwing an event near their offices greatly increases the chance they'll attend.
Related: Lyft's NYC Launch Party Goes Off Without a Hitch. The Launch? Not So Much.
2. Party on a weekday.
It goes against conventional wisdom, but your launch party should be on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening. The media and your other VIPs would rather leave their weekends open for their own personal endeavors.
Try to set the start time so attendees can arrive immediately after work. People in New York work late, so our parties typically start around 7 p.m.
3. Nail the invite.
Read articles from relevant publications, and scan social media to find the local people who you absolutely need to know about your launch party. Factor in attrition by over-inviting to ensure enough people show up.
These key figures get invited to multiple events every week, so make sure your invite is compelling. I recommend using a platform like Splash, which allows you to create sleek, fun and professional invitations. You can also password-protect them to drive home the feeling of exclusivity. Send the invite about two weeks in advance so attendees have plenty of time to work it into their schedules.
Related: A Blueprint for a Killer Product Launch (Infographic)
4. Wine and dine.
The last thing you want is someone leaving because there isn't enough food or drink, which is the most common reason people duck out early. Because the party will take place around dinnertime, make sure you have plenty of food -- and, ideally, an open bar to help wash down that food. I always tell my clients I'd happily sacrifice a photo booth or celebrity DJ if that meant affording an open bar. But you definitely don't want people drinking on an empty stomach -- they need to remember what happened in the morning!
For consumer-facing startups entering an already crowded marketplace, hosting a great launch party will introduce your business to key tastemakers, result in a strong media launch and give the right first impression for your company.
You have plenty to celebrate here, so party hard! But also party smart. Make sure tomorrow's headlines are about your business, not your ice sculpture.