This week, I’ll be addressing a specific question from a British friend of ours, @Matty_Shaw05.
While I’m probably not the best person to answer the first question (try @bill_slawski, man’s an oracle) and I have someone else working on the second part, I’d like to talk a bit about how to launch a website.
Disclaimer: 90% of a successful new site launch is the quality of your product. If your product sucks, there is no secret black-magic formula that will make everything work. While I’ll be trying to give you a bit of “black magic” in this post, don’t expect it to bring you massive success if you’re promoting a paper-thin affiliate site.
Get it in front of the right people
Pretty intuitive, isn’t it? Get your product in front of people that want it. The tricky part is finding the right people.
Determine who “the right people” are
First and foremost, figure out who your audience is. This is critical. It’s also one of the points you’ll get the most pushback on if you’re trying to help someone out. Effective marketing begins by knowing who you’re after and what they want. Once you have those two parts of the equation, the solution practically creates itself; you give the people you’re after what they want.
Don’t believe this works? Google’s entire multi-billion (billion, with a B) dollar empire is built on knowing who you are and what you want. Over 95% of their 2011 revenue came from targeted advertising.
Also, don’t you dare say that your target audience is “anyone who uses Twitter” or “anyone with a computer.” Every time you fail to address an audience, an orphaned kitten gets rained on.
Find out where “the right people” are
Once you’ve established your audience (missed this step? GO BACK. You’re soaking a motherless kitten right now.) you need to find out where they hang out. How? Glad you asked:
DoubleClick Ad Planner
Google’s Ad Planner is one of the best demographic research tools out there. It’s also great for identifying neighborhoods that your ideal users hang out in. Drop a competing website in the search box and take a look at the glorious data. Focus on the “Sites also visited” table. The higher the affinity score, the more their audience tends to hang out in the same circles.
You should also use the “Audience interests” table to fuel your search. Googling “search engine optimization blogs” will get me a list of tons of places I could contact potential future customers or readers.
Get your product in front of “the right people”
Once you know who you’re after and where they hang out, make your pitch. There are several ways to do this, but I’ll list a few:
AdWords, Bing AdCenter, direct contact for display advertising, whatever. Advertising is still around for one reason: it still works. It’s also now one of the lowest barrier-to-entry ways to get your message in front of people who care about it.
Writing valuable content that addresses the problem your content solves and then putting it in front of your ideal readers is the golden formula for success.
Write a post about how hard it is to get to the front of the line on Waffle Day at the local diner and offer a few tips. At the end of your post, drop a bit about how your product uniquely solves all of a reader’s problems in getting to the front of the line of Waffle Day. If your post offers valuable insights, most webmasters won’t mind a bit of self-promotion at the end. Use judgement here.
I wrote a whole post on guest blogging, so I won’t spend any more time on it here. Jump over there for some more tasty guest blogging tips.
Ask some prominent member of the communities you identified if they’d be willing to write a review. By asking for their opinion, you gain a testimonial. By asking for a review, you get publicity. By targeting a big name in your audience’s community, you get targeted advertising.
The best part? You can usually get this for nothing more than the cost of your product. Unless you’re making $2,000,000 speakers, this usually isn’t a problem.
This is worth an entire post by itself. If it makes sense for your product, conduct a giveaway, contest, or sweepstakes. Get creative here; this is an excellent way to spread your product quickly. Keep it within reason. A hair-care package giveaway is not going to get anyone to sign up for your digital photography blog.
Make it easy to buy in
Once you know your audience and you’ve got some promotional wheels turning, make it as easy as possible for them to buy in. This means just email addresses instead of long forms. Cut down what you require to the bare essentials. It’s great if you can get someone to fill out a form, subscribe to an RSS feed, like your Facebook page and follow you on Twitter, but usually one of these will be sufficient. Here are a few more guidelines:
Pick one route and run with it
Choose your best medium for promotion and stick to it. Is it Facebook? An email list? An RSS feed? Twitter account? Google+ profile? Direct mail list? Choose one and plug it for all it’s worth. Everything you do should be focused on getting your future readers into the top of the funnel.
Don’t try to create a profile on every social network you can think of; pick one thing and do it really well. You can increase the points of contact once you’ve got them, don’t try to do it all up front.
Make a clean landing page
Wherever you promote, link to a clean, attractive landing page about your blog or product. As you might have guessed, this should feature your main call-to-action prominently. It should inform visitors about your product, but it shouldn’t give everything away; give them enough to whet their appetite and get them clicking, but you don’t have to provide detailed schematics at this point.
Incentivize the signup
Wrap your signup in free stuff. Give away eBooks on your blog’s topic, or give them a discount on their first month’s subscription to your service. An incentive can go a long way to increasing sign-ups, but only if it’s relevant. Again, a free cake pop stand won’t get Olympic-hopeful swimmers to buy your training guide.
Stay at the front of their mind
Once you’ve got them, keep them interested; let them know the progress of your new site, tell them about the press you’re getting, give them special offers, ask for feedback. Whatever you do, just make sure they know about you, but aren’t smothered by you. Here are a few more tactics for you:
Ask for input
If you’re launching a new blog, ask your sign-up buddies what they’d like to see in a blog on your topic. Get their input and give them credit for the suggestion; by allowing them to own part of your product, they instantly become more involved and more committed to the product. You’ll turn them into brand evangelists in no time!
Remind them you’re around
With an email list, be sure they hear from you often. I find that once a week is generally acceptable, unless you have time-sensitive information or offers. This doesn’t give you the GoDaddy license to send them five 30% discount emails a week, but when you have something meaningful to share, let them know about it.
Keeping your name at the front of their mind is crucial for brand awareness and a successful product launch. You don’t want your subscribers to fall through the floor on launch day because they don’t recognize you and drop you in their spam folder.
Follow through on the promise
This is where most blogs/products/offers/webinars/classes fail; they spend so much energy promoting their upcoming product that they forget to, you know, actually CREATE the product. Don’t start creating buzz if you aren’t committed to following through on the end product.
Product > Promotion
If you’re actively involved in the development of your product, whether it’s creating content for your blog, writing code for your web app or building tables for your furniture company, spend more time creating the product than promoting it.
This has two benefits; first, it will keep you excited about your product and your audience will feel your energy. Second, it will make sure you don’t drop the final ball when launch day approaches. The quickest way to shoot your audience’s interest in the head is to delay launch or release an unfinished product.
Firm deadlines make you work. Giving your audience a launch date up front keeps you honest and it makes you work. A pressing deadline and external expectations have been more than enough to get me to pull an all-nighter finishing up a project (read: every day of college).
So, this post has become a lot longer than I planned, but hopefully it helps you create a campaign for launching your next project. And I hope it helped answer your question, Matt!
What tactics have helped you launch a new product successfully? Tell me about it!