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Recently, I have been wondering why some highly funded startups expend marketing budgets on expensive launch campaigns on radio, TV and billboards. Most times with no big ROIs.

Maybe, you have seen it too?

brt

For example, the cost of branding one BRT buses in Lagos, Nigeria could be up to N500k, ~ $42,000 just for one.

So, I kept thinking about how a bootstrapping startup who cannot afford such overhead effectively launch their services to an expected audience and NOT to crickets. While there are no wrong or right ways to approach your launch; you want to avoid the ecommerce myth.

The great ecommerce myth is that all you need to get people to pull out their credit cards and buy is when you have the right products, a beautiful site design and stunning product photography. That is true to a certain extent, IF you’re launching your site to a group of people who are interested in what you’re doing in the first place.

So, how is a pre-launch different?

A pre-launch approach allows you stimulate interest in what you’re doing, prompt people to take actions that benefit your business and generate leads from potential customers. With a good pre-launch plan, you can gather data on potential customers; effectively test the way you’re marketing your business concept, capture customer feedback to identify new markets or applications and build an audience of prospective customers for your public launch.

The maxim is that: If you can build excitement with your key customer influencers – you’re well on your way to success.

That is why it is important to consider the following guidelines frameworks in your pre-launch strategy

Build a pre-launch page

A launch page is simply a landing page with a single focused objective which can be to persuade a user to click through to another page or as a lead generation to capture customer data, normally a name and email address. To be effective, it must have simple messaging, a clear call to action, build anticipation for your public launch and ultimately allow you to collect emails or invite beta users.

On your prelaunch page, you want to pay attention to your design. It must be clutter-free and you want to avoid using poor quality images.

You can check one of these 15 examples to see what will inspire you to build a viral pre-launch page to adapt for your startup. In fact, here is a guide to pre-launch landing pages

Build anticipation with e-mail engagement 

Do not underestimate the importance of email. You want to collect email address so you can notify them of your launch and communicate with them to sustain their interest in your startup all the way to launch.

You can use your pre-launch page or Twitter cards to capture addresses and grow your list. Many startups, like Harrys have been successful with building their email list to up to 100,000 within 7days, before launch. If you want to build your email signup quickly, you will find these 3 steps useful.

Capturing email is the first step, engaging them is more important. It is good to have series of welcome emails to indoctrinate your subscribers, ask for feedbacks and give special early bird offers.

You can also segment your list based on demographics to target them with the most appropriate message. For example, an ecommerce shop can segment its customers according to sex and send them welcome emails based on their preferences.

Press

It is important to get the buzz out about your product, early on before you launch.

Take for example the pre-launch strategy behind The OpenFeint Bluff, the social gaming network for iPhone. Before they had written a single line of code, they sent a press release to TechCrunch and got the blog to cover the story. Only after many people signed up did they decide that building out the concept was worthwhile. So, they worked away at it for 45 days straight. The company later sold for $104 million.

You can consider getting the word out on TechCabal by following the simple format laid out here.

Through PR outreach, you can engage potential customers, users, and other interested people early and often. Jason Njoku of IrokoTV is a master of the art of PR that is why his startup is presumably more successful than the average Nigerian startup.

Social Media 

You can leverage social media to create a community of fans for your yet-to-be launched startups. For example, using Facebook, a freelance entrepreneur was able to gather over 1000 signups prelaunch.

Post a lot of graphics on social media, because as humans, we are visual creatures, which is why “sneak peeks” work so well. A sneak peek might include screenshots from your app, a video promo, or in some cases, even just text link in a blog post describing what your startup will be about.

There are other effective pre-launch strategies you can try, including blogging, contests and other growth hack ideas.

Let us hope your next startup is launching to raving fans and not crickets.

Editor’s note: Wole Ogunlade is a digital marketing expert; he is the editor of SpokenTwice.com, a blog dedicated to teaching marketing topics covering conversion optimization, growth hacking and marketing automation strategies. You can connect with him on linkedin, or twitter @spokentwice.

Photo Credit: mariusz kluzniak via Compfight cc

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