How to get customers before you've even launched

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When starting a business many people launch their product and then start working on marketing but there are a number of compelling arguments to support marketing your product pre-launch. Here’s the first; most companies who have had a successful first year are those with a clear marketing plan, executed alongside product conception. Here are a few ideas on how you can achieve this:

  • Kickstarter

    If you haven’t heard about it yet, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform where businesses get their products funded by everyday people in return for discounts, early releases and join a special members club when they finally launch their product. It has really taken off in the last couple of years with products like The Pebble Watch, Bunch-O-Balloons and even funding repeat TV series like Veronica Mars.

    This is great for people with a business idea. It involves minimal risk and lets you test the water to see if there’s a demand for your product. Not only that but your ‘backers’ are literally invested in your company and therefore much more likely to support you and rave about your brand than a regular customer.

  • Brand image

    It’s difficult to launch a company without any direct competition these days, so your branding is something that can really make you stand out from the crowd; along with factors like great customer service and quick delivery times. Research your target market thoroughly as well as your competition. Discover what’s been done already. Can you do anything differently? Will your style be high end or affordable? All these elements will have an affect on your sales before you even sell your first product, so any pre-launch marketing needs to have your perfect customer in mind along with your USP.

  • Holding page

    Getting a holding or ‘coming soon’ page is very important if you are planning to sell online. As soon as you know your domain name, it’s a good idea to get your website live with a simple page pointing out a few things:

    1. Who you are – logo and company name
    2. What you do e.g. What you will be selling? A short one line description is perfect. Don’t forget the keywords – the words people will search for to find you
    3. Timing – ‘Coming soon’ is the usual line but you can always add an element of excitement with a countdown to launch if you are ready to commit

    This basic info and other elements (e.g. your domain name) will help search engines like Google to start ranking your website so you could have a good position (dependant on the competition) when your ready to launch for people to start finding you through organic search.

    Don’t forget that once you have your page set up you need to capture your potential customers details…

  • Newsletter sign up

    A newsletter sign up is the method of choice for many businesses. By adding a newsletter sign up form to your holding page you can start to gain interest before selling a single item. Every sign-up means you now have a channel to start talking to potential customer. Once you have subscribers you can remind them who you are, what you will sell and when you’re ready to launch. Email marketing is tried and tested as one of the strongest marketing tools available in your arsenal. Capturing email sign-ups pre-launch will help you to gauge how much interest there is in your product and if you need to do more before launch.

    Unless your product is the golden goose you may need to provide a bit of a nudge to gain email subscribers:

    1. Offer a percentage discount when they sign up that can be redeemed against their first purchase
    2. Credit their account and add a time limit to spend the value. Lets say every customer receives £5 to spend when they sign up, they will feel like they’ve lost money if they don’t use it, after all people are loss adverse. Just ensure it doesn’t hurt your bottom line.
    3. Free samples are always a winner because there is no risk to the customer. Send out a sample (even limit it to the first 100 sign ups or so), let them use your product and fall in love with your brand. Share your promotion with the likes of 10 Ways and watch floods of traffic come in as they advertise you for free. If your product isn’t something you could give away, why not send stickers or something low cost that will help spread your name around.

    Now that’s all set up you need to generate visibility for your landing page.

  • Spread the word

    No other marketing tools work better than word of mouth and friend recommendations. That’s why Facebook ads always let you know if anyone in your network already likes the page.

    This technique worked really well for hotjar.com who provided access to their beta software for free if you recommend it to other people. Initially you were put at the end of a queue and the more people who signed up the further up the queue you got. A great example of gamification I may add. As it was a beta test any issues were forgivable, giving Hotjar the opportunity to fix things that may have turned a paying customer away.

  • Social Media

    Share your business plans with your friends and family and start some paid advertising to get people seeing what you’re doing. Offer Facebook only discounts and sneak peeks to provide a feeling of exclusivity. Why not create hashtags on Instagram and Twitter and find ways to get your name circulating the internet. Our clients KaBo Hockey started #teamkabo long before their site went live and had a few hundred followers before their store opened; and I’m sure you can guess which company uses the hashtag #haveabreak. If you have a strong personal social account spread the word on there and link back to your business account.

  • Alert the media!

    I’m not saying you should give The Guardian a call but why not tell your local newspaper? Most publications like to cover local success stories and up and coming business people. Or if you have a specific niche get in touch with journalist sites who will have a large following based around your target market.

    PR and blogger outreach is all about relationship building, so pick up the phone and be as personal as possible. Cold emails can work if written well but it helps if you already have a connection to reach out to. Keep in mind you will probably need a launch date for this type of marketing.

  • Know the right people

    This sounds like an impossible task but Twitter is a great platform to connect with people in high places that could easily boost your launch sales through the roof. Don’t forget that there’s a person behind every blog, so get to know them and establish yourself as a trusted connection in their network. By laying the groundwork your connections will be obliging when you’re ready to launch. Be sure to approach them tactfully, answer a question they tweet or respond to their blog post, don’t just spam them.

  • Blog

    It’s highly recommended to have a blog linked to your holding page. Make sure your posts are interesting and provide valuable, relevant information to your target audience. Do your research, find out what they’re searching for (hopefully it will be your product!) and write about that. Share these posts with your growing email newsletter list and your social followers too.

Hopefully these few pointers will help you think of ways to push your business before it’s even launched but it’s always good to have a long term marketing plan in place too. We’ve provided a free template for you to complete to help you see your businesses position in the marketplace as well as plan your marketing efforts for the following year.

by Jennifer McMillen on 24/12/2014