Entrepreneurs pour themselves into building products but fail to build demand. The product launches and no one buys.
Here are five growth hacks to power product launch marketing. Now, you can use these strategies to grow your business, grow your sales, or you can line these strategies up ahead of launch time, similar to the traction products that we're always talking about, to get yourself that foundation of audience of interest. You can put the product into your community and see those immediate sales.
There's this fallacy that you have to create the product, and then once it fully exists, you can start to market. This becomes really difficult because there's a lag. There's a time for some of these things to work. More old school digital marketing like SEO, which you absolutely have to do, might take three months, six months, 12 months before you get results. It's not helpful to do these strategies after the product exists. We want to think about things that we can do a month before or two months before to prime the market. That way we're dropping the product into a system for launch success. We're not trying to figure out the next business problem, which is, "Okay, I have a thing, now how do I sell it?"
Which is crazy.
Our baseline (this is the number one marketing hack people skip over) is understanding the customer. I don’t even really consider this a growth hack. This is the base on which we build all of the hacks. The foundation of making everything about your business work is knowing who you're actually trying to sell to, who you're trying to reach.
Effective marketing targets down to our ideal customer avatar. It's speaking to one person. Even if you have multiple different avatars that your product could be good for, when you run that Facebook ad, when you create that blog post, when you create that video, you're speaking to that one specific avatar. You know what tribe they belong to. You know where they get their information, who they listen to, you know their problems, you know other products that they buy, hobbies they have, you know that person.
You can create effective marketing for them, just for them.
Not bland marketing, not just shouting your message out in the town square, but laser targeted, ninja marketing that speaks and resonates directly with them. They see it and they think, "Oh my God, Callye's made this product just for me. I got to at least click." Your copy, your video, your structure, your offer, the quality of your product, the testimonials, all those other things will carry you through. You, at least, have to know how to set up the targeting. You have to know how to structure the creative. You do it by creating an ideal customer avatar. We have a worksheet for this, but it's also something that we talk about in the innovate program. This is an exercise we have clients run through first thing. That's how important it is. We create the ideal customer avatar pretty much immediately.
So let's talk about some growth hacks.
Let's start really, really basic with something that people overlook. This is the most potent marketing channel. This is the one where we can get the most sales, the most traction, and the most interaction. This also uses pretty much the oldest digital marketing channel: email marketing. It's the digital equivalent of direct sales or direct marketing. This is definitely one of those tactics that people wait until they have news to use. They wait until the launch to start collecting emails.
The most basic growth hack is to create a smoke test (aka a landing page) day one and start to collect emails. Every person that finds your page should be enticed to give up an email. The page will have the value proposition or a statement like, "Hey, we're working on something really cool. Sign up for exclusive deals and information."
Getting people to sign up for a newsletter is a really common landing page strategy. What is uncommon is the way that we're going to grow using that strategy. More commonly people just assume that customers will land on the page and maybe take action. Maybe they'll put in their email address and maybe they won't. Maybe they'll see the offer and maybe they won't. Entrepreneurs don't do anything with email addresses. Potential customers just sign up and that's it. Maybe entrepreneurs put out a boring newsletter like, "Here's an update of what we're doing." We want to send people through a nurture sequence. We want them to understand who we think they are and what the problem is. All the research you've done in developing the product? You can reuse that research to discuss their problems. Discuss the conversations from customer interviews Discuss why other products are no good. Get them excited about what you're working on by providing some value.
Nurture those email addresses into customers. If you're able to adequately nurture them, you can ask them to refer a friend. You can ask them to take action. Email marketing will compound the other growth hacking tactics that we will use. Create a base of success and build off of this base.
Consistently think, "How can I capture an email address?". I know people want to run Facebook ads. Even though your email list can fuel social advertising, we're not going to talk about ads.
Emails are currency. Email lets you own your customer list. The value of your business is partially based on that customer list, open rates, click through rates, and other health metrics. Nurturing your list and keeping it warm through engaging content means people will actually open your emails at launch time.
If you're relying on your Facebook group or your Instagram followers or any of those other platforms, the world could change on you. YouTube could change. Facebook could change. The marketing on social platforms could become much more difficult or expensive. You own those emails. You own your customer list. Keep hacking to grow that email list.
The next hack that I want to talk about is community. This is another strategy that people say, "Well, who would want to join a community around my product?" You're right. Probably no one. What if you create a community around the solution your product provides?
Instead of creating a group for your GoPro competitor product, create a group on action photography. Talk about how cool action photography is. When people join, users put in an email address and answer a few questions like, "What products do you use? Where do you like to do action photography? What's your favorite rig?" All those answers (hint, hint) are going to fuel your product development and fuel your launch.
You can start a community day one. Go to all the other groups and start inviting people. They could start participating. They could start pushing people into that group. Post the content we're creating in the group. Curate articles and resources to share.
The community gives you topics to talk about in emails. The community created content provides something to curate and send out in emails. Since the content was popular in the community group, you can be reasonably confident the content is valuable to the email list. We're building on the previous step. We get to know our customer better. We're fueling our email marketing and building our connection. I'm a big fan of this strategy. I've seen this work in a number of spaces. The transition to a product launch is simple. "Hey, we've listened to you. You guys are incredible. We've created a product that we think is incredible. How would you like to try it and give us some feedback?" You've added so much value to these people, it's natural to take it to the next level.
Another one of my favorite hacks is using social media to get attention for what you're trying to do. Entrepreneurs don't want to show the product development process. I understand. Product development is kind of a messy, frustrating process. You have intellectual property issues. You probably don't want to actually show what your product is until it's ready to launch. Entrepreneurs use excuses to not engage on social media.
Regardless of your product or what you're trying to do, the journey of you as an entrepreneur is interesting. The story will be really interesting once you have a successful product launch. This hack is as simple as documenting what you are doing. "Hey, I just met with a marketing team. I learned this tip. Hey, I just, I just wrote a blog. Here it is. This is why I think writing a blog isn't for me, it's so hard." You can tell the story through a Facebook page, a blog, a podcast, a YouTube series, or Instagram account. Find whatever platform and cadence that works for you. You can find your voice and tell the story. We all love reality TV (secretly or otherwise). We all love the behind the scenes. The gains, the losses, the tricks, the things that worked all form a roller coaster plot. Your story is like an entrepreneurial “ride along.”
Once you're successful, all of that content is like 10X-100X value. The story becomes, "Hey, this is the blueprint. Hey, you've been following me this whole time. And you're a fan of me. Hey, now I can make something else. I don't have to be just this one thing, just this one product. I am me making this product with you." Social media is a major advantage for entrepreneurs, because social media lets us play on the same field as massive brands. Social media lets us communicate directly with customers, with collaborators, with partners in a way that was just previously freakishly impossible.
Entrepreneurs want to take all those advantages and kick them onto the other side of the product launch. They say things like, "I'll just use social media to sell my product." It's called social media. It's a dialogue. It's communication. We can start that on day one. We don't have to wait until launch. Don’t falsely push a product like, "Hey, I have this ritzy fancy company, and now we've made this thing and it's for sale." The offer should be a natural evolution of your story. "Now we're coming out with this thing, check it out."
The entrepreneurs that create brand stories successfully really see the growth at launches. People discover the story. We see highly accelerated launches and business growth because people buy into the brand versus a product. We really push people to do this.
Every action, every hack builds on the last. Let's go a little bit more traditional.
This next hacks trips up people. Let's talk about press coverage. There are many ways to growth hack media attention right now. This is like one of those traditional things that people want to take advantage of but they don't really know how to do it.
Red Blue Collective has done a few product launches. We built backlinks very quickly to increase traffic and contribute to the longer term SEO strategy. Crowdfunding campaigns are one of the fastest ways of building backlinks and getting attention I've seen. For any launch strategy, we need to set up ahead of schedule, especially if you are going to use crowdfunding.
During a launch, people can find us from ads or articles. With the increased visibility, even more people are going to write about us. Even more people are going to publish us in their magazine. We get more and more links. If it happens in the last week of a 30 day campaign, more media attention is not going to help sales.
We need to hack press and get attention early.
Everybody wants to get published in the press, like Engadget or Boing Boing or whatever. They want coverage published in whatever website or newspaper or magazine or information channel people like. Understand there's a couple components to this. One, if you go and you pay nothing for a press release, you will get a press release published, it will go out to thousands of websites, but they're thousands of websites that nobody reads. There's a reason why it's free or 50 bucks and anybody can submit a link. Just think how often you've read a press release on one of those websites. Unless you're kind of weird, the answer is never. No one reads those. I don't think that Google is dumb enough to think that those websites are legitimate sources either.
Low quality links to your website don't have tremendous value.
What does have tremendous value is attention from credible news sources. Please don't fall victim to people that are selling services on Fiverr, "Hey, 50 bucks, you can get published in the New York Times or on the Washington Post website in Forbes." Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, those magazines seem to be really common and people fall victim to this scam. You're not going to be published on an official website for $50 or $500, but there are ways of getting published on those sites. Let's talk about what works because with a little bit of effort you can gain a lot of attention.
First, understand the things that we already covered. You have a website set up so you can capture emails with a compelling reason why they should provide an email. If random people do see your website, they might put in an email address. You established a community for interested people to join. You built content telling your story.
Now, when you reach out to reporters using these tools, the first thing anyone will do is check you out with a quick search. You exist. The company exists. The progress exists. Something exists. You're a little bit more legitimate. If you haven't done those other things, you're invisible. Having any level of credibility is much harder.
The first tool for getting media attention is a website called Help a Reporter Out (https://www.helpareporter.com/). The world has a lot happening and not as many reporters. I suppose it's hard to figure out what to actually write about. You can go to Help a Reporter Out and say, "Hey, I have information on this. Hey, I'm doing this, I'm working with these people." You can pitch reporters to write an article. Your pitch uses having a community and actually understanding customer problems to suggest a compelling story. Most likely, a reporter is not going to write a story that's specifically about your product launch. Unless you are famous, that would be crazy. Later on, somebody might do a gear review when you have your product. The pitch is more like, "Hey, Callye's working with this group of people. And this is the problem that they have. And we're creating solutions to improve their lives. And we've done it with these other products. And this is what the community is into. And here's a member in our community and let's highlight them."
Our growth hacking strategies build together into the foundation for a compelling story for an article someone might actually want to write.
Getting a story written about your product launch in Forbes probably won't work. If you really want an article about your launch, look at local newspapers. The local business section is always looking for a business story. We have friends that have gotten just a writeup like, "Hey, this guy opened up a new location. This guy has a new restaurant. This guy has a new business and hey, this is exciting." Your county economic development would be very interested in the story and might help get an article published. "Hey, these guys just expanded and hired 10 people. Hey, these people are putting out the third product on Kickstarter. Let's talk about crowdfunding." From a digital marketing perspective, the backlink from those local pages is still valuable to tell Google search you have a reputable website. From a marketing perspective, you will not be getting millions of eyeballs. From a respectability standpoint, it's still pretty good.
The best press growth hacking tactic is pitching reporters who already write articles for your customer audience. You have a community. You've talked to the customers. You know other products and companies that these people use. You know the customer problems. You can find other articles that have been written about that space. Find who's written those articles. You can use a service like Hunter (https://hunter.io/) to find reporter’s email addresses.
Services can find articles backlinking to competitor websites. These services could list hundreds of these reporters. Reach out to them with a pitch link, "Hey, you wrote an article just like this. I'm creating a product that solves that here's members in our community." This pitch mirrors the engagement with members in our community, "This is the problem just like you talked about, here's what we're doing to solve it. Here's the results that we've gotten."
You can use media growth hacks early and you can use it later. You can use this as a business growth tool and you can use this during a product launch. It will actually require work which is why it works and less people do it. You have to do a little bit of mining to make it happen.
The last hack we call partner for virality. I could talk about this for 40 minutes or write 30 pages without a problem. When we look at our initial customers, who are the customers who, if they bought your product or became advocates for your brand, would absolutely fundamentally change your business?
When we talk about dream customers, it's not because we want to be so cool that we want Michael Jordan as a customer for personal gratification. What we really want is the credibility and the reach from having one of those customers. We want to solve a problem at the highest level, so we can demonstrate through a testimonial or social proof. When going after initial customers, think of them as distribution partners. This one aspect of embedding vitality.
A core Red Blue Collective concept is making something worth sharing. I don't think we've done a podcast on this topic, but we did an Instagram TV short. Make something that's so good, so over the top, people are compelled to share. I think the caption said, "Better over the top than under the ground." I say the phrase frequently. I know it's goofy, but this is really important. We live in a world filled with noise from competitive products and product ads vying for attention. You have to differentiate from disappointments and shams. When you create something, one of the most powerful tools that you have for cutting through all the garbage, all the noise, is make a product so good customers want to share. They want to tell their parents, their friends, their cousin. They want to share it in the community. They want to take a picture for Instagram.
We can create a shareable experience in innumerable ways. One basic method is to focus on the unboxing experience. When you launch your product, have good packaging. When selling on your website, packaging will make the product presentation better. Have good photography, have good packaging, and have good unboxing videos. Post community created content. The content initially entices people to purchase but also primes them to share. When customers buy, have great customer experience. Purchasing should be simple. Shipping should be clear. Service should be prompt. When the customer opens the product, one of the things that has been the absolute game changer for us is to have a note that asks something like, "Hey, join our community.” or “If you haven't already joined our newsletter, we'll give you this code for 10% off or $50 off for your friend." or "Hey, you enjoyed this thing. Get this bonus when you refer a friend and they'll get this discount."
We create a product that's good enough but we over the top deliver. If customers think that they're getting a 9 out of 10 product, we do 11 out of 10. You always give something extra. I don't care if it's a tee shirt, a booklet, or whatever. It’s something valuable. You give something that's beyond expectations. Perfect quality is the baseline. We create distance from competitors with extra value then we ask customers to join the community and refer a friend. We incentivize that behavior. "Hey, post it on Instagram with #getmoney, And we're going to give $1000 away to one of the people that purchased this product between these dates. This ends here." or "We're going to give you 500 bucks and give you 10 of these units to give to your friends if you post #getpaid." There's lots of ways of doing this, and this definitely works. It definitely works because people have followed your story. They, hopefully, are a member of your community, but if not, ask. If they look at the community, they will think, "Wow, there's actually a lot going on here. And they're not even selling me stuff. They're just basically talking about the thing that I'm really interested in. It's like that they know me." You did the ideal customer avatar research. The customer is now more inclined to share because they're a part of something. They are more than just a customer. They're a piece of what you're trying to do. They’re a part of your community. They're a partner in your business. This is why we call this growth hack partner for virality. We have a relationship, not just a transaction.
Entrepreneurs who take this approach and do the work, they dominate. They dominate the competition because the competition is just selling a widget. We're selling the world. We're selling everything. We're selling what customers desire, a solution to their problems, and a community that supports them. We're selling a lot more than just that one thing, that one time. We're selling them on a brand and that brand can keep delivering value product launch, after product launch, after product launch.
I hope you liked these growth hacks. I tried to narrow the list. The list that we use is much, much longer, but I want present actionable and approachable information. You should be able to take these strategies and implement them right now. You can keep using these growth hacks five years from now. You could start today and build them over the next three months or six months into an incredibly powerful system. You could turn this behavior into an all out blitz and be ready for a launch in 30 days, just like we did with our “Start to Kickstarter: Launch in 20 Days Challenge.” We used the same exact formula as the hacks here to build our customer list and build a community in a week. Our clients and friends use similar strategies today.
I look forward to seeing your product. Best.