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Build Your List Before You Launch, Using Launchrock

This guest post is by John Doherty of Distilled NYC.

Are you a blogger, either part-time or full-time, who is seeking to launch a product? Or, are you a business owner who is looking to launch either a startup or a new product line?

If so, this post is for you. We all dream of going viral with a product launch, but what if you can get the promise of a new product to spread across the internet so that you can gather the people who might be interested in your product when it actually does launch?

Or, if you have an idea for a product, wouldn’t you like to test out if people will actually be interested in buying or using said product, without actually putting much (or any) work into the minimum viable product (MVP)?

This is why tools like Launchrock exist. Launchrock is a tool that helps you capture email addresses, and encourages virality for new product launches.

The company I work for, Distilled, launched our online marketing training platform DistilledU back in May, after a few months of content creation and development.

In January of 2012, however, we put up this page:

Our launch page

This page was built with Launchrock in about 30 minutes. Within 24 hours, we had collected over 1,000 email addresses of people eager to hear when we launched the product. While your mileage may vary by the size of your engaged audience and those willing to help you co-market your product, I believe that you as well can see success in getting pre-buy-in for your product launch using Launchrock.

In this post, we’ll walk through the steps that you can follow to set up your own Launchrock page, and start collecting interest in your product.

Introducing LaunchRock

We’re going to be talking about Launchrock’s free service. Let’s see how to get started.

When you go to the Launchrock site, you will see this:

Launchrock home

Enter your email address, and you will be signed up and taken to this page:

Project name

On this page, you can input your project’s name, a one-line description of your project, and a short description.

Choosing a project name

Your project’s name is probably the most important part of this whole setup. Just like blog titles, which you want to be clickworthy and viral, your project’s name needs to be:

  • memorable
  • succinct
  • descriptive

You will want to avoid the typical blog-title trap of “5 Things That…” because this is a project that is long-term, not a one-hit wonder. While you want people to click through, they also need to get excited about the project.

Since viral marketing tactics are only one piece of the puzzle, though, you should take into account keyword research while crafting your title as well.

If I was to launch my ebook announcement again, I would have included “Blog Marketing Ebook” in the title and written a blog post about it, to try to rank for “Blog Marketing Ebook” to gain even more interest. I didn’t include something like “Online Marketing School” with the DistilledU launch because of existing brand recognition. If you’re a small blogger, though, this tip could help your chances of success.

One-line description

This tweet-length line of text is almost as valuable as your project title, since it is the next place your readers will look.

This is your project’s “elevator pitch”, which is what startups are often told to have should they meet a potential investor in an elevator and have five seconds to tell them about their company/idea.
Once again, this should be memorable, succinct, and descriptive.

“The last ebook about toy design you will ever need.”

“Why stressing yourself out at work does not have negative lifestyle repercussions.”

Short description

Your project’s short description is the meat and potatoes of your project. How much is it going to cost? When are you expecting to release it? There is no word limit to your short description, but anything longer than two paragraphs is probably too long in today’s internet reading-length environment.

Even though longform content can do well in some online niches, you have a very brief amount of time to grab your reader’s attention and convert them through the email box on Launchrock.

Choosing social networks

After your headline, description, and short description are made, you need to figure out which social networks you should enable your audience to share your project on. While allowing readers the option of which network to share it on is great, you shouldn’t necessarily allow every network.

The best way to make the decision about which social networks to prioritize is to make a data-driven decision.

Take your ten most recent blog posts and throw them into SharedCount. Using the multiple-URL option, you can see the trends and where your posts are most popular. Check out the most recent SEOmoz posts, shown in the image below. If they were going to launch a new product using Launchrock, they should prioritize Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn is not as high of a priority:

Sharedcount results

Custom messages

For each social sharing option, you also have the power to dictate what the message that’ll be shared says. This is a great power and one to be leveraged. Click on the social network option and a box will appear for you to input your message. Here’s the Twitter sharing options box:

Twitter sharing options

Remember that each social network has different triggers that work to incentivize people to share. Twitter updates are shorter and therefore require a short call to action, like “Join me!” Facebook users have more personal connections than Twitter, so the message must appeal to a friend and establish trust.

Here’s the call to action we leveraged on Twitter for DistilledU:

I just registered early for DistilledU on http://t.co/uOyRONjw. Come be my classmate! via @distilled.

This generated hundreds of retweets, resulting in over 500 signups in a six-hour period:

Tweets

Storing email addresses

When people sign up to your project by giving you their email address, they are sent a confirmation email by Launchrock, so that your email list is kept as pure as possible.

Now, however, we are faced with the challenge of storing and using the email addresses collected, which leads us to one of the major drawbacks of Launchrock.

One of the downsides of Launchrock is its lack of integration with email management platforms. If you do any email marketing and are building a contact list, you know that a good email marketing management platform is a must-have for segmenting lists and campaigns.

This lack of integration is troubling to me, but fortunately Launchrock makes it easy for you to export your data in a .csv format that is then easily imported into a system like Mailchimp, through Launchrock Insights.

Launchrock Insights

Pro tip: Insights shows you how many referrals have been sent to you by those who have signed up to your list. Take these and sort them from high to low by referrals. This will let you identify your power users, who can become your most powerful project advocates if you make them feel special.

Photo considerations

One often-overlooked consideration when building a Launchrock page is design. Launchrock allows you to upload your own background photo to customize your design. What image should you use?

Think about the psychology of your user at this point. Do they need to have trust built with them in order to sign up? Do they need motivation?

When we launched DistilledU, we launched with a photo of one of our cofounders, Will, because he is a trusted voice in the industry. We used the photo of him onstage speaking because we wanted to show that we are a trustworthy source for learning online marketing.

Minimum viable design

I understand that many bloggers and marketers are not designers. I have seen more badly designed blogs than I could ever wipe from my memory. But design is imperative to your project’s success. A well-designed page builds trust with your user.

I recommend using the rule of thirds, which is a well-known photography framing technique but also applies to design. If I’m announcing a new product or event, I could do a design like this. However, it looks somewhat messy and not as clear as I’d like it:

Page design

Yet, with a slight tweak to the background graphic and moving the signup form to the left of the page, I get a much cleaner look:

Revised page design

Launchrock allows you to change your background image as I’ve said above, but they also provide eight different page theme boxes to choose from. Once you have settled on your background, choose the right box design for your background:

Choosing the box design

Hosted or widget?

Launchrock provides you with the option of either creating a hosted page for your site, or using a widget.

Hosted page or widget

If you have access to your hosting provider, you can create a new CNAME with them and point the Launchrock-hosted page to a subdomain on your website (i.e. http://awesome.domain.com).

Now you won’t have to worry about whether or not your hosting will be able to stand the load of new visitors coming to your page once you launch. But the drawback is that you now have a subdomain that is gathering links, and that subdomain is not inheriting the domain authority of your main site, so even if you launch your product on that same subdomain, you will have a hard time ranking in the search engines for your targeted terms. For more information about how to set up a new CNAME, Launchrock provides a great resource for most hosting providers.

If you are not able to create a new CNAME (which can be an issue on platforms like Blogger), you can use the widget option instead. You will not have the full-page layout, but Launchrock provides you with code that you are able to copy into a post on your blog. Note that you will still need access to your site’s <head> section to copy over the Facebook OpenGraph tags so that your users are able to share your project on Facebook.

Launch time!

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Of course, you have already reached out to the influencers to let them know of the launch so that it will reach more people, and you have set up content to go live on related sites to promote your project, right?

Now go, launch, and enjoy the ride!

John Doherty is the head of Distilled NYC, a search marketing firm based in London with offices in New York and Seattle. In his day job he works with clients of all sizes to help them earn more traffic from the search engines and other organic online channels. In his free time, aside from being adrenaline-seeking adventurer, he works on his own websites and is currently writing an ebook about blog marketing.

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Comments

  1. This is really cool! Never even knew a service like this existed. Have an ebook coming soon, will be giving this a try!

  2. charles says:

    I have not heard about this launchrock before and i thank God that it is not last to give it a try. I believe with all honesty that releasing an ebook for it will help a lot. Thanks a lot.

  3. Ben Troy says:

    I like the feature that we can create various incentives to encourage people to share information about the site

  4. Ian says:

    GREAT post, John. It’s amazing how few people prepare the road for a great launch – LaunchRock makes it a cinch.

    • John says:

      Agreed! Way too many overlook this. Shoot, sometimes I even get lazy and don’t do it like I should, just because of a rush to “ship it” and get it live.

  5. Richard Ng says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for sharing this seemingly cool tool/site for the new product/service launcher. Will sure to check it out.

    Cheers!

  6. Carlos says:

    This is a truly innovative service. In the past, you had to create your own infrastructure for this kind of launches, or count with a few people that had previous experience with events like this. With this type of service, it will be more manageable for a small company to launch products regularly. Thanks for the helpful tip!

  7. Launchrock is really amazing… had never heard of it before. Jon Morrow started his BoostBlogTraffic in the similar way, and collected quite a few email addresses, though I think he created a custom landing page. But for a non-techie like me, Launchrock sounds cool;

    John, suppose I was just starting my writing blog: http://www.thenextgenwriter.com/; how would you suggest using Launchrock, and how should I offer the ‘bribe’ of my free ebook to entice folks?

    • John says:

      Hey Ali -

      I’d put up a page like this some time before. Then leverage your social channels to promote it (maybe sites like ProBlogger to get some guest posts) and collect emails addresses. You may even get some links out of it.

      Then, when you launch, you switch out the content on the homepage and boom. Live blog with links to it already, and you have everyone’s email address :-)

  8. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this! My blog is launching soon and I’m going to give this a try.

    By the way, if we want to export the email addresses to another service like Mailchimp, do we have to re-build the list (i.e. they have to reconfirm)? I know if you want to change from Mailchimp to Aweber you have to do so…

    • John says:

      Nope, they don’t have to reconfirm. If you transfer them over from Launchrock, all you’re doing is importing them via CSV file into Mailchimp. You’re good!

  9. Anthony says:

    This looks awesome. Thanks for sharing this John!

  10. Jeremy says:

    Looks like a great tool and may be helpful for a startup friend. Thanks for the post!

  11. Services like this do exist!? I guess I am definitely going to confirm its subsistence. The info is kind of remarkable. Thanks for sharing.

  12. This sure is news to me. I am delighted I actually found time to drop by. I like the element of creating incentives to motivate readers to carve up the info. It could be quite a gesture and not many people are actually doing this. I am eager to have to try it out actually. Receive my appreciation for the good write; I am overwhelmed!

  13. Great tool. I have been planning on launching a new digital product for some time now and Launchrock seems perfect for me. I wonder however what stage of launch one should be in to make the most of this tool. What time is too soon you think? Do you think 3 months before launch is OK? Any feedback will be much appreciated.

  14. Shelby Roth says:

    This sounds amazing John. I had no idea about such service and I’m really impressed you dropped out this! I had a problem with having a factual launch time and I can confess that I have got a break-through now. Thanks a lot.

  15. This is actually a very creative service I never had idea on. You really hit the nail on the head and I agree much with you about launch-Rock idea; it is an eye-opener and I have hope using this will make my blogging rock for sure. I look forward to giving a trial on this innovative service. Thank a lot for sharing!

  16. Great Article , Perfect stuff for startup i m soon launching my own blog will defenetely try this tool ,
    I will be great if you share more info about this tool/service ..

  17. Fahad says:

    LaunchRock Seems awesome! Thank you
    I’m writing an ebook and I’d definitely give LaunchRock a try. Would let you know about my progress with it.
    Cheers

  18. Jason Diller says:

    John, great post as always. Just amazing stuff for a startup company.

    Happy thanksgiving!