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.
In January of 2012, however, we put up this 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.
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:
Enter your email address, and you will be signed up and taken to this page:
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
Hosted or widget?
Launchrock provides you with the option of either creating a hosted page for your site, or using a 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.
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.