The Big Splash: How to Make the Most of Your Startup Launch
You’ve got one shot at your company launch. One shot at making that initial, all-important, splash in the marketplace – announcing to the world your startup’s triumphant arrival.
Remember, there are no do-overs. There are no resets. When it comes to your startup launch, it’s one and done. Your company can either hit the ground running with a well-crafted launch plan, including a compelling brand identity, captivating core messaging and robust earned-media outreach – or you can limp out of the gate with a hope and a prayer. The highly competitive, even cutthroat, nature of today’s global marketplace suggests the latter isn’t the savvy option.
There’s an undeniable urgency to establishing your brand as a leader in the industry or space, and by doing so, getting a leg up that’s hard for the competition to overcome. Generating initial buzz from your launch, and the ensuing weeks, is absolutely crucial.
Make the Investment
Executing a successful launch is one of the smartest early investments you can make in your business – one that will pay for itself many times over. It’s been argued, convincingly, that the launch is the single most important marketing effort a company will ever execute. It can make or break a startup. It follows the wisdom of the old adage, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.”
You will need to invest time, energy, creative juice, and most likely, some money to do the launch right. The potential upside is huge. The potential downside can be fatal.
Make the astute investment. Get all the pieces in place – irresistible branding, research-driven positioning and compelling core messaging – then build the buzz and make the big splash through earned-media placements in the mainstream and trades. The return on investment will come back in the form of more customers, increased investor funding, a larger piece of market share, and ultimately, higher profits.
Don’t Miss the Opportunity
Reality check: the vast majority of startups fail. More confounding yet, it’s often said that startups don’t just die, they commit suicide. Self-inflicted wounds are usually the culprit when it comes to a startup’s failure.
Take the numbers to heart. If you define failure as the inability to achieve the projected return on investment, then 95 percent of all startups fail. Those are tough odds to bet on. However, you can dramatically improve your chances of survival by launching in the right way. Don’t commit suicide before you even get out of the shoot.
How big a splash you make at launch and how deeply and quickly you connect with your core audiences can be the difference between success and failure. At launch, you’ve got center stage. Everybody loves a startup. Everybody’s watching. You’ve got the wind at your back so take full advantage of the innate momentum. The honeymoon won’t last long. Sorry.
A startup can go belly up for a host of reasons – some within our control, some beyond our control. So what startups need to focus on are factors that can and should be controlled. Those controllable factors include how you introduce your startup to your core audience. Does the brand resonate? Does the brand introduction reach all of your target audiences (e.g., customers, investors, partners)? Does the target audience see your brand as trustworthy and legitimate?
If your launch is done right, the answer to all those questions will be a resounding “yes” – and your startup will be off and running with a powerful head of steam.
Focus on the factors of a launch you can control: Does the brand resonate? Does the brand introduction reach all of your target audiences? Does this audience see your brand as trustworthy? #startup #launchstrategy #marketing Click To Tweet
The Right Stuff
Here are the four key components to maximizing your startup launch:
Brand Identity: You must distill your startup’s DNA and audience proposition to create a compelling brand identity that will connect and resonate with your core audiences. To do that, your brand must differentiate itself from others in the space. If your brand doesn’t set you apart – in immediately recognizable ways, like price point, quality or coolness – you need to go back to the drawing board. There’s a lot of clutter your brand needs to break through in order to stand out.
Core Audiences: You must identify and understand your core audiences. Who is it that can’t survive without what your startup offers? Obviously customers and clients, but for startups, investors need to be on that list, too, and partners. You need to identify all core audiences so you can communicate effectively with each group and bring them into the fold.
Core Messaging: You must have clear, concise and compelling core messaging that resonates with your core audiences. What does your startup have to offer, and why is it the greatest thing since sliced bread? What solution does your company provide? And why can’t your target audience live without it?
Earned Media: This is where you make the most of your launch marketing investments. No doubt, you are scrutinizing how every penny is spent as you plan your launch. Your media strategy deserves that same kind of scrutiny. One of the biggest, most common mistakes startups make is to overestimate the value of – and spend precious resources on – mass, untargeted paid media, and they underestimate the power of earned media, particularly at launch.
There is no better, more efficient way to gain credibility and legitimacy for your company than through earned media. It’s third-party validation that research shows people trust – and there’s truly no other way to get it than earned media.
According to one study, more than 90 percent of people trust earned media whereas less than 50 percent trust paid media (such as paid advertisements). More than 80 percent of experienced marketers believe earned media has more of a positive impact than paid media.
Think about the reach and impact of an article featuring your startup’s business model and what solution it offers in the Wall Street Journal or Entrepreneur magazine. Earned media has become an increasingly important part of every savvy company’s toolbox. And, there is no time or instance when earned media means more or has more potential than at launch.
It’s also important to remember that once you secure an earned media placement, there are many ways to leverage it. You can – and should – splash it all over social media platforms. You can add excerpts to your marketing website, investor pitches, sales decks and collateral material. There are a multitude of earned-media applications that will continue to help promote your startup long after launch.
Some assets to consider are: a launch press release (for wire distribution); a product review; a verbal script to pitch your “startup story” to reporters/producers/bloggers; a call for interviews, featuring a company “spokesperson”; an article authored by the startup Founder/CEO/President to be submitted to a targeted media list for possible publication. There are more, but those are some of the key assets your startup should have ready to roll at launch.
We should note that a successful earned-media campaign hinges on a well-crafted brand identity and core messaging that resonates with your core audiences. So be sure to get all the pieces in place before you launch and begin your earned-media outreach.
The goal is to secure enough targeted, high-level earned-media visibility – third-party validation of your brand – that your core audiences will reach out to you. Instead of slaving over outreach to underdeveloped relationships, your core audiences will come to you – partners, investors, and most importantly, customers.
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Co-author: Peter Wendel is a seasoned earned-media specialist who has worked for clients including the Ford Motor Company, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Altria. He’s based in Washington, D.C.
Kerri Konik is a seasoned brand strategist and leading expert in igniting emotional connection and optimizing customer experience to drive business growth. She is a consultant, advisor and speaker on catalyzing the emotional bonds between customers, brands, and leaders to increase value, progress, and accelerate the speed of change, growth and desired impact. An entrepreneur at heart, Kerri has launched five businesses, and is the CEO of InspireFire, a women-owned brand strategy and marketing consultancy based in Philadelphia.