You don’t need a huge PR machine behind you to successfully launch a new product. Candace Locklear of Mighty PR and Vijay Chattha of Applaunch PR recently gave their popular talk at Appnation, with the intent of helping independent mobile application developers create pre-launch buzz and promotion for their app to maximize success on launch day. Though geared toward app developers, the ideas they suggested apply to any small business launching a new product.
Here are some public relations tips for your product launch plan based on their talk, and from my own experience launching products and working as a daily reporter for two years:
60 to 90 Days Before Launch
If you don’t already have a Twitter account, Facebook page or website set up to promote your product, set them up now. If your product is simply an add on to an existing line, you can continue to use the online marketing channels you’ve already set up but, either way, take the time now to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row and are ready to get the word out when launch day comes. Set up a basic pre-launch web page with a simple sign up form to collect contact information from people interested in your product, using either a service like LaunchRock or the VerticalResponse opt-in form.
Even more importantly, start identifying publications that might be interested in covering your product and cultivate relationships with the reporters most likely to write about you. Target publications that cover products similar to the one you’re launching, as well as those that cover the interests of your target customers. Start reading back issues of their articles and communicate to the authors via email and through social media.
Don’t start pitching your product yet – instead, provide useful information that helps the media write stories they’re currently working on, or provide positive and helpful feedback in the comments section of their site. Writers working on deadline often struggle to find new angles on stories and can have a hard time finding sources with a unique point of view. Introduce them to people you know in the industry, offer yourself as a source, establish your expertise, without being overbearing, and get them used to seeing your name and associating it with something positive. One great source for finding reporters seeking information for a story is the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) list run by Peter Shankman. Check the listings to find opportunities for you to connect with members of the press.
30 to 60 Days Before Launch
It takes search engines like Google and Bing about 30 to 60 days to fully index a site and have show up in search results. Start writing content for your launch site to attract the search engines, as well as new visitors. Your content should use keywords your customers will use when looking for a product like yours. For example, if you’re launching a new line of pet toys, write blog posts about dog care. If you’d like to entice your customers further, take a page from many of the folks who use Kickstarter and blog about the progress of the design and development of your product. Visitors to your site who follow along with the progress of your product will feel like part of the team and will be more likely to become customers.
Post links to the articles you write to your social networks and continue to drive signups to your email form and gain more social followers. Keep building a pre-launch audience that’s invested in your product before it even hits the shelves.
5 to 30 Days Before Launch
The work you’ve done building relationships with reporters should now pay off. Let them know about the product you’re working on, and pitch them on it. Keep the pitches short – no more than six sentences – and make sure your message is on point with the topics they typically cover. Tell your unique story and give them a unique angle to work with. Invite them to a preview of your product. If you don’t get a response from them initially, give it a couple of days and follow up again. After the third try, move on – there’s a good chance they’ll contact you after the launch to cover it once they see it in rival publications.
About a week before launch, hold a special pre-launch briefing where you demonstrate your product for the reporters who have shown interest. If you can’t meet the reporters in person, set up a GoToMeeting, Skype session or even a Google Hangout to present a video. Accompany this with delivering review samples to them so that they can actually feel and use the product, but with your guidance. If you’re launching an application, consider using a service like TestFlight to allow them to use it in a private beta mode without having to launch it to an app store. At all times, be gracious and thank them for their interest. If they have useful feedback, consider applying it prior to launch if you still have time.
Day of Launch
Launch day will be your busiest day. Send an email out the night before to the people who signed up through your pre-release site so that they can be the first to get access to your product. On the day of the release, send out another email and post links to the page hosting or selling your product across all of your social channels. Encourage the people who signed up for your pre-launch site to share the news with their networks, perhaps even providing some kind of an incentive such as a discount or a special version of the product designed just for that group.
Keep your eye on all of the publications you reached out to. You may find that even the ones you didn’t successfully cultivate a relationship with will write about you. Not all of the press may be glowing, and you may find that your launch was tied into another story instead of being the focus. No matter the result, be sure to thank them and share the best stories with your followers on your social networks.
There’s no doubt, getting all of the marketing and PR done to launch a product is a lot of work. Add that to all of the work you’re already doing to get your product launched on time and you can quickly feel overwhelmed. But take your time and enjoy the process, and do everything you can to make the right contacts and get word of your product out there. You’ve put a lot of time and money into making something your customers will love. Don’t skimp on the time and effort to make sure they can also find it.
Have any other tips to prepare your product launch plan?
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