by Kyle Gawley

How to Launch Like Apple: 5 Steps to Generating Pre-Hype For Your Product Launch

After months of blood, sweat and tears – you finally have a product. You excitedly push it live to your server and wait for the stampede of users flocking to be the first to sign up.

But wait.

Nothing.

Build it, and they will come, right?

Wrong.

This attitude is a one-way street to failure. Launching a new product takes a lot of work. Many people get so caught up in the excitement of product development, that they invest zero time into building hype before their launch.

A successful launch strategy requires that you start putting in the work to generate buzz before you’ve even written a single line of code.

When Apple launches a new iPhone, they certainly don’t just slip it into their store overnight and hope everyone buys it the next day. There are months of preparation, marketing and hype-generation involved. By the time a new iPhone launches, customers are camping outside the Apple store for days to get their hands on one.

apple-camping
Source: Mactrast

So, how can you create a killer launch strategy for your new product that’ll have customers queuing up on launch day?

1. Tell Your Story

Even if you don’t have a product yet, you have a story. Your story should encapsulate why your product is going to make a significant impact on peoples lives and be underpinned by emotions that connect users to your product.

This emotion may come from your own personal backstory. Maybe you have personal motivations for creating your product.

Watch this TED talk from Ludwick Marishane. A young entrepreneur from South Africa who created DryBath because families in his hometown didn’t have access to a reliable water supply.

A bathing gel is not exactly the most exciting product in the world, but Ludwick is charismatic and has an interesting story about how his product is impacting the lives of people in less developed countries.

The best product stories are those that clearly explain why your product is going to disrupt the status quo and make a positive impact on people’s lives. Even if your product isn’t the most innovative, a compelling story can help you stand out from the crowd.

If your product isn't going to change the world, then think of other angles you can leverage to create a newsworthy story. It might be as simple as creating a partnership with a well-known brand.

When we launched Get Invited, we announced our launch with a few big events including TheWebIs and LAUNCH Festival in San Francisco, which had speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Hawk and Peter Thiel.

We were able to create an exciting story with a lot of intrigue as to how our new startup in Belfast was working with the largest startup event in the world, boasting some of the most famous speakers in the industry.

Keep Them Guessing

You shouldn't give everything away; you want to create some suspense and mystery about your product, so tell people enough to get them interested and keep them around waiting to find out more.

Apple never releases any information about a new product until launch day. This drives bloggers and journalists to crazy lengths to speculate what’s coming. It’s not uncommon for people to create 3D models of what they imagine the next Apple product is going to look like.

Your story is more important than your product in your pre-launch days. You will be telling your story everywhere you go, from micro-interactions with potential customers over coffee to giving public talks and running social media campaigns.

2. Build Your Audience

Your greatest launch asset is your audience. If you can successfully build an audience from day one, then when you do finally launch, you have a ready-made customer base ready to buy your product.

Create a Product Site

The first thing we advise all our Get Started companies to do before building a product is to build a sales website that demonstrates your potential product using mockups or an explainer video.

It doesn’t need to be an all-singing, all-dancing expensive website; it can be as basic as some copy and an explainer video hosted on a free website theme.

It should, however, include an email capture form for your customers to sign up and get notified when you launch. This will enable you to start marketing your product right away by driving traffic to this sales website and capturing potential customer email addresses.

Attend Trade Shows

Trade shows are a great place to meet potential customers in large numbers. The biggest mistake I see startups making time and time again is attending startup conferences. While these are great for networking with other startups, you’re probably not going to meet many customers here.

Instead, attend industry-specific trade shows that are going to be packed with people from your industry. If you’re in the very early stages of your product’s development, you can attend these trade shows with little more than a handful of business cards and an iPad with a basic demo – then it’s all down to your networking skills.

If you have the budget, then consider hiring an exhibition stand, but make sure you have something of quality to demo. You don’t need a finished product, a well-crafted slideshow with some high-quality mockups can work wonders.

industryconference
Signing up one of our first customers at our low-budget Get Invited exhibition stand back in 2013

When you meet someone who shows interest in your product, get their details – ask for a business card or connect with them on LinkedIn on the spot and ask them if it’s OK if you contact them when you launch. Never rely exclusively on handing out business cards and hoping people will follow up with you.

Nurture Your Audience

You must nurture your audience to grow it. Create high quality, relevant content that is of value to your audience to keep them hooked on your brand. You can also leverage your users own social networks when they share your content with their friends and colleagues, which in turn will widen your reach.

Relevant content isn’t just ‘coming soon’ updates about your product. There is little value in this for most people, and you should focus on creating content that your audience will find useful.

If you're creating a new fitness app, then start churning out free fitness content that your audience can benefit from. For example: give away free meal plans or create workout videos on YouTube.

Start a blog and write about topics your industry wants to read about. With a few good quality posts under your belt, you can approach other industry publications and offer to write guest content for them.

Not only will this enable you to reach a wider audience, but it will assist you in building trust in your brand.

3. Take Pre-Orders

Taking pre-orders before you launch is a great way to generate hype, and also earn some revenue. It lets people buy into your product during the initial excitement phase when they first hear about it, rather than having to wait months for the launch, at which point they will probably have forgotten about you.

Pre-orders work well for physical products, but what about software?

Software pre-orders require a slightly different approach, but it’s highly effective, and I’m not sure why more software companies don’t use this strategy.

To create an effective pre-order strategy for a software product, you need to replicate the natural quantity limitation of physical products. When Apple launches a new iPhone, they make only a limited number available. This creates queues of people camping outside the Apple for days to be the first to get their hands on one.

While there is no restriction on the number of users you can have on your app, creating false scarcity by offering the first 1000 users free early access to your product before anyone else, you will create an enormous amount of hype and drive people to sign up.

invision-studio
Invision are offering free early access to their new studio product

This has the added benefit that those who obtain early access, will shout about it to their friends to make themselves look good because they have exclusive access to something new. This will, in turn, grow your audience.

You could also run a competition to give away free access to your product, which has a similar effect.

4. Leverage Influencers

One of the most powerful marketing tools available is leveraging the power of influencers. I wrote a post about this last year explaining how I generated 46,000 website hits by sending a single email. How much do you think that saved me on Facebook Ads?

Influencers are simply people with large networks. Your goal is to tap into these networks by getting an influencer to talk about your product to their followers.

Approaching Journalists

Press coverage is a great way to generate hype and tell the story of your product. You should be building relationships with journalists in your industry early-on. Don’t wait until launch day before contacting the press, get them bought into the initial hype.

Focus on journalists who are relevant to your industry. Many startups go after the big tech publications like Techcrunch; and while a feature in Techcrunch is excellent for establishing credibility, it’s not going to generate many customers for you if your target customers are hairdressers.

Don’t forget about bloggers too. Identify influential bloggers in your industry and give them a free trial of your product – if it’s good, they’ll review it for you and help you spread the word.

Getting press coverage and shout-outs from influencers is much easier than you think. You just need an exciting story that people will want to hear and a few well written emails.

5. Plan a Launch Event

With the previous steps laying the groundwork for a successful launch, your big day is just as important. Apple launch events are probably the most famous product launches in existence.

You don’t need to host a world-class presentation with the charisma of Steve Jobs, but you do need to host an event to mark your launch, so there is something for people to talk about.

launch-event

It might be as simple as a small event with a couple of great speakers from your industry, some product giveaways and free beer and pizza.

Make sure to make plenty of noise about your product launch online too. By this stage, you should have curated an email list of potential customers and have established your social media audience. Offer your early supports a free trial or discounted offer to covert them quickly.

If you need help planning your own launch strategy, give us a shout.

Kyle Gawley

Kyle is CEO and Co-Founder of Get Invited & Get Started. He has launched five of his own products and wrote the book on travelling the world while running a successful software business.