Don't Rely on One Big Launch
This post is based on an email I sent to a friend just last week.
It was great talking with you at the cafe. I think your product is very promising and I wanted to share some advice I'd wished I'd received with you before you launch.
In my opinion, these are the two best things you can check out before you launch:
- This tweet by Adam Wathan about how to build trust by helping people online
- This video by David Rusenko about how to get people to use your product
I've been an employee at 6 early-stage startups and seen just as many failed launches as successful ones. I've also launched a ton of projects and I’m currently trying to refine my experience into a guide for others (early signup).
My core advice basically comes down to this:
- Start building an email list ASAP by having some kind of early signup form for your product (super easy to make with ConvertKit, Mailchimp, Revue, Substack, or Ghost). This is key since it will give you a guaranteed way to communicate with your fans when it really matters. Start building this today.
- Create a 5-step nurture email campaign on top of that email list — provide value (good content, a free guide, a blog post, a free consulting call, a free video, etc.) to keep your audience engaged throughout all 5 emails. Only ask for them to signup/pay for your product at the end of the campaign, after you've established trust and they know the value you provide is solid (you can give them a 50% off coupon or free trial link to encourage more signups)
- Do 10-20 launches, not just one "big" one — this is important because relying on just one launch is like playing the lottery and being sad when you don't win. You need to launch often and find ways to increase your chances of "winning" before the big launch :)
Let’s talk more about these small 10-20 launches…
- Start with a launch among family/friends and get early feedback from them. Expect lots of "I don't get it."
A great way to do this is to write a blog post describing the idea behind your product and why you created it and 1-2 of the big issues you ran into while making it (the more emotional struggle you share, the better, so be vulnerable).
Then email the post to them, along with a link to a form to sign up for more updates.
2. Then launch an early-sign up page.
Even if you let everyone who signs up to get early access use your product right away, it's good to make it clear you're still in the early stages.
So market this signup page as an early-access/beta launch. This easy to do with ConvertKit, Mailchimp, etc.
This "early-access" page will set expectations low, while making people feel special, and give you room to do a "real" launch later on.
Treat everyone who signs up at this stage like special early users and check in with them at least 2-3 times after they sign up to get feedback.
Also, give them a HUGE discount when the product actually launches — these early fans pay you in feedback, not money. And their excitement & support of you will go a long way throughout your journey.
3. Improve your product until that early list of people is giving you testimonials instead of critical feedback.
It will usually take at least 20-30 bug fixes and revisions to your product before you start seeing it move from "I don't understand what this is..." to "Wow, I couldn't imagine my life without this!"
Meanwhile, continue to do smaller launches
- Launch to a small group on Twitter
- Post in comments on Reddit about your struggles with the problems your product solves
- Email individuals or post in Slack/Discord groups to let people know about your product
4. Join "indie hacker" and entrepreneurial communities
Even if you have to pay a small fee to get in, it's totally worth it.
Recruit some of them to use and test your product.
5. Once you have some testimonials and a solid product that you know at least 2-3 people like and actively use (it's a high bar, really!), use the feedback you get from them to build out your landing page
Take what people told you your product helped them solve and put that as your headline, your sub-headline, and your landing page content and testimonials. Use their own words.
6. Continue to build up your email list by providing free content and resources that your audience values.
It could be a blog post you found or a quick video you recorded. As long as it's free and it genuinely helps your audience get something they want, it's a good thing to send to your email list.
7. Do a real launch! (but not your final real launch)
- Launch on r/webdev's Showoff Saturday
- Launch on Product Hunt
- Launch on Hacker News (using the Show HN: label)
- Launch to Indie Hackers
- Launch on Twitter to the #buildinpublic community
- Launch to the "indie hacker" Discord and Slack groups you joined earlier (like Weekend Club, Indie Worldwide, WIP, MegaMaker)
8. Now, since your marketing funnel is tight and you know it works, you're guaranteed to get lots of signups
You have an email signup form that promises a "Free guide" or useful resource that's valuable for your community — that way you can add them to your email funnel that ends with asking for a Sign up or sale EVEN IF they don't sign up for the full product.
You have headlines that address an actual problem they have and promise a solution as if in their own words.
You've solved the early bugs reported by your early test users and created something that people really love.
9. Now, start preparing for the sequel!
You probably won't achieve product-market fit with just one launch, even if you go through all these steps. But you'll acquire a lot of happy users. Use their feedback to improve the product even more.
10. Launch again 3-6 months after the original launch with a version 2.0 that solves the 1-2 main issues that your first group of users ran into
Btw, I wrote a really popular thread on Twitter about Building a Product in Public that you might also enjoy!