Hundreds of thousands of people are waiting in line digitally to try out a new email application called Mailbox. I’m one of them.
Eager nerds buzz about wearable technology that almost no one can get their hands on.
And smaller companies like mine have built interest via initiatives like an Indiegogo campaign, or through press mentions on Fast Company, PandoDaily, and Springwise.
As someone who came from the advertising and marketing field to the startup world, I’ve encountered a really bizarre trend. Young companies are very reluctant marketers in the early days—especially when it comes to creating buzz before they release their product. Other than the occasional Launchrock page, I don’t see a lot of startups going after press, building up evangelists, and guest blogging BEFORE their launch.
The examples above seem to be rare strategic moves by tech companies. The idea of “giving up too much information” or “setting expectations you might not meet” are fears that I suspect stop the majority of startups from marketing and getting PR for their product prior to launch. But I believe the value in doing so far outweighs the risk. A few considerations:
1. Getting press for your product pre-launch is a great market test.
Read the comments. Count the retweets. Listen to reporters who tell you they won’t write about your company pre-launch, and why. A positive reaction from potential customers may confirm you’re on the right track. Negative commentary or crickets might mean you’re building something that isn’t solving a big enough—or the right—problem. Would you rather look stupid early on, or after you’ve spent half a million dollars?
2. Build evangelists when you have time.
Sure, your head is down working on the release of your product—but if you think you’re going to have more time after launch, you’re dead wrong. Build up a community of people who are excited before you need them. Then when it’s time to spread the word of all the great features and partnerships, you’ll have people ready to amplify your efforts.
3. Get sales before you have something to sell.
Many people look at platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo as fundraising mechanisms. They can be that, but most of the successful campaigns see large numbers because they’re actually taking orders for a product or service. People typically don’t just donate to startups as if they are charities. They still want a value exchange. Before your product is released, crowdfunding can be a powerful means to make sure you have hundreds of customers on your first day of launch.
Don’t worry about competitors, haters, patent-trolls, or anyone else who tells you to stay in “stealth mode” until you’ve launched. Very few of us are really selling anything original; we’re just packaging it in new ways using new technologies. So, make a great product and start selling yourselves and your company as early as possible.