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Launching Your Startup: The Reality (Part II)

So what can you do to prepare for your launch? Here are some concrete suggestions:

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So what can you do to prepare for your launch? Here are some concrete suggestions:

  • Get out of stealth mode early – Unless you have some idea that is completely steal-able and you need to launch and grab market share quickly, or if your founders are household brand-names, ditch the “stealth-mode” thing. Most startups stay in stealth mode way beyond the time they should. You got funding? You are working on your product/service? You have a release date on the horizon (less than 12 months out)? Then scrap the stealth mode posture. You will have a much bigger problem getting your message out and getting people to notice you, than you will with people stealing your ideas.

  • Locate and engage with the analysts from day-one. You need to understand how the market makers look at the market, so that you can figure out how you fit into the big picture. As much as you think your idea is special, it is rare that it will change an analyst’s view of the world. Far smarter is it to figure out how you fit into their world by extending, modifying, or even negating their world outlook. Start by engaging with them to give them your story. ALWAYS allocate a lot of time to getting their feedback (more on briefing analysts in another post). Do this every quarter. That way, when you are ready to launch, they know who you are and the next step is pretty simple. If they like your idea, you might even get a quote or referral from them. By the way, if there is an analyst who covers your space exactly, it might make sense to engage with them on a project. Some analysts will help with a half-day strategy session, a write a white paper, or will participate in a webinar. This could be money well-spent, if the analyst is influential in your market.

  • Become part of the blogosphere in your area far before you release your product – by becoming a “trusted source” of good information before you launch, it will be easier to get your message through once you launch. Be careful here. You must be sincere and be willing to truly participate. Any efforts to “snow the bloggers” and just use the channel to push out product/service announcements will make you persona non-grata very quickly. Don’t do this if you aren’t sincere about really being part of the community. And realize this is time-consuming and requires you to put some skin in the game.

  • Attend conferences and exhibitions before you launch – be active, getting speaking engagements, become an expert in your space, before you have a product to plug.

  • Work with a PR agency to build a strategy early – contrary to conventional wisdom, don’t save your money when it comes to PR early on. It will take at least 3 months to get a firm up to speed. (I will offer advice for how to pick a PR firm in another post). I am not sure how much they will help you with strategy, but they can help you translate your message to language and trends that interest the press. Then, then they will map your messages to key journals, reporters, and bloggers. They will even be able to help you “prime the pump” by doing an exclusive “pre-release” with a key journalist.

  • Identify the venue that you will use to launch – picking the right vehicle for launch and planning the event is key. It might be a conference, a promotion, a PR stunt, etc., but it must be significant. Merely putting out a press release with a new product announcement, regardless of how many superlatives you add, will go nowhere.

In short, a launch is a multi-faceted, multi-channel event that must be planned out far in advance and it must address multiple channels. Next post, I will cover planning the launch event itself.

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About the author

A technology strategist for an enterprise software company in the collaboration and social business space. I am particularly interested in studying how people, organizations, and technology interact, with a focus on why particular technologies are successfully adopted while others fail in their mission. In my 'spare' time, I am pursuing an advanced degree in STS (Science, Technology, and Society), focusing on how social collaboration tools impact our perceptions of being overloaded by information. I am an international scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.

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