Posts Categorized: Marketing

Five Ideas to Make a Product Launch a Smashing Success


They say you only launch once, and for startups, it’s essential to get that launch right. This isn’t just launching your company, which is important. It’s putting your product out into the world with the goal of winning real users, real feedback, and hopefully real revenues!

Here are five ideas to help you make the most of any product launch, whether it’s your first or your 100th.

1)      Hold a soft launch first. 

Don’t worry about telling the whole world when your product first comes out. You can have a big launch announcement later. Hold a soft launch first, invite your friends, family, colleagues, etc. to try it out. Their feedback may help you fine tune your product so that you can have a BIG LAUNCH later on.

2)      Focus on 1-2 essential features.

Sure you want your product to be as well-developed as possible, but don’t waste time building every single feature and making your product mean something to everyone. When your product can do at least one thing that it promises exceptionally well, then it’s time to think about launching.

3)      Create a sense of exclusivity.

Remember the days when getting an invite to be a beta tester for a hot new product was cool? Well, those days are long gone (generally speaking). Instead, today exclusivity can come in the form of a value add, such as giving a steep discount to early users (or even making your product free for users who sign up early).

4)      Focus on your core audience.

Sure, we all want everyone to use our amazing app, but startups need to be realistic: not everyone is going to automatically love, want or need your product. Instead, focus on the people who will really love your product and can ultimately turn into your best brand ambassadors.

5)      Throw an awesome launch party!

Invite everyone you know. Invite the media. Invite some well-known, highly visible speakers. Do whatever it takes to make it a spectacle, but also fun!

Of course, there are a lot of things you can do to make your launch a smashing success. Note that we didn’t mention writing and sending a press release. That seems like a no-brainer, of course, so we didn’t list it here. But if you need help with that, there’s always our Rocket Packs for Startups, or call us at 443-326-3444 to schedule a brainstorming session!

What to look for in a CMO


The other day, a prospective client asked us what they should look for in a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). This prospective client is a very early-stage startup, but one with very big and ambitious plans. They have a fairly detailed business plan, and the founder/CEO only recently pulled the trigger and quit a full-time gig to run his startup. They’re pre-revenue, only have a rudimentary version of their product, and they are on the hunt for investors to help get them off the ground.

This startup is clearly planning as much as they can, and working to move forward methodically. And at some point, they’re going to need a CMO, and the CEO asked what he should look for. Here’s how we suggest he- and other early-stage startups approach it:

  • Figure out when the time is truly right. You don’t necessarily need a CMO before you’ve developed a product that’s worth selling. You will DEFINITELY most need a CMO when it’s time to scale. Which means you need a solid product, not just an MVP. Hiring too soon might be a waste of precious resources, while hiring too late could be a grave misstep.
  • Look for someone who understands technology. Marketing has become as much about the technology we use as it is about the strategy and the creative. CMOs need to be able to talk to your company’s CTO; they need to understand how your customers are using technology, and then find ways to use those technologies to spread your company’s message. They also need to understand reporting technology. So much is trackable today–there’s so much data available. CMOs don’t necessarily need to know every aspect of every technology, but they do need to have enough understanding to know how to pull things together in order to master all of these facets.
  • Look for someone who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty. Marketing is a team sport. There’s no one person who can possibly do everything, nor are there enough hours in the day. The result is that it’s not uncommon for CMOs to be master delegators. There’s nothing wrong with that–when you’re in a larger organization and your CMO is commanding a large team. When you’re in a startup, though, everyone needs to pitch in and do their part. The CMO who knows how to get stuff done–either individually or through other people–is indeed a rare, valuable find.

NOTE: Even if you’re not ready to hire a CMO, you still need to promote your company! Check out our Rocket Packs for Startups to see how we can help.

Image above of the CMO T-shirt, available for purchase here

Marketing Lessons from the 2012 Election


Two nights ago, the United States’s Presidential election cycle came to a close. For many, the end of the election season is a welcome reprieve from the constant barrage of negative ads, vitriolic debate, and nonstop horse-race coverage.

Now that the winner has been chosen, it’s a great opportunity for marketers to look back at the campaign and see what we can learn. This isn’t intended to be a partisan analysis, and we’ve tried to stay away from any particular partisan viewpoints. After all, as marketers, we need to be able to look at data and campaigns objectively in order to evaluate and learn from them. Here’s what we have taken from the election so far.

  • Big Data has big consequences: Despite pre-election predictions of a very close electoral college race, Obama team’s strategy clearly led to a near blow-out (the popular vote is another story). How did they do it? Big Data. They looked deeply at their voters and how many votes they needed–district by district. This turned out to be an incredibly effective method for reaching audiences that have become almost impossibly fragmented. TV ads alone wouldn’t cut it alone. Knowing detailed information about voters, their interests and many other datapoints, allowed the Obama team to pinpoint their ground game. The result wasn’t just the win, but it was also the precision with which the Obama strategy was put together.
  • Shifting brand positioning overnight can be dangerous: While it’s not unusual for political candidates to play to their base in the primaries and move more to the political center during the general election, that shift needs to make sense. It needs to tell the story of the candidate’s ascendancy. It needs to be an extension of his or her branding, not a wild swing. In the case of Romney, his shift was incredibly dramatic. Many pundits have commented that Romney felt he needed to be very far on the political right to win the primary, which didn’t give him a lot of space to move back to the center during the general. So, to many non-party voters, this seemed like a wild swing, which left them unclear about Romney’s true brand position.
  • Messaging, Messaging, Messaging: If you look back at Obama’s 2008 run, you’ll see that his messaging was incredibly nuanced. While that may or may not have been true this time around, we saw the messaging coming out of the Romney campaign as incredibly sloppy. In fact, we were very, very amused by the Say Anything image that floated around. Moreover, the Obama campaign was able to capitalize on this by painting him a flip-flopper (though not nearly as effectively as Bush did to John Kerry in 2004). The point here is that your brand messaging needs to be precise and consistent. You can’t say one thing one day and something completely different another.
  • When you’re in the public eye, everything you say is public: There were many times when Romney suffered from classic “foot-in-mouth” disease, but perhaps none were more apparent when he made the now infamous 47% comment. Brands, like politicians, need to remember that they are under scrutiny of the public eye 24 x 7, no matter where they are, what they’re doing, or whom they’re talking to. As such, they need to be true to their brand at all times (see our note on messaging).
  • Give your brand away: Whether you’re running for office or you’re running a brand, there’s really no stopping this one. People who love will take your content and make something new out of it, praising you. At the same time, people who don’t love you (or even hate you) are going to do the same thing, only negatively. Brands have to recognize that this is, to some degree, out of their control. The best way to deal with this is to harness the power of your brand supporters and make it easy form to create awesome brand-centric content. If enough people love your brand and are willing to stick up for it, detractors will have a more difficult time tearing it down.

What insights have you gleaned from this election, and how can you apply them?