We all have great ideas and we're all sure of the success of our next project right? Because nobody else does it this way, it's unique, revolutionary and bound to succeed. If your mind never stops whispering in this manner like mine does then you know what I'm talking about. I can't recall how many failed releases I've done over the years just because of a lack of proper structure, a discipline that is no longer optional.
Tens of thousands of websites are launched every day, all being projects trying to skyrocket a great idea, just like yours. It's a hellish purgatory with impenetrable walls from which we all struggle to get out of. Some do it by pouring millions, others by pure luck and most of them by work and dedication. I'm not a millionaire and I sure don't expect luck to strike me so, in this article, I'll focus on work and dedication.
"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some, are given a chance to climb. They refuse, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is."
Despite being exceptionally hard to make it with few resources I truly believe that anything can work, provided it receives the right amount of “grooming”. Sturgeon's law says that 99% of everything is crap which, in our case, I will refer to as the ones that never make it out of purgatory, not necessarily because their idea was bad but because they lacked a proper strategy. To me, this is encouraging. I know for a fact that, with enough struggle, almost everything can succeed.
I'm going to dive right in. From idea to a successful launch, here's my “bible” that I now follow rigorously.
1. Research your market, validate your idea
I know I said everything can be made into a success but it's harder when the competition is in big numbers. Do your research and validate your idea. If you decide to keep going, study your competition on their forums and public support pages in an attempt to gather as much intel as possible. Make a list with everything they lack or perform poorly. You will want to target things that people complain about and make sure you will address those issues in your project. Write down the links where people complain because you just found your first customers there.
2. Prepare your brand, logos, materials and engage
I know, you don't have a website now. You don't need it yet. It's time to create a social media presence and engage with your target audience. You will do this daily and you will participate in discussions, like, repost and re-tweet interesting stuff from influential people. This will grab their attention, some of them will follow you and you will have the opportunity to get a little personal there. You don't need a lot of work here, not at this stage anyway as we're not looking to burnout.
I'm going to share a tool with you that I'm using. It's for twitter alone but there are similar ones that work with other social media websites.
This is audiense and it allows you to do some really smart things in order to engage on twitter and gain followers. If you look in the screenshot, I searched twitter for users that have stated in their bio that they do freelance writing. A staggering number of 50,000 users were found. This is my audience, these are the people that I want to engage with and I just did a simple search to gather all of them in a list. Using the filters I will eliminate the inactive ones, I will select to show only those that have a good ratio of following vs followed and I will order them by the number of followers descending. I want people that follow back at this stage. Press SHIFT and start clicking on each in that list to add them to your friends list.
Twitter has a limit on how many you can follow per day which is about 2000 I believe. Then they have a limit that prevents you from following new people if your number of followers is low in comparison with how many you follow so you will hit that limit in your first day and then rest. Watch your account grow for a few days. After a week, go back and do some cleaning by removing the ones who didn't follow you back. Add new ones and keep cycling this process. Do it now, do it daily because you will need these people when launching.
Think of a few smart little posts and either schedule them or post daily to keep them engaged. One or two each day, that's 10 minutes of your time but it will pay off. Use hashtags and direct mentions if applicable. Target influential people with your messages and see if you can grab their attention. Re-tweet them when they post. Add a bit of personal touch and remember: “the best compliment someone could give you is to copy you”. They will see you eventually. Do this daily with the influential users.
3. Create a landing page and make sure you have a subscribe form
You don't have the product yet but yes, I urge you to create a landing page that explains clearly what it is you will be releasing and do your best to explain why they need it. Make sure you have a working form on your landing page that allows them to subscribe to your list so you can blast when you launch. Put that form in a place where it is always visible. Email marketing still dominates and a big list will almost ensure your success. I recommend MailChimp for its intuitive interface, powerful features and ease of use but you should have no problems setting up a list anywhere else.
After starting your work on creating your project, make sure to keep in touch and send to this list a few updates with your application's progress. You need them to remember who you are and not unsubscribe. At the bottom of each email place your contact info and ask for feedback, encourage replies.
4. Create a slideshow and/or a presentation video
This one is really important. This material will be the business card of your website. You will put it in your email signature, forum signature, in your blog, your website and everywhere possible.
People have a short attention span. We're bombarded with information and nobody has time to read your article in order to discover what your project is about. A 1-minute video or 20 slides presentation is like a highway. On every website I visit, if they have a short presentation video, in 99.9% of cases, I will play that video instead of finding my way through their application so it's absolutely important that you squeeze out at least one material of this sort.
Even if you don't have a product yet. You will use this tactic to lure them into your landing page. That's almost a guaranteed subscriber if they saw your video and navigated to your website.
5. Create a blog next to your landing page and start writing.
If you're not a good writer, hire someone else to do it for you. You can go by really cheap on websites like iWriter. Make sure the content is original and unique, don't shoot yourself in the foot here. You need search engine love here not penalties. Write at least one article per week. Spellcheck, do grammar check and use our editor for the final, more advanced touch.
That presentation video should be present on each page of your blog along with the subscribe form. Every channel and every flow of visitors must be converted somehow otherwise you're wasting time for nothing and you will fail with your launch.
Write lists, write tutorials, do guest posts on related blogs (linking back to your website) and write about your progress.
Research before writing. Research long-tail keywords for your title because it's easier to get traffic. Don't go for big keywords straight off the bat because you don't have the required authority to compete yet and you won't appear on search engines top results. Each article must be carefully researched before being written. Start with the right keyword and then write about it.
Writing articles is a grueling task but it is really rewarding in the long run because it makes for a steady stream of visitors, a stream that you can rely upon for years to come without any future investments. This is your passive “income” really.
6. Make a list with blogs on the same niche
Go for the big guys. Most of them are relying on new content to post and are always in search of new things. Subscribe to their content and try to be a presence in their comment section. You only need 4 or 5 blogs that have good traffic to participate on. Be a presence and get personal, be positive, make compliments and allow them to know you.
7. Create a closed beta
Create a closed beta version of your product and get in touch with your most influential people from social media, the bloggers that you kept in touch with and with your mailing list. Do your final pitch and engage with them by offering access to your beta. Make it extremely easy to signup, this is important. Also, make sure your beta users can invite their peers as well. You don't want to miss the potential of going viral, do you?
There is something psychological about closed betas. You will have a higher rate of success inviting people because it makes them feel special, it's something that only they have access to.
8. Final step, do it loud!
Time to open the doors. Go on and post your url to all major news aggregators. I recommend at least going to:
Once you posted, get the urls of those submissions and write to your email subscribers announcing your launch. In the ending of your email, ask them to “help out” by upvoting your stories on those websites. Do the same with your social media contacts. Send some direct messages to those influential people I kept mentioning asking them to share your page. Keep posting by recycling at every hour. Keep in mind that the lifespan of a twitter story is only about 15 to 18 minutes so you need to be very active during your first days to make sure nobody misses it.
Create some unique articles and ask the bloggers you befriended at step 6 and ask them to submit it to their blog. Don't make it spammy or sound like a shameless self-promotion. Add value and they will post it.
I would say you're done but you never will. You need to keep repeating most of the steps during the lifetime of your project. Keep growing your audience and you will succeed.
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