You’re spending a lazy afternoon with your family, when a brilliant idea suddenly strikes you. Whether it’s an app, a product, a service, or a new way of doing things: if done right, this idea could be the next uber cool thing, and even change the world.
What do you do next? Here’s a guide to getting from a brainwave to a product launch the right way.
1. Choose a name
Once you’ve decided to go ahead with an idea, and assuming you’ve validated your product, the first thing you should do is decide on a name. If you’re not good at this, here are 5 tools that may help.
If you’re having trouble choosing the name for the next big thing, perhaps this article on naming your startup could help.
2. Register a domain and set up social media accounts
Securing a domain name is a very important part of the process. The domain is the online presence of the product, so it’s important a product’s name takes domain name availability into account. You can buy a domain from a domain registrar like GoDaddy or NameCheap. After registering a domain name, you also need to register social media accounts, which you’ll eventually use to help generate a following.
You could head over to NameChk to see whether your desired usernames are available on the main social networks. NameChk also shows you available domains.
3. Make a “coming soon” static site
There will probably be a gap of few months between buying the domain name and launching the product (or at least the MVP). In the meantime, create a static website, which briefly describes your product and shows a countdown timer to the launch (if a date is known).
Once you publicly declare a launch date, you’ll need to work extra hard to make sure that the launch happens on time!
Your coming soon site should have a contact form in case the viewers have questions. If you are wondering how to handle their messages on a static site, you should head over to Brace Forms, which directly emails you the response.
For a static site, you could use a template. However, if you plan to add content, you should give Jekyll a try!
4. Sign Up Beta Users and Referral Marketing
If you have a “coming soon” site, chances are people will just have a quick look at it, close the tab and then totally forget about it, even if they are interested. Therefore, you should give them an option to enter their email address in case they are interested and send them an email when you launch. How do you store emails when you have a static site, you ask? Well, use a service like Prefinary to sign up beta users even with a static site. You could also give them early access for referrals.
Trevolta, a platform to plan crowd funded trips, organized a particularly successful campaign for its launch. The team divided their users into three batches on the basis of the number of referrals. Those with the highest got the earliest access to their private beta, and those on the next batch got access later. Here’s a story on how Trevolta conducted their campaign and what startups are missing out by ignoring referral marketing.
5. Engage with potential users
Just creating the social accounts might not be enough — you need to run them well. Publish regularly on your social accounts and engage with users. For instance, if your big idea is a WordPress plugin, you could publish WordPress related news and tutorials on your site. Pictures and doodles do well also.
You could also start blogging on your personal blog or use a service like Medium to explain your idea to the world, particular aspects of your project, and the progress you are making. It is a good way to turn interested people into potential users.
Another way is to host contests on Facebook and Twitter. Ten Sports, the broadcaster of the UEFA Champions League Final 2014 in the Indian subcontinent, conducted a selfie contest during the event.
6. Assemble a team
Even if you’re a developer, chances are you wouldn’t be able to able to develop your product alone. Therefore, you’ll need to assemble a team to work on your vision and launch the product.
At such an early stage, the members in your team should usually comprise of people you have worked with before, but don’t just ask the first person who comes to your mind — make sure their strengths complement yours and they bring something unique into the team! Lynn LeBlanc, founder of HotLink says that you should only hire people you know, but also stay away from inexperienced college kids.
7. Register for business emails
Once your social accounts and coming soon website are up and running, you should register for business emails. Not only does it look more professional than a default Gmail address, it helps in keeping your personal life separate from work.
Gmail, once upon a time, was free for a limited number of users like Zoho, but now charges for business email. Here’s a look at three alternatives for GMail.
My pick is Zoho Mail, which gets you 5 business emails for free (and upto 15 or 20 free with referrals). You should try it out if you are not looking to spend on business emails initially.
8. Research potential competition
While you are developing your product, it’s a good idea to research your competition. It’s important to know what your competitors are doing and why people would use your product over theirs. If you really want to track them, you have got to go way beyond the Google search.
Not only should you find out the areas where your competitors are lacking, but you should also try to determine who your customers would be. Here’s a detailed article on how to proceed with market analysis.
9. Launch a minimum viable product (MVP)
It usually takes a few months, but you’ll eventually be able to launch the MVP. By launching, I don’t mean just tweeting about it and posting it on Facebook, it goes way beyond that. If you have followed what we have asked you to do, you are probably in a good position already and won’t fail like most product launches do.
You could follow these steps to make the launch perfect, but you should remember that no guidelines are going to align perfectly with your product — it’s something you have to figure out on your own.
Set up a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) module during your product launch to enable the users of your product to report errors and bugs. Here are 5 tools you could use for the task. You should listen to customer criticism and act on it to improve your product.
My picks for CRM solutions are Freshdesk, Zoho or Zendesk, or you could use one of the open source solutions and host it yourself.
10. Beyond the MVP
Get in touch with players in the industry of your big idea — can you find mentors or partners?
Would you require funding for further development and growth? If yes, you need to pitch the idea to investors and accelerators to get in their respective programs. This would give your product the extra push to reach its full potential. Here’s a list of incubators you could apply to.
The MVP launch is a great achievement in itself, but the journey is just getting started.
With this, we come to the end of the exhaustive list of tasks that you should do once you have your big idea. However, that should not deter you from your goal, because if time, money and energy are spent well, the rewards are exponentially large.
Are you working on launching a new product? What are your tips for success?