How I Promote My Start-up—Even Before I Launch
My first entrepreneurial venture was Your Career Is An Extreme Sport, a career-advice book I wrote in 2007. In addition to reporting and writing the book, I was pretty much solely responsible for promotion, marketing and sales. (The publisher handled distribution.)
I did just about everything wrong that time around. But I'm using what I learned to do a better job with FamiliesGo!
I'm talking up my product before it's ready
When my book hit the shelves I walked into my local Barnes & Noble to propose a reading from a 'local author". So naïve.
A staffer told me the store plans readings months in advance, wouldn't be able to schedule anything with me for half a year, and, at that point, wouldn't be interested in a reading for a book that by then would be out for six months. Ooops.
This time, I'm not waiting. I threw up Facebook and Twitter pages while I was still interviewing designers for the website. I'm blogging. And I've been reaching out to app developers, makers of children's travel products, and people at other parent-centric websites and services—all those with whom I think FamiliesGo! could develop joint products or relationships for advertising and cross-marketing.
Of course, it's challenging to get the site built while I'm so busy promoting it. But for the time being, a little delay (which is inevitable) allows me to lay that much more groundwork.
I'm reaching out to the media
My publisher, Adams Media, did get Your Career Is An Extreme Sport covered in Publisher's Weekly and landed me one or two newspaper interviews. But my best press came from colleagues. It makes sense one of the most valuable things a journalist brings to the table on any new project is access to other journalists as well as an innate understanding of what appeals to and what repels reporters. I should have done more direct outreach.
This time, I have my own growing media list—including travel, parenting, and small business writers and editors. And I have a list of target publications where I still need to turn up good contacts. I've sourced names from people who follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. And I pay attention to articles in magazines like Parents that are relevant to what I'm doing. When I find a good story, I search Google to find the writer's other work—to confirm it is typical of what he does and that he might indeed be receptive to news from FamiliesGo!
I can over time introduce myself to these journalists and build relationships. I can let them know what FamiliesGo! is and how it's progressing. I can offer myself up as an expert source on family travel topics and I can pitch myself to editors as a family travel writer. I can even issue well-written and hopefully informative press releases now and again—but not too often. I know first-hand that reporters don't like being inundated.
I'm seeking out my audience
Ideal audiences for my book included people who participate in extreme sports and business-school graduate and undergraduate students. I should have found ways to engage them. Social networks would have been ideal, but my book came out four years ago and at the time I didn't appreciate their (free) reach and versatility, and had no idea how to use them as a promotional platform.
Luckily, parents are by now as wired as their kids (perhaps more so, judging by the number of parents I know who somehow make time to play Farmville). So I'm reaching out to them where they are. I've connected with local parenting organizations around the country; I blog for them and lurk on their message boards to answer travel questions when I can. I try to provide value to traveling parents with my posts on Twitter.
When I tell a parent I meet at a three-year-old's birthday party about FamiliesGo! I usually hear two things: What a headache it was to plan a last vacation and what would be ideal on my website. I listen closely to the second part and have gotten some strong ideas that way.
For example, one parent told me that when she reads consumer reviews on a website like TripAdvisor she always looks to see where the reviewer lives (she only trusts travelers from big cities). I rushed home and added a 'hometown' space to my own template for hotel reviews.