Launching your company is bound to make you a little nervous and a lot excited. Today, we launched Move Loot nationally, introducing the first full-service furniture marketplace to buyers and sellers across the country. Sounds simple, right? Just turn on the website and - boom - you've launched. I'm sure that's all that went into yesterday's Apple launch event. This, however, is not our first launch, and it won't be our last. It's our 5th to date of hopefully many more to come. Cue Apple: the best example of the repeat-launch out there... except maybe Fashion Week.
Move Loot launch timeline.
"Launching" your company means bringing your product to more people in more places. It's an opportunity to retell the portion of your story that never changes alongside what has, capturing the moment as "news" while using the microphone to really tell the "why". Don't view it as your one shot to get it right or nail the pitch, but rather a building of momentum to tell the world why you're working so hard to solve their problems.
Be passionate, be authentic, and be strategic.
With that, below are a few tips that we've ironed out over time to systematize launches into an ever-improving formula:
1. Set a deadline and stick to it
It will always feel too soon, and there is no way your product will be perfect at launch. But that's exactly why you must set a deadline. When we first launched on October 1, 2013, we were down to the wire but we shipped it before midnight so we could stay true to our deadline. There was no media waiting to run the story or massive customer base waiting to buy, but we pushed hard so we wouldn't get used to missing targets. We have since learned to make the deadline aggressive enough that we have to cut features, but leave at least a few days for QA testing ahead of the go-live. There will inevitably be problems that you'll have to launch with, but those couple of days give you enough time to figure out hacks so that your customers won't feel the difference. Long story short, don't miss your deadlines or you might start getting used to it. Or, even worse, you may get cold feet waiting for the "perfect" launch, which will never come.
2. Establish product and operations "must haves"
Catalog all product and operational requirements for achieving the launch, and then deem someone as the launch PM. Set a timeline and owner against each initiative, noting any dependencies, and establish a normal check-in cadence to stay in sync. One useful trick that we've employed at Move Loot is setting the earliest "fulfillment date" to be a one or two weeks after product launch. This gives our operations team a week of extra due diligence and planning before committing to fulfilling that first order. It may be hard to whittle down to the "must haves," but you'll likely find that you never actually end up building most of the "nice to haves." Limiting the list helps you move quickly and focus on to bigger and better problems after launch, of which there will be many!
3. Build a go-to-market strategy
After product and operations are out of the way, move on to marketing. Go-to-market involves much more than press - it includes paid advertising, partnerships, product marketing, and content. Most importantly, get something down on paper so you don't lose track of all the ideas swirling around. At Move Loot, we then transitioned this early "to do" into a much more thorough pin board to keep it visual and top of mind for the team. As with the product and ops to do's, set a clear timeline and then sync regularly to stay on the same page. Bring in other experts to help, such as PR pros, to get more out of these critical business growth moments.
4. Prepare for it all to go wrong
Launch. Tell the world about what you have to offer. And then clean up to the mess. If you did it right, then you're seeing minor things break all over the place and certain hypotheses being proven or disproven before your very eyes. This is one of the biggest opportunities to test and learn quickly, so don't let your expectations of what the product should have been get in the way of what it is or what it will be. Of course, keep your PR firm and product team on high alert for mitigating the worst case scenarios, but the chances of that happening are very low. Regardless of the outcome, you've learned what your users want (or don't want), and you'll be building a better product tomorrow than you have today. And that is something to be proud of.
5. Don't lose the momentum
Hopefully all has gone according to plan, but - let's be honest - that would be boring and is nearly impossible. Don't let any bumps deflate your team and, more importantly, celebrate the wins so you can keep barreling down the exciting road ahead. Nothing unites a team quite like a launch, and you will want to prepare for a "realignment" afterwards as people get back into the routine of business-as-usual. Try to avoid any slow down by coming out of the gates with clear goals and tactical next steps to keep moving full steam ahead... and straight into the next launch.