You've most likely spent weeks, months, or perhaps years on planning the launch of your small business. Finally, your product or service is just about ready to enter the world, and you're excited enough to think that maybe you should go ahead and push the big red "Launch" button on your startup. After all, the bulk of your business is good to go, so the rest of it must be too, right?
Wrong. What you're selling may be the next big thing, but it won't matter until you've solidified your brand's values, rallied a culture around your company, educated people about your industry, and gained a decent amount of credibility. These seven to-do tasks will take your business from "good enough" to "ready to go" in no time at all.
1. Delegate the busywork.
The monotonous part of starting a business can be tiresome enough to deter any entrepreneur from getting the work done--especially when there are much more important and exciting startup tasks to focus on instead. Rather than concentrating your time and energy on the dull and dreary, free up some of your resources by letting someone take care of the busywork for you. Freelancer allows business owners to find administrative, customer service, IT, and artistic freelancers and assign them tasks on an as-needed basis, reducing the stress and responsibility that comes with finding an employee.
Conversely, the "business in a box" by Hopscratch provides everything you need to start a business and help it succeed, including business formation, a starter website, proper accounting software, customized business cards, an EIN, and all the necessary legal paperwork. With its lifetime entrepreneurial support, Hopscratch takes the hassle out of remembering complex web passwords and when to file company taxes. Finally, you can focus on the fun parts of launching a business, like building valuable customer relations and earning exciting PR opportunities.
2. Solidify your brand's values.
What does your business stand for? Simply put, what does it aim to do? Business owners should be capable of concisely conveying their companies' spirit and responsibilities to the public; doing so strengthens their companies' presence in the community. The startup story you share with others should not only provide solid takeaways but also inspire people to believe in your central mission. You should comprehensively brand your business online.
If you're struggling to engage others when you talk about your business, you may want to sharpen your storytelling skills and grow familiar with your brand's core values. According to Chris Smith of The Campfire Effect, it's "crucial that you know your brand story, because it will definitely help you increase revenue and build credibility by helping you develop powerful storytelling skills." Solidifying your brand's core values helps you easily explain what your business stands for (or what your role is within it) to anyone, from the entrepreneurial expert to the average layman. This type of skilled storytelling plays an important role in leaving behind a good impression of your brand, which generates trust and word of mouth later on.
3. Rally an online following.
An entrepreneur simply can't maximize his or her success without having a virtual landing spot and an online following. Maintaining a highly involved, almost tribe-like following online persuades people new to your business to hop on the hip new bandwagon--plus, it offers them a community in which to do so. Looking for content for your blog or landing page? Do you need to provide your following with irresistible e-books or comprehensive guides? Companies like Growth Geeks provide profiles for a number of content writers who can be hired at a simple flat rate. Though they offer diverse services, or "gigs," they specialize in those that optimize effective digital marketing.
Implementing captivating content, whether in the form of a blog, webinar, e-book, or other medium, drastically improves your company's ability to reach its target audience. Effective content marketing also helps drive traffic through your purchasing funnel. Generating powerful content on a regular basis, however, is next to impossible when a hundred other tasks are demanding your attention. ClearVoice allows business owners from all industries to focus on more entrepreneurial matters while its experienced creative minds generate blog content; its marketplace platform enables you to build influencer teams.
In a world that so prominently exists online, it's important to maintain consistency on the Web--but doing so can distract from other crucial startup duties, resulting in a delayed launch and less effective social media marketing. $99 Social completely takes over a company's social media responsibilities for only $99 a month, freeing up a great deal of time for the entrepreneur while ensuring every status update, tweet, and photo gets uploaded at prime times. Even if your product or service hasn't officially been released yet, it's important to rally a considerable following to give your business clout and credibility once it's up and running.
4. Boost the excitement around your upcoming launch.
Social media marketing is a great way to hype your business, but it isn't the only way. Build up the buzz through captivating giveaways, competitions, coupons, and other campaigns that will give your company context in hundreds (or hopefully thousands) of potential patrons' lives. You no longer have to be a design or coding genius to create high-quality campaigns--with a service like Gleam, you can create responsive, user-driven media galleries, colorful pop-ups, and eye-catching elective coupons for your company's website.
Additions like these help give your product or service a sense of urgency and scarcity before it's even released, which encourages more people to be on your email list, enter your sweepstakes, download your free virtual product, and participate in your contests. The more people you have to celebrate your business's commencement, the higher your initial sales will spike upon opening.
5. Create a prelaunch page.
Prelaunch webpages play multiple roles: a point of reference before your website is ready; a place to explain your product or service without overwhelming depth; and a spot for people to get on your email list. If your startup's website is already up and running, consider making the homepage a place where visitors can learn about your company (so they can share the information with their friends) and find you on social media and email (so they can stay up-to-date on your product or service).
Without a prelaunch or official landing page, web visitors will get the impression that your company is underdeveloped or not available to the general public. Websites like Launchrock specialize in helping business owners and creative thinkers make prelaunch landing pages in a snap. Remember: A convincing landing page not only informs, but also makes visitors feel personally involved in your company's central purpose.
6. Run beta tests and quizzes.
Beta testing your product or service is a great way to gradually introduce it to the public while receiving helpful hints on how to improve it for official launch. Though this often occurs in the early stages of starting a business, it can be helpful to beta test closer to launch to make final touches on your product or service and learn how to most efficiently market it. If your product or service is physically tangible and mainly available in real space, you can benefit from taking samples of your target demographic and testing the product through focus groups (but make sure you offer a small incentive, like cash, a gift card, or a free product or service session). If it's virtual, like a smartphone application or a cool new software, you can use websites like Centercode, Betabound, and Applause to gain valuable opinions of your product and recommendations based on its performance.
If your product or service has already been released to the public, consider collecting honest feedback through consumer quizzes. Integrating quizzes into your company's website (or even its social media pages) helps you get to know your visitors and situate your business in their personal and professional lives. Sites like LeadQuizzes help you generate interactive assessments that can be embedded just about anywhere. With the right platform, your business can expand its email list, promote or receive feedback on products, and examine clients' opinions on customer service in just a few clicks.
7. Build up credibility.
A great way to get your foot in the entrepreneurial door before your startup launches is by guest-writing for niche blogs, e-magazines, newsletters, and other publications. This is a free (and occasionally paid) route to publicly claiming your expertise while spotlighting your brand and explaining what you do differently from the rest in your industry. Not only will you appear to be more of an expert in your field, but your work will provide backlinks to your company's website and generate awareness about what you do. Here are some good tips for becoming a writer for a major publication. This has helped me build credibility and get the word out about my business.
Try reaching out to popular niche blogs or e-mags you've shown a bit of love to in the past and offering to write a guest article on a relevant topic (offer a few choices). If you don't know where to start or have exhausted all of your options, you can join Help a Reporter Out, or HARO, which connects industry authorities with journalists looking for sources on particular subjects. You can also boost credibility by responding to aspiring entrepreneurs' questions on Quora (as long as you stay within your area of expertise).
Launching your startup will be exhilarating, but it's a good idea to work on prelaunch buzz, testing, and excitement (you'll be glad you did). What extra steps did you take before launching your startup? What do you wish you had done prelaunch?