Why a Big PR Hit is Not a Launch Strategy

Last night I was talking to a start-up about their launch strategy.  Minutes into the conversation – as it would with most tech start-ups – TechCrunch came up.  But it was the opposite of what I expected: pitching TechCrunch was not part of their go-to-market plan.

Their mentor had recently told them about his company’s launch when they were featured in TechCrunch, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  Holy shit.  Talk about homerun media coverage.  But guess what happened?  Nothing.   No new customers.  Just a big bump in website traffic and a few sign-ups.

The “TechCrunch” effect has been written about recently – but it was interesting to hear it in-person from a company planning their launch.  And it’s not just start-ups – big companies are guilty of this too when they launch new products and features.  Getting a big hit in a top tier publication and the website traffic that can come with it is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a launch strategy.

So what is? Focusing on the things that will benefit your business long-term.  That conversation was a great reminder of some of the things businesses can focus on right now – even if a launch is months down the road:

  1. Have a great product experience.  Seems obvious right? Then how come so many companies keep coming out with things that don’t?  I bet I’m not alone in saying this: I use at least one terrible product a day (looking at you expense report software).
  2. Nail your value proposition and messaging.  This one doesn’t have to be complicated.  Don’t worry about the fancy marketing language – you can always fix/tweak/test/optimize/change it.  Sit down at a white board and write out answers to these three questions:  Who is it for? What does it do/how? Why is it different?
  3. Start creating content.  Blog posts, best practices, eBooks, etc.  But don’t give it all away for free – gate your best stuff so you can get someone’s email address in exchange for a download.  Imagine having leads you can nurture and keep engaged without even having a product?  That’ all possible through creating great content.
  4.  Start building relationships with the media.  Here’s something a PR firm won’t tell you:  journalists would rather talk to you, 1:1, then deal with anyone from a PR firm.  PR is all about relationships.  They are writing about your industry – you work in the industry.  You already have something in common! It’s like dating: reach out and break the ice.  Send a quick introduction email.  Comment on one of their articles.  Hell, even just give them a RT.  But don’t pitch your product – just start building a relationship (I know it will be tempting, but don’t do it.)  This way, when the time is right and you have something real to talk about, your email will get opened and/or your call will get answered.  Then it’s your turn to tell your company’s story.

A big PR hit can be a great catalyst for website traffic and sign-ups, but it’s definitely not a strategy.  Following these four things not only help give you the best chance at nailing it on launch day, but they will set you up for marketing success down the road.

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