Over the past week or so YC companies in my batch have begun launching in anticipation of Demo Day. Congratulations, your startup is in the news! Now what?
I’ve done 3 company launches and more than a dozen product launches, and contributed to many more. Through those experiences one of the most important things I’ve discovered is that what you do in the hours after launch is crucially important to maximizing the impact and total reach of your news coverage.
Not only did you spend an incredible amount of effort building the product you just launched, but preparing the news coverage from pitch to publish probably cost the equivalent of $10,000 to $15,000 in time (or money if you used a PR agency). Don’t go to bed. Don’t leave your desk. You’re on a mission – for this one day everyone on your team is either part of marketing or part of customer support. As far as “talk to customers” goes this is the ULTIMATE DAY for that.
Your Mission on Launch Day
Keep the website up, which really shouldn’t be hard anymore for 99% of companies, and get every possible eyeball you can back on your website.
What You Should Be Doing (TLDR version)
- Monitor traffic with Google Analytics realtime
- Get it on Hacker News and get the comments flowing
- Make your own company blog post
- Send out an email to any existing users
- Send out an email to friends, family, and existing/potential investors
- Customer support emails
- engage with people on Twitter
- share on your personal Facebook
- Update/make a Facebook page
- Comment Section on the news coverage
Not having a professional marketer is no excuse – this is a simple checklist of items and anyone can do them by simply taking it step by step. No professional marketing title or skills are required, just some writing chops and a passionate love for your customer.
Not sure how to start, what to do, or how much time they should take? This detailed guide will give you some answers to get you started.
Launch Timeline from T-0 minutes til Coverage
Monitor traffic (Immediately)
I highly recommend Google Analytics realtime because you should already have Google Analytics running on your website and its easy for everyone on your team to use. Project it on the wall or have it take over a monitor if you can. Keep an eye on traffic sources to see new places where people might be discussing the news and driving traffic back to you.
Get it on Hacker News (Launch +10 Minutes)
There are many ways to do this and I could dedicate an entire post to how to leverage Hacker News – but the most important thing is that you should not have your entire team vote from the same IP address or you will trigger the voting ring detector. The lowest effort highest reward tactic for this first news story is to ask for votes via Facebook chat and Instant Messenger, and get the comments flowing.
Share on your personal Facebook (Launch +30 Minutes)
Get the entire team to share on their personal FB pages, this improves the edgerank of the link when it gets shared on your Facebook page.
Make your own company blog post (Launch +45 Minutes)
Don’t have a company blog? Now you do. Get one on WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous, etc. and get a post out. You’ll need to switch over to something more permanent on your own domain but this is fine for now. Don’t forget to hook up Google Analytics to your blog. Your post should be unique from the news, not a sales pitch, and offer unique insight into your company and vision. Give it an eye-catching title and post it to Hacker News as soon as traffic starts to die off for the original news story.
Bonus points: share pictures of the team, screenshots of early iterations that have never been seen before, and mention if you are hiring.
Engage with people on Twitter (Launch +1 Hour)
Make sure to retweet the official tweet from the publications who cover you, in the order in which their stories go out if there are multiple. After that check out who retweets it and try to engage them. A simple “Thanks for helping spread the word about our launch!” tweet is fine, although you should try to make each tweet unique. Also engage in any more substantive conversations about your launch/product/company taking place.
If you see people with very large follower counts tweeting about you, make sure to pay special attention to them – they could be your next whale customer and can drive hundreds of additional visits per tweet.
Send out an email to any existing users (Launch +2 Hours)
Whether you have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of existing users make sure they get to share in the fun and thank them for helping you get to where you are. This is also a great time to focus the email on a single call to action: “come back and kick the tires, we want your feedback”.
Haven’t sent any email marketing out? You can use MailChimp or Campaign Monitor to make beautiful email templates in minutes, without any HTML/CSS.
Update/make a Facebook Page (Launch +2.5 Hours)
Its time. List your company as a business, upload your logo and invite all your friends to like the page. Add a Facebook like button to your website if you can. Post links to all the news cover, screenshots, and anything else you think they’ll find interesting.
Send out an email to friends, family, and existing/potential investors (Launch +3 Hours)
Keep a list of people who are supporting you and your cofounders and helping your startup. This list should include your parents, family members who still don’t believe this is a real job, other press who didn’t cover the story but who are friendly to you in general, existing and potential investors, advisors, high value customers and anyone whose influence could help you build this into a much bigger business. These are your VIP insiders – make them feel special by providing your own color commentary on the launch and letting them know how their support has played a role in getting the company this far.
Customer support emails (Launch +4 Hours)
Hopefully you’ve already got support@ or help@ your domain set up. If not, get it and hook it up to Zendesk or some other dead simple email support tool you can use to manage the influx of support requests. You’ll probably need to divvy up the requests across the entire team and respond to them fast and furious if you want to keep up.
This is some of the best customer development there is. After launch is over be sure to go back and read through all the tickets.
Monitor Comment Section on the news coverage (Whenever, Maybe Never)
No one reads comments except for people who love you and want to support you, and haters. Like and thank people for positive comments, and ignore the trolls.
After Its All Over
Usually your news will break between 6am and 9am Pacific Time, and resonate with readers throughout the day. You will see a lot of traffic during lunch hour on the East Coast and again on the West Coast. It will begin to taper off around 6pm Pacific Time.
Doing Support in Shifts
The best case scenario is that your launch is so huge that support tickets are coming in so fast and furious that you aren’t sure when it will end. You may not have slept for days, and you can feel your tact and grammar slipping and its been 10-12 hours since launch. Assess your team and the volume, and depending on size and exhaustion level you have to FORCE someone to go to sleep (in the same building, do NOT let them go home you will not get them back).
You will have to force them because everyone will be running on adrenaline. You will really really regret it if you don’t do this. Sleep in 3-4 hour shifts throughout the day if you have to, but get sleep or you will hit a wall as a team and if something breaks you might be mentally incapable of fixing it.
Clean up bugs, the office, and your face. Encourage everyone to sleep and not get burned out. Gather the team together and thank them for a job well done – mean it and make sure to sell the vision to your teammates at this crucial moment.
Team dinner and post mortem
Spend time together, raise some glasses and eat some seriously nourishing food. Talk about the fun, the highs, the lows, and get ready to do it all again.