Launching a startup is one of the scariest, yet most pivotal moments in the life of an entrepreneur. It is a time when all of the research, testing, planning, and dreaming is finally put to the test.
Estimates say that just about half of all startups will fail after the first few years. For this reason, the next few weeks after the launch is a critical period that indicates to business owners (and others) whether or not the company will last. While a less-than-stellar beginning is certainly not a sure sign of failure down the road (take Airbnb’s multiple launches as an example), a strong start is obviously the ideal scenario.
Coming out of the gate red hot will undoubtedly help entrepreneurs build the confidence they need to keep a startup going. But, this does not just happen by accident. Like everything in a startup, a successful launch requires an incredible amount of planning and strategy.
Other than the regular due diligence and processes that you put in place to make sure your startup’s launch goes off smoothly, there are a few unique but potentially successful strategies and ideas you could consider…
1. Pop-up shops
Hosting a pop-up shop is a great opportunity for startups, because it gives them a chance to meet their customers face-to-face and attempt to get a head start on brand recognition and loyalty. These temporary store fronts are great for generating buzz and introducing new customers to a brand, especially if the company mainly exists online. What’s more, these events can be extremely lucrative, with pop-up retailers revealing that they have collectively made over $10 billion in sales.
Pop-ups create a unique experience that invites people to be part of an exclusive event, so it should feel special. Since this is most likely one of the first introductions that your company will have with customers, it is important to get the branding right. Clearly display your logo and products throughout the space, and make sure that it is very clear to new customers what exactly your business is or does.
The space itself does not have to be elaborate or expensive; it can be something as simple as a booth in a retail spot or as complex as a fully renovated space. The key is to value the interaction and the experience it provides to customers. Focus on making it fun, informative, and engaging; make full use of tactics like free samples, giveaways, or fun photo ops.
2. Guerilla marketing
Guerilla marketing may sound a little odd, and truthfully, that’s kind of the point. This marketing strategy is all about creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. While many big brands have created huge installments that cost big bucks, it is actually quite a cost-effective way for small startups to get their name out there.
Guerilla marketing is more about building brand visibility than selling a particular product. For instance, handing out or installing distinctive merchandise at an event is a guerilla tactic because it is pushing a brand, more than an item. Better, if your brand advocates can wear this merchandise or use it publicly at a later time, it creates a fantastic advertising opportunity at a very low cost.
Creating art pieces like (legal) graffiti or cleverly placed advertisements are other ways to make your brand stand out. Here is a phenomenal example from Mr. Clean:
By using this type of unorthodox, non-traditional marketing, your startup can build powerful brand recognition through some one-of-a-kind tactics. Such advertising takes some above-average creativity, but it will certainly help your startup stand out from the crowd.
3. User-driven content
Creating and distributing content that customers actually find useful and relevant is an essential step for success down the road. While capturing customer data is important in all stages of business, doing so during the first few months and crafting targeted content based on this data is a great way to help find your footings early on.
This is a time for true first-impressions, and when you’re just starting your trade, customers do not likely have any previous biases or perception about your brand.
You can start with something as simple as taking pictures of customers handling your products at the launch for user-based visual content. These images can be used on your website and social media.
Whether your startup is hosting a pop-up event, opening a permanent location, or launching a website, make sure that you have the tools in place to collect consumer data that can be used later on.
Investing in a smart point-of-sale to collect consumer data will give you a huge advantage here. An online-offline integrated POS system will record data like email addresses, purchase habits, and preferences, which you can then use for personalized marketing campaigns. You can also do long-term market research, and gather first-party information or sales trends to help your team get to know your industry and customers even better.
In order to get the most out of your business’s first few months, you need to have a sustainable plan that will guide you through the intimidating launch stage. By using this time to build strong brand recognition and recall, industry associations, marketing processes, and customer datasets, you can carry the momentum into a sustainable future.
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