It’s 2016 and most startup founders understand the concept of the lean startup methodology. They all seek to build an MVP to test their assumptions and find product market fit. As part of that process startups invariably aim to build a list of pre-launch subscribers to market their product to pre and post launch.
Typically startups aim to do this by tapping their personal network, advertising across digital channels and by submitting their startup to sites that curate companies that are launching soon like BetaList or have a beta program in the works. As one of the startup founder said, using the example of my own startup, Task Pigeon, I first of all sought feedback from my own network, before submitting my site to BetaList. As a transparent startup I even shared the metrics of our campaign in a recent blog post. You can find one more detailed review.
What happens post user acquisition however is typically an area where startups fall short. If founders have done some entry level reading they have probably heard about the need to “keep in touch” with their subscribers and send out a blog post or two in the coming weeks. Unfortunately such a strategy is not going to lead to the best results. And in fact is wasting some of the time and effort you put into acquiring your subscribers in the first place.
To build rock solid relationships with your startups pre-launch subscribers there are a number of things you can do to stand out from the crowd and remain at the forefront of their mind.
Plan in advance
The critical component of all that follows is to plan in advance. From the moment you have someone join your waiting list you need to know what you are going to do and when. For my startup Task Pigeon the early part of our pre-launch phase is all about gaining additional insight from potential users to refine our product and messaging. To achieve this we utilise an automated email campaign through mailchimp.
Our first email is a welcome email. It seeks to introduce the user with the company and it’s founders. This is automatically sent the moment they confirm that they have registered to be notified of our beta. As a result it received 75% open rates and represents an ideal opportunity to tell your story.
You can build on this relationship in the days that follow by scheduling other emails as well. Depending on what your goals are this could be to seek feedback on the product, obtain additional user information that may be relevant to your product roadmap (i.e. do they use Android or iOS) or simply share insightful and relevant content from your blog.
Connect on Linkedin
Doing the above will put you on a good solid footing. However, to further build upon the relationship you have with your pre-launch subscribers and to uncover additional channels through which you can market to them there are a number of other things that can be done.
First of all you want to connect with your subscribers on Linkedin. Chances are however you only just got their email as part of the sign up phase, so how do you actually do this? To start with you want to export your list of email subscribers from your email campaign provider. For mailchimp this is a simple and straightforward process with the “Export List” button easily accessible.
After that you want to jump over to linkedin and select “My Network”, “Add Contacts”. From here you can click a button on the right hand side that says “Import File”. Linkedin will then do all the hardwork and match the emails you have with the emails people use in their Linkedin profile. Now don’t expect a 1 for 1 match here. Many people may use an alternate email for your pre-launch list than they do for Linkedin. In our case we managed to connect with about 50% of our audience.
As a result of this two minutes of work you now have an extra connection with your subscribers, and another way to market to them for free (i.e. Linkedin updates and messages).
Find on Twitter
Now that you have connected with these subscribers on Linkedin you also have their first name, last name and the company they work for. This provides you with two opportunities. First of all you can now more easily search for them on Twitter.
People in some industries have adopted Twitter more than others, but if your product is tech or media focused chances are a good percentage of the people you just connected with will also be on Twitter. You can either look through their profiles directly to see if they mention it or search by name and try and match profile pictures or locations to ensure you have the right person.
Here’s an example of one of my pre-launch subscribers I followed on Twitter. He seems to be pretty active which is good to see.
Once you connect with these people on Twitter I also make a file with their Twitter handle. You can now Tweet at them as well, and if they follow back also send direct messages via Twitter.
Leverage the companies they work for
Ok, we are now going to turn away from the actual subscriber and see how they may be able to help you and your startup in other ways. I hope when going through Linkedin you took note of any large or interesting companies your pre-launch subscribers worked for. Perhaps none stood out, but every now and then you will come across someone who works at a tech giant or other globally recognised brand. This can add value and social proof to what you are building!
You can now take this information and refine your landing page and messaging. To pull this off effectively you will need to identify between three and five well recognised companies amongst your subscriber base. You now update your landing page and state something to the effect of “join pre-launch subscribers from the likes of Company A, B and C” or “Employees from Company A, B and C have already joined our beta”.
In addition to this you may want to look at who they are connected to within their own company and try and connect with their colleagues through Linkedin as well. This is especially valuable if you are creating a B2B tool that will require buy-in from more than one user at an organisation.
Custom Audiences on Facebook
Finally, there is one final network I recommend extending your follow up marketing efforts to and that is of course Facebook. Typically I save this strategy for closer to launch when you can get most bang for your marketing buck. With Facebook you can take that same email list and create a custom audience. Just like Linkedin I wouldn’t expect 1 for 1 perfection here, but hopefully you get exposure to 50%+ of your list.
You can now create ads that specifically target people you already know have an interest in your product. Even better, you can track people as they sign up or buy the live version of your product or service and remove them from this audience so your ad continues to get more and more refined and only targets those who are yet to convert.
In essence each of these strategies are designed to create multiple touch points with your subscribers. Merely reaching them on email will not be enough to sustain a relationship with everyone and each additional connection you can make significantly increases your chances of converting that pre-launch interest into a post-launch purchase.
Paul Towers is a 3x Entrepreneur and Founder of Task Pigeon, a web app that makes it simple to create, assign and manage the tasks you and your team work on each day. Paul also founded Startup Soda, a daily network of newsletters that highlight the best articles, blog posts and tactical resources from startup ecosystems around the world.