Your product launch can be done before you get any beta users. It can be done in order to get beta users. It can be done to validate the idea in general. It can also be done multiple times. Depending on what specifically you’re expecting from product launch you will be using totally different strategies and take different steps to get where you want.
You might think that launching a product is the final step in your product development journey.
This is how to play it by the book:
Build a product ⇒ get beta users ⇒ collect feedback and iterate ⇒ do an official launch on Product Hunt ⇒ bask in glory.
An even more simplified version:
Build product ⇒ launch ⇒ bask in glory.
Where both these founder-fantasies go astray is in thinking that a launch is a one-time event, or that there is even a single definition of what constitutes a “launch”.
Your product launch can be done before you get any beta users. It can be done in order to get beta users. It can be done to validate the idea in general. It can also be done multiple times.
Depending on what specifically you’re expecting from product launch you will be using totally different strategies and take different steps to get where you want.
But first, let’s get started with the basics.
What is the product launch
Product launch is a type of an event. As a founder you will have many events happening with and to your startup, and eventually you’ll learn to use many of them. Other events that you might use as a marketing tool include:
A product launch is a powerful event. It has the potential to drive sales, bring in customers, validate your idea or — turn your business upside down — and prove that you’ve been on the wrong track all this time.
Where to launch a product
If you’re building a digital product it makes sense to arrange an online launch (though, there might be some exceptions) on the platform where you have the strongest presence and where your customers are. The choices are not that wide. Good options to launch a product are:
You can use multiple platforms at once or launch on one platform at a time. However, Product Hunt launches rarely go well if you use only Product Hunt community. Support from your followers on Twitter and Reddit can make a huge difference and propels your product from the last in line to the first. Your most powerful audience of all are your existing customers, beta-testers, and users.
Based on goals that you might have we split the product launch section into two parts:
Suppose, you launched your product on Product Hunt or Twitter, or IndieHackers. You did great — received 500 upvotes and got to the Product of the day. Now, how relevant are these results are to the idea validation and product-market-fit?
Olu Adedeji, founder of Prelo — a lead-generation tool for startups and small businesses has a strong opinion about platform launches.
Olu Adedeji, founder of Prelo
— In a funny way, I don't believe very much in "early" platform launches — at least, until you have your first several dozens customers. If you’re too early in your journey, suppose, you’ve launched, and you have this fun fairy town for a week. Your sales look fantastic. But then they disappear. Because there’s no launch-related activity anymore. What conclusion are you supposed to draw from this experience? That you need more launches? That your product has its customers? Or that customers need constant reminders about your product? —
Most platform launches are accompanied by massive discounts or at least life-time deals. It’s very tempting to seduce beta users with attractive pricing — especially, if you’re a new player on a well-developed market and offer something that other companies have been selling for years. The best way to stand out is to offer a super competitive pricing so that customers switch, right? In reality, it’s not so easy.
Jay Clouse, founder of Cartfuel— a service that allows users to create a payment embed form and start monetising anything — is a huge fan of lifetime deals. He says that they are the best way to get some extra cash to fuel up your runaway for a month or two. But he still admits that switching from lifetime to MRR is very hard — partly, because the target audience got used to this lavish offer and partly, because the word had already been spread that your service has lifetime deals and when visitors land on your page and find none they leave disappointed and bitter.
Other downsides of a lifetime deal:
When users get a lifetime deal they don’t hurry to use the product — they have their whole life, so what’s the rush? That prevents you from getting valuable feedback you need today.
By lowering the price you lower the perception of your product’s value. Customers don’t recognize it as valuable any more and don’t create strong relationships with the brand or founder
Super seducing offers attract the wrong customers, customers who are not your target audience, and not who you’d want to serve. Therefore, the feedback you will be getting from them is not relevant to your product development.
Low-value users still increase your costs. You’re paying for increased hosting costs and decreasing your margins. The cash you were hoping to generate when creating this offer therefore gets burnt faster than you expected.
Here’s a better framework to use when considering a lifetime deal:
When to do Lifetime deals:
When you need fast feedback to improve your product
When you need quick cash to make you last for several more weeks
When it’s Black Friday
When NOT to do lifetime deals:
When you have a product-market fit
How to do Lifetime deals well:
Limit the number of lifetime deals available. Create a countdown showing how many lifetime deals are left. This creates a FOMO effect and prompts users to make a faster decision. Limiting the number of lifetime-deals available also limits the potential hit to your long-term MRR.
Create a strong referral campaign that will support the offer (for that you need access to productive partnerships). Word of mouth should be spread fast and efficiently. Use as many influencers as you can to amplify your message.
Alternatively, you can limit the lifetime deals for specific features or plans that you want your users to try out more
Consider the possibility of doing a “Pay now and get 3 month free” campaign instead. Or offer “1 year deal” instead of lifetime.
As an alternative to the number of deals, set a time limit: for example, 2 weeks maximum. This will create a FOMO effect as well.
Marry a LTD and an auction idea (discounting pricing). Increase the price for the LTD every day or two or after every 20 deals sold.