There comes a point in the life of every founder where you have to take what you’ve spent the last few months, or even years working on and announce it to the world. You have to take your startup out of the garage and release it to public scrutiny.
While intimidating, a public launch adds some sense of validity to what you’re doing and it is a pivotal step in the process. It shows that you, as a founder, are wholly committed to your vision and making it a reality.
Effectively planning your public launch will better set you up for success in the future. First, you need to check off your list of business essentials.
Don’t forget the essentials
This may seem like common sense, but founders who are working heads-down on their startup can easily forget a few foundational business items before launch. The biggest issues in the beginning are tax issues and legal issues.
By this point, you should have incorporated your business and taken care of any intellectual property issues, begun the patent and trademark processes, and handled anytax concerns facing your startup.
Before launching, you should also nail down any business processes that will not be handled by either you or a co-founder. This can be the easiest to overlook, especially early on. Outside of your core business, you’ve got to figure out payroll, accounting, customer service, and human resources. If you aren’t in a position to hire for these roles, consider outsourcing.
Once you’ve gotten the back-office essentials under control, it’s important that you spend time outside of the office (or garage, or bedroom, or your parent’s basement) and get to know people in your local startup community. Attend events and get to know what other founders are building, and support them if you can.
While this is typically considered a common courtesy, it’s also a way to indirectly build hype for your launch and get people excited about what you’re building. It is through this networking and community engagement that you could also find a mentor to help you in your startup journey, or even find another company who may be looking for a company to share office space with.
Know your story
To make the biggest impact on launch day, you need to know what story you’re telling and how to tell it. This goes beyond a simple elevator pitch. You must be able to give people a peek into your world and clearly articulate what makes you different.
“All entrepreneurs think what they’re doing is interesting, but people need a compelling story beyond your product satisfying a market need,” said Jim Barnett, CEO and co-founder of Glint. “Communicating this story internally and externally lays the foundation for a great launch.”
It’s important to note that company messaging should be consistent both within the organization and externally, so what is projected by marketing is fulfilled by all employees. Boris Wertz of Version One Ventures said this goes for the messaging on your site as well.
“When your new customers come to your site on launch day, do they immediately understand who you are and what you are doing right away? If not, then remedy this quickly,” Wertz said.
Barnett said that early confirmation from customers is critical in establishing the story around your company, especially if you are selling to the enterprise. Feedback from beta customers, for example, can give you a clearer vision of what your startup helps users to accomplish.
Meet the press
Media attention is a huge part of getting traction in the early days. According to Jay Gould, CEO and founder of Yashi, knowing your audience and how they can relate to your story will also help you as you go about pitching to the press.
“Pitch the media, niche and widespread, a compelling story line that describes a problem their readers have, that your business can solve,” Gould said. “Then, integrate your business into the story as the only company with the technology to solve this new problem they weren’t aware they had.”
When you present your story to the press, or potential investors even, leveraging that established differentiation is key to making yourself memorable. Gould recommends adding unique details that are relevant to the particular audience or investor to maximize your chances of your story resonating.
When it comes to the particular media outlet, do some research on the types of content they put out. Make sure the news around your company is something their readers would want to know, and craft your pitch to fit into their content framework.
Social media may seem like an obvious tool to utilize as well, but if often isn’t. Not only should you post your news to social media site, but you should be engaging with commentors and submitting releases to aggregators as well, Wertz said.
Celebrate your people
Finally, you have to celebrate. Before you run off and rent a few helicopters remember that we are no longer in the dot com era and burn rate is no longer a positive metric. Still, whatever this ends up looking like for your company, it’s important to take time and recognize the commitment to the dream.
“Recognize and celebrate the hard work, talent and dedication that laid the groundwork for your company, as well as the customers and investors that decided to join you for the ride,” Barnett said. “They will be your greatest advocates in the years ahead.”