The majority of online stores fold because they’re unable to drive traffic.
For many new ecommerce founders, there’s a near single-minded focus when starting a business that’s almost entirely dedicated to finding and showcasing the right products.
The great ecommerce myth is that having the right products, a beautiful site design, and stunning product photography is all necessary to get people to pull out their credit card and buy. Those are the table stakes—the cost of entry.
You might prove the exception if you’re launching your store to a group of people who are interested in what you’re doing in the first place. However, most stores are launching to the wrong people, if anyone at all.
This forces the founder to scramble to find buyers—heavily discounting products and creating marketing campaigns that sound more like begging and less like a confident, trustworthy brand that knows what they’re doing.
What is pre-launch marketing?
Pre-launch marketing is a range of marketing efforts focused on generating buzz and excitement for a new product or service before it launches. The goal is to build up anticipation and interest so customers will be eager to buy from you when launch day finally arrives.
10 pre-launch marketing strategies to try
- Secure your audience before launch
- Start early
- Release teasers
- Run a contest
- Build hype through influencers
- Create a press kit
- Throw a launch party
- Use Amazon Live
- Run audio ads
- Connect with niche communities
1. Secure your audience before launch
Before a new product launch, ensure you have a solid group of people interested in what you’re offering.
One way to do this is to create a lead generation landing page where people can pre-register or sign up for your email list. You can generate traffic to this through:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Paid ads
- Organic social media
- Traditional advertising
- Content marketing
The important part is the conversion: turning visitors into potential buyers by persuading them to hand over their details, consenting to further communication from you. You can encourage these conversions with an enticing offer, like early access or a discount for email subscribers.
Example: Sexual wellness brand Dame collects emails at the end of a quiz that visitors can take to find the perfect product for their needs. Visitors find out their results when the answers are emailed to them, which means they’ll also be the first to find out about new products.
Learn more: How to Create a Coming Soon Landing Page in 2022
2. Start early
The key is building relationships with potential customers well before opening an online store. That way, they’ll be sizzling with anticipation for your awesome new offering when you're finally ready to go live. You don't want to launch to the sound of crickets and an empty register, so it’s important to start your build-up with plenty of time before the big day.
Take email marketing, for example. With a mailing list, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to drip-feed content in the months leading up to your launch. You could talk about the story behind your idea, refining the product to its final version, the materials and how you've sourced them, which problem it solves—the possibilities are huge.
Example: The Xion CyberX eBike launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo after generating over 23,000 emails for its list. This resulted in over $800,000 in sales when the campaign launched.
3. Release teasers
It's not just behind-the-scenes content that resonates with customers. Teasing out your product, or a particular feature or bundle option they could be excited about, can also supercharge the desire people have for what you’re selling.
Your earliest fans will love this, as they’ll feel part of an exclusive group that knows more than everyone else. You can show close-up product shots leading up to the big reveal that only tease a small part of it.
You could show different components, part of the packaging, or snippets of your planning documents. A shadowy image of an exciting new product alongside a “Coming Soon” can cause big chatter amongst your fans, as they try to guess what it could possibly mean.
Example: Interior design brand Havenly teased a new service with an enticing email campaign: “Next week, we’re launching something new, that we know you’ll love.” It’s simple yet leaves customers curious about the brand's launch.
4. Run a contest
People love free stuff, so this is a great pre-launch marketing strategy for building hype. Running an Instagram contest, for example, could boost your social engagement and attract more followers you can market to.
When running a giveaway, sweepstakes, or contest, ensure the entry requirements are easy and fun to participate in, and that the prize is relevant. That way, even people who don’t win will still come away with a positive association to your brand.
5. Build hype through influencers
Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to build your brand online. It’s where someone with a following in a specific niche promotes your brand.
They could range from celebrity-range famous to having only a few thousand followers in a really specific interest group. Either way, they’ll be a valuable connection between you and potential new customers.
Before launch, you could partner with an influencer to share exciting content about your upcoming product in return for payment (or the goods themselves).
Freebies are usually appreciated, but the larger their following, the more likely it is you'll have to allocate some marketing spend on a fee. It could be worth it, as it's a more authentic method than many traditional advertising channels.
Example: Direct-to-consumer underwear brand Thinx launched a new product line by using influencers in categories like fashion, health, and wellness.
6. Create a press kit
Part of a successful product launch is having bloggers and publications write about you, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
If you want to get featured in popular publications, it’s a good idea to have a press kit prepped and ready to go. This is a collection of information about your brand and product that journalists can access easily when they’re writing a story.
You’ll still need an angle to be interesting enough for press coverage—what are you doing that’s unique? Are you serving your local community, or making a splash because of your alternative business practices? These are the types of stories journalists love, and a press kit makes it much easier for them to whip up some valuable coverage for you.
Example: Beer brand Impossibrew has its founder story laid out in its FAQ page and a batch of photos for journalists to use in its press page.
7. Throw a launch party
Having a large group of people in one room, all excited about your project, creates a united energy you can’t create through emails, phone calls, or one-on-one meetings. Invite over 50 motivated and influential friends, show them your Kickstarter video and make a speech telling them why you need their help and exactly what you need them to do.
8. Use Amazon Live
Amazon Live offers a new way for customers to learn about products and interact with their creators. You can use Amazon Live to show off your product, demo how it works, and give people a sneak peek of what’s to come. You can also answer any questions potential customers might have in the chat box.
This streaming shopping experience hosts large brands paying five-figure fees for Amazon to produce their shows. But there’s also a range of influencers running more intimate shows for their dedicated fanbases, giving them custom product demos on a platform where they're ready to buy. Think TV shopping channels for a new era. This could create a great new opportunity to demo your product before launching it.
Example: Carla Stevenné, a makeup and beauty influencer, regularly appears on Amazon Live, interacting with her fans in the chat while promoting and unboxing new beauty products.
9. Run audio ads
Audio ads are a fantastic way to reach potential customers in an intimate, focused way. You can target people based on their interests, demographics, and even what they’re doing (for example, commuting or working out).
Platforms like Spotify and Pandora have ad options targeted to specific interests, and you don’t necessarily need a huge budget to use these.
You could consider podcasts as a potential channel. You can either sponsor an existing show that's popular with your target audience or start your own podcast to talk about your product, interview industry experts, and build up hype before launch day.
Example: Mattress brand Eight Sleep found a better return-on-advertising spend than expected when it used audio to promote a new premium mattress product. It found that radio and podcast ads offered the time and attention needed to explain its features in-depth—necessary for a high-price item.
10. Connect with niche communities
Niche communities have long been drivers of product development. But in today's digital landscape, connecting with them is much easier and letting them become key drivers in the hype for new launches. And this is especially important when your product needs a personal touch to persuade customers to purchase.
Niche enthusiasts love sampling the latest products and telling others about them. By introducing your product to a specific-interest community, you’ll get valuable feedback from committed experts and potentially a host of new converts to your cause. It’s all about trust, so make sure you play by their rules and respect the group’s etiquette.
Example: Image Skincare targeted 1,000 PopSugar’s Dabble beauty product community members to promote its new Vital C Anti-Aging Serum. While only 13% of users were familiar with the brand, 96% said they’d recommend the product to a friend.
Pre-launch strategy case study: Healthish
Healthish operates in a busy space: health products. A $6.6 billion industry, there is no shortage of competition when launching a new product. Healthish was a newer brand launching a new product into the market and needed a smart pre-launch strategy to raise awareness.
To launch its signature product, a water bottle that tracks hydration, co-founders Emily Chong and Nathan Chan worked with niche influencers to build hype.
To reach its target market, Healthish sends free water bottles to fitness influencers, fashion bloggers, vloggers, and other groups related to their niche. Afterward, influencers share images and videos of their products online—but only if they are happy with them.
Learn more about the pre launch marketing strategy that turned Healthish used by reading The Pre-Launch Strategies of a Million-Dollar Brand.
Tips for a successful pre-launch
Here are some of our favorite tips for nailing your next product launch:
- Offer samples. Trying before you buy is a major contributor to purchase decisions. If possible, get your product into the hands of likely consumers to help them bond with it and want it even more.
- Incentivize early adopters. Early adopters can be crucial in the first days after launch. They’ll create a buzz if they're happy, so why not delight them as much as possible?
- Collect useful feedback. You can get feedback for the product you’re launching to inform future versions—new variations, premium editions, localized iterations, and so on. You could also consider feedback for new product lines that solve problems or address demographics. Note what people are saying and address the most common issues first.
- Track sales performance. You can’t measure success by gut feel, even if it’s a small-scale launch. Use all the tools and platforms available to track relevant metrics, like which product variations are selling best, and which aren’t.
- Test everything. Treat your launch as an experiment. Some things will work, and some won’t; the only way to find out is by going for it. Don’t get disheartened if it doesn’t go the way you planned. Collect as much data as possible—hopefully, it’s the first of many launches and you can use your learnings to make post-launch campaigns even better.
Run a smart pre-launch marketing strategy next launch
The idea is to make your earliest adopters feel special, that they have some ownership in what you’re doing, and to motivate them to share what you’re doing organically.
By building up hype pre-launch, you can ensure that your product does well when it finally hits the market. But these strategies don’t just affect the product in question—they help build your startup and turn many customers toward becoming fans for life.
Whatever stage of product development you’re in, it’s never too early to get out there and interact with your target market. The rewards, in time, could be huge.
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Pre-launch marketing FAQ
What is pre-launch?
What is pre-launch market research?
How do you promote before launch?
What are the different types of pre-launch marketing?
- PR outreach
- Audio ads
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Influencer marketing
- Product marketing