The last two years have made the startup world a lot more accessible in terms of talent and funding for everyone around the world. And that’s great news all around, but it’s also made the race to the top a lot more cut-throat.
One of the biggest mistakes you could ever make is to build a product without any kind of customer development efforts. Followed by launching it without testing it with a live audience, or investing in marketing, hoping it will do well.
There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to launching a product, including figuring out how to attract the first wave of users. Most of the time, you start with a limited budget and resources, so you have to have a solid outline on what exactly you plan to do, and execute on a few ideas to gain that initial boost. In this article, we’ll put together our experience at Tapptitude to cover everything you need to know on how to get traction for your app and how to build a successful long-term business. We’re also going to highlight a few examples and case studies.
How getting pre-launch traction will help you long-term
First and foremost, you have to be aware of the large “arsenal” at your disposal that will help you gain traction in those early weeks and months. You’re creating a product to solve a problem, so the first step is finding an audience for whom that problem is real and painful enough to be worth solving. That also means they are already or are willing to spend money to get this problem fixed! The first wave of users can come as early as the validation phase, where you ask various people how they’re working around the problem right now, and they give you their honest opinion and unbiased take on the matter.
Down the line, when your product is palpable, you want to have a handful of users who will invest their time to give you valuable feedback on how your app is working and how it’s helping them. Usually, the first wave of users have the potential of becoming your first ambassadors, inviting their friends to use your app, as well. This strategy will not only bring you users at a very vulnerable moment of your journey, but it will also get you more credibility with investors.
If you can prove to investors there’s market interest for your product, they’ll be more than willing to invest in your product. Getting those initial investments is key, and credibility gets you propelled closer to a seed round funding. There are countless startups emerging everyday, so being able to show proof to investors that your product is considered valuable by an initial user base is a huge win.
Essentially, pre-launch traction guarantees more engagement from your users, and more capital from investors. If your app is community-based, for example a marketplace or a social app, the feedback from those initial users can add to the popularity of your product. Your app can have a real chance to grow organically thanks to positive feedback and referrals.
The 6 ways to get traction before you launch your app
Let’s dive into some specifics. In this section, we’ll be examining a few strategies startups should implement in their journey, and we’re also looking at a few examples of known businesses and what approaches they used in those early days.
1. Build a website
We cannot stress this enough, but building a website for your product is crucial. You need to present your product to your audience in a professional and creative manner. You need a distinct voice to convey your message, and what better way to do this than with a creative, professional-looking website?
You can use this space to inform your audience about your product, your mission, your vision, as well as offer updates regarding your app. Apart from the information describing your project and services, you can also start a blog, and create a contact form where users can add their info to receive further updates about your app.
Next thing you know, you will have enough contact information to run email campaigns.
2. Build a waiting list
Once you have a website up and running, and a couple of email marketing campaigns teasing your product, you can take it a step further. Building hype around an app is also key in the long run. One of the ways you can achieve this is with the app’s release on your website in the form of a waiting list. Getting people to register in order to be the first ones announced when your product drops is a strategy worth looking into.
3. Make a video
Getting creative across all fronts is the way to go. Creating fun and engaging content has never been a bad idea. Promoting your product through various outlets can grab people’s attention, and releasing a fun and intuitive video describing your business can even have the potential of going viral, if done right. However, going viral is not the main goal.
The main goal is for the content you create to reach your target audience, and hopefully impress them. Take this video below from Mighty, for example. Mighty is an internet browser that streams your browser from a powerful computer in the cloud, instead of your own laptop or computer. Their presentation video is spot on, and they managed to showcase their product in a very interesting way. Take a look at the video.
4. Set up a referral program
A referral program is the digital word-to-mouth method. You can implement a referral feature into your app, which can help boost awareness by having people invite their friends and earn rewards. Take Revolut, for example. Revolut is a fintech app, a challenger bank if you will, and apart from offering top-tier digital banking services, it also encourages its users to invite their friends, and gives both participants actual money. It is a very intuitive method to get people to join your service.
5. Get some press
You should figure out a clever strategy to reach the press with your product. Working with a professional marketing team can certainly be beneficial, but you can also do your own research on how to tap into this niche. For example, you can write data-driven PR studies that explore areas and trends of the industry your product is part of, and send it to the press. If journalists find your work interesting, they can publish it, and in turn, you gain some organic exposure.
Once publications pick up your stories, you can showcase these achievements on your website. Neeva is a good example of how you can do this. You can also send out press releases with your product’s updates, create surveys to serve as a base for a story, and make good use of social media. Although you won’t necessarily reach the press through social media, you can expand your reach to new audiences via different social outlets, like LinkedIn or Twitter.
6. Run a crowdfunding campaign
Receiving funding from investors is great, but you can take it a step further by running a crowdfunding campaign. Equity crowdfunding is the process where anybody can invest in your early-stage unlisted company in exchange for shares in the organization. If somebody invests, they become a shareholder with partial ownership of your startup, so if your product turns a profit, so will they.
In order to run a successful campaign and get people invested in your product, you need to earn their trust. A strong online presence usually does the trick, as well as opinions of the early user base. For example, Oculus, the massive virtual reality headset company now owned by Facebook, launched on Kickstarter and was seeking $250,000 to start the development process
Are you ready to launch?
So, you’re doing all this amazing stuff to get your product off the ground. You’ve invested time, energy and resources, and the only thing left now is to launch. There are basically 3 routes you can take: you can either have a huge launch, a soft launch, or no launch. Let’s see the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
Launching with a bang
If money isn’t an issue, you can smash through the gates with guns blazing, so to speak. If you have enough resources to invest in your brand’s marketing, you should definitely consider heavy digital advertising, press advertising, social media marketing, and email marketing. Crafting an intuitive and comprehensive launch campaign can do wonders for your product.
We recommend taking this route if you’re confident in your product-market fit. However, your confidence has to come from tangible data, not a gut feeling. You can also opt to fire on all cylinders if you have strong competition in the market, and you need to stand out from the get-go.
Usually, your product has to be top-notch from a technical standpoint if you plan on launching with a bang. UX/UI should be spotless, your early user base should mostly have positive reviews of your product, your backend should be scalable, and internal operations should be positioned for growth. Last but not least, your team has to be able to handle everything that gets thrown at them.
It’s hard ticking all the boxes, and sometimes even with everything in perfect working conditions, there’s still no guarantee your app will do well. If you want to take a safer, more chill route, we suggest a soft launch.
Have a soft launch
A soft launch can be considered a steady ease into the market. You can still do marketing, reach out to the press, expand on social media, but not as aggressively as you would if you were doing a huge launch campaign.
A soft launch allows you to put your product out there and work your way outwards from warm contacts, like your waiting lists, to a cold audience. One of the easiest ways to attract a cold audience is to create awesome content and build towards engagement.
Your user base will increase at a slower pace, but you’ll have more time to make tweaks and improve your product. The better feedback you get, the more you can increase your marketing budget and speed up your growth.
Postpone the launch, or don’t launch at all
No one likes to think about stopping before even getting started. But the reality is that all your pre-launch traction efforts may not pay off. Even if you refine your messaging and audience or if you do a complete overhaul of your marketing strategy, you still might not have enough for a launch.
Sometimes things get overlooked. Maybe when you first start out, there’s a massive need for your product in the market, but by the time your solution is complete, there are already other players in the mix, who launched a bit earlier. The truth is, you have to be aware of this even before you start your founder journey.
There can also be timing issues, or even a global pandemic, that can halt your launch efforts. These are the moments where you have to remember that your product is not all you can do with your founder skills. You can either postpone or cancel the launch completely, and move on to something else.
Getting pre-launch traction can set you up for a leaner go-to-market experience and may help you get early funding easier. There are several ways to do this, some cheaper, some more costly, but remember to choose the ones that fit you best and always stay informed when it comes to market trends.
Your pre-launch traction efforts will uncover information about the specifics of your audience, market size, appropriate messaging, and how much work you need to put into your project that will ultimately may or may not lead towards product-market fit.
Look at the data you gather through the lens of the following questions:
- “What kind of launch should my product have?”
- “If the numbers are dire, do people even need this product?”
In this article, we tried to cover almost everything you need to know about getting traction for your app before launch, but the truth is, there’s tons of information on the internet surrounding this subject. Make sure to do your research, and if you need any help, feel free to contact us here at Tapptitude and we can discuss anything and everything related to gaining market traction and launching.
If you have an awesome idea, or a product you’ve been working on, but you’re not quite sure how to launch it, or you’re struggling with understanding how validation actually works, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always open to hearing new ideas and we love a good challenge now and then.
A contributing writer at Tapptitude, Robert has a strong passion for technology and a sharp eye for detail. His research skills and tech-savvy approach to any topic guarantee that no stone is left unturned before he puts pen to paper. When he’s not juggling words on a screen, he is usually lost in a video game or movie, or playing his guitar. Robert’s greatest enemy is the blank page.