Once you’ve completed your soft launch or beta period and there isn’t any pressing need to go back to the drawing board with your product, you’ll be itching to push onto your full launch. But wait! There were likely many tasks on your to-do list that you put aside in order to get your soft launch completed in a timely and stress-free manner.
It’s time to revisit these because one of the main differences between your soft launch and your full launch is the scale and methods of communication with your target market – your marketing plan.
How you prepare to launch your business depends very much on what you intend to achieve in the first month, the first 6 months and the first year of your business. So in this section, I will be talking as much about your post-launch activities as the launch itself. As one will inform the other.
Achieving sales straight out the gate
The success of your full launch and whether you start to see the sales you’ve forecast will depend on a number of factors. Of course you will have had to set up your business operations correctly to be able to sell your product or service. Assuming that, it’s about your market fit and your go-to market strategy:
- How good is your product or service at solving a market need? (week 3, week 5)
- Just as importantly, can you get that across in your messaging? (week 6)
- Can you get your messages in front of relevant people? (week 6)
- Can you find enough relevant people? (week 6)
- Will your pricing strategy support your business model? (week 4, week 5)
It’s time to revisit the research, information and planning you did in those earlier chapters. Particularly in Week 6, where we focused heavily on mapping out your marketing and sales funnel and identifying the right marketing channels for your business. If you haven’t gotten around to completing this in full, there is no time like the present.
So, what is the motivation behind revisiting all of this information? Well, your success out of the gate is dependant upon the assumptions you made about these activities.
It’s important that you’re aware of these assumptions and that you are ready to put them to the test!
At this point, it’s not just about identifying a list of tasks you need to complete to launch. I want to ensure you’re preparing to succeed and grow too.
Your first duty when launching your business
As we’ve been learning throughout this process – your predictions are only as good as your assumptions – Assumptions based on all this information you’ve gathered over the last few weeks. Assumptions about…
- how many people your marketing campaigns can reach.
- your campaigns being correctly targeted to the people most interested in your product/service (relevancy)
- how persuasive campaigns will be at convincing people to look at your product.
- whether your message resonates with them enough to turn them into actual buyers.
- that all of this will be cost-effective enough to support the operations of the business.
These were just the assumptions that refer to the success of your marketing campaigns, there are even more around other areas of your business!
Guess what. I know, with a 99% certainty that your assumptions are wrong. You may have done all the market research in the world but it is still incredibly difficult to make accurate sales predictions without existing data or vast industry and marketing experience. Which is why I know your assumptions are currently wrong. Hopefully not by much but you’d be surprised how wrong some startups can get it. It’s why so many fail.
The trick is to recognise that right now. Right now, accept that something you have planned will not work out as you intend.
Take a moment to let that sink in. Alright, are you sufficiently worried? Good, this is a critical reality check. I don’t want to kill your positivity, I want to help you be aware of the work you still have before you. So, let’s look at how you should plan around this.
Now, all this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be making a sales forecast or be making these assumptions at all. That is not what I’m saying! You have to make these assumptions with the best information (market research, product testing and experiments) you can find. If you created a minimum viable product, conducted detailed market research, ran a beta program etc then you’ll have a lot of good information for making better assumptions already.
What I’m really getting at here is that when you launch your business and begin marketing – your first duty is to put these assumptions to the test.
Your financial forecast is based on these assumptions. Your investors will have invested their money into your business based on these assumptions. You’re making decisions right now based on assumptions I’ve just told you are likely to be wrong.
It is critical that you start measuring what is going on immediately.
If you track how successful your marketing activities are, compared to what you forecast you’ll start to show where your assumptions are wrong and adjust them accordingly. They may not yet be accurate, but they are getting closer.
You can then feed these new, more accurate assumptions back into your forecast, creating more accurate financial predictions of the future of your business.
More accurate financial predictions of the future helps you make better business decisions right now.
It’s a methodical process that helps you reduce risk even if your first decisions turn out to be completely wrong. It’s because you’re aware of the limitations you’re working with currently and you act quickly to improve the situation.
Remember, your assumptions could be wrong in a good way! Campaigns can perform far better than expected too. If you’re aware and on the ball, you can quickly capitalise on what is going well, whilst cutting out the activities that are wasting your time and money. It’s the secret to growing fast.
For now, let’s formalise this process:
- Review your results at the end of each month
- Compare what you predicted with how you actually did
- Revise your base assumptions and re-forecast your financial plan
- Decide if you need to make changes to your current strategy based on your new forecast
Some people launch and grow businesses successfully by going from one month to the next, firing from the hip and making gut decisions on the fly. If this approach makes you uncomfortable then the process I’m outlining here can help take out some of the guesswork, uncertainty and ultimately – the costly mistakes that come with the territory. The process starts here, implemented as you are preparing to launch your business.
When you first launch, you might even be reviewing more frequently than a month, weekly or even daily! You just need to be aware that it takes time to build up reliable data that you can make decisions around.
Identifying what you should prioritise for launch
Alright, we went off on a bit of a tangent there. Let’s get back to the practicalities of how to actually launch your business.
Now, different businesses are certainly going to have different priorities and it may vary a lot with how much funding you have and how ambitious you want to be in your first year.
What my little tangent above highlights is that there are certain tasks that are really important that are easy to miss out on. Tasks that many types of businesses need to prioritise if they really want to grow aggressively straight out the gate.
Measuring your launch campaigns
Launch is not just about having your first marketing campaigns set up on your social media channels, or your first 10 blog articles scheduled to launch on your website. You definitely do need to have those in place if they are part of your plan for attracting customers.
However, you also need to have the tools and processes in place that allow you to immediately start measuring results and acting on them.
You need to know in advance:
- What data is important to measure
- How you are going to track this data
- How you can present this in a format that you can easily access and review
The last point is really important. It needs to be easy. If it’s time-consuming or difficult to obtain the information you need then you will be less likely to enforce this discipline. Spend time now finding out how you can make this process simple.
In week 6 we discussed how a good strategy is to narrow in on the key marketing activities you think will have the most success. Focusing on them so you can do them well rather than attempting to tackle a broader set of activities in a more shallow way.
You can see how useful it is here to follow this mantra when also ensuring they are all being measured correctly too. Spread yourself too thin and you won’t have the time to find out what is working because you’ll be too busy with day to day management.
So, for example, you may have calculated that the cost per customer acquisition metric for your google adverts needs to be around £9.00 to be worthwhile for the business.
In order to understand what is affecting this, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with other terminology in the AdWords platform such as impression rate, click-through rate, cost per click etc. I’m not going to go through these in detail here as they will vary across all your different marketing activities.
The point is, you need to research the important key performance indicators (KPI’s) that help you understand what is working or not for a particular campaign. Go in blind and you risk not meeting your goals and worse – not understanding why.
Now, it’s very easy for me to write all this theoretical best practice down on paper and tell you to go off and do it. In reality, with limited time, resources and knowledge it’s not going to be easy to get this in place straight away. Some marketing activities are far more difficult to track than others, especially if they aren’t digital. So it’s unlikely you’ll have a perfect measuring system in place for launch.
Just make sure, if you can’t get systems in place for measuring – at least identify everything that you should be measuring and how you can go about improving this in future.
Your launch checklist
- Complete any remaining infrastructure and operational tasks not completed in the soft launch
- Complete the content of the marketing campaigns you intend to launch with (for the first few weeks or months and then broadly planned out for the rest of the year)
- Marketing campaigns uploaded and scheduled on the platforms you’ll launch them from
- The list of key performance indicators you need to know to judge success
- A method for reporting on these key performance indicators
- Your financial forecast for the first 12 months
- Your financial forecast for the first 5 years (now hold on…we’ll get to this)
Now, you might be looking at this list and already thinking about skipping some steps. Financial projections for 12 to 60 months? I need to finish designing my ad banners!
If you’ve been building your financials in a spreadsheet throughout this process I can understand your hesitation. The idea of creating a 5-year projection that changes every month as I refine my assumptions sounds like madness. I wouldn’t do it – it’s too time-consuming.
If you’ve been building your financials with our financial forecasting software, Brixx, – you’ll realise how good a move that was. Brixx is designed to cope with the kind of rapid changes we’ve been talking about. You’ll easily be able to see the ramifications of decisions you’re making today on your 5-year vision.
In a spreadsheet, a simple change to a sales forecast might mean you need to check 3 or more places to ensure all your financial statements are correct. In Brixx, it’s one change – Brixx calculates the rest.
Now, I’ve avoided directly talking about which marketing campaigns you should be doing to promote your business. We covered this in great detail in week 6 so you can refer back to them if you need to.
I’m just going to take a moment to highlight certain types of marketing opportunities that occur specifically during the launch period of a business:
- Store opening launch parties
- Social media campaign focused on build-up and suspense
- Launch events
- Launch videos
- Launch messages from your team
You’ve got the chance to foster some pre-launch hype that allows you to build brand awareness, take email addresses of interested people and even take pre-orders. If you’ve got the time and resources to dedicate to a pre-launch marketing campaign then they can be really effective.
The countdown to launch
So, in a similar way to how we tasked out the remaining items for the soft launch – use your checklist to help outline the essentials for your full launch. Again, I’ll highlight avoiding the implementation of a large CRM system you don’t know you need yet or other similar activities not key to requirements.
Keep it simple, focus on the important tasks.
With your list complete, you can cost out the timeframes for every remaining item and project a realistic launch date. Now, in this chapter, I have dealt with soft launches, beta periods and full launches sequentially and in isolation. It’s likely you’ll actually outline the sort of path you want to take by taking all these launch options into account.
Take the time to absorb all the information of this chapter and plan the launch sequence that fits your business goals and resources most effectively.
There is no scientifically proven blueprint that works for absolutely every business.
So, I would encourage you to take an approach that minimises juggling too many moving parts at once. I’d also pick a path that helps you maximise feedback and learning opportunities along the way, making it easier to grow your business from day 1.
Pause and take a final look at your 5 year plan
You might have been hoping I was going to forget I even mentioned the 5 year plan earlier but here it is again!
So why do you need to review this just before launch? Well, it’s partially because after launch you are going to be so crazy busy running your business you might completely forget you even made it. You’ll file it away in a cupboard somewhere, to be discovered a couple of years down the line when you are trying to work out what happened to the grand strategy you originally outlined so many months ago.
As we talked about earlier – your assumptions about how your first 12 months are going to go are almost certainly wrong. You don’t know how yet, you only know that they are. So if the first 12 months are already inaccurate how can my 5-year financial plan be trusted at all? What use is it?
Well, it’s about vision. This is your grand plan outlining your long term goals and how you’re going to get there.
Looking at your business zoomed out to a 5-year horizon gives you a different perspective on the decisions you’re making right now. It helps ensure you don’t get so locked in the day to day details that you lose sight of the big picture.
It’s also something that will evolve over time as you get better at making assumptions about your own business. Your 5-year plan will change but your long term goals and vision will stay the same. The knowledge you gain as your business takes off will help you revisit your strategic forecast in order to more accurately demonstrate how you’ll achieve your long term grand vision.
I’m not saying you should be frantically reviewing your long term strategy the night before launch! I’m suggesting you revisit it at some point in the build-up to launch so that it stays in your mind. This should help reduce the chances it will just be jettisoned the moment your startup begins trading!
Alright, now we’ve got that small speed bump out the way, it’s time to finish everything off, pluck up the courage and finally launch your business!
Launching your business
Depending on how much pre-launch marketing you did – your launch day will either arrive with a flurry of customer activity or a more calm beginning.
Either way, time to roll up your sleeves, the real challenge is still ahead of you! The frantic drive to find, persuade and convert new customers begins in earnest.
It’s actually really easy to start a business, you could probably do it in a day. Growing a successful business is where the real art lies and where so many would-be entrepreneurs fail. All the hard work and planning we’ve done up until now has been to prepare you to not just launch a business but launch a business with the best chance of growing.
Having spent this process emphasising market research, testing, financial planning and ensuring you’re creating something the market actually wants, you should have a great platform to build from going forward.
Many of the lessons learnt through the 90 day challenge will equip you with the tools needed to grow your business. To begin with, despite all the research you’ve done, you’re still searching for a successful business model at this point. That work continues. All your pre-launch preparation should mean you are striding out with your best possible theory for success. However, it’s likely going to need some further adjustments and improvements before it’s ready to scale up in a grander way.
So focus your first post-launch efforts on:
- Testing your assumptions
- Gathering data to make decisions on
- Optimising your marketing and sales funnel
- Gathering further feedback from your first customers
- Treating your first customers like royalty!
I could write for days (and maybe I will) about the activities you should be doing to start growing your revenue but it is getting beyond the remit of the 90 day challenge.
Wrapping up the 90 day challenge
We’re now at the end of the 90 day challenge! If you’ve made it this far, well done.
Each week you’ve been presented with new challenges and you’ve overcome them to get to your end goal, which is to launch your business. That takes a lot of hard work and dedication, so you should be proud.
What you’ve probably picked up from this week’s articles, however, is that the hard work doesn’t stop here.
Running a business is a huge commitment and you have to be passionate about what you do.
If you’ve stuck it out this far, you’re probably in this for the long haul. Running a business comes with its own set of challenges and we have a number of resources to help you on the Brixx blog.