This post is sponsored by Microsoft.
So, you have a dream—a huge dream! Whether you aim to disrupt an industry or build a better mousetrap, you desperately want to launch a business. You yearn to bring your concept to life. You cannot wait to ditch your day job and escape your cubicle. And then, at last, you can join the ranks of great entrepreneurs who have delighted the world.
Great! But when? When’s the best time to launch a business, anyway?
Watch your timing
The hard truth is that ventures fail for lots of reasons, including bad timing. With so many challenges facing a startup, you can at least try to make your timing work for you—not against you. While “next week,” might seem like attractive timing, you should try to calculate your launch date to maximize your exposure. The more advertising noise out there, the higher the cost of media and the less likely your marketing will reach anyone.
Develop a launch strategy
Like any marketing plan, a solid business launch plan clearly defines the market opportunity; defines the objectives; identifies the target audience(s); spells out the approach and the tactics that will deliver positive results. Plans should also account for variables like competitive activity, as well as things like trade show events or cultural occasions, like holidays.
Your best bet? Work with the pros. To deliver the best possible ROI, engage a marketing agency and/or media planners to develop a launch campaign.
Are you really ready?
Wait, you say, what launch? What marketing? If you have no advertising budget, let alone a marketing plan, then watch out—you may not be ready to launch at all. The notion that “if you build it, they will come,” does not prove true. It’s more like, “If you build it and advertise it, they may come—but not for long and probably not more than once unless you’re really good.”
Marketing makes it happen
Love it or hate it, marketing drives our economy. Even activities as simple as A-frame street signs and basic text ads at online search engines can help attract attention. Of course, appropriate tactics vary by industry and circumstance, but most businesses need a basic marketing mix to stand any chance of success.
Business launch requirements
At a minimum, most startups need something like:
- A brand (i.e. a distinctive name/domain, logo and maybe a slogan)
- A “responsive” website (meaning it works properly on smartphones)
- Professional email (business-class, not free consumer webmail)
- Social media landing pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
- A sales presentation (for prospective investors and customers)
- Some sort of launch event (even if it’s just virtual)
The idea is to expose these items—and every other kind of advertising and PR you have ready—on the same day (your launch day), so you create the most exposure and excitement. And yes, you should run ads, do social networking, and have PR going on after you launch as well. This way you can maintain momentum and continue to generate sales, not languish in obscurity.
It takes time
Ad agencies, marketing campaigns, PR, social media, signage, negotiating ad rates—if this all feels complex or sounds expensive, then your business instincts serve you well. Marketing success does not come easy for any business. YouTube stars and trending memes notwithstanding, building great brands generally takes many years of sustained marketing.
Still committed to bootstrapping every aspect of your business, including marketing? Then try loosening up your timelines. Give yourself some breathing room. Instead of trying to make a big splash, embrace the notion of the “soft launch.” Gradually roll out your venture so you have the time you need to do it all yourself, call in favors, do plenty of social networking (which costs you nothing except time), and try to generate revenue to reinvest in your marketing.
This blog post adapts the original by Mike Torre at the Microsoft Canada Small Business blog.