4. Create a Web Page, Start Blogging, and Collect Emails
Now that you've got your keywords nailed down, it's time to put them to work. Assuming that you have your domain name (and you should buy it for no less than a 5-year minimum), it's time to put up a simple Web page.
Talk to people about what you do, what's coming and when (if you can), and include a signup form for them to be on the early access list. Wufoo is a great tool for creating forms, and it's free. Make sure to use your keywords in your Web page title and tags, and include them in the copy on your page. Your Web page should also include a link to your blog, which we're about to discuss.
Figure 3: Long before launching Dasheroo, we created a Web page that featured what we planned to offer.
Looking for subject matter? Write about the inner workings of what's going on in the company. You want to get people who visit your blog excited about when you launch. Give them a launch countdown highlighting your great moments and your perils. The more transparent and authentic you are, the more they'll want to help you succeed. Let your readers in on the good times and the bad; they'll feel like they're an integral part of the launch.
It's also very important to get backlinks to your site; it tells Google that people like you enough to direct traffic your way, and that helps with your organic rankings. You want backlinks from respected websites; use the Moz Bar to find good ones.
Tip: include a popup signup form on your blog to capture visitor information for your early access list. You can time the popup so that it appears shortly after people land on the page. If you're using Wordpress, PopUp Maker offers great features.
5. Social Media is a Must
I assume that you have—at the very least—a Facebook company page, a LinkedIn company page, and a Twitter handle. If you want to take it further, you can add a Pinterest page, a Google+ page, and an Instagram handle. If you don't have these social media accounts yet, get the first three set up right now.
Social media marketing works really well with all of your blog content. As soon as you publish a blog post, share that content to all of your social networks. You can even post it on Twitter multiple times a day since the life a tweet is so short.
You also might want to test a "Like Campaign" on Facebook. Social Media Examiner has a great step-by-step post on how to set one up. Basically it's a campaign with a "Like Our Page" call-to-action instead of a "Buy Now" CTA.
Start by targeting people who Like your competition, who like other products or services that complement yours, or who like influencers in your industry. Facebook makes it easy to do this. You get targeted likes, and if you create informational and interesting content people will engage with your Page.
Once you start to gain a following, spend a few bucks to boost your Facebook posts. Building demand will help when launch time finally arrives.
As for Twitter, it's important for you to follow people. But which people? I already told you to follow your influencers, but follow your competitors to see what they're doing. Follow people that follow you, and check on Twitter's Who to Follow tool to see if there's anyone interesting there.
Figure 4: Twitter does a decent job recommending who you should follow. It's based on who you follow and who follows you; pay attention to it!
Be sure to tweet about your weekly progress, and tweet reminders about how people can join your early-access list. Interacting with anyone who retweets your content will help you build your name.
If you have a lot of LinkedIn connections you're golden. It's time to invite people to your early-access list. Just like you did with Facebook and Twitter, give your LinkedIn contacts that behind-the-scenes look into your startup. You can even re-post your blog content as a long-form post in LinkedIn. Then link off to your blog to get more eyeballs.
One last and important comment about social media: beware of anyone trying to "sell" you Likes on Facebook or followers on any social network; it's a shady practice, and if you're caught, you could lose your social media accounts.
Bonus Step: Reward Their Interest
Make sure you pay off the early access folks and really give them the first shot at using your product. These people make great beta testers. Give them a good month or so with the product, listen to their feedback, and make necessary changes before the big day.
Remember, Google Analytics is a no-brainer to track website users and sessions. All of the social networks and email marketing providers offer analytics capabilities, or [shameless plug alert] you can use our business dashboard tool, Dasheroo.
Under the category of "been there, done that" I've had a lot of experience with pre-launching a startup. Engaging with different groups of people and building your audience before you launch is the only way to go. You can build it, but you don't tell them about it before hand, they just won't come. So get out in front of your launch, and by all means keep the momentum going and growing.
Founder and former CEO of VerticalResponse, Janine Popick is currently a co-founder and CMO of Dasheroo. Writing on topics related to marketing, small business, and entrepreneurship, her work has been featured in USA Today, TIME, Forbes, Small Business Computing, Businessweek, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Social Media Today.
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