By Janine Popick
You've been busy working hard on your startup; building the team, fine-tuning the product, rounding up investors, or looking for office space. But in addition to all that, there are still essential tasks you need to do before you can flip the launch switch and open your business to the public.
The old saying "If you build it they will come" is rubbish. If you're not already a "unicorn" with buckets of cash at your disposal, you need to do a ton of work in what I call the pre-launch phase.
In this phase, you need to build a list of people who care about your company and your product; these are your early adopters. It's your "early access list."
How do you build this golden list? It takes is some time and work, and you have to do it along with everything else, but it's important. Here are the five steps you need to build an audience that's excited about your business and eager to become a customer.
5 Small Business Startup Tips
1. Organize Your Contacts
This is an easy step, but many folks overlook it. You already have a ton of contacts from business cards, prior contacts at past jobs, your contact manager, LinkedIn, and your Gmail account—to name just a few. Gather all of the friends, family, and contacts that matter to your startup and load them into a CRM system. Keeping them all in one spot will help simplify how you communicate with them in the future. Constantly add to this list, and put notes into it; it should act as the heartbeat to your business.
Send your new contact list an email to let them know what's going on with you and your new gig. Invite them to receive emails that give them a heads-up on what's going on with your start-up. Also invite them to your early access or beta list; that should clean your list of bounces and unsubscribes and leave you with a group of people who truly want to hear from you.
And as your business grows, you'll figure out how and when to integrate other applications into your CRM system; make sure you choose one that you can use for a while.
Figure 1: BuzzSumo shows you industry influencers based on your keywords.
2. Identify and Talk to Influencers in Advance
Even though your startup hasn't launched yet, it's great to give influential people in your industry a behind-the-scenes look at what you're doing. These people consist of anyone who:
- Wrote a book on a problem you solve
- Speaks at your industry conferences
- Blogs about your industry or competitors
- Publish articles about your industry
Not only do these people love to be in-the- know, they're also sure to offer tips about your new product or service that you may not have considered. Influencers usually have huge followings, which is exactly what you want. They also love to be the first to talk about new and cool things, so it's important that you build relationships with them.
You can find your influencers easily by using tools like BuzzSumo and Topsy. Make sure you immediately follow them, engage with them, and email them on LinkedIn to see if you can get their attention and, ultimately, a tiny portion of their time.
3. Nail Your Keyword Strategy
Keywords are an integral part of your pre-launch strategy since it takes time to build any organic traffic to your site. Organic is the best kind of traffic, since it's free and typically converts (to a signup, to a lead, or to a sale) much better than paid-for traffic. Start with a list of any keywords or phrases you think people might type into a browser to find you.
Another good keyword strategy: see what keywords your competition ranks on. Go to SEMRush and input your competitor's name. You'll see a list of keywords with the average monthly search volume they rank on. This will give you even more ideas of what your keywords might look like.
Figure 2: SEMRush makes it easy to see what keywords your competition ranks on, which can help you build your own keyword list.
Once you have your keyword list, check out Google's Keyword Planner for Adwords. You don't want to spend money on Adwords (just yet anyway), and this free tool will give you what the average monthly volume of searches would be for your keywords. You'll also get new keyword ideas from the tool as well.
Moz is a great tool to monitor all of your keywords and to see where you're ranking for them.