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A prelaunch (aka. soft launch) is a marketing technique used to gather leads from a targeted audience interested and ready to buy your product the day sales open.
Having lots of sales day one assures your business is successful and can grow exponentially faster. It is also a great way to get product/market fit validation and know if you are on the right track with your business and how to adjust if not.
I have helped dozens of companies set up a successful launch and below outlines the best prelaunch marketing strategy that helped them all go from 0 to over 3,000 signups with the smallest possible budget in 30 days or less. You can easily blow past these numbers with a little more elbow grease, ingenuity, or budget. This article is written with details pertaining to a subscription box prelaunch but the same principals can be used for any successful product launch.
Overall it will take a couple days to set everything up and it does require a minimum budget of $75 plus a free (or several) free products to use as a give away. If you use influencers or do some lead generation ads then it will cost a bit more but your numbers will increase drastically.
What do you need ready before you prelaunch?
- Brand name, domain name, and social media handles
- Product ready to sell and ship in 1-2 months.
- Target Market Research
- Branding (at least very basic branding)
- Photos or mockups of your products (you can get away with a stock photo but real product images are best)
What are the Steps for a Prelaunch?
- Determine your financial and marketing goals
- Make a marketing plan
- Set up your landing page
- Set up your emails
- Get influencers on board (Bonus items)
- Set up ads (Bonus item)
- Trouble shooting
Lets go over all the steps to Prelaunch:
1. Determine Your Goals
Goal setting is the most important yet overlooked steps in a prelaunch. This is where your entire prelaunch marketing strategy comes from. You'll need to run some numbers or take an educated guess as to how many sales you need your first month to stay in business and what other goals you have.
Goal #1: Analyze How Many Emails You Need to Succeed
To determine the number of emails you need you have to know how many sales you want to make your first month. Let's say the first month you need at least 50 subscribers to cover presale orders and all monthly operational costs.
Use this email goal formula:
MarketingSherpa reports that the overall conversion rate for ecommerce is about 5%, with most in the 1—10% segment. I have personally seen 5% to be a typical conversion rate.
They also published a list of conversion rates broken down by industry:
Choose the median conversion rate for your industry and place it into the formula above.
You may want to make a range from best to worst conversion rate scenario. Let's take the health and beauty industry as an example. We can use the 25th percentile to 75th as a likely range to hit with 2% to 12.5%. So for 50 sales you will want 400-2500 emails.
If you do not have product market fit, your prelaunch is not set up well or you get very low quality leads the conversions you may get lower conversion rates.
But do not fear! This whole process will reveal what is working and what is not so you can adjust and be successful. It's very rare to magically get perfect product/market fit day one without engaging and reiterating with your audience. It's just a part of business and I will explain how to course correct if you don't hit your goals.
Goal #2: Descide your Other Marketing Goals
Beyond sales what would you like to get during prelaunch?
Here are some things to consider that you can also gain to boost your marketing reach.
- SEO boost from backlinks
- Social Proof
- Product Photos
- More likes and followers on Facebook, Instagram etc
Goal #3: Make Your Target Budget
Assessing what budget you have and the return on your investment,
you can then carefully allot money to each part of your launch.
2. The Best Prelaunch Marketing Plan
The best subscription box prelaunch marketing plans includes:
- A 30 day contest to enter and email for 3 month to a free year of product
- A great converting landing page and viral thank you page
- Influencer outreach to announce the prelaunch and launch
- FB ads to send leads to the landing page (bonus items)
- Email and Social media campaign to prime the customer to buy at launch.
Depending on your budget you can use the following options below to mix and match, creating your perfect marketing plan. These examples are from the lowest possible budget to highest (well, highest I'd recommend for a first time self-funded entrepreneur).
Example Budget $200 ( 4-10 days of work)
- Kickofflabs Premium Viral landing page builder ($75/mo)
- Self made brand and images (3-6 hours / FREE)
- Self made landing page ( 5-15h / FREE)
- Self made influencer list of 50 = 10 will typically post (3-6 hours / FREE)
- Box for each influencer 10 x (cost of box, ex. $7) = $70
- Self-made emails and social media posts (4-8 hours / FREE)
- 200-500 leads
- 10 product images and testimonials
- 2-3 SEO backlinks
Budget $1,000 (2-3 days of work)
- Kickofflabs Premium Viral landing page builder ($75/mo)
- Expert Logo template (30 minutes / $25)
- Expert Landing page ($575)
- Expert influencer list of 300 = 100 will typically post ($225)
- Box for each influencer 100 x (cost of box, ex. $7) = $700
- Self-made emails social media posts (4-8 hours / FREE)
- Fb ads ($200)
- 2000-4000 leads
- 100 product images and testimonials
- 25 SEO backlinks
- 100's of likes and followers on Social Media
What is your prelaunch really worth?
Let's say for instance you capture 3,000 leads with sales conversion rate of 5%, that's 150 sales. Let's also say your product sells for $30/box, that's $4,500 net revenue. But there's more...with a subscription box you should count your LTV (Lifetime value). Let's say the LTV is actually $90 that means your prelaunch can be worth $13,500 net revenue. Not to mention all the social proof and testimonials you can use for ads.
You can easily see how investing in your prelaunch can really add up to major revenue and momentum! Set up a business launch calendar with your chosen plan.
3. Setting up your Prelaunch Contest Landing page
Now that you have made a solid plan for executing your prelaunch within your budget and desired results you can start!
The best tool to set up your landing page is KickOff Labs
I have learned through many launches the simpler the better. Really though, don't over think it, don't write a ton of content or make a whole site.
Anatomy of a successful landing page:
- Above the fold info only: This means on a typical desktop computer the user does not need to scroll down to see more info, it's all within the initial window. I can't believe how many people place the button or image below the fold! This will reduce click through rates a lot.
- Branded logo: even if you have a limited budget or are not a designer make sure you have a decent logo to make a good impression. If you have a larger budget or have validated your product already you can get an expert to brand your company. Or you can use a professional logo template to get started.
- Headline: The headline should be simple and highlight the main benefit of the product. Exmples are: feel more radiant, alive, have fun, gain confidence etc. Resist the urge to only highlight features of the product here such as: useful, ergonomic, original etc. Benefits are more emotional and important to a user. What do they truly gain by using your product?
- Product description: Here you can place more info about the features. Be sure to mention what they get and that it's delivered monthly or quarterly etc.
- Incentive: Why should they sign up? What are they getting? Mention a contest or for more quality leads make the incentive just to be on your waiting list or to be the first to buy.
- Call to Action (CTA): What action should they make? Enter to win, Be the First, etc are great CTA's.
Anatomy of a Viral Thank you page:
The Thank You Page is where you can ask people to share your launch and Kickoff Labs makes this so easy by giving your leads more entries for certain actions. When people are incentivized to share your launch campaign it's reach goes viral and your leads do the work for you.
- Thank you: Thank them for entering.
- Logo: Branded logo again.
- CTA: Ask them to invite their friends to win more entries into the contest.
- Description: Explain how they can earn more points and how many.
- # of entries: Highlight how many points they get (you can set this up in the back end of Kickoff Labs).
- Social Share Links: Place social share links and URL and tell them how to use them. Kickoff Labs will let you design premade Facebook, Email, Pinterest and twitter posts that leads can automatically post. Their friends will click on it and hopefully enter their email into your landing page as well.
- Coupon (optional): Give another inventive to open their emails and to purchase on the first day of sales.
- Photo: Add another professional photo to showcase the product.
- Scoreboard: This keeps them coming back to check their score. You can also add links to this page in the KickOff Labs emails or mailchimp emails.
- Social likes and follows: Get more out of your launch campaigns by asking them to like your social media pages for extra entries. This often helps get hundreds of likes and follows on your pages!
Here is another landing page example for a client of mine.
Here is one of the most famous prelaunch campaigns ever.
Thank you page:
Harry's made this contest viral by offering tiers of free products in exchange for referrals.
Simplifying Harry's tiered giveaway to a one product sweepstakes is better for subscription boxes and you don't have to worry about giving away hundreds of products. Choosing one grand prize like a free year of boxes is enough to get plenty of emails.
Luckily Kickoff Labs makes all of these options super easy.
This technique will work for most subscription box prelaunches but if your box is particularly unique or you have a larger budget to play with then I recommend consulting with and expert to get the best plan.
4. Set Up Your Email Campaign
With your prelaunch page you have a fine-tuned machine to capture viral leads. Now once you get those leads you need to nurture them with an email campaign to get them excited for your box and hungry to purchase at launch.
Remember that this is the very first time most people have every heard of your brand and it can take time to build trust.
Here are the essential emails you should send out.
- Thank you: (set up in Kickoff Labs to send instantly)
Thank them for entering, tell them about you again, remind them to share the link for extra entries and give them the coupon code if you made one.
Tell them your launch date if you have decided on one.
About us: (set up in Mailchimp (MC) on auto send 2 days after signup)
Tell them more about your company, your mission and values.
Sneak peek: (set up in MC autosend 2 days after the last email)
Reveal one of your best products and its value especially if it's high.
More about us: (set up in MC autosend 2 days after the last email)
Talk more in depth about anything special about your business like a charity you donate to or your personal story and interest in creating this company.
One week left: (set up in MC)
Start the countdown to your launch to get people excited
3 days left: (set up in MC)
Remind them they only have a few days left to get extra entries and win. Scarcity always motivates action.
Launching today: (set up in MC)
Let them know you have launched and sales are open, You can also announce the winner if you have gotten their permission to use their name or social media handle in your blasts.
Make sure on the same day you send email that you make a social media blast to match. This way everyone is notified and excited to buy.
5. Get Influencers On board
Now you have your landing page to capture leads and your emails to get them ready to buy you need to drive traffic to your landing page.
Ideally you should make this list 2 weeks before you start the prelaunch so you have ample time to reach out and get people lined up to post during it.
By choosing the right Influencers in your niche you can tap into their audience whwho matches your target demographic. Try and create a list of 100-300 Micro Influencers (those who have 1k to 100k followers). Influencers with 5k or less followers will often do a posting in exchange for a box. If they have 10k or more you may need to pay them. It can be beneficial to pay just a couple large influencers then to send many boxes out to smaller ones. But it's best if you can try both.
Promise the influencers a box when the first shipment goes out in exchange for one or two posts about your prelaunch and again on launch day. Make sure to send them any images you have to share as well.
Target influencers on the platform that your audience uses the most. For instance a beauty brand aimed at older women might be mostly on blogs and Facebook while a younger brand might be on Instagram. If its a craft box then be sure to use Pinterest. Make sure to send to some bloggers who can provide back links to improve your SEO. Blog links also get more traffic over time than social media posts.
Remember to connect your main URL like www.boxcompanyexample.com to link to and not the Kickoff Labs generated url. You can switch the URL to Cratejoy or Shopify the day of launch.
Be sure to take screenshots of their posts and use them in ads, emails and social media as social proof.
Another way to drive traffic to your landing page is using Facebook or Instagram story ads. Ads are a whole other topic so I will not go too deep into them here but below is the best preforming ad for the Essentially Simple Box launch shown earlier.
Although boosting posts is generally not recommended by experts a client of mine just boosted the Facebook post made in Kickoff Labs at $5/day and got 500 emails a week from it. She did a lot of target market research to set up the ad well.
Also remember that these email you are collecting are gold for creating look-a-like facebook audiences for current and future ads.
7. Go Forth and Prelaunch
Now it is prelaunch day!
All you really have to do is sit back and execute your plan.
Get your site live, send out emails and social media blasts, make sure your influencers are posting and run your ads. When you preplan everything should go smoothly and you can watch the emails roll in. Make sure to email all your family and friends as well or post in related Facebook groups that allow self promotion.
I recommend you run the contest for 30 days. Any less and you miss out on emails and any more you lose the interest of your leads. You can lengthen the duration of your launch as needed if you are not hitting your goals.
The best part is you can use this same technique for any new products you add to your store or for any contest you want to hold to gather emails.
Also, be sure to be crafting your website during this time so it's ready for Launch.
8. Trouble shooting
If you follow these steps correctly you should see good results. If not here are some pointers to help.
What to do if you are not getting as many emails as you need.
If emails are trickling in and you are not on coarse to hit your goals try these tips.
1. First check your conversion rate on KickOff Labs analytics. If your conversion rates are above 10% congrats you are above average. I often even see conversion rates of 30-50% on my clients campaigns.
2. If you are at 10% or above then you need to send more traffic to your site via influencers and ads or other means. You may need to improve your ads or try marketing your prelaunch in related Facebook, slack groups or message boards.
3. If you are getting good traffic but your conversion rate is at 10% or below you need to improve your landing page. Your copy or images may not be right for your audience. Try creating an A/B test in KickOff Labs. Use radically different copy and images or use the copy from your best preforming FB ad. The A/B test will select a winner and you should see an improvement in conversion rates.
What to do if you launched and sales are not as hoped.
So you got a large email list but your conversion rates to sales was less then expected. Factors that can effect sales are:
1. Low quality of email leads:
If you get low sales your email audience may be freeloaders and not your true target demographic. When running a contest there will always be some people who only want things for free. If you emphasize the contest too much or advertise your link on forums or sites purely for contests you will get freeloaders who don't like to purchase products.
There is little you can do after a launch to correct this so try and be aware before launch. Try making the landing page CTA button read "Be the First to know" like Harry's page and post. After launch you can make sure to target sales ads to a different demographic and run contest more carefully.
2. Not having Product/ Market Fit
It's possible but very unlikely that you stumbled upon and idea that doesn't have an audience. What is more likely is that you just need to tweak the idea and audience a bit.
The best way to do this is to send out a survey to your email list.
Ask them what they thought of the product, the price, who'd they buy it for and about themselves (age, gender, what social media platforms they use etc.) Maybe you entered a really competitive market like beauty and your prices are not competitive. Or perhaps you thought your audience was on facebook when they are really on Pinterest. Go back and do some more research based on your survey results and tweak your product, offer or target audience.
3. Sometimes it just takes time and lots of testing!
I have seen some business start slow but figure out the best ad copy hacks and SEO to increase sales to even 100/day!
It can take some time and grit but you can make your company work, I believe in you.
Get more help with your prelaunch
If you need any help or someone to look over your prelaunch landing page you can book a call with me here. Or just email me to see what I can help you with.
I am also thinking of creating an affordable course that walks you step by step through all of this to launch in 10 days, with premade email and ad copy templates, influencer outreach scripts, bonus logo, templates and more. If you are interested leave a comment below!