Startup Upstart: The Essential Product Launch Checklist

Hi. I've missed you. I've missed everyone the past couple of weeks. That happens with product launches – especially when you're out to build a valuable brand, not just an initial user following. But at least I don't have to endure stealth-mode silence: my clever client Memoir Tree believes in open-source marketing, so I'm free to talk about what we did and why. Here's how we prepared Memoir Tree's free oral history app for launch.

1) Launch when your product is ready, not before.

Memoir Tree's original launch date got shoved back two weeks. We make no apologies for this: that's what happens when you get solid, actionable feedback from road-testing your app. Many developers would rather push out a product than make the tweaks due diligence demands, believing that the sooner you get your app out, the sooner you can start getting press attention for your product. But you don't actually need a publicly available product to start generating social media hits - or even press coverage.

2) Generate press interest now.

Memoir Tree covered 3 events, sent out 3 press releases, placed 4 feature stories and got hundreds of press hits before launch, cultivating key media relationships and piquing product interest from consumers and event partners. During this process, we discovered which release distribution services yielded the biggest bump for Memoir Tree: results from PRWeb beat PR Newswire's iReach in press hits, website visitors and page views, while low-cost, industry-specific services like Mi2N yielded a steady trickle of visitors for over a month. We cultivated 21 journalists individually but didn't rush to solicit reviews, waiting until we had a product we felt confident would be reviewed favorably. Instead of just another app review, we landed a highly complimentary feature on Cult of Mac.

3) Meanwhile, invite investors to coffee.

Rather than waiting for launch to prove your concept to investors, you should be in investor mode from the moment an app is a twinkle in your developer's eye. Incubators and pitch competitions may help you refine your market positioning and nudge you to create a product video, but one-on-one conversations with investors are invaluable in business development. So well before launch, we started inviting investors to coffee.

This is nowhere near as daunting as it sounds. Anyone working in tech in the Bay Area is never more than one or two people removed from investors via LinkedIn or AngelList and those investors actually want to hear from you – they earn bragging rights from being first to hear about a new product. Investors who follow your progress from the start become invaluable champions in the small world of venture capital: even if your product doesn't fit within a particular investor's portfolio, that investor may well put you in touch with an investor who's the right fit.

4) Introduce a brand, not just a product.

Most investors will not write you a check on your first meeting, and that's a good thing. Smart investors take the time to help position your business for success, rather than placing a blind bet on a flashy product. Keep them in the loop, keep soliciting and responding to their honest feedback, and that investor who balks at a million-dollar new-product gamble now may pony up $10 million on a well-defined brand next year. This actually happened with a prior client, and given enthusiastic early investor feedback, Memoir Tree has promising prospects. Meanwhile, if you know any investors with a coffee jones, I'm buying.

Next up, the Startup Upstart pulls back the curtain on an actual app launch strategy - and reports the results. To watch as events unfold, follow Alison on Twitter. Alison is a paid consultant to Memoir Tree, who have graciously allowed to be included as the topic of her series Startup Upstart. THE FIVE receives no payments for these articles.

If you are interested in more Startup Upstart, check out these other articles on THE FIVE:

Startup Upstart: Your Socks Are So Unimpressive

Startup Upstart: Is This Thing On? Five Ways to Turn Beta Testing Upside Down

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