Imagine you want to launch a new ice cream brand. As an early-stage entrepreneur, the pressure to succeed is extremely high. You set up a launch date and try to get as many things as right as possible: testing flavours, going through the F&B approval, working on branding, logo and setting up your social accounts. Throughout this process there is one hope pulsating though your brain: on the launch day when first customers come through your door, it all needs to look great, grand, perfect.
Many entrepreneurs put high hopes on their launch date. In fact, the pressure is so high, you surely know some people who delay launching their idea, because they just don’t think the product is perfect yet. This strategy is utterly different.
Total involvement method
The core of the method is in allowing your audience behind the scene of your product creation. It combines aspects of entertainment, reality TV with a very detailed education about all the important aspects of the product. Instead of starting your marketing after you launch, you start it on the same day when deciding on a new product or service.
If you were to apply this marketing strategy in our ice cream shop example, you would not wait until your launch date to share the news with the world. Instead, you would go live on any social media that’s available to you and share the process. On day 1, you would talk about the dream and vision. On day 2, you would take your audience to the F&B regulations office and share all the frustrations of paperwork required. On day 3, you would broadcast your experience choosing the flavour and have people help you vote for the most interesting combinations.
“Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like.” — Brian Chesk
Do you need an existing audience?
After you tackled the courage to show the “backstage”, the next obvious doubt might be about needing an audience. Surely big names can sell anything from face creams to shoelaces, after establishing a strong personal brand. Will this type of method work for mortals like you and me?
On a quest to answer this question, I came across the story of ‘Choose Unstoppable’ podcast. 3 days after its launch on iTunes, the podcast was ranking #3 in the entrepreneurship category in Canada. Within its first year, it was featured on iTunes home page as a new and noteworthy podcast. None of this sounds too out of the ordinary unless you know the story behind. Kerri Macaulay, the host of Choose Unstoppable, shares how when she got an idea of launching a podcast, her entire audience consisted of 800 people on her email list and a small social following. Taking her audience behind the scenes was a large part of her strategy and quickly proved worth it.
Kerri shares how she started with a bold statement: she was going to launch her podcast in 30 days. For the next 30 days, she went live sharing the journey. There was time pressure, there was a pressure of actually delivering on the promise, even with the small audience. Surprisingly, her first announcement video really caught on and attracted friends of friends who wanted to cheer her up for taking on a big scary goal. Macaulay then created a “Podcast Launch” group where she documented her journey with precision.
At the end of 30 days, the group consisted of only 305 followers. A few days after, a never-heard-of brand new podcast was hitting top 3 in the entrepreneurship category following behind Tim Ferris and Gary Vee. All thanks to the extreme levels of engagement of this small and mighty group.
Can anyone build a group like this? I believe so. It seems like courage is the key component in executing this strategy. Kerri believes there were a few key elements to her strategy.
Follow this formula:
- Make a public commitment – Start by telling others what you are going to work on. The higher the goal, the more interesting it is to observe. But remember, the method is only worth it if you are 100% sure you are going to go through with the project. No matter how hard it gets. Posting a new goal on Facebook only to abandon it in a few days won’t do much good to your brand.
- Share the good, bad and ugly – Sharing difficult decisions, failed attempts and days when everything went wrong seems incredibly scary. But it’s the key to creating a “reality TV” factor that will glue your audience to their screens.
- Make people feel a part of the decision-making process – Social media offers many solutions to take decisions out of your board room and get the audience involved. From voting for the book cover to asking what topics should your new course cover. In his classic marketing book “Triggers”, Joe Shugerman points out how consistency is an important trigger when it comes to buying. Once people give you something (even as little as 5 seconds of their time to leave a vote) they are more inclined to give more (sign up or buy).
- Keep it low-production – Macaulay engaged her audience through the entire 30 days process just going live on Facebook. In the world of glammed up experts, honesty and simplicity are refreshing.
Time tested method
If you are wondering if taking customers behind the scenes is an attribute of modern times, made possible by broadcasting devices in your pocket, let me give you an example from marketing and advertising classics.
Claude C. Hopkins is deemed as one of the pioneers of advertising. In 1907, Hopkins was hired by Schlitz Brewing Company and tasked to take their beer brand from the end of the charts to the customer’s first choice. After visiting the factory, the famous copywriter was impressed with the elaborate process of beer making. He had an idea to describe the process in his ad. But his employers were doubtful. They said every other brewery did exactly the same. The process that was obvious to them was truly a mystery to the consumers and Hopkins knew that the first company to talk about behind the scenes would win big. It resulted in a short text ad he wrote and distributed in newspapers.
His understanding of customer psychology proved to be on point: people were fascinated with learning about something that brewers deemed “boring and uninteresting”. The sales skyrocketed, and a famous case for advertising school-books was created.
Psychological principles behind this method were as effective 100 years ago as they are today. Authenticity is kind of a buzzword, but looking at it through a lens of these 2 successful launch stories, helped me see it in a different light. It’s not only about adding sprinkles of hardships into your entrepreneurial glam. Instead, there is a continuity, there is taking people on a journey, there is being honest about not being an expert at everything and inviting people to observe how you become one.