Learn about the new tools & see examples of cutting edge pre-launch optin getting techniques that work!
In April, “stealth” social media start-up Kohort announced its upcoming launch. Within a few days, the site received thousands of user sign-ups, according to its founder Mark Davis. In the start-up world, this itself perhaps isn’t uncommon, but what made Kohort’s story unique is the fact that those thousands of users had no idea what Kohort was when they signed up. To this day, the purpose of the site is still secret.
It may not matter to you what Kohort is or isn’t, nor whether stealth is good or bad. But the fact that it managed to get thousands of people to take blind action (before the site even launched) with so much competition for early adopters is quite powerful.
Kohort is not alone, or even lucky, in its ability to break through the startup-launching, consumer-pitching chaos. There’s a science to generating pre-launch buzz and an art to gaining new users. Here are four tricks startups have used to make it happen.
1. Create a Shareable “Launching Soon” Page
In order to collect user information, you need a place for users to sign up. Philadelphia-based start-up LaunchRock thinks a company’s “coming soon” page should be more than a placeholder; it should be a place for users to sign up and provide a way to share a new start-up with friends.
LaunchRock gives start-ups a turnkey solution for a custom coming soon page that allows users to sign up for updates and share the fact that they did so.
2. Make A Game Of It
Subjot, the brainchild of game developer Chris Carella, turned its coming soon page into a social game using a feature available on LaunchRock. Carella offered users who signed up for his site the opportunity to gain access early if they got friends to sign up. Every friend you talk into joining the site’s waiting list (via links Subjot’s launch page generates for you) brings you closer to receiving access yourself. Each referral moves you further up in line.
The most remarkable part? Subjot’s launch page didn’t even say what it was. “It got 10% conversion,” Carrella says. “That’s amazing considering there’s nothing on the page.”
It’s a core idea for Jameson Detweiler, co-founder of LaunchRock: “It’s all based on the concept of incentivized sharing. After someone signs up for your site, you ask them to share it with their friends through various social media channels and/or email. In exchange for doing so, you reward the user with something if they get enough of their friends to sign up.”
3. Tease Users With Exclusivity Or Mystery
TV shows like LOST or The X-Files kept viewers hooked by cultivating an addicting feeling of “WTF is going to happen next?!” In a similar manner, anything that sparks curiosity –- in the right way –- gets under our skin. Kohort said the site was “stealth” to play up the sense of mystery around its brand and to generate interest.
Kohort also used exclusivity and scarcity to drum up user signups. Its launch page tells visitors to “stake your claim” and reserve your username before someone else does. Judging by the chatter on Twitter, many people are reserving usernames because they don’t want to risk losing their chosen handle in case this “mysterious” service turns out to be something cool.
“Adoption has far exceeded our expectations,” Davis says. “There seems to be a good bit of curiosity about what we’re up to that is driving interest.”
4. Buzz Is Great, But Substance Is Paramount!
In the end, if a startup’s product sucks, it doesn’t matter if it has four users or 4 million when it launches. But if a company has something cool or useful to show the world, an extra thousand users or so to share your message can be pretty nice to have around on launch day.
It’s an even simpler — if not more ambitious — equation for LaunchRock’s Detweiler: “Have an addicting and useful product that brilliantly solves a real problem for a specific market.” Build it, and they will come.
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