KickoffLabs Blog:

Launch like a PRO: 8 Hacks for Building Your Audience

By Josh Ledgard

Aug 26th, 2014

Be sure to check out the video for plenty more hidden marketing gems!

Let’s start things off with a quote (because who doesn’t love a good quote?)…

“…it’s more important to serve a customer than it is to build a product. Remember: you’re here to solve a problem…”

-Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot CTO and Founder

One of the core beliefs we have at KickoffLabs is that supporting customers, even if our product can’t do something and finding a way for them to do it and solve their problem is always going to lead to more success down the road.

  1. If you keep having to do this, you’re going to eventually build it into your product.
  2. It creates a way to get engaged with customers.

We personally emailed our first 1,000 customers offering personalized suggestions for their landing pages and continue to do so. This is something that gives us a huge advantage.

It’s important to remember as you go through the launch to get more personally engaged with people, than not to.

#1 – Hack validation


A lot of people use our product to validate an idea. But let’s dive into a little more specifically about what it means…There are several different parts of validation:


Quick story: a customer of ours (who shall go nameless), got about 5,000 page views but only around 30 signups. If you’re wondering, that’s a ridiculously low conversion rate. When I looked at their page, it was easy to understand why…

The page only said something along the lines of “Coming Soon. Improve your business.” with an email capture form below it.

There was no validation happening there… of course everybody would like to improve their business! The only thing they validated was that a vague launch page is not enough these days to get people to sign up for your idea.

One of the most important things you want to do, and some people have even found it helpful to do before you put up the launch page, is to take your pitch and refine it down to a short email, find 10 people that are potential customers and email them that pitch saying “hey, does this make sense to you?” “Do you understand what we’re going after?”


It’s one thing to have a great idea. But if you’re going to be charging money for it you don’t necessarily have to put the price up front, at least put some indications that it is going to be a paid service. Either by offering a discount for people that sign up, or by putting up some arbitrary price as a way to indicate the paid options.

One of the worst things that you can do is capture 5,000 emails from people who all thought it was going to be free… you’ll realize that no one wants to pay money because they all signed up for something they thought was going to be free. It’s a huge mistake we see people make all the time!


Validate that you’ve got a proper incentive for people to sign up today, right now for something. And if you think about it, there’s a lot you can do to get those people to sign up.

You could take a couple blog posts and put them into a PDF and say “hey, download my 5 free tips. Just give me your email address and I’ll give you this. My product is not ready, but I’ll give you 5 tips anyways on how to make your life easier”.

Landing Page

The key is that your launch page doesn’t have to be about your product, it can be about solving the customers problem in another way.

Some of the best converting launch pages are ones that do this; where they take an idea and say “here’s how I’m going to solve your problem in advance. And when we launch, we’ll have an even better way to do it!”…


This landing page is from one of our recent customers, Landscapely.

  • The pitch is simple. So it talks about the problem and the benefit the customers get.
  • It talks about price. Landscaping from $35.
  • An incentive. Early access to the app and 25% off your first service.
  • Form is minimal. etc…

They have a great landing page, but the point is that by using this page, by viewing their conversion rate they are now able to validate:

  • Is this the right copy?
  • Do people sign up for the price?
  • Are people incentived by 25% off?

And they got all that within the package of a really simple launch page that converts well for them!

The big vision of this hack: Don’t skip talking to customers first!

#2 – Hack the incentive


Talking about incentives, we’re going to dive a little deeper into what I mean by having a proper incentive, because it’s so important!


The incentive should be related to your business, but more importantly; should solve a problem.

Offers free value

If you want to capture the email address, you need to provide something of free value. Yes, that means giving something away.


The “25% off when we launch” from our previous example doesn’t fit that immediate bill. Something more immediate could have been “5 Ways To Reduce Your Lawn Care Costs” as a downloadable PDF would be something more immediate, in addition to the percentage off.


Here’s another example of a recent customer: NiceRide, they are sort of a competitor to the classic AAA motor club. And they are basically saying that if you join their launch list, you get a free year of roadside assistance and member benefits when they launch.

It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s something that people will be incentived to get. They also change the CTA button text to say “Get It Free” to give more emphasis to the benefit.

The best incentive would be to combine these 4 hacks into a super incentive.

#3 – Hack the big boys


Find them

When I say “hack the big boys”, what I’m talking about here is finding where your customers live. Chances are you have almost no audience today. And even if you’ve got 10,000 email addresses, assuming you’re addressing a sizeable market; 10,000 emails still equates to “you have no audience” in the grand scheme of things.

There are other people who have a larger audience built that service your customers today. They’re either related or they’re directly competing with you. Your goal is to find out where your customers hang out. You can do that with Google search, look for forums, etc.

Cultivate relationships

When you find these places where discussions are happening, start engaging with them and cultivating relationships.

Be a guide

Start answering their questions, start becoming known as an expert in that community.

I did it for KickoffLabs

If you’re wondering what the results can be from something like that, we’ve tried this with several communities, but I’ll just take one: There’s a lot of marketers and entrepreneurs on Quora (which is a Q&A based community).

Both before and after our launch, even through today, we go and participate in these communities. And when I say “participate”, I want to be clear that over a long time span, I’ve posted just over 90 answers to questions. So it’s not a ton of work, and from those 90 answers we’ve netted almost $100K in revenue so far :)

This is just one community, one location, 90 posts. If someone just told you that if you were to post 90 things in a forum, and you could make a hundred thousand dollars… I think you’d say yes!


The work is not that hard it’s actually kind of fun to go in and see what problems your customers have that are; either related directly (those are the best questions), or even indirectly to the product or service that you’re offering to those customers. It’s not only yielded us direct revenue, it’s yielded us relationships in the space, contacts with other companies, etc.

Like I said, we did this up to launch to build a reputation. So pre-launch we we’re focused more on learning about the entrepreneur and internet marketing customer that was in our space. Post-launch, we started shifting the participation to answering questions that were beneficial to both the customers and us.

Totally worth it… And don’t think that there’s not a place for you to participate and benefit potential customers. For every space you’re in, there’s a gathering of people somewhere online that you can leverage before and after launch.

#4 – Hack someone else’s tribe


Unless you are doing something that is completely unique and does not exist today… there is a competitor in the space. Not only that, there are probably people that range the spectrum from competitors to frenemies (people that do very similar, related things but don’t directly compete with you) that already exist.

If a competitor does not exist, I would personally question whether you’ve done enough research or whether or not there’s money in the space. As soon as someone proves there is money, there is a competitor.

Spec out the competition

So first you have to go out and find the competition. Use tools like Moz or UberSuggest and use keywords to locate competitors.

Engage their customers

We literally would look for tweets with people that were frustrated with a competitor and personally ask them what other frustrations they had. There wasn’t some spambot on Twitter replying to everything, I had a scheduled item on my tasks lists to look through the queries, where there would be 50-100 complaints a day, and pick out a handful of them and respond to their questions.

When you start identifying the problems and frustrations people have from your competitors, you can start to figure out where you can differentiate yourself and how you can speak better to them through your landing page copy.

Look through their support forums

This is an easy win. What questions do people have that go unanswered? What things can you help out with? I’ve even answered questions about our competitors product, just because I know the answer. The kudos you get from doing that paid dividends in the end.

When you’re engaging with potential customers through communities, forums, and social you can see what the opportunities for you to stand out are.

#5 – Hack virality


Be realistic

Something that a lot of people forget, is making sure that your launch has a viral component. When a lot of people think about virality, there tend to be 2 different answers you get from people:

  1. Really not understanding what it means.
  2. People who think the only way something viral is a success is if you get 10 million hits on YouTube and getting that “hockey stick growth”.

Hockey stick growth is not unheard of, it’s just something that you shouldn’t necessarily think of as the only form of success in virality.

If, for example, every 1 person that you sign up brings on .3 additional people – you are still getting a nice boost from having virality built into your launch and app.

It’s not all or nothing… Set a realistic goal to get people to share what you’re doing.

Personalize it

Making it associated with your brand, with your rewards.

Just ask

Don’t forget to ask people to share. On the landing page, thank you screen, and on the email.

Focus on 3

I tend to tell people to focus on the three core communities, so Facebook, Twitter and Email. If you’re a B2B app, then perhaps you also want to focus on LinkedIn as well.

Here’s a great example from a customer of ours named Curate…

Engage your sign ups

When you get to their thank you screen, they immediately offer an incentive. Invite 3 people and get into the beta sooner. They make it ridiculously easy by providing the share links and a counter that show how many people have joined.

If your page just sends somebody to the standard Mailchimp “Thank You” screen after joining your list, I would consider that a gigantic lost opportunity.

Why? Over 35% of leads we’ve generated (thats 4 million+ leads!) have come from people clicking on one of our referral links and sharing it out.

That means that our customers on average are getting an additional 35% lift that they would NOT have gotten, had they just sent somebody to a “Thank you for signing up. We’ll be in touch soon.” style page. That boost can make a huge difference in the bottom line long-term, both through your launch and through revenue growth.

This is something we use to differentiate ourselves (yep, it’s a KickoffLabs exclusive feature), something that we make easy, and is something that we believe in as a key to success.

#6 – Hack scarcity and urgency


Create an illusion

Whether real or not, it does produce real results. Just today, our other KickoffLabs co-founder, Scott, sent me an email about the new Mailbox app offering up 1 of his 3 invites.

They could probably let everyone in today, they’re owned by DropBox so there’s no limitation. They are creating the illusion of scarcity where each person can only invite 3 people into their beta and I’m sure that it’s helping them.

Put up a wall

They are also putting up an artificial wall that makes people that “get in” feel part of an exclusive club. That’s a powerful psychological trick!

The way it works is dealing with people’s feelings of loss to something they might not have even had.

Gamify your launch

“Hey! Here’s something great! BUT you might not get it!”

That impact on conversion rate can be incredible because it’s a powerful motivational force for anyone. It’s a trick that people use all the time to make people want things more, and it can be really simple.

Join now or lose out

Here’s an example from our customer, HostelRocket who are using a simple countdown to create a sense of urgency.


Ideally, if you’re going to make this a core component of your campaign, as you get within each week you would be sending email updates to people reminding that t. Each closer step you get, assuming you’re growing your list along the way, you’ll see people taking that next step to whatever it is you want them to do.

#7 – Hack social insights


Learn more

The more you know about your customers, the more you can refine your copy, offer and pitch.

Get more personal

The more you personalize your emails, the more you can segment your emails.

Ask for less

If you understand your customers, you’re asking for less data over time.

Our report

This is a KickoffLabs report of our webinar audience. We didn’t have to ask our audience about any of their demographic information, but we’ve got it broken down into actionable data. These are great generalizations to use for segmenting your audience!


We capture a lot of this data whenever somebody signs up to your landing page, and this can be incredibly powerful. If you know that a majority of your audience is within a certain demographic, there are things you can do to appeal to them by changing your message. The name of the game is keeping your list more personal and engaging.

#8 – Hack pre / post launch


I’ve mentioned this several times before, so it must be important…

Keep in the loop

It’s about keeping your signups engaged by letting them know what you’re company is up to.

Get feedback

Don’t forget to ask questions as you send email updates.

Slow launch

You want to let them in. There’s the concept of the “slow launch” of just letting something like 10 people in at a time, so you can get more feedback as you go.

Deliver the goods

Ultimately, you want to ship something amazing…

Here’s an awesome example of a great email that keeps people in the loop:



Note: The second half of the presentation was meant to be led by our in-house growth hacker, Izzy Palmerin. But due to some technical difficulties with Google Hangouts, things didn’t work out as planned. Still there’s nothing to prevent you from learning from these additional growth tactics.

Bonus hacks


*easy hack: Change your CTA text

Make your call-to-action text directly related to the incentive. That seems to work best.

Things that don’t work well are when it says “Join”, or “Sign Up”, or the worst case “Submit” – because it’s not related to what you’re doing. You can have some fun with the call-to-action text!

Optimize your ads

If you’re running ads, through retargeting, Facebook ads, Google, etc… Those are some of the best places to try out copy before putting it up on the landing page.

If all of a sudden you try out a different headline in your ad that gets you twice the clickthrough rate, you should match that headline on the landing page to leverage what worked for that variation of the ad – and vice versa, make a change to your landing page that works well, try those changes to your ad.

Submit your launch

There’s a lot of place where you can submit pre-launch companies. Especially if you’re targeting early adopters and startups, there’s places like BetaList, StartupList, Show Hacker News, there’s a ton of communities!

But the best community to announce your pre-launch is the original niche community you’ve found (using our 3rd Hack). Just simply doing a post that says “I’m doing something you might find interesting, I’d love to get your feedback”. That approach is not spammy and won’t get you kicked out of message boards. Above all, it gets you a chance to engage with people and get real feedback as you’re going.

For a nicely compiled list of places to submit your launch, check out this post on Hacker News.

Launch soon

Although I’d love for you to use our service and take forever to launch. The truth is the sooner you get through launch, the sooner you can start using our other tools to continually build your email list.

Launch a little bit before you’re ready, because you need that feedback.

Hack fails


Our general take on some of these past “successful” launches: they had generic launch pages that didn’t explain what they were doing and they got a ton of signups. But guess what? None of these companies are still in business!

What did they do wrong?

The reality is you want people to sign up that are going to understand what they’re getting into that are eventually going to take the next step of purchasing something, engaging with your app, working with your product, etc.

What happened in all of these cases is that people didn’t know what they were signing up for. They didn’t have that context. You could signup hundreds of thousands of people, but if you’re not engaging with them and providing with them that context, they are not ultimately going to buy or use your offering.

Second to not getting ANY attention to your page, the biggest failure is getting the wrong attention.

Hack wins



Look at DropBox’s classic win of setting up a great explainer video and inviting friends.


Went from 0 to 138,790 users in less than 40 days, check out the case study here.


300,000 signups for a product that isn’t even released yet, check out the case study here..

What you’ll notice about all of these examples, is that they clearly define their audience, they only ask for something really simple (an email address), and they really do push and encourage the sharing.

Other than DropBox, they’re not necessarily getting a greater than 1 viral factor, but they are getting enough people to share where it makes a huge difference in their contributions.


“The best launch is if you have a product that other people like using so much that they tell other people about it.”

-Robert Scoble, tech evangelist

It’s a great quote and I’m a fan of Robert’s, but I would modify this quote to: “The best launch is if you have an EXPERIENCE that other people like so much they tell other people about it.”

It’s not just about the copy on your landing page, not just about capturing the email address, not just about the product – it’s the complete experience.

Did people feel like there was a connection? Do people feel like they can trust you?

That’s what you need to think through. And part of thinking through that, is if there are parts that you can make easier on yourself, like using a landing page builder to make the landing page so you can spend your time on both the product and the experience that goes around the launch landing page.


Thanks for reading and for sharing!

-Josh Ledgard,

Co-Founder of KickofflLabs

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