So you have an amazing business idea and are already working your butt off to turn that initial concept into an actual product or service? Kudos! That’s exactly the energy you need to launch any kind of business. But before you keep going, make sure you know the answer to this question:
How do you know for sure that your idea is viable?
How do you know if people will even be interested enough to invest their hard-earned money? Are you sure there will be enough such people that it’s worth the upfront effort and cost of creating it? I bet that if you knew for sure that nobody is interested, you wouldn’t invest another second or cent into pursuing this business idea.
So is there a way to know for sure, to validate your business idea before you spend heaps of time and energy and dollars on it?
There is: the prelaunch waitlist.
A prelaunch waitlist takes comparatively little time and money to set up and will end up saving you oodles more of both in the long run. It will help you to:
- Gauge existing interest in your idea
- Understand your customers’ real needs
- Build a list of people who’ll be ready to buy on the day you launch
- Narrow down your target audience
- Fine-tune your marketing material and website
All of this while the stakes are still small, when you haven’t invested a lot of time, money, or energy into creating anything just yet.
To summarize: Validating your business idea with a prelaunch waitlist is like a trial run that will give you reasonable certainty that you’ll have a growing, paying, sustainable audience in a matter of days or weeks, rather than wasting months or even years on building a product that nobody will spend money on.
At KickoffLabs, we’ve developed a process for setting up a successful prelaunch waitlist in 30 days. Read on to follow the steps and set your own business up for success right out of the gate.
Week 1: The Prep Work
Even a trial run to validate your business idea needs to look professional, well-presented, and like you’re offering something of value. You’re asking people to invest at least their email-address, if not more, in something that’s still in the early stages, after all. If your waitlist and everything leading up to it looks like you’re not serious about it, nobody will sign up - and your idea will never get the chance it deserves.
Develop Your Brand
The more thought you put into your branding now, the less work that will be later, or at least the easier it will be to optimize. So it’s worth it, even in setting up a prelaunch waitlist, to go through a purposeful brand building process, as outlined by FreshSparks:
- Understand the purpose behind your brand
- Know your competition
- Determine your target audience
- Form a unique brand voice and personality
- Build a brand story
- Create a logo and tagline
- Integrate the brand into every aspect of your business…
… including your prelaunch waitlist activities, which we’ll get to in just a moment. First, once you’ve figured out your branding, you’ll want to set some goals for your prelaunch checklist.
Set Your Goals
The main purpose of a prelaunch validation is to help you understand if your product actually fills a need and if potential customers will be willing to pay for it. With that in mind, try to set up some goals and parameters that will help you determine the success of your prelaunch activities. For example how many leads you want to gain.
It’s tough to give you a specific number here, to be honest. It depends on so many factors, including but not limited to your niche, your target audience, your competition, and your marketing budget. If you’re working within an incredibly focused niche with a smaller target audience, for example, 50 signups in the first week could be a whopping success. If you’re marketing to a large target audience for a potential mass market product with a low price and small-ish margins, that may not be much of an indicator at all.
But you have to start somewhere and Scott McLeod, growth consultant for founders, startups, and Fortune 500’s, gives us a starting point:
“I try to achieve at least a 25% conversion on the first CTA, and acquire at least 100–200 signups at this rate. I’ve found that if you cannot get this from relevant and direct traffic then you may want to reconsider whether you have a real product or business idea.”
Try to adjust your goals so that they fit your product, brand, niche, target group, and marketing budget, so you can make an informed decision about the outcome and whether it was successful or not.
Week 2: Create a Landing Page
That’s all you need to set up a prelaunch waitlist: a landing page. You don’t need a full website, though as discussed before, your branding should already be on point in the design of your landing page. This will help carry over those initial signups once the product is actually up for grabs.
A lot of email marketing software, like Mailchimp or MailerLite, offer landing page features, making it easy to create a landing page with an automatically integrated list-builder running in the background. There are also landing page builders like Unbounce, which includes a range of functionality specifically aimed at people whose primary focus lies on conversions.
Check out The Clueless Marketer’s Guide to Building a Landing Page from Scratch for more information on how to set up a landing page.
However you set it up, your prelaunch landing page needs to communicate the following:
- What the product is
- Who it’s for
- What problem it solves / pain it soothes / question it answers
- That it’s not quite ready yet
- A clear call to action (CTA)
There are many, many, many different ways to create an intriguing landing page around your product, that will entice your audience to sign up even before it’s available. Think about drawing them in by leveraging strategies like
- Special offers
- Referral perks
App Manager 5.0’s Countdown for Urgency
App Manager 5.0, for example, used a countdown clock to invite users to sign up now or lose access to a special in-app perk:
Range’s Clear Value Proposition
Range, a team scheduling software for agencies and studios, did a great job in making it clear what solutions their product will provide, by adding the list at the bottom of their landing page. They also implied a little exclusivity by saying sign up to get your invitation, as if to say “this isn’t a club just any old team can join”:
Harry’s Referral Perks
Offering rewards for referrals is another great tactic to create a viral waiting list and organically increase participation. These rewards could be a discount, or early or free access to your product.
Harry’s created a fun landing page that offered the perk of earning shaving equipment and accessories for inviting friends. This is something you could easily set up with one of KickoffLabs’ mix-and-match campaigns, too:
Week 3: Launch and Promote
Time for the prelaunch liftoff!
It’s kind of like NASA first sending unmanned rockets into space: just because it’s a “trial run” doesn’t mean it’s any less serious - or exciting. The success of the entire mission, i.e. your business idea, hinges on this prelaunch.
Setting up and publishing your landing page is only half the battle. Now you have to make sure to catch your target audience’s interest by placing that landing page right in front of their eyes.
It’s always good to have a plan and set priorities, especially since you’re trying to run this prelaunch campaign for only two weeks. Focus is key for such a short time span, whether you want to rely on influencer marketing, social media promotion, or paid social media advertising. Unless you have a massive budget to throw at your prelaunch waitlist growth, it’s best to focus your efforts like a laser.
Planning and Priorities
Try to determine your priorities and formulate a plan by answering questions like
- Where does my target audience hang out online - for example Facebook, Instagram, Reddit or TikTok?
- How big is my prelaunch marketing budget? Does it allow for paid ads or do I need to stick to organic growth?
- Maybe organic growth is preferable anyway?
- Which influencers might be interested in my product once it launches for real?
- What can I do/test/optimize if things don’t go the way I’m hoping after the first five days?
To answer that last question: this could be an early indicator of the viability of your product, or rather the lack of it. But it doesn’t have to be! You might have set up the wrong approach on your landing page or in your marketing.
Don’t wait too long to go back to the drawing board. The first question you should ask yourself is whether you’re getting across the pain you’re trying to solve. Maybe you’re focusing too hard on your product - a trap many marketing campaigns fall into, and not just during prelaunch campaigns. Always remember:
People care about their own pain, not your product - unless it soothes their pain.
A/B-Test Your Landing Page
A/B-testing is a great way to figure out which elements of your landing page are drawing in the crowd and which might be repelling them. We highly recommend A/B-testing your landing page from the start. Find out more about how to A/B-test your landing page here.
Week 4: Final Promotional Push and Evaluating Results
Let’s assume things are running smoothly, people are signing up for the waitlist, you’re approaching your goals, the finish line is in sight. Now’s the time for one last promotional push to give it your all.
Push It Real Good - Next Level Prelaunch Promotion
It’s a great time to utilize that sense of urgency mentioned earlier, for example by setting a time limit on how long people can sign up to the waitlist for. Or communicating an end date on receiving special perks for signing up. As a last promotional push, you can set up a countdown timer - like App Manager 5.0 did, see above - and promote the heck out of it on social media.
Another option could be to leverage the people who’ve already signed up for your waitlist, by offering them rewards for referrals, see Harry’s example above. This is easily set up with KickoffLabs’ Leaderboard Giveaway. This will extend your reach to friends and family of people already on your waitlist.
Did It Work?
When the 30 days are over, it’s time to face the music. Did you reach your goals? Was the campaign successful?
Is your business idea viable?
It hurts if it’s not - but at least you know now, before you’ve invested more time, money, love, and energy into a project that isn’t going to go anywhere. Now you’re free to pursue a different venture - though you should notify the leads you did gather on your waitlist that you’re focusing your attention elsewhere. Be honest about your reasons; just don’t make them wait for something that will never happen.
Who knows; they might like your way of engaging with them so much that they’ll keep an eye out for your next idea that might gain more traction. Try to give them an easy option to keep their eye on your next venture(s), just in case.
If the campaign went well, indicating that your business idea is viable, well, then it’s time to go for it! Turn that idea into reality and launch it. You can do so with a far higher certainty of success than you would have operated under before. It might entice you to pull out all the stops, to run a few more risks - which ultimately might be exactly what your business idea needs to be successful.
If you’re still not 100% sure about how to pull together a great landing page for your prelaunch waitlist, check out our options for referral rewards and contests here at KickoffLabs. Keeping your landing page simple and to the point is key in any campaign - and we know exactly how to help you with that.