May 15, 2016
Launch a Digital Brand in 8 Steps
New digital brands are launching every day. Everything from eBooks to full-service web-based applications is available for those who are looking for specific solutions to problems they are having.
If you have considered launching your own online brand I have put together 8 summarized steps to take which covers each step of the way. After listening to a few podcasts and reading some blog posts
I have found a common pattern many product builders use to deploy their ideas to the world. Much of the process has to do with establishing your brand through effective marketing strategies. The larger part of the process deals with providing your target audience with something they want, or even better, need.
Before we dive in I’ll state that your mileage will always vary if you decide to launch a product or brand of some sort online. The steps I’ve outlined below will point you in the right direction. How you perform each step is solely up to you. A successful digital product is often due to its user base so it bears saying that if you have a decent amount of people in your network already then you have a higher chance of success in terms of revenue.
1. Ask your users what is missing
It all starts with an idea. Unfortunately, unless you know for a fact the market is missing your big idea you’ll need to ask around to see if what you are intending to offer is even what users want or really need. Before doing anything you will want to execute this step.
A few days ago I listened to a few podcasts from Pat Flynn over at smartpassiveincome.com. Pat talked about the steps he had taken in the past to launch many of the products of which have done really well for him.
He mentioned his number one rule when starting any new venture is to take to the market first and find out what it is people are having trouble within their day-to-day flow. Pat mentioned that he was cold calling people asking each person a few questions similar to:
- What is the one problem that you are having right now that you wish you had a way to solve?
- Why does this problem, in particular, stand out?
- Have you found any remedies to help aid the problem?
From there, Pat perceives to explain how after a series of questions you can start to understand the pains the person is having and the possibility of coming up with an idea for a solution based on the feedback they provided.
I identified the steps Pat took here as proactive user research.
Finding a real problem to solve rather than one you can only assume is the first step in launching a successful product.
You will obviously want to niche out your target market and try to find problems you have experienced solving in the past. This is not to say you can’t go outside of your comfort zone once and a while to build a product people didn’t know they needed, much less one you never thought you would create.
2. Build a prototype
When you land on the real problem your digital brand is trying to solve, you need a way to validate any ideas you have come up with to iron out all the obstacles.
A great way to do this is to develop a working prototype of some sort. You can go real primitive with your prototypes so long as the general idea is clear.
Paper prototypes sometimes solve the toughest problems with digital products. Other common digital tools for prototyping include wireframes, interactive wireframes like those you can build using Invision or Marvel and even rapidly built web pages.
Your prototype will help validate your idea instantly. Put it in front of a few people and try to capture how they used it and if it did indeed solve a potential problem they are facing.
Finally, If what you have created works, you will need to take the next steps towards building the product in order to be ready for the market when it comes times to launch.
3. Choose a good name
Your brand’s name matters a great deal. In the digital realm, naming is tough because almost all digital brands rely on a website domain name of some sort as a home base for their offerings, many of which are already taken.
Choosing a good name sets you apart even before people identify with what you do. Once people learn of the benefits you provide, that impression becomes a new association for the user and they tend to not forget it. So in short, choose wisely and make sure you have a domain name before going any further.
4. Build hype to make a higher impact
A good tactic I have seen for many digital brand owners is to build a landing page for their product even before work has begun to create it (Think of this as a basic “coming soon” page). They then begin marketing the product with social media, ad placement, word of mouth, etc…
This strategy may seem kind of cruel to the user but in reality, it's a great way to validate once again if your idea is a good one. Many landing pages will feature a bit about the product, who or what is behind the product and an email opt-in form for those who would like to be notified when the digital brand is launched.
If the opt-in ratio is high, you can bet your chances of a successful launch are high. If they are low you might consider abandoning the idea and working towards a new goal to save time and resources.
You’ll notice the landing page trend is used a lot for those who author online courses, eBooks, web apps, and more.
The bonus of this tactic is you now have direct contact with those who decide to opt-in. If you decide to make more products in the future you now have increased your reach in making more sales or impressions.
Just be sure to avoid over-contacting anyone who has shown interest. The last thing you want to do is piss your users off.
5. Create your product/brand
In the previous step, you may have gained some interest in your digital brand. If so then now the time comes to officially create your product.
In this phase, you’ll likely design and develop some sort of good or service which gets used or utilized by the consumers you are targeting. Make sure the hype you built with the landing page and social media campaign hold true with the products you plan to offer.
You won’t want to come to the market with something less than the expectations of your users. If you do this could seriously impact this particular digital brand and any future ones to come. Don’t rush, pay attention to details, and build something that works.
6. Get prepared for launch
The time to launch is near and you need to prepare another round of marketing similar to what happened in step 4. In this phase, you want a consistent branding strategy to market toward all of those you think could be potential customers.
Be sure to pay attention to consistent messaging, marketing collateral (imagery, colors, typography) and more. A list of things to prepare is below
- Make some great looking display ads with a call to action which will entice users to come to check out your product. These can be used for display ads, social media posts, social media profiles and more.
- Schedule a series of social media postings. Use an app like Buffer or dlvr.it to schedule posts in advance.
- Make sure there is a community aspect in place for your users. They need a way to share information regarding your digital brand. Giving them a home to do so means you care about them and your products.
- Create an announcement to send to all of those who opted in on the landing page. As soon as the product launches they will get first wind of the news which could lead to instant sales.
- Make sure the payment process is as easy as possible. There are a variety of ways to do this with PayPal, Stripe, or a service like Gumroad. Unfortunately, there are fees involved with all of these solutions but in the end, if it’s easier for your users it might be worthwhile to try.
- Make sure some sort of tracking is in place. Google Analytics can provide a lot of viable information in regards to demographics amongst your users. Use this to your advantage for your future digital brands.
- Test, Test, Test — make sure people can actually make a purchase and let alone use your website (don’t cheap out on design).
- Double-check your spelling everywhere!
- Get some rest. Launch days are hectic and if you anticipate a lot of traffic be prepared to deal with absolutely anything. Having no energy isn’t much of an option on launch day :)
The big day has come. You update the landing page to reflect your digital brand and how users can obtain it. You send the first round of launch announcements to all of those who decided to opt-in. Your scheduled social media posts start to fire and you are off!
If all goes well, sit back and watch orders start to tally up. Take a deep breath…you did it!
Going forward you want to be there for your customers in case there are any issues. It goes without saying, but during this phase be on call to answer any questions or problems that may arise.
8. Be there for your audience post launch
I mentioned in step 6 (preparing for launch) about the importance of having a community for your users and how it helps show you care which in return gives users a positive impression of your brand.
Be sure to follow up on being active in the community. You can get some plug and play forum software from a variety of WordPress Plugins or even use a service like Discourse installed on your site will little effort. At the same time make sure you have some F.A.Q.s already in place on the forums if you know of any beforehand.
Extending a support email or ticketing platform is also useful for digital brands that lean towards the software side. Zendesk is a crowd favorite but there are many options out there.
After some time, the hype may die down about your digital brand. This is perfectly fine. That just means its time to create another one.
If you decided in the beginning to go the SasS(Software as a Service) route and offer a subscription service you’ll need to find ways to keep your users coming back. You won’t want to abandon your digital brand at all. SaaS is a huge topic and one I’ll save for another time. Until then I hope you’ve found this guide useful. I’m making great use of it myself. I hope you will too.