Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from previous contributor Sarai Mitnick, the sewing writer, designer, blogger and business owner behind boutique sewing pattern company, Colette Patterns, and author of the forthcoming book, The Colette Sewing Handbook. In 2009, Sarai quit her Silicon Valley “dream job” to start a business around something she was passionate about, and Colette Patterns has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. She attributes much of this to her business philosophy: “Be kind, be helpful, and always listen.” Today, Sarai shares some tips for connecting with customers when it’s time to launch a new product. Thanks, Sarai, for this informative post! — Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump . . .
You’ve worked hard to develop an awesome new product, or even a new line. Now the trick is making sure people know about it. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?
I know this issue well, having gone through at least 10 product launches for my line of sewing patterns. Each one has been progressively easier, and my marketing has become much more effective as I’ve learned. At this point, I know that when I launch a product, I will immediately get sales and start making a profit. Each launch has shattered my previous sales records!
Now I face my biggest launch ever: an honest-to-goodness sewing book! Sure, it’s a much bigger product, with wider distribution, higher stakes and almost two years of my life invested in it. But the principles of getting the word out are the same.
I’d like to share 10 steps I’ve learned that form the foundation for an amazing product launch, be it a book, a new line or a handmade product.
1. Build your community first. This is one of those tasks that must be done well in advance. You want to build relationships with your audience (and potential customers) BEFORE you need them. This is definitely not a quick-fix solution, but more of a long-term strategy that you should always be working on. I’ve noticed that publishers will sometimes say to authors a few months before their book comes out, “Okay, now you should start a blog! And a Facebook page! And a Twitter account!” But as we all know, building relationships takes time. Start building those relationships now, and you’ll be setting yourself up for greater success in future launches!
2. Create a mailing list. In this world of blogs and other social media, it’s easy to forget the power of the humble mailing list. Yet mailing lists are still the number one way to reach the customers who might be interested in new products. You might start with a mailing list of customers who’ve bought from you in the past, or you might offer an email newsletter with really interesting content. The important thing is that you allow people to opt in to your list. For one thing, you don’t want to spam your lovely customers. In addition, if they are choosing to sign up, you know that they will be interested in what you offer. (For more info on email marketing, click here and here.)
3. Draw up a timeline. Depending on your product and how big your launch is, your launch schedule might last a week or stretch out for months. After deciding on the steps you’re going to take, put them on your calendar. Set a firm date for the launch that you know you can stick to.
4. Give an advance hint of what you’re doing. This is the first time you let people know what’s up. Again, it might be days, weeks or months before your launch date. This might be just a very short hint at what you’re doing, so your audience knows there’s something coming to be excited about! Think of it as a little cliffhanger.
5. Spread the word on other blogs. If you have enough time at this point, it’s a good idea to reach out to other blogs and get help spreading the word. You might write some helpful guest posts (like this one!), or simply let them know about your fabulous new product. Check out Grace’s awesome post for more on submissions to blogs.
6. Pre-launch: Talk it up! Now you have some time until your launch date, and you should use it to get people really excited. You want people anticipating your new stuff, excited and ready to buy. The goal is that they’re ready to whip out the credit card as soon as they can. You may not want to show the products yet, and that’s fine. But you can talk about your process, about the care that went into making them and give behind-the-scenes looks. You can also talk about the features and why the product is great. Give a clear message that this is something important and awesome. If you are excited about it, your audience will be, too!
7. Write a launch pitch. It’s important to launch with a strong message, one that tells people to buy. I was shy about this in the beginning when building my company and didn’t know how to talk up my products when I released them. One thing that has helped me is a technique called objections-based copywriting. Basically, think of all the objections people might come up with that would prevent them from buying your product. Then write a pitch that addresses each of those objections one by one. For example, if you think a customer might object to a high price, use your pitch to carefully explain the value of the product.
8. Make ordering easy. Before you launch, make sure that it’s as easy as possible for people to buy what you’re offering. Sounds obvious, but it can be tough!
9. Launch: Get the word out! Now it’s time to launch, and everything should be in place. Send an email to your mailing list, get your pitch out there on your website or blog and perhaps send some follow-up emails to individuals who might be interested (such as bloggers you’ve worked with), letting them know that your product has been released into the wild.
10. Follow up. Once the launch has happened, I like to use the time afterward to express my thanks to the people who have helped (customers, bloggers, co-workers, friends and family) and to thank them for a successful launch. After a little celebration, it’s also good to reflect on what went well and what you might try doing differently next time.