So you worked late into the night for months, had countless meetings with business partners, signed all the required paperwork, and now you are ready to launch your brand new project. Either the next few months are a breeze (not likely) and you'll cruise your way through an error-free path, or (most likely) you'll encounter issues so foreign to you that you'll wonder why you bothered with a company in the first place.
You can't run from the issues, no matter how much you prepare, but you can mitigate some of the stress that comes with them by being more prepared. So the following are a few guidelines to follow and a few pitfalls to watch out for if you are in the process of launching your new project.
Have a marketing campaign ready
Every website needs some form of marketing at some point. And during the early years, marketing campaigns can make the difference between long-term success and short-term success. If you are just sitting around waiting for the magic to happen, then you might be waiting a while. And also, it might be boring for you to launch a website and have 2 visitors on your first week. So prepare ahead of time, by collecting emails and by engaging with your target audience. Get them excited about your product.
Months in advance getting an information splash page up and running to gauge interest will help you to build up a list of interested users. Don't worry about people stealing your idea. Just get your name out and start to have the water cooler conversations initiated by potential users.
On launch day, you should have a long list of people to email welcoming them aboard your product. Even offering a promotional offer to your early adopters would do well in your brand leaving a mark.
QA it just enough
Don't get too caught in the QA process. Yes, things will fail and heavily. That's why things fail currently on massive websites with millions of users because every software system has errors built in. Just ensure that you can track these errors somewhere. A catch-all solution such as Elmah will work fantastically well.
Needless to say, you should be plenty busy for a while after your launch with tickets and bug fixes. Work to minimize bugs as much as possible, but don't hold back your launch due to CSS issues. However, if your payment system is broken let us say and you cannot take payments, then you should probably hold off on launch. QA with a purpose to find the showstopping issues. If margins and paddings are off, then jot those down sure, but they are perfectly fine to fix for after launch.
Customer support is key to building momentum
Again, this is something that is crucial early on when things are falling apart. Your users will need some way to contact you when they encounter issues or have questions. You must remember that while you know this product like the back of your hand, people landing on your website have no clue where anything is or what anything does.
Getting a 3rd party chat application like Tawk.to running on your site is the simplest and most cost-effective way to handle real time customer support, and believe me, people will use it. Early on in our startup, we would spend hours a day talking to potential users who couldn't navigate their way around our site.
And if you can't justify the hours spend daily on chat applications, then non-real-time communication would be the route to go. There are plenty of free to relatively cheap to use ticketing systems that you can use these days. I'd recommend Zendesk as it has been around for some time and probably has more than enough features to keep you busy for a while.
Reach out to the media outlets
And I don't mean to call your local news station. Although you are free to do so if you wish. I refer to reaching out to the tech blog's that litter the interwebs these days. A quick introduction of yourself and your company is always best and have the product speak for itself. These tech blogs require news content on an hourly basis, so having the news come to them is always a big plus. Don't think that because you don't have a million unique hits daily you are not an interesting concept. If you go into this project believing that you're not "big" enough to be featured online, then you are probably right.
Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right. - Henry Ford
Be aware of everything
Every email coming into your inbox to every ticket that someone opens is a hint of what you need to be working on. So keeping a wide-open awareness of everything is important in moving forward. Your company essentially starts on this day. This is when you figure out what isn't going to work and what is going to work. Talk to all your clients and answer all your emails as quickly as possible. Let tomorrow be the day that you work on the things are currently popping into your perspective.
When we launched our startup we were overwhelmed at first with the number of messages that users were sending. Both good and bad. But let's be honest, no one ever reaches out to you when you're doing a good job. And each message was really a push for motivation to continue working and improving. You can compare that to the company which received zero messages and has no idea how their project is doing. So pay attention to your surroundings, listen to your users and keep moving forward at the exact same pace that got you to launch.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.
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