One of the most essential elements of launching a successful startup is having a built-in community eager to engage with it. How do you do this? By building a powerful community prelaunch.
You have developed your product or service, a website design that’s easy to navigate, and you’re probably stretched pretty thin as the launch date nears. However, bringing your vision to life is in many ways more about prelaunch than what happens after you click “publish.”
Basecamp, the cloud-based SaaS startup serves as an excellent example. Before they launched Basecamp, they had up to 50,000 followers via their blog, “Signal vs. Noise.” This built-in community helped make Basecamp’s launch successful. The startup is now valued at around $25 million, according to Forbes.
This is an important case study for all startups to note. Building a community before launching can ease those first few post launch months of growing pains. A built-in community can also help you generate profits from the get go.
Not sure where to start? Here are 4 easy ways to start building your community before launching.
- Develop a Detailed Community Building Plan
When should you start planning? As soon as possible, since the larger your built-in community, the more leads you have once your site is launched. Building a community takes time, but there are a few ways to move the process forward in a powerful way.
Plan to build an online community, but also start networking outside the startup office as well. Attending networking events can serve as a catalyst for growing your prelaunch community. This is especially helpful if your startup provides B2B products or services.
Community guidelines are also important. It serves as a roadmap for your community, and it's an essential way to ensure your community feels safe. Lake of the Ozarks Boat Planet employs this, “Let's make that behavior the standard of discourse on this website. Healthy debates are ok, but please be respectful. It’s not only a core tenant of our community guidelines, it’s also ensured by our terms of service.”
- Give Your Community a Platform
When building your prelaunch community, you’ll need to have a platform where you can share your message, as well as a place for your community to gather, communicate, and engage with your startup and each other.
Social is an obvious one. Building a powerful social media presence is a must for any startup. This can be a social media channel that is brand specific, or you can start building your community on your own social media pages.
Facebook groups, Reddit and subreddits, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube are all potential social channels to leverage. However, not all social media networks are created equal. For instance, if your startup is geared more toward men, Pinterest may not be the best platform, since over 80 percent of Pinterest users are female.
You’ll also want a place to post information about your startup. Medium is a great prelaunch choice. If your startup is all about blockchain technology, Steemit is a great platform to build a community around your brand. The main aim is to get your community built and interacting with purpose.
- Give Your Community Purpose
Does your site, products, and/or services serve a purpose? The answer should be yes, because the most successful startups solve problems a target market has. This gives you a purpose that your community can share.
You want your community to have a shared purpose that brings them all together. “That purpose can vary depending on the online community,” Candace Huntly of Business 2 Community explained. “In your case, you want them to come together to interact with and celebrate your brand and what you stand for.”
One of the best ways to bring your community together is to allow emotions to play a role. For example, if your startup is a solution to a health issue, you can rally a community behind your startup using the emotions connected with the issue your solution betters, or solves.
This makes personalizing your message vital. Users trust recommendations from people they know, rather than brands. Why? Because there is a personal connection, so keep this in mind when building your community. Your startup will have a far more eager audience after launch if you employ emotion and personalization.
- Build an Email List
With your startup community growing, it is time to get those coveted email addresses. A robust email list is the bedrock to any successful business in its early stages. Email marketing should be part of every startup marketing strategy.
“With a solid base of emails, you can sell just about anything that comes your way that your audience will be interested in,” Azzam Sheikh of The Huffington Post said. “You can experiment to see if your email list audience would like new types of products and services.”
A Successful Launch is All About Prelaunch
Startups that succeed and grow exponentially have a strong, loyal following. This makes building a community before launching an absolute must. From planning to giving your community purpose to rally behind, your prelaunch efforts are in many ways more important than what comes after launch.
How did you build your community? We want to hear about it.