As an entrepreneur, you understand the power of first impressions. You know how to turn things on when you walk into a room full of potential networking opportunities. You understand what it looks like to dress for success when delivering a pitch to investors.
But do you know how to prepare your startup for its introduction to the online world?
Why You Need to Nail Your Internet Launch
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different elements and actions that go into launching a startup. But in our current digital world, few things matter more than how you handle the internet-side of things to get your startup online.
How you deal with web design, social media, and marketing your website, to a large degree, will determine your success. If nothing else, it greatly influences the momentum your startup experiences when getting out of the gates.
Ultimately, it all comes down to your positioning.
Are you intimately familiar with your brand’s positioning? If so, are you doing everything you possibly can to make sure others resonate with your stance?
If you want to take a formal approach, you should start by developing a concrete positioning statement.
“At its core, positioning is a statement,” one entrepreneur explains. “It’s a sentence or two that clearly defines the problem you're setting out to solve and why your solution is compelling. Your positioning statement should remain internal, but it’s critical to everything that follows: Aligning teams, hiring the right people, developing the best product, communicating the value of your work — the list goes on. It all starts with positioning.”
You could add “launching” to that list. You need to understand who you are and what your purpose is. Only then can you move forward with a strategic launch that resonates with a specific target market.
While it starts with understanding your positioning, it certainly doesn’t end here. The goal of a startup launch is to reach other people and reveal to them exactly what your position is and why they should connect with it.
A Three-Part Approach for Making a Positive First Impression
You only get one first impression with every customer your brand interacts with. The stakes couldn’t be higher. How are you going to make a positive first impression when 100 percent of the interactions happen online?
Here’s a three-part approach that many have found helpful:
- Show Your Website Some Love
Your website, which is essentially your home base, is arguably the single most visible element of the entire launch. It’s also one of the more challenging to get right.
It takes a person less than two-tenths of a second to form a first opinion of your brand once they land on your company’s website – this according to research out of the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
It then takes just another 2.6 seconds for the viewer to concentrate in a way that reinforces that first impression. So in less than three seconds, a potential customer has formed a first impression and then reinforced that idea in their own mind. At this point, it’s going to be pretty difficult to reverse that impression (positively or negatively).
A study worth a second look.
The study from Missouri S&T was conducted using eye-tracking software and infrared cameras to monitor the eye movement of participants as they browsed different pages. Participants were then asked to rate sites based on visual appeal and design factors after spending 20 seconds on roughly 25 different websites.
Aside from the fact that first impressions are formed quickly, the study also revealed some pretty interesting details about what sections of a website spark the most interest in visitors. The data revealed that visitors spent 6.48 seconds focused on logos. 6.44 seconds looking at the navigation menu. 6 seconds staring at the search box. 5.95 seconds reviewing social media icons. 5.94 seconds checking out the main graphic/photo on the homepage. 5.59 seconds soaking up written content, and 5.25 seconds reviewing the bottom of the page.
This study gives you a glimpse of what really matters when a visitor is first exposed to your site. Who would have thought that your logo and navigation menu get more focus than the written content? If you want to nail the first impression, then clearly you need to be focused on these elements (among others).
Behind the scenes.
You also have to focus on what’s going on behind the scenes and how it impacts user experience. Take web hosting as an example. The website host you choose to work with directly impacts the speed and uptime of your site.
Considering that page loading speed is one of the single most important factors in determining bounce rates, it’s pretty apparent that choosing the right web hosting provider isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Also, look for one that is well suited for your type of website. For example, if you’ve built a site with WordPress, be sure to choose a good Wordpress web host.
Where to look -- What to study.
There are entire websites and books dedicated to making a positive first impression with your website – and it’s recommended that you spend some time studying what they have to say – but the point is this: You need to spend more time preparing your website for its launch. It’s the only way to ensure you’re actually ready to make a positive first impression.
- Be Strategic With Social Profiles
Social media plays an integral role in your startup’s ability to make a positive first impression. While your website should garner a healthy amount of traffic, it’s your social profiles that will see the most exposure (directly and indirectly). Merely setting your logo as the profile picture and securing a branded username isn’t enough.
You have to treat your profile like it’s the only extension of your brand a customer will ever interact with.
Consistency is the word you’ll want to focus on – consistency in both visual appearance and messaging. It’s much easier to remain consistent in the future if you start with a solid foundation.
“If you look at the colors of any well-known brand, you'll see that they use the same colors over and over again,” marketer Melanie Perkins says. “In their logo, in their text, even their images. Take a page from their book: Choose two to four colors to use consistently throughout all of your social media posts and marketing. Using the same colors over and over again will help consumers become familiar with your brand.”
Social Media consistent from platform to platform.
On a broader scale, make sure your social media profiles are consistent from platform to platform. People should be able to go from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and know that they’re viewing your profile, even if your name and logo are covered up. This sort of consistency speaks to the fact that your brand clearly understands its identity.
- Have a PR Plan
Even if it’s nothing more than a grassroots strategy, you need some sort of PR plan in place. Today’s customers are skeptical of heavily branded marketing. They see anything that comes directly from the brand as being potentially biased. This isn’t to say they won’t listen to you, but it’s wise not to count on yourself. You need a PR plan that kicks in from the very start and helps you control your image in a way that’s viewed as being authentic and organic.
Social influencers play a big role in this and you can help your launch get off the ground much faster by connecting with the right people in your market. It’s actually a really popular element in the PR plans of budding startups all over the country. Just ask Jolie Jankowitz, director of marketing for FabFitRun.
“Influencer marketing adds tremendous value for the brands in our box because it isn't solely used as a means to acquire new customers,” Jankowitz explains. “When influencers do a mini ‘unboxing’ or share their favorite products from the box, they're not just talking about FabFitFun, they're talking about why they love these brands and tagging them in the post.”
So while most people see influencer marketing as just another way to sell, Jankowitz and her team understand that it’s all part of making a solid first impression that will eventually result in a conversion.
Connecting with influencers is just one aspect of a PR launch strategy, though. You should also be connecting with bloggers, attempting to get featured in major industry publications, and drumming up interest in any way possible. T
he moral of the story is to be prepared. Don’t wait until after launch and assume that everything will fall into place. Things can always change post-launch, but you must take a proactive approach.
Avoid the Temptation to Rush
One of the biggest mistakes startup founding teams make is rushing out of the gates. They feel like they have to hurry up or they’ll miss out on the opportunity to be successful. Rarely is this actually the case, though. In most situations, it’s far better to take a couple extra months and really nail the first impression than to hurry into the marketplace and miss your opportunity to wow your audience.
There’s a lot more that goes into making a positive first impression online, but the three issues highlighted in this article should provide you with a good starting point upon which you can build.