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Why keeping your startup idea a secret might be a smart marketing ploy

Common advice about launching a startup is to spread the word as much as you possibly can prior to the big day. But what I’m going to explain in this blog post is why that approach could be a mistake, and I’m going to suggest a pretty strange alternative strategy but one that can be very effective.

I’ve spent years working with big companies on major website launches, and client launches have typically fallen into two categories: The first category is the big high profile launch: fixed date, press releases, big launch team. The second is the quiet soft launch: Imperfect website, no press releases, small launch team.

Which launch strategy do you think has typically been more effective?

Without fail, the soft launch is more effective, and it has always been the strategy I recommend to clients. Now I’ll explain why.

No product is perfect from the outset, and no website is perfect from the outset. Sure, it can be technically perfect. You can spend plenty of time and money testing it with real users, but it is only feedback from your customers that will really allow you to fine tune it and perfect it. By doing a soft launch, you can do just that. You can slow-drip the release to your customers, and start to listen to their feedback. You can look at what your customers are doing on your website, whether or not they are buying, and what is preventing them from buying. You can then use this information to fine tune your offering so it is better designed to your customers needs. Then, and only then, can you consider your ‘big’ launch, because you will have a much better product to launch and you are going to get a much high conversion rate because of it.

So how to friends come into this? Well, when many of us start a new business we get pretty excited telling our friends about our fantastic ideas, don’t we? But the thing is, friends can actually be some of the most valuable assets to you in this early stage before you have a large number of customers to give you feedback. Friends can give you their own feedback. But if you “sell” the idea to your friends before the launched, their opinion is going to be biased. A much better strategy is to keep your ideas to yourself, show your product or service to your friends during your soft launch, and get their honest reaction. What is their immediate reaction? Do they get it? Does anything confuse them? What would stop them from buying? This feedback will be pure gold.

So a little note here before I finish: You need to use close friends who will be 100% honest with you. So by “friends” I mean your real friends. The ones who’ll take you to one side and whisper to you that you’ve got your skirt tucked in to your knickers. Yep, those ones.

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