Every launch is a big deal. It takes your valuable time and resources, not to mention oodles of effort. So, whether it's the launch of a new website, a book, a campaign, an event, or a product, it needs to get the job done. After all, you don't have time to waste. I know this because I know many others like you, and you've got too much on your plate for missed opportunities.
But what happens when a launch is just okay? Or maybe it's good, but it wasn't as good as you'd hoped. Or, sadly, what if it flops? (Even successful launches have room for improvement.)
No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, I've observed a number reasons throughout my career in marketing, PR, and events (among other things) that may be causing you to unconsciously sabotage your launches. I'll touch on eight of them here. But don't worry, there is hope! I'll also show you how to fix them so that your next launch is your best yet.
1. Not Having a Launch Strategy
This is probably the biggest issue I see. From annual events to one-time launches, many organizations don't have a launch strategy in place. The launch is done because it's that time of year, or someone told you it needs to be done, or your visionary leader had another great idea.
None of those are inherently bad reasons, but if you don't know how to integrate them into what you're doing, you'll never ensure success.
I like to think of launches like a bridge because they should have connection points on either side. This means, you figure out how what you're already doing leads into them, and how to connect people to what you regularly do after they're over. They should never "stand alone" because you'll either confuse your audience by this new thing, or not give them any reason to stay connected to you.
Additionally, you need a plan. It's a bad idea to just do whatever task comes to mind each day, or tackle what seems urgent at the time. This means nothing you do is building on each other, and you'll only ever feel scattered as you work on the launch. Yuck, no one wants that.
The fix: While I don't have time to go into great detail here (and could talk about it for hours), the biggest and best action step I can give you is to ask yourself what you want attendees or participants to do after the launch. Then make sure you communicate that to them and provide easy solutions to make it happen. Launches are short-term, and there's a lot of relationship that can happen after they're over. Having a strategy in place offers you the best chance at turning interest into engagement.
2. Not Changing Your Regular Promotion Schedule
It doesn't matter if your organization consists of you sitting at your kitchen table or an army of staffers, interns, and volunteers—launches require a lot of extra effort. This means that whatever you normally do for your promotion schedule has to likely be dramatically stepped up for a short time.
So, let's say you send a monthly newsletter, post on social media a few times per week, and write a blog twice per month. And that's already a challenge because of your other responsibilities. Here's the bad news: for a launch, you'll probably have to double that. Here's the good news: it doesn't have to be for long.
If you've been paying attention to social media, you know that those lovely, little things called algorithms are always changing. And this isn't always in your favor, sadly, especially without paying for it. So, you're going to have to fight harder for people's attention. And that means posting even more frequently.
And, unfortunately no, this doesn't mean you just post about your launch a bunch more and call it a day. You need to increase your content marketing strategy so that you can "sell" more without annoying your audience. If you don't increase your promotion schedule, or you only post a bunch more about what you want people to do for you, like buy or donate, you run the risk of no one seeing your message, or even losing fans.
The fix: Gear up, baby—it's go time! Make room in your calendar for the extra time you'll need to increase your promotional schedule. Or, even better, get help. And create a plan for what you're going to say and when, so that you're spreading out helpful, intriguing, or delightful content in between asking your audience to do something that benefits you.
3. Not Considering Your Audience
This may seem like an odd one to include, but it can easily happen when you've been doing the same event for a long time. In cases like these, we tend to do what we've always done, without giving it a lot of thought.
The problem here is that things can change over time. Maybe you hosted an event for people who knew your organization well, but now people attend who don't know you as well, or at all. Maybe you launched an awareness campaign years ago, but the issue is widely known now. Or maybe your previous fundraising goals just won't cut it with the new programs you want to include in your new budget, and you need to attract more people, or people with more money.
Without considering this aspect, you may be communicating incorrectly to your audience. Or you may even be drawing the wrong people.
The fix: Spend some time looking at the history of your launch, including examining the original purpose and those who have previously participated. Decide if it's still doing it's job, or if changes need to be made. When we don't continue innovating or evolving, something that was once successful may become mediocre.
4. Having Too Many, or Unclear, Calls to Action
This one is super hard! When we actually have the attention of potential customers or donors, we want to tell them all the things. We want them to buy or donate, join the email list, come to our next event, volunteer, and on, and on, and on. This is because there's so much to do—and it's all great! But the more you give people to do, the less they're probably going to do it. (Here's some sciencey stuff to back me up.)
Even when you have someone's attention, you likely only have it for a short time. So, it's important to not overwhelm them. Additionally, you don't want to make participation hard. Always lower the "barrier to entry" for taking your next step.
- Click a link to donate or buy.
- Download a freebie.
- Lend your name to the petition.
- Refer a friend.
- Share on social media.
- Register at this link.
These are all quick and easy examples. Unless it's your mom or a super fan, giving them too many options just means you'll lose their attention even faster—and you may not get it back.
On the other hand, maybe your calls to action are unclear. You avoid being super promotional and salesy, which I totally understand, but that could mean your audience doesn't actually know what you want them to do. You can space out the hard "asks" between some softer ones, or work up to it, but you need to leave no interpretation for what action you want them to take.
The fix: Reexamine your process and communication. Ideally, make sure you're only asking them to do one, maybe two things if they're really easy, and double-check that the language is crystal clear.
5. Not Having All Hands on Deck
Launches often fall on the shoulders of a couple of people, and that's okay. Sometimes there aren't any alternatives. But if this is a major initiative at your organization, everyone needs to have a hand in promotion.
Even at small businesses, people tend to leave the communication efforts to the people working on the launch, as well as the official channels like the company's email and social media. After all, everyone has more than enough to do already, right? But if you think this way, just consider all the other promotional avenues you're missing out on. Everyone has different personal and professional networks they can talk to.
The fix: This post goes into more detail, but make it easy for people to talk about you. This includes internal and external relationships. Especially when we're referring to employees, stakeholders and boards, volunteers, interns, etc, everyone should be up-to-date about how they can help meet the launch goals. And even if you're a solopreneur, you should make sure that you're talking about the launch on both your personal and professional channels anyway. These cross-promotional efforts can give you twice the reach.
6. Not Promoting During and After the Launch
It's easy to think that the end of the launch is the end of the project, but that shouldn't be the case. Instead, you should use that momentum for even greater results, both now and later.
I've worked on an untold number of events over the years, so this is where I see it happen most often. Too many people promote events before-hand, and then the day/night of, don't promote much at all, and even less after, unless it's just to slap a Facebook album up on their page. This is a shame, because it's another opportunity to set up your next event while you have people's attention.
Can you live Tweet or hop on Facebook Live, give people who couldn't attend the chance to see what they missed and make plans to be there in the future? Did you send out an email directly after the event to showcase the highlights, whether written or in video clips, and give links or a save the date for the next event? Have you considered send a press release to local or national media that detailed what took place, and what will happen in the future, to get greater exposure?
And outside of events, this strategy works for other launches as well. Those examples aren't exclusive to in-person events. Let's go back to that first item in this post and think about "what's next" for those who attended/participated, as well as those who are sad to miss out. Using the bridge analogy again, you can lead people where you want them to go with your organization.
It could even simply include thank you notes, following up with large donors and sponsors, or even a survey. All of these are additional "touch points" that allow you to build a deeper relationship with fans and potential fans. This long-term approaches leads to greater sustainability.
The fix: You've probably heard that it's easier to go deeper with your current audience than it is to fine new ones, and that's absolutely true. You're already spending your time and energy on this launch, so don't miss every opportunity to nurture the relationship. Think of ways you can continue building on the launch, both during and after, to capitalize on the effort you're already putting out. It will likely also make the next launch better.
7. Not Taking Time to Evaluate
There are undoubtedly tasks, projects, meetings, and obligations piling up while you're working on your launch. So, it's kind of a big relief when it's over. And you might take some time to celebrate, but it's short-lived because there's something else that requires your attention.
You go-getters may even schedule a follow-up meeting to assess what went right and what went wrong. That's excellent, but set aside enough time to give this evaluation the attention it deserves. An hour before lunch probably won't get the job done when everyone is more concerned with what type of sandwich they're ordering over how next year could be better.
When you don't take the time to properly evaluate your launch, you're doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Heck, you may not even fully realize your mistakes. Ouch. This can lead to all kinds of problems, including spending money unnecessarily, which is probably all of our biggest fear.
The fix: Have people take notes before, during, and after the launch with their suggestions. Also, have them jot down, and voice, what went right. You need to be sure to celebrate the big and little things too. And, as mentioned above, schedule plenty of time for a recap meeting. As time passes, memories get cloudy, so this should happen soon after the launch. Finally, get clear on your action steps, and document them well for the next time.
8. Not Getting Extra Help
Um, have we talked about how much hard work it takes to pull off a launch? #understatement
Whether you're flying solo or have a support team, you may need additional help with your launch. It can get overwhelming really fast, especially if you wear multiple hats. I've heard too many stories that include words like, "I meant to do that, but I didn't have time," or, "Oh, I completely forgot," or even, "I have no idea how to do that."
Yikes, that's not what you want from your launch experience! If you know you won't be able to do it all, don't have the necessary experience, or even if you find out during the process that you can't do it all, don't be afraid to ask for help. I realize it may cost more time or money, but let's face it, your BIG launch is at stake here. This is a short-term investment that could pay off big in the long run.
The fix: Not hard to figure this one out. You may have to be creative in your approach, but there is usually a solution not far away. Think interns, volunteers, co-workers, bartering, and of course, hire if you need to. People like me are available to work on projects, meaning we won't stick around for office pizza parties if you don't want us to.
Your launch is really important, so do everything you can to make it a success.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.