The Power of the Pre-Launch


Here is a message I received yesterday on Facebook, “Hi! Sitting here reflecting on our first day. So to put it in perspective and rocking grand opening day at a brand new Koko is about 20 new first time appts. We had 37 appts and 48 people worked out in our club yesterday for our first day open. It was madness!! I didn't sit, eat, drink, pee or do anything...I'm overwhelmed with gratitude!!!!”

My response was,

“Thank you for listening to me on doing pre-sales. Early momentum is key. Now all of those people who joined confirmed their decision by the sheer craziness of yesterday. You made their decision better. No one wants to do something out of the norm. You made giving you money normal.”

Have you ever seen a rocket launch? Maybe you have been to Florida to watch the shuttle lift off or maybe you have seen it on TV. It is magical, beautiful, and gripping. The sheer power to get that much weight off the ground. The rocket’s engines have 37,000,000 horsepower and reach a speed of 17,000 mph in just 6 minutes. Imagine being at the shuttle dealer lot and the sales guy says, “This lovely 1981 model goes 0-17,000 in just 6 minutes.”

How long do you think it took to prepare for that launch? The launch is just 6 minutes. Its goal is to get the shuttle into orbit so it can execute a mission. On average, it took 5,000 NASA professionals up to 2 years to prepare for each mission.

In rockets, it is all about the pre-launch. In business, it is all about the pre-launch.

Let’s review a couple of industries that do the pre-launch well.


Yes I think this is an industry at this point. Apple is famous for the pre-launch, most notably leaked parts and iPhones left in bars.

Here is a headline from from yesterday:

"Supply chain rumors reaffirm iPhone 7 will not have headphone jack."

If Apple sticks with its normal course of actions the iPhone 7 will launch in September. This is 9 months from now. And the iPhone 7 has been talked about since the 6 was launched. This is a year to build hype, prep the market, and own the discussion. Apple is continually in pre-launch of something and it continually works. They sold 13 million in the first 3 days. Sounds like a launch to me.

Star Wars

Episode VII was announced at Comic-con in July of 2014. The movie came out in December of 2015. That is nearly 18 months of pre-launch. At 17 days in, it has already done $742.2 million. Not a bad first go of it.

Let’s go back to my Facebook message. The owner of the club is one of the people I advise. She had purchased the franchise and was well on her way to a normal opening when we started working together. One of the first things I asked her was what her pre-launch was going to look like. She wasn’t sure. She knew everything else about her business opening but didn’t know that piece. And that is normal.

My concern was that she had so much money invested and she needed to get a strategy to increase orders before she opened. I challenged her to sell 100 30-Day/$30 trials before she opened the doors.

See, any commitment before opening your doors increases the likelihood of getting committed customers. But it does something beyond the initial $3,000 she would have made. It creates momentum.

Here are a few tips if you decide to launch.

Tip #1. Give people something to anticipate

The human brain loves anticipation. Actually most brains love anticipation. Here is a graph from a post showing the dopamine levels released in a monkey who after seeing a light would get a food treat if it pushed a button 10 times.

Pre-launch strategies - dopamine

Notice how the brain releases more dopamine when the monkey knew the reward was coming.

If you include anticipation as part of your launch you are literally hijacking the brain to stimulate itself for pleasure. Crazy huh? There have been countless studies that show where people enjoy an event more if they get to anticipate it. Don’t rob your future customers of any additional joy found in your product or service. Maximize their experience by letting them anticipate its arrival. Think of the joy a little child has waiting for Christmas morning. I am willing to bet that is a much better experience than if Santa just showed up on August 3rd unannounced with a gift.

Tip #2. Survey people and give them want they want

You are not Steve Jobs. You are not Jony Ive. Since we both agree the chances of you creating a product that everyone will buy even though they don’t need it is very slim. The market has lots of needs that they share everyday on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and every other platform imaginable. If you have a list of folks, survey them. I prefer a simple 2 question survey.

Question 1 is a bit of a trick question. It is qualitative in nature. Let’s say that you were opening a local hot dog stand. Your first question might be:

“What 2 things could we offer at our hotdog stand to make it an over-the-top experience?”

“What 2 toppings would make our dogs unique and desirable?”

“What 2 sides go perfect with a hot dog?”

The idea here is to get them to come up with ideas and share whatever they want. This is great because you have open feedback and you get to see how they would say it. Often marketers make the mistake of using industry lingo and don’t speak customer lingo. You might get an answer like, “The most killer dog I ever ate had green chile and cheddar cheese on it.” This is valuable for multiple reasons. You may have never considered putting green chile on a hot dog and you get the language of a “killer dog.” This can be marketing gold. It could lead to a whacky ad idea like this one:

Pre launch strategies - hotdogs

This may not be your brand image or it may be the exact thing you were looking for. You don’t know until you ask.

So the first question is open-ended and includes the phrase “What 2 things or what 2 X.” This is important because it gets folks to think a little and give more info. It also allows them to write in sentence form.

The second question is quantitative. It asks for people to make a choice from given options. So for the hot dog stand it could be, “Which of the following intersections do you drive through daily?” or “Which of the following intersections is closest to your office?” or “How many times a year do you eat hot dogs?” You can then use this numerical data to make an opportunity analysis.

The additional beauty of a 2 question survey is that it is super quick for people to fill out. No one likes taking surveys. I always ask people to take my 37-second, 2-question survey. People will give you 37 seconds.

Use this data to consider creating something new or adding on to your current offerings. Use the language to feed your marketing campaign.

I have gone so far as to launch a product solely based on the survey results. Here was my path.

  1. Announce that I have a product coming out soon (anticipation)
  2. Ask people to take a survey so I can button up last minute details and make sure I am dialed in
  3. Make product they requested in survey
  4. Sell it

This process has very little waste and costs very little money.

Tip #3. Stick to a limited time offer

While I am not a fan of scarcity mindset I do think scarcity in your sale can have fantastic results. Typically something in limited supply has higher demand. My recommendation is to have your initial offering available for 1 week. I would make sure people know at least 21 days out that it will be available for 1 week. This gives people a month to prepare.

Check out this simple test Hubspot did on a landing page. If you look closely you will see the only difference is that the page on the right has an orange limited time offer seal and the words “Act Quick!” in the headline. This subtle change improved the conversion rate by 8%.


Pre-launch strategies - A/B testing

So with no other changes more folks will act with scarcity included. The reason this works is because people procrastinate. If something is always available then they will come get it when they want it. In an on-demand culture scarcity creates urgency. Last week Sherlock returned to TV. You could only view it on TV or online during that 1 hour. I had several friends completely alter their lives so they didn’t miss it. Scarcity got them to act.

Tip #4. Keep announcing bonuses

Do you remember the Super Bowl commercial from Bud Light where an individual is asked if they are “up for whatever?” The night starts off weird and just keeps getting weirder? Or keeps getting better? Refresh your memory here:

This is an instance of something that just keeps getting better. Often marketers make new offers sound way better than they actually are in order to get the sale but then the delivery is sub-par. Why not flip that on it’s head and make things get better. Consider these two scenarios.

Scenario #1: Traditional opening.

Clint’s Awesome Burgers is opening on 4/1. It will include:

  • 12 Burgers of the Month
  • 52 Beers of the Day
  • 3 Bocce Ball Courts
  • Free T-shirts to the first 1,000 customers
  • Free Burgers for a Year for the first 100 customers
  • Full Basement Adult Playground including ball pit, air hockey, and Pacman.

All of the above is announced on the first ever announcement in the paper. There is nothing more after this. We open and do exactly this. It would work, but it isn’t exciting later.

Scenario #2.

Clint’s Awesome Burgers is opening on 4/1.

12 Week Out:

Have a Burger of the Month named after you. Submit your ideas on our website. A burger is chosen every Friday for the next 12 weeks. Winners get their picture on our Wall of Fame and always get the burger free.

6 Weeks Out:

Attend our Beerfest. Help us decide which beers we should have on tap. We’ll have one special beer a week all year. Some lucky attendee will get that beer for free every time it is on tap.

3 Weeks Out:

The first 1,000 people to eat a burger get a free T-shirt. The first 100 people through the door get free burgers for a year.

1 Week Out:

Start rumors of full basement adult playground. Let Burger naming winners bring their family to play in basement and post pictures online.

Huge opening.

Doesn’t the second scenario sound more interesting. See the power of bonuses over time? The exact same details happen just one gets rolled out over time instead of all at once.

Tip #5. Showcase customers buying

For this last tip let’s try to understand the power of the herd. I don’t mean to say that people are cows, but I do mean to say that humans tend to do what other humans do.

Have you ever been driving on the interstate and the folks in front of you pull over to the right lane because something ahead must be happening, only to find out there was nothing ahead?

There is only a very small portion of the population that are innovators or early adopters. The majority is 84% of people.

Pre-launch strategies - DiffusionOfInnovation

Start with the Early Majority these people want to see that others have joined the movement and haven’t died. This means you might need to take photos of the Innovators and Early Adopters and post those somewhere so that the Early Majority can see them. Or host an event so they can meet in person.

Your new customers need to see your old customers happily enjoying themselves. Ideas on how to do this include:

  1. Testimonies on your website
  2. Online reviews like Yelp or Google+
  3. Photos or videos of satisfied clients
  4. People in line to get your product
  5. People enjoying your product (think walking through the eating area at Chipotle to get in line. You pass people who have made the buying decision right in front of you.)
  6. Customer meetup

As you can see the opportunity to do a pre-launch is huge! There are so many ways to get people involved in your opportunity prior to the opportunity to purchase. Let’s recap.

Tip #1. Give people something to anticipate

Tip #2. Survey people and give them want they want

Tip #3. Stick to a limited time offer

Tip #4. Keep announcing bonuses

Tip #5. Showcase customers buying

Now it is time for you to map out your pre-launch. I would love to hear about your progress as your project moves forward. Reach out to me.