Again, when you "bootstrap" your startup you never know what will happen. You never know how much time will you have for each of the tasks and how much distraction will eat that precious time.
So, I've made a step-by-step guide how to get attention for your startup. This implies mainly for tech/internet startups, but can be used also for any business that starts its online presence. I've also created a small mind map (scroll down to bottom of this post).
Phase 1 - Start of your project
Create a landing page with signup notification
A simple landing page with big signup button is important to build your list of "early adopters" and interested parties. Keep it simple. Explain in few sentances what will your product do. Store every email and use them once you launch. Include links to your blog or social media accounts as well as your contact information. PDFs with short description of your product are also helpful.
Create a blog early on
Start blogging even if your product is in early phase or prototype phase. This way you will attract attention, links and social media mentions. Blog as often as you can, but limit to your topics (you may spread too much of your precious time).
- Take social network accounts
There are a lot more social profiles, if you have time, take them all. There's also a nice service to check your names - it's called Knowem - they also have paid plans to make bulk registration.
Create company profile on Angel.co and Crunchbase
This is a great way to grab some attention for your startup from angel investors and VCs, but also, a lot of tech journalists visit these sites as well as influencers in your field.
Create a LinkedIn company page
Maybe not as popular as LinkedIn groups, company pages give you more of a professional image and that matters on LinkedIn.
Create a list of influencers and connect with them
This is really important as you will need people to spread your message both on social networks and in offline world. Win influencers and you will explain your message or what your product does much easier (there's a great book from Guy Kawasaki called Entchantment).
Give beta access to selected influencers so you can change things early on
If you have beta testers, first users or clients, you will have time and feedback to change few things in your product. Don't forget to notify people, influencers, press and social media about important milestones and product changes.
Make a keyword research
This is SEO and PPC related. Use tools like Google AdWords Keyword tool, Google Insights for search, Google Trends and SEMRush to target the best keywords. If you are not SEO or PPC professional, hire someone to do this part for you. You may (or may not) target the most difficult keywords, but try to find the "low hanging fruit". You will rank in the engines faster and with less link building and social media presence. You will use these keywords later on for: onsite optimization, landing pages creation, PPC and your blog. This is very important step so don't skip it!
Talk to friends, colleagues
You will win their hearts and influence with ease and they may become your brand ambassadors. They may not be as influential as people in your industry, but they may connect you to their circle of friends and business partners. The more people know about your startup the better. Talk to them with passion of your product and try to explain them what big problem are you solving. Ideas come from most interesting places :).
Connect to local newspapers
This one is a gem. Who is more interested in the news than local newspapers, portals, radio stations. Even if you come from big city, there is always a smaller media outlet that you can approach easier than big brand media. Remember, journalists are all connected to each other and they talk. You might even get a bigger attention later if you appear in some smaller media first.
Visit industry fairs
Even if you don't think that your industry has a fair or event, you may find something rather similar (here at Webiny, we are tech, but tightly connected to travel, so here's an example).
Join startup meetings
A great place to test your ideas and share connections. Here is a list of startup events in Europe.
Write blog posts
Don't forget to update your blog even if you hardly find any time for it. Create a blog post headlines list and try to follow it.
What would we change if we would do the launch of Webiny again: go to industry fairs, join startup meetings, write more blogposts. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time, but remember, you always have to make your project profitable at one point. So there is balance between doing a lot of marketing and making your project sustainable (unless you have investors).
Phase 2 - PreLaunch
So the launch is getting closer and you will have to do even more in this phase. Why is it so important: you will have to prepare everything for the launch as 2 weeks old news is not news anymore, right? Here are the steps in this phase:
List of blogs
Find blogs that might find your product/startup interesting. Use keywords from previous step to find out which bloggers write about your topics. Connect with them via email, LinkedIn or Twitter and introduce them to your story. Use Google Blog Search or Technorati for your research. Notice: I had quite a bad experience with Technorati as I could not submit to their directory. I even wrote to support and never got a response.
List of portals, industry sites and startup news sites
There is always someone covering your industry, no matter how big or small it is. Search for these sites and push your message to them. We've had some great news articles on sites in travel industry and ones that cover content management system. Even so there are a lot of great startup news sites, try to connect to these people they will surely be interested to write about your company.
List of product reviews sites
Very similar to portals and industry sites. If you have competitors, research them and see where they've got their products reviewed.
List of guest blog posts and interviews
There are a lot of bloggers who like to take guest posts and make interviews. Use BloggerLinkUp to offer a blogging space or to write on other blogs. Beware, some people don't like guest posts and the quality and relevancy is most important.
Content+design (SEO rules)
Map your content, create list of pages and make mockups for your design before you start working on your final site. Use the keyword list you've created to include them for the best SEO results after you launch. Balsamiq is a great tool to create mockups - you will save a lot of time.
Make your website conversion oriented from the scratch. Unbounce has a great blog about conversion oriented design and copywriting. You will have little traffic and exposure in the beginning, so make them count! Create and test landing pages and different messages.
Copywrite and proofread your messages and pages. Craft your messages so they are easy to understand and conversion oriented.
Set up (loose) launch date
Set up launch date but don't hold on to it too tightly. Something can always go wrong (you get sick, you travel somewhere, you want to add "just one more feature"). And remember: always have time to test run everything before the launch.
Introduction to journalists, bloggers, twitter influencer, g+ influencers, linkedin connections
Now you have your launch date and you already have some connections, announce it to your network. This will grow anticipation and your chances to get featured in the media.
Leak photos, blueprints, design versions
This one is optional. You can push them to social networks, your blog and so on.
Phase 3 - Launch
You've prepared everything for the launch of your product/service. Your window of opportunity is really small because you have to communicate with everyone after the launch. Remember, getting featured in the media is available for few days because who wants to publish "old news". Plan and execute with efficiency.
Send press release
Write press release. If you have different media types, you can create multiple releases tailored for specific audiences. Reach direct connections with different approach (more details of your product/service), but beware that you have little time to execute.
You have your email list from signup page and possibly additional ones from other sites you own. Create professional newsletter and announce your product.
Notify on social networks
This one is easy. Ask your network to spread your message.
Ask journalists to make interview about your product or if you are familiar with your industry to cover a hot topic and include your product in this story.
This is important but you can always follow-up after the launch. Interested media may publish your announcement and make a review afterwards.
This is not 100% bulletproof concept but it may work for you as well as it did for us. Depending on your industry and specifics, you can add additional steps and focus more or less on some steps.
I would like to hear your experiences in the comments and if you know a startup, share this blog post with them.