Scarcity, Hype and Exclusivity are nothing revolutionary when it comes to product launches. And yet, we see an increasing number of product releases that use ever more sophisticated versions of these launch strategies.
In a recent article, the ladies from Femstreet have broken down the most successful launch approaches of the past two years and bucketed them into the following five categories:
- The Waitlist - e.g. Superhuman, Hey, Pitch, mmhmm
- The Influencer Phenomenon - e.g. Clubhouse, atoms, 100 Thieves, MSCHF
- Building in Public - e.g. Lambda, Fast, Mighty, Lemonade
- Test Flight - e.g. Clubhouse, Roadtrip, Superhuman
- Moneybags - e.g. Quibi, Elliot
Here are quick, summaries of the above product launch strategies:
The waitlist method mostly starts with a "request early access" call to action on a minimalistic landing page, followed by a Typeform asking for name and email and then....silence. As customer acquisition costs rise, startups employ waitlists as a way to onboard small numbers of high-intention users, as opposed to large vanity numbers of low-intention users (Hey garnered over 100k waitlisted users, Superhuman over 300k users for free!).
It’s important for startups to employ some kind of filtering method to bucket potential users into low, medium, and high-intention users. These surveys and filters typically assess potential users’:
- Role and seniority within an organization
- Level of social status (by requesting social links, like a Twitter URL)
- Current workflows and operating systems
- Eagerness to use the product and familiarity with the pain point
Enterprise startups typically leverage waitlists while they stack their user base with impressive logos, thus increasing landing page signup conversion rate when they launch publicly. Consumer startups use waitlists to create network effects and ensure the product is sticky before opening up for business. As a general rule of thumb, waitlists should be used until startups see product market fit markers and retired as the startup scales.
The Influencer Phenomenon
Brands partner up with extremely popular athletes, YouTubers, musicians, TV-personalities, comedians, entrepreneurs, investors etc.. They get early access to their product or give them money in exchange for some influencer-magic. Google the brand MSCHF and check out what they do, it's mind-boggling.
Building in Public
This one's my favorite. By being honest, vulnerable and authentic about their startup journey in public (mostly Twitter), company founders like Austen Allred (Lambda School) and Domm (Fast) gained a huge following, hired over half their staff and secured funding.
Their playbook for building in public looked something like this:
- Share real quotes & screenshots of feedback from users
- Propose interesting product ideas and ask the community for feedback
- Articulate roadblocks the company is facing and how to overcome them
- Give insight into largely unknown aspects of the company/product
- Share “sneak peeks” and vague product updates for things to come
- Post screenshots of internal Slack messages showcasing company culture
- Tell emotional stories about your company to pull at followers’ heartstrings
- Quote Tweet someone describing a problem and respond “We are fixing this at…”
TestFlight is actually an app that allows you to soft-launch an App, before you publicly release it on the App Store. The audio-social app Clubhouse (now valued at $100M with only 5k users) built relationships with influential VCs and founders from around the world, then invited these few well-connected into a closed beta. Not only can they test the product with early adopters for months and slowly iterate on it, but they maintain a secrecy and social status that keeps them in the media since they opened their exclusive doors in April.
Last (and also least), the moneybag approach. You got lots of money raised? You spend it on advertising until the money runs out and hope for the best. Elliot and Quibi tried and failed miserably...
I share this because I think we can all learn from some of these strategies and apply it to our own projects or companies. HOWEVER, also be assured that ALL of the above companies while having gathered massive amounts of signups and early users, still have to prove that they are actual businesses. An exclusive, red carpet product launch does not mean you have a legitimate business, but they do have a lot of early users helping them improve their product and show traction to investors.