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Ask HN: Launching?
35 points by lakeeffect on Dec 16, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments
What is the best way to launch and grow a new site? What unique things or standard issue things have you done that you found successful?

Throw the launch mindset to the wind.

I think our preoccupation with a huge launch owes more to its sexiness than to its practical importance for a startup. You may catch lightning in a bottle with a launch that's met with a ton of fanfare. But you can also build an enduring success by focusing your time and energy on sale #1, then #2, and so on.

Your odds are long one way or the next (and granted things change when you need to observe network effects to succeed) but it seems it's almost always the better shot to build fast, iterate faster, and lean into whatever success you find along the way.

Agreed. I did big launches in the pre-internet days, when the sage marketing advice was that you only had one chance to make a debut. No one was going to write about a 6 month old product. It was hugely expensive and the risk of failure or being ignore was high. Today it's way different. Put your site out there quietly. Find out the problems and strengths. Polish it. There is lots of good advice, here and elsewhere, about how to publicize your site.

This man makes some very good points.

To which I'll add: expecting to do a huge launch means you will have to be "perfect" in order to catch this theoretical wave of attention: cuz you will just have that one chance! Which leads to much longer cycles, and a hesitancy to ship, because what if things aren't perfect?

That's essentially "Big Upfront Marketing," or BUM. You see where I'm going with this.

If your site is Stumble worthy, check out their advertising service @ http://www.stumbleupon.com/ads/. I've been using it for my flash games site with decent success so far and their rates seem pretty fair to me.

Also, take a look at the following two posts in which petercooper makes some great suggestions:



thank you

Wouldn't it depend heavily on what your site is about? B2B or B2C? Is revenue ad or subscription driven? Is the site even supposed to make money? Or just build cred? Have you figured out your vertical? Going broad? (probably not a good idea IMHO)

B2C in the first wave, ad based also initially, we are attempting to make money of course

Ranking in Google will bring customers, but and this is very ironic, people visit sites that already have.... people, if you can fake or achieve that the ball will just keep getting bigger.

Have a look at http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/startupswiki/Ask_YC_Archive for past coverage on this topic.

That looks like a good resource, thanks!

Start with a "human interest" story, else you won't get covered. Focus on the nerds, expand from there.

One piece of advice: make sure you keep your social elements concentrated if you want people to contribute/comment. Nothing kills a site like a big empty forum.

At the moment I'm using a pre-launch signup page with most traffic driven by adwords. Only time will tell how well it works though, Mint famously managed to get 20,000+ signups this way but most sites will have less of a "wow I need this" factor than Mint.

My current conversion rate (i.e. user signing up) is around 25% - I'm not sure if this is good/bad or even reflective of common conversion rates.

My experience consists of one sample point. WebNotes just launched an invite-only beta with decent success. Alex, our marketing guy wrote a great blog entry detailing the entire experience from preparation to payoff. http://blog.webnotes.net/post/2008/12/15/How-to-Launch-a-Sta.... Our biggest breaks came from having mashable and readwriteweb simultaneous write great reviews of our product. From there, we surfed traffic onto the front page of delicious and were picked up by several other personal blogs and websites. Good luck with implementing your launch!

I've written to them for a couple projects I made, but never heard a peep back. What does it take to get their attention? Any tips?

We targeted much smaller blogs for several weeks before developing the credibility necessary to approach the larger ones. Also, when approaching the larger blogs, we approached as a company launching a product. Perhaps you should try maturing your projects a bit more before asking some of the larger blogs to cover your work. Do you have any specific projects in mind that you're trying to launch?

I'm launching gigbayes.com though it's more like a public beta/alpha at this point since I figure I'll change it a lot depending on the feedback I get.

Perhaps you're right that it doesn't look professional enough for major blogs to cover.

What is involved in "approaching them as a company"?

I think the general maturing of your service is all that's necessary. Checkout 99designs.com if you're looking for web design help.

Just submitted my post, 10 Tips On Attacking The Chicken and Egg Problem: New Users Won’t Sign Up Because No One Is There. If you have any specific questions, let me know. Happy to give feedback.

Those are decent (yet obvious) ideas for a startup that appeals to the sort of people who read TechCrunch. Most people have never heard of Twitter (or at least never been there) or killerstartups or squidoo. We've found out the hard way that marketing toward Joe the Plumber takes a much different set of tricks.

You're right, these are pretty obvious and appealing to a mass audience is much harder than just marketing to the tech crowd. I'd suggest checking out Andrew Chen's blog: http://andrewchenblog.com/ This guy is THE guy to read when it comes to user acquisition.

Very true - if you have any elaborations we'd love to hear..

Submission nathanburke is referring to: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=387410

Here is the most general thoughts I have on the subject:

If your site NEEDS users to get users, you need a soft launch where you do whatever you can to get users in and keep them, then you have a bigger launch where you can say "Look what we've done with only x users! This is going to be great!"

If your site doesn't need users, then grow organically, 5 or 10 at a time, and work towards an exponential curve.

One thing we did on launch to put some traffic through the system was to setup a small budget on Google Adwords and drive some targetted traffic to the site. This was very helpful in:

(a) Working bugs out of the system

(b) Giving us an idea about what features people would actually used (and how)

(c) Allowing us to see what keywords converted best (useful in helping to drive future marketing)

We're a pre-commercial enterprise startup, with very limited marketing cash - so favoring open source - it could be the way to go given the b2b market's response to the downturn, with IT budgets focussed on cost-cutting rather than revenue maximisation. Then launch a superior product at the start of the upturn and start to charge.

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