Product Launch Strategy: The Red Carpet

The Growth Report #27

Happy Friday my Friend,

First, a small update from the podcast front. 🎙️

I have scheduled five more conversations with some pretty awesome growth professionals from around the world (like literally: guests from Australia, Canada, USA, Singapore, Germany).

I’ve written out the description for the podcast here.

If you have a second, I’d love to get your feedback on it. Does it speak to you? Are those topics that you are interested in?

If all goes well, the podcast launches in October. From then on I will post one new interview every two weeks and extract the most important insights from each conversation for you here in the newsletter. I am super excited for this project! 🤩

For now, let’s dive into today’s newsletter: We’ll dig deeper into the product launch strategies of today’s fastest growing startups, examine sugarless candy brands and talk about work life balance (or lack thereof).

Have fun!
Sandro


Today's topics include

📈 Product Marketing:
Product Launch Strategy: The Red Carpet

⚒️ Tools of the Trade:
Educational Resources and Inspiration for Marketers

⛑️ Reflections from the Trenches:
Work-Life Balance: The Four Burners Theory


📈 Brand Marketing

Product Launch Strategy: The Red Carpet

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:

Here are quick, summaries of the above product launch strategies:

The Waitlist

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…”

Test Flight

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.

Moneybags

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...

Important caveat:

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.


🛠️ Tools of the Trade:

Educational Resources and Inspiration for Marketers

Marketing Education

D2See - Awesome inspiration for brand marketers and ad agencies: A service that automatically pulls Facebook and Instagram Ads from brands and displays them in Pinterest like format.

Facebook Paid Online Events Tool - Facebook released an update to their live event product and added a way to charge money. If you offer online classes or webinars this might be interesting.

No New Categories - Last week I shared a guide on how to create your own category. And in the service of critical thinking, here an article on why you should not create your own movement.

Brands and Products that caught my eye

Coconut Cartel, Haus - I love the new alcoholic beverage brands that are sprouting up all over the place. Makes me want to create my own!

Behave - A candy brand with a fresh, memorable look. When everything looks the same nowadays, I like brands who show some courage to be different.

Literati - A subscription based book club curated by your favorite artists, writers and entrepreneurs. Even a book subscription for kids.

The Nudge - We touched on the rising tide of text message marketing. This company has built their whole product around this channel: Text message based city guides, cooking recipes etc.

Something to smile - What do Philosophy Professors, 4-Year-Olds and the Backstreet Boys have in common?


⛑️ Reflections From the Trenches

Work-Life Balance: The Four Burners Theory

There is an unattributable quote that goes as follows:

"Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it."

or another one I love from Confucius

"We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one."

But there is so much we want to do, how can we fit every aspiration into one life? Work-life balance and how to achieve it has been a topic at the forefront for years now. But most of us are struggling with it...

In my own life I can see the dichotomy of the work-life balance unfolding in front of me every day. How can I make meaningful progress in one area of my life, without sacrificing another? I can't. Life is filled with tradeoffs.

The Four Burners Theory

Years ago I stumbled across an article called Laugh, Kookaburra (New Yorker), which introduced an idea called the four burners theory (who exactly came up with it originally, I could not trace back).

Imagine that your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it. Each burner symbolizes one major quadrant of your life.

  1. The first burner represents your family.

  2. The second burner is your friends.

  3. The third burner is your health.

  4. The fourth burner is your work.

It states that "in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two". Tradeoffs in the flesh.

Okay, so of course I could divide my time equally among all areas of my life, but then I'd have to accept that each of the four areas of my life would be operating on a low simmer. Which then begs the question:

Would I want to achieve perfect work-life balance, if it results in doing a little bit everywhere, but making no satisfying progress in any of them?

Honestly? I don't. It doesn't feel right. So essentially, I am forced to choose.

But if you are anything like me, guilt, anxiety and even shame are constant companions when being forced to choose. "I should visit my parents more often", "I still want to run that marathon", "I want to go on a three months trip with my girlfriend", "I really should take better care of my friendships", "I finally want to follow through with my business idea I had for years", you pick yours!

A little remedy: The Seasons of Life

While there are a lot of things we can do to minimize the stress put upon us (creating systems of automation, outsourcing tasks, and setting meaningful constraints etc.), but they only go so far. The most honest approach I have stumbled upon (and the one I try to employ myself), is the concept of life seasons from Nathan Barry.

It basically goes like this:

What if, instead of searching for perfect work-life balance at all times, you divided your life into seasons that focused on a particular area?

There is often a multiplier effect that occurs when you dedicate yourself fully to a given area. In many cases, you can achieve more by going all-in on a given task for a few years than by giving it a lukewarm effort for fifty years. Maybe it is best to strive for seasons of imbalance and rotate through them as needed?

But however you approach work-life balance, the four burners theory and the seasons of life approach reveal one truth everyone must deal with: Nobody likes being told they can't have it all, but everyone has constraints on their time and energy. Every choice has a cost.

Choose wisely.


That's it for this week.

Enjoy your weekend 🏡

Cheers,
Sandro