Your big launch is on the horizon. You’re ready to market the living heck out of your product with all the smart content-based strategies you’ve learned about, just as soon as it’s ready. You’re excited. You’re pumped. You’re primed for the moment when your course, or software, or book, or whatever it is finally comes out.

Problem is, you’re the only one.

Add this to your list of rules for entrepreneurship: you (and your team) should never be the only ones excited for your next product launch. There should already be an audience of potential customers chomping at the bit along with you. Well, well in advance of your launch, you have to put in the groundwork.

Enter the pre-launch page.

A pre-launch page is a deceptively simple, unexpectedly powerful thing that can make the difference between a huge launch and a total flop. It creates demand before the product exists, which is the best time to create demand. It also helps you launch the right product, one in which your audience already feels invested.

Here’s how it’s done.

When to Make Your Pre-Launch Page

Now.

There is no such thing as…let’s call it “pre-marketing”…too soon. I’ve seen successful products launch with a full 18 months of pre-marketing behind them. If a year and a half of marketing a product that doesn’t even exist yet sounds like a lot to you, adjust your perception.

Every week your pre-launch page is live is another week to do what matters most: gather opt-ins.

Now, 18 months may not always be feasible. But I’d recommend never pre-marketing for less than 2 or 3 months before your launch. It’s a long, slow build to a big conclusion, like a Michael Mann movie or a Queen song.

The investment of time pays off, in two ways:

  1. Conversions. Your pre-launch page has one function: to gather email addresses. The longer it’s up, the more addresses you get. The more addresses you get, the more sales-qualified leads you can generate. The more leads, the more sales.  
  2. It helps you refine the product. You’re not just gathering leads, you’re fishing for feedback. The longer you have to hear and implement suggestions from your audience, the more tailor-made — and exciting — your product will be.

What You’re Shooting For

Genuine interest, emphasis on “genuine.”

What qualifies interest as “genuine?” At minimum, the pre-launch page visitor should be interested enough to opt in with an email address. If people aren’t taking this one, tiny-but-crucial step of actively choosing to come on board, the page isn’t doing its job.

Ideally, though, the visitor is interested enough to opt in, read your follow-up emails, take further action, and even help you design the product.

So how do you create that level of genuine interest? The answer is simple, clean, efficient page design. A visitor to your pre-launch page should know exactly what your product can do for them within a few seconds. It should require almost nothing from the visitor to get the gist — no scrolling around, no clicking, no in-depth reading.

The page should say one thing, quickly: what problem your product solves.

Write that on a Post-it and stick it to your monitor. Spray paint it on the wall behind your desk. Say it out loud before you touch the keyboard to work on this pre-launch page. The page should identify a problem (or “pain point,” for you marketers out there), and promise to solve it. No more, no less.

What to Include

Your pre-launch page has to hit hard and fast, getting your message to the visitor before they have time to click away. To that end, you have options regarding what content to include:

  • A short video: make a 2-3 minute video about your product, and place it dead center on the page, with nothing else but your company name/logo and your opt-in. No need for elaborate directorial style; you can shoot it on your phone’s camera or do a simple screencast with Quicktime, Camtasia, or Screenflow. Efficiency, not artistry, is the name of the game. 
  • Text + images. Again, the simpler, the better. With or without a video, include text and pics that are to the point. No dense paragraphs, no elaborate sentences. Just state in as few words as possible what problem your product solves. Consult a marketing copywriter if you need to, on sites like UpWork or ProBlogger.

Remember, this is (pre) marketing, not sales. Save the details for later. Like any good appetizer, your pre-launch page should leave the visitor excited to see what’s next.

Above all, you need that opt-in field with a CTA (Call to Action). Whether it’s included on the page itself or functions as a pop-up, you need to make it very, very easy to submit an email address.

Your video, text, and images should steer the visitor towards the opt-in with a clear direction — “Sign up to get an update on our release date,” “sign up for our waiting list,” etc. You may even incentivize the opt-in with a discount or bonus offer.

What Tools to Use

When it comes to software for building your pre-launch page, you have to make a choice. You can spend more money, or you can spend more time. Pre-fab launch page tools can cost a pretty penny, but the convenience and effectiveness may well be worth it.

Particularly impressive (and pricey) is Product Hunt’s Ship tool. For packages ranging from $60 to $200 per month, you not only get the easiest page-builder, you also get exposure to Product Hunt’s wide audience of tech-savvy and passionate consumers. For the ease and visibility, the price tag can be more than fair.

For the DIY type, the options are endless. Leadpages, Clickfunnels, HubSpot, and many more can give you the basic functionality you need, while leaving it up to you to design and build the page. You’ll also, of course, have to chase down your own audience through content marketing strategy.

For our time and money, we find that WPEngine works best for us, with appropriate plugins. That said, everyone’s needs are different. Whatever you choose, just get the page up and running, bells and whistles be damned. What matters most is that the page is live and functioning, as soon as possible.

What to Do Next

Once your page is up and the email addresses start rolling in, it’s time to employ the Internet’s single most effective marketing strategy: email marketing. Start the conversation, offering valuable content that keeps the reader engaged and your emails out of the spam folder.

To really get the most out of your pre-launch opt-ins, don’t just talk; listen. Use emails to ask recipients what they want to see in your product, what functionality matters most to them, and how you can improve. Invite a select few to be beta users, and let them take your product for a spin. Then use their feedback to perfect your product by launch time.

Once your pre-launch audience is engaged, the sense of investment and shared participation in the launch will do more to sell your product than any number of ads. Because they were with you from before the beginning, your audience will see a purchase as a foregone conclusion.