In the first segment of our 3-part series teaching marketing 101 to WordPress developers, we covered pre-launch strategies - the period of time where you are super enthusiastic about your idea and can't wait to get it out to world. Now, after 3 months of blood and sweat, your theme/plugin is ready. It's time to launch it.
In this post, you will learn some well thought out strategies that cover five different aspects of a successful launch. This is the shortest post out of all three because the time span of launch is also short. But this is considerably the most critical one which if you execute perfectly, it will give your theme/plugin a bright future. Before we begin, let's review the series outline:
Let's get started!
The Longer You Wait, The Less Chance You Will Succeed
I know a lot of developers (including me) are perfectionist. We can't stand launching the initial theme/plugin that contains rough edges. Therefore we spent countless hours working on improvement after improvement. And this process just never seems to stop.
But the truth is, if you never launch your theme/plugin, you never have a chance to tell the world what those improvements are all about. Do they really make a big difference? Will your customers even notice them? Are they cost-effective?
I was very clear to myself about this when I was 99% done with Artsy Editor. I told myself to get it out of the door in 1 week no matter how many rough edges I found. Because these rough edges might not even get customer's attention. (And indeed, they never did.) I did write them down one by one. But I never took actions unless they were causing problems to customers. And it is simply because there are more important things to focus on at this point, such as preparing for launch and promotion.
Making a Marketing Site That Sells
First of all, a marketing site is like the decoration of a brick-and-mortar store. It serves the purpose of communicating to visitors the following things:
- What does your theme/plugin do?
- Why do I need your theme/plugin?
- How does your theme/plugin work?
- How much is your theme/plugin?
Before starting to build the site, I encourage you to answer these 4 questions yourself concisely, preferably in 6-8 sentences total. These are the information that will keep visitors to stay longer and continue to check out what you have to offer. If they aren't presented above-the-fold, visitors will easily leave the page.
Second, remember video > image > text. A well-done 30-second intro video on the page can almost guarantee every visitor will know what your theme/plugin is all about. The video should not be just a screen cast showing how it works. But instead, emphasize on the benefits and convince visitors why they need something like this.
If you don't have the experience or the budget to create an intro video, putting up real screenshots about the theme/plugin can help a lot too. A picture is worthy a thousand words. Visitors will at least get a sense of what your theme/plugin looks like as soon as they land on the page. You can use different techniques like sliders, lightboxes, or picture galleries to display your screenshots.
Now, I am not saying you don't need any text on the page at all. You do. But they have to be concise and on-point. For example, your main tagline should tell the visitors your theme/plugin's target audience (e.g. "WordPress Editor for Bloggers" is what I use for Artsy Editor). If you need text to explain more details, use bullet points instead of long paragraphs to increase readability. Also, highlight (in terms of bold, italicize, underline, use different background) the major benefits that most visitors are looking for.
Lastly, offer an easy-to-access demo. The purpose is to let visitors get a first-hand, realistic experience of your theme/plugin. So don't ask them to sign up for an account or even enter any information.
I pulled this off pretty well with Artsy Editor. Because it is a plugin that sits in the admin panel, a username and a password is required to get in. But I used a little jQuery script that fills in the credentials for them. Whenever a visitor comes, they simply click Submit and they will be redirected right to the Add New Post screen. And in that screen, I added few tweaks that help them get started very easily.
Let's return to the example sites that we first visited on Day 01. I'd like you to take notice of some of the common elements in each one (we'll review these after the screencaps):
Common Design Elements
You likely took note of several similar elements in each of the 5 examples. While the actual design styles are quite diverse, there are a few things that each one include quite prominently. Here they are in no particular order:
- Strong Call to Action: A great marketing site really just has one goal: Get users to take action on something. In our case, this means convincing users to sign up, download, or purchase a license to the theme or plugin. While you don't need to beat a viewer's head over with ginormous download buttons, you'll do yourself a huge disservice if you don't make this button big, bold, and easy to find on the page.
- A Simple Explanation: Ok, so you users know that you're calling them to action... but just what are you trying to convince them to do? A brief, simple explanation about what your product does is crucial to your site's success. If you can't boil it down in a single sentence or a few bullet points, you're probably not going to capture as many users as you otherwise could.
- Credibility: This point is a bit more abstract... especially for newcomers to the theme or plugin industry. Credibility can convince potential users that your product is trustworthy, bug-free and standards compliant. This might come in the form of a number (how many users are actively using your product), a list of testimonials, or a handful of logos for companies using your product, but you'll want to show some evidence that people are actively using your work.
Launch to Your Email List
The people in your email list are the people already knew the problem you are solving. So the rule of thumb when writing your campaign is to be brief.
In few sentences, emphasize the benefits your theme/plugin provides, why should they use it, and give them a direct link to the demo. At this point, there is nothing better for them to do than to try out the demo and get the real experience on what they've been waiting for for 3 months.
At the end of the email, offer them a discount code as saying thank-you for opting in to your list so early and helping out in your idea validation process. Also, remember to make the discount code only available for a short period of time (a week will be appropriate). This will help boost the conversion rates by a huge margin.
Here is what my email campaign for Artsy Editor looks like:
Today we are proud to announce the official launch of Artsy Editor.
Instead of describing with a wall of text, I encourage you to try out Artsy Editor yourself (no signup required) or check out our page with pricing and feature info.
If you have any questions, feel free to reply this email. I am happy to talk to you.
Stephen Ou, founder of Artsy Editor
If you don't want to receive any more emails, unsubscribe instantly.
Launch to Media
As I mentioned in the pre-launch post, it is critical to start cultivating relationship with relevant bloggers beforehand. If the bloggers are showing genuine interests, shoot them an email and ask if they can cover your theme/plugin at launch.
Here is my pitch template which successfully delivered a coverage on Artsy Editor:
Just came across your post about WP 3.2 and want to tell you about Artsy Editor: http://artsyeditor.com. It's a premium editor with an better implementation than WP's distraction-free editor. It lets you drag-and-drop images, Photoshop-style resize images, customize the interface, and more. You can try it out: http://demo.artsyeditor.com/wp-login.php
All of your readers are awesome WP devs, and I am sure they will be interested in a tool that can save their clients lots of headache. So I have a 20% discount code for you guys: $discount_code.
I also have 5 tips for you about how to write an email pitch that works:
- Have a story line. This is how the blogsophere works - every story needs a compelling hook that grabs reader's attention. So when you write your email pitch, talk about how you are better than your competitors, mention any personal backstory about the problems you are solving, relate to current hot trends, etc.
- Connect the dots. This is where it gets personal. Mentioned few posts that blogger wrote about related topics or even your competitors. This can help them instanly have a better understand of what you have to offer. Plus, the bloggers will feel that you actually understand and care about them.
- Show how readers can benefit. Bloggers care about the readers. If what you have is solving a huge problem for their readers, they are more than happy to cover your story. The best way to illustrate this is to explain in a real scenario of how your theme/plugin can help somebody out.
- Provide lots of copyable details. Bloggers are busy people. You will have a better chance of getting coverage if you give bloggers information that they can put directly into their posts. It doesn't have to be in your email pitch. Simply include a link to your marketing site that contains detailed information. It will save bloggers a lot of time.
- Offer discount codes/giveaways. Discount codes and giveaways will get people start talking about your theme/plugin, and this is a chance to consolidate the buzz even further. Work with the bloggers to do things like offer the discount or giveaway to 5 people who retweeted/liked/commented on the story.
As you can see, they all fall into the same category - think as you are the one receiving this email. Put yourself in the shoes of those bloggers. Imagine what will motivate you to cover a new theme/plugin.
Connect with Relevant Influential People
You should only find the Big Names that are relevant in your industry. Because only them are the people your potential customers listen to the most. If you can garner a little tweet or an honorable mention in one of their blog post, you should consider it as victory.
Influential people are busy people as well. The number 1 rule is to keep your email pitch short and on-point. Simply describe your theme/plugin in one sentence and append the URL. You might think putting few paragraphs will help them understand better, but the fact is they don't have time to read them. Therefore, that one sentence is the key. Focus on the benefits instead of features. Tell them how it is going to help them instead of the cool technology you use behind-the-scene.
In this post, we spent a fair amount of time focusing on how to create the buzz for your launch. Let's review before we move on to our last part of our series. Here are 15 key points you can take away from today's post:
- Don't wait until your theme/plugin is 100% ready.
- Know the What/Why/Who/How/How much for your theme/plugin.
- Use videos first, then images, then text.
- When using text, remember bullet points are more readable than paragraphs.
- Offer a one-click-access demo.
- Be brief when telling your email subscribers about the launch.
- Have a short expiration date for discount codes.
- Have a story line when pitching to bloggers.
- Connect the dots between your theme/plugin and posts written by that blogger before.
- Show how the blog readers can benefit from your theme/plugin.
- Provide copyable details that bloggers can use in their posts.
- Offer discount codes and giveaways.
- Only find the ones that are relevant to your customers.
- Be short and brief in your email pitch.
- Focus on benefits instead of features.
In our last post coming very soon to WPTuts, I will reveal some secrets on the longest period of time - post-launch. Stay tuned and you will learn much more soon.