Whether your site is brand new or a relaunch, it is best to have a soft launch period before you start to set high expectations for it. Here are some tips on making the soft launch as successful as possible, learnt the hard way from my exposure to launching and relaunching sites….
1. Call it a beta
For your own team and the outside world, this manages expectations; they won’t get stressed if there are bugs, or missing content, and it is far easier to accept feedback from advertisers or users if you don’t consider your site to be the finished article.
2. Remove revenue pressure for the first 3 months
Stand up to the stakeholders and financiers and avoid a tough revenue budget (or any expectations at all). Set up founder deals with your best clients to get them onside and make the site look good. Focus on creating a great site that users will love rather than panicking about revenue targets.
3. Get opinion formers onside early
If you already have active forum users, invite them in at an early stage, ask them to be moderators, and include their suggestions. Having influential advocates will give you a smoother ride in those first few weeks.
4. Invite feedback from advertisers and users
Demo the beta site to advertisers – and listen. Run proper user testing before going live, and also run a panel during the beta period. Watch the forum – don’t just squash the criticism, explain what you are doing to respond to it.
5. Run a weekly team review
The post-go-live period is an emotional rollercoaster for your launch team; they will take any criticism personally, and can get swamped by the bug list. Keep up their spirits with weekly meets, celebrating success, and taking a hard look at the stats and the key issues. Gradually build up a dev list and prioritise it carefully once you know what is appealing to users.
I’d love to hear about your soft launch successes – and any more tips. Just click on the comment button below.
Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy, Penmaen Media, helps media brands grow their revenues by exploiting their digital assets. Visit www.penmaen.media to find out more.