by Gayle Allen | Featured Contributor
It’s exciting to launch a new business. You’ve spent days – even months – building products and services, and you’re eager to share them with clients and customers. But in your eagerness to launch, you may be overlooking two things that will ensure your success, namely, product market fit and qualified leads. That’s where you can take a page from the non-profit world.
When a non-profit needs to raise money for capital improvements, like expensive tech or new construction, they’ll kick off a capital campaign. To ensure a campaign’s success, they’ll break it into phases. One of these phases, the quiet phase, occurs pre-launch. It’s the perfect time to explain the need and to identify prospective donors. For your business, a quiet phase can be the perfect time to determine market fit and to generate qualified leads.
Here are 10 reasons to build a quiet phase into your company’s pre-launch:
- Determine feasibility. Make three lists of names: current customers (people you’re already serving, though your business hasn’t officially launched), prospective customers (they need what you’re offering, but don’t yet know it exists), and people who can connect you to potential customers. Make a conservative estimate of your prospective customers and, thereby, project estimated revenue for your business.
- Sharpen your writing. Draft three emails, one for current customers, one for prospective customers, and one for people who may know potential customers. Write and rewrite each one to make it creative, fun, and brief. Get feedback from friends and colleagues, and test out any mail merge systems you may use in advance. Personalize these emails, as needed.
- Draft discovery questions. Find out whether you’ve got market fit by speaking with as many prospective customers as possible. Ask questions to determine alignment between their needs and what you’re offering. For example, if you’re offering digital marketing services, find out what kinds of services they’re already using, if any, and what they like or don’t like about them. Remember that it’s a discovery call, not a sales call.
- Practice your pitch. In the last third of your discovery call, share information about your offerings. Ask for feedback. Listen for what resonates. Be open to suggestions, questions, and even criticism. Incorporate feedback into your next pitch.
- Test out branding and positioning. Discovery calls are a great way to test out branding and positioning by listening to which words and phrases people pick up on and even echo back to you. Be open to tweaking, refining, and even revamping branding and positioning in ways that speak more clearly to your market segment.
- Build and deepen relationships. Quiet phase calls, emails, and in-person meetings are a great time to build and deepen relationships. The better you know current and prospective customers, leads, and prospects, the more likely they’ll engage with you, hire you, and connect you to others. Use a spreadsheet (or CRM) to document contact name, title, organization, date, notes, and next steps.
- Time to bask. Congratulate yourself on growing your prospect and lead list before you need it. Most businesses have their ups and down, so take a moment to savor how well you’re setting yourself up for sales.
- Build your referral list. For every person you speak or connect with, ask for a referral. Be specific about asking them to make an introduction on your behalf, so that you’re rarely in the position of making a cold all or sending out a cold email. Return the favor whenever possible.
- Decrease isolation. Building a small business can be lonely. As you connect with current and prospective customers, see if some would enjoy serving on your business’s advisory board. They can provide input and feedback on new products and services, and you can consider a discount for their time and input. This way you’ll have a direct line to a customer reality check.
- Enjoy the dopamine hits that come from all the pre-launch connecting, learning, and gratitude you’ll feel as you see how incredibly helpful and generous people are. Building your own business takes courage, so invite others to support and inspire you along the way. You’ll have your turn to do the same for them.
While the outside world may think you’ve gone dormant, you’ll actually be making all the right kinds of noise to set your business up for success. If you use this time to ask questions, listen, adjust, and connect, you’ll achieve the two very important goals of determining market fit for your product or service and of generating qualified leads — even early sales. By the time you launch, you’ll be more prepared than you ever imagined.
She is a founding member of the leadership team and Chief Learning Officer at BrightBytes, a company that’s garnered dozens of awards for improving the way the world learns. She’s also the founder and host of Curious Minds, the leading podcast on innovation that features global leaders rethinking life and work.
Gayle earned her MBA in Global Innovation from MIT and her doctorate in adult learning from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she served as an adjunct professor. She’s the author of The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, a book that offers an innovative vision for learning in the modern age. Gayle’s writing has been featured in leading publications, such as MindShift and NPR.