Every entrepreneur needs a healthy amount of self-esteem. After all, if they didn’t believe in themselves, they wouldn’t bother launching businesses.
But there’s a difference between self-esteem and hubris. Those who build monuments to themselves often live to watch them fall. It has been thus since the Tower of Babel, and it shall be thus long after we’re all in the ground. It’s perfectly natural to be excited about the launch of a new venture, but there are right and wrong ways to celebrate.
If you’re a sales or marketing professional – or indeed, an entrepreneur – it’s vital to understand that a lavish opening event is the worst of all possible ways. I’ve seen a few succeed before, I admit, but I’ve also seen a man swallow a flaming sword and I would NOT recommend it to a newbie.
I’ve worked with more tech startups than I can remember, and most of them would be better off directing their efforts and resources elsewhere. There are far better ways to get your business noticed in the early stages, so before you plan your Gatsbyesque launch-night bacchanal, keep the following six risks firmly in mind.
1. Rushing yourself.
When you organize a party, there are a thousand and one things to take care of: the invitations, the entertainment, the catering, the venue. You need all of these things and more sorted well ahead of time.
Naturally, this involves setting a firm, immovable deadline – which the company will then have to impose on its team.
Developing your products and services often takes longer than you might think. Provisional delivery dates are just that: provisional. Reality has an awkward habit of interfering with your best laid plans, and if your team aren’t comfortably on track to meet your deadline, you’ll have two choices:
- Rush them (thereby diluting product quality).
- Holding a massive product launch for a product you’re massively unable to launch.
2. “Maybe” = “no”, and “yes” = “halfhearted maybe”
We’ve all been there: a friend has announced a party they clearly hoped would be some kind of weekend highlight, but three people showed up and it had to be downgraded to a “gathering”.
If you want to hold a launch party without looking foolish, you’ll need to make sure that the right people attend. No doubt some will be attracted by the promise of free food and booze, but make no mistake: that’s all they’re there for. They’re not going to buy your product, and they’re unlikely to spread the good word.
Don’t expect journalists to show up either: they don’t care unless you’re genuinely earth-shattering news. In fairness, new startups are not exactly unheard of in the world’s major cities, and not every reporter is based in a major city anyway. If you want them to come, you or your business partner essentially needs to be a famous person.
3. It’s a miscalculated risk
Leicester City won the Premier League. Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing. Anything can happen.
Your big event could be met by a snowstorm, or a sandstorm. There could be a strike on public transport. Maybe North Korea will do something. Whatever it is, it’s entirely possible that something could lay your meticulously organised launch strategy to waste. Remember: announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.
4. It’s expensive
Obviously! Do you really want to spend your whole Q1 budget in ONE night? You’re running a business, not starring in an episode of My Super Sweet 16.
Keeping It Real
Again, the launch of a new business is worth celebrating. But in your first few months – hell, your first year – it’s worth celebrating with a quiet drink.
A new business needs time to test the waters of its target market: do people want what you have to sell? Are they willing to pay your price? Does it have any other applications that you might not have considered? I’ve worked with more than one client that only really identified its USP long after it started trading.
Instead of hosting an opulent, Dionysian revel at launch, save it for later on – when you can more easily afford it. Identify who your prospects are, and then invite them once they’re already intrigued. Time it around an event that’s relevant to their interests and in the local area; if it’ll take them two minutes to pop over, they’re more likely to make room for it.
Whatever you do, remember that a launch event isn’t going to be worth a damn unless you’ve got something worth launching. Better to toast your company’s success than its mere existence.
Heather Baker is founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, an integrated digital marketing consultancy based in London.