By Jennie Yoon, founder and CEO at Kinn, modern heirloom jewelry brand, made to last a lifetime — then, now, always.
Congratulations. You’re almost at the finish line. When that seed of a business idea first came to you, this moment seemed a long way off. But you had an idea, conducted market research (then refined your idea), figured out financing and created your go-to-market products.
The months immediately leading up to, and following, a brand launch are crucial in the life of your business and critical to its success. Lack of preparation for this time period is why many brands fail, so this final stage needs its own mini business plan.
Brands don’t always get second chances after launch missteps. A bad review, product defects, an insensitive ad (rare is the business that can recover the way Kim Kardashian West’s did when transforming Kimono into SKIMS) can send your business into a tailspin. I bootstrapped my company and built it into a profitable startup in four months, and I attribute that largely to staying sharp in this six-month period. These guidelines helped me keep my focus on my long-term plans for my company instead of the short-term satisfaction of having a successful launch day.
Three Months Pre-Launch
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is a well-worn saying with good reason. Keep this saying top of mind knowing that the steps you take now can create customers for life. The key to a great launch is in attention to detail of these pre- and post-game activities:
• Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good. You’ve committed to a launch date and you’re on a deadline. This isn’t a Ph.D. program that can drag on for years. You have a go-to-market plan, and you want it to be perfect. However, it’s possible to get a little too hung up on trying to make everything just right. Ad review meetings can go on for hours agonizing between two similar images, website designs can be tweaked endlessly and you can find yourself questioning every last decision because you think it’s your last chance. Well, it’s not. You’ll have other ads, you can rearrange your website, but you can’t get your time back. So balance perfection with pragmatism. Spending too much time on last-minute details can cause delays in areas that really matter (in addition to wasting precious dollars). Minimize the second-guessing and agonizing over the small details and make sure you have the big ones right.
• Build The Buzz. Getting your launch publicity right starts with making sure you have a compelling message and a clear sense of your target customer. It’s Complicated is a great Nancy Meyers movie, but it shouldn’t be how a reporter describes your business after an interview. Have a killer elevator pitch and an arsenal of great anecdotes to pepper interviews with. Start with family and friends, and ask them to help spread the word. When I launched my company, people understood immediately that I offered classic pieces that they had grown up seeing on their mothers and grandmothers, but that they couldn’t find now in the sea of new trends. When it’s time to share your message, don’t fall victim to “shiny object syndrome.” A viral TikTok video or a talked-about billboard in Times Square can make you think, That’s just what I need! But you know your audience, so do what’s right for them by focusing on getting the message out to the right people at the right time.
Three Months Post-Launch
You’ve launched your baby into the world. This is worth celebrating, but your launch isn’t over. What happens in the three months after you launch a brand is vital to building a sustainable brand identity. This is time to be hypervigilant about your team, budget, customer feedback and public image, keeping these points top of mind:
• Stay In The Conversation. You’re not after fifteen minutes of fame; you want long-term relevance. News cycles move fast, memories are short and new brands are launching every day, so you need to get creative to stay in the media. Think about all the areas your business touches. In my case, I wasn’t only going to engage with the media to talk about trends in jewelry design. I was going to talk about entrepreneurship, e-commerce technology, trends in gift-giving and the importance of heirlooms. These weren’t marketing gimmicks. These were authentic reasons why I launched in the first place.
• Check The Chatter. Customer feedback is always important, but never more so close to launch when people are hearing about you for the first time. Monitor feedback and morph when appropriate. Brands that acknowledge concerns with a direct, honest response can earn respect that boosts the brand.
• Check Your Benjamins. This is, unfortunately, also a very likely time in the life of your business when unexpected expenses will come at you fast and furious, so spend wisely. Even if you are VC-backed, act as if you’re bootstrapped, because cash can run out quickly. Try to find the right balance between having enough inventory on hand to satisfy demand without having inventory sit in storage. Working with manufacturers on made-to-order inventory is a great way to go if you can.
• Check The Pulse. Launches are exhausting, so don’t lose sight of the fact that your team is working overtime to make it a success. Paying attention to your team is just as important as listening to your customers, so keep those weekly team meetings going or host a Friday happy hour. However you choose to do it, check in with your team and let them know how appreciated they are. You can’t do this without them.
Certainly, every launch is different, but most startups have these things in common: You are trying to make a great impression, build a long-term customer base and be fiscally responsible. These guidelines are good reminders to keep you on track to achieve that.