Guest Blog: How to Build a Marketing Plan for Your First Product Launch

We are super excited to feature a guest blog post from Katherine Raz! Katherine Raz is the founder of Small Craft Advisory, where she provides marketing guidance to e-commerce businesses trying to grow their online traffic and sales. Check out her tips below!:

True confession: I’ve never built a business from scratch. That is, I’ve never created a product out of thin air and launched a business around it. But I have watched other people do it, so I know a little bit about what it takes to have a vision for a product, like a clothing line, and then actually bring it to market.

It’s really, really hard.

You have to create designs, then figure out how to manufacture those designs in a variety of different sizes and fabrics while trying to keep your price points reasonable. It’s a long, complicated process that usually takes much longer than you expect it to.

But one big mistake I see product-based businesses make when launching is focusing solely on manufacturing during their product launch and not at all on marketing. 

Do you remember in the movie Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner gets a crazy idea to plow out a baseball diamond in an Iowa cornfield? He just knows it’s going to be HUGE, and even though he does nothing to promote his new baseball business, at the end of the movie there is a long line of cars queuing up to attend the first baseball game. 

That never happens in real life. When you launch a business you might have the crazy Kevin Costner feeling (no one believes in you but you’re certain this is going to be a thing), but I can guarantee that unless you plan out your marketing strategy concurrently while building the business there will be no line of cars at the end of your movie. 

While you’re busy working on production you must also be busy working on marketing. Because once you’re finished producing your first line, unless you’ve been working on a marketing plan the whole time, or you have 30,000 Instagram followers in your target market, no one will be in line to buy. 

So what are the basic things you need to put in place to ensure that you have an audience to launch to when your products are finally ready?

Email List

The first piece of marketing you need to have in place is an email list. I recommend starting with Mailchimp, which is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and works well with e-commerce platforms. Before you do anything, sign up for a Mailchimp account and create a launch email list. Get into the habit of introducing yourself and saying, “I’d love to add you to my email list so you’ll get notified when we launch.” You’ll also be connecting this email list to your landing page.

Landing Page

When you buy your domain, don’t just keep a generic “coming soon” page up that doesn’t collect email addresses. You need an exciting one-page design that captures contact information from visitors. This way everyone who visits your website before you launch will have the opportunity to join your email list so you can market to them later.

Here is an example I built recently: thefernseed.com 

Instagram

How will you drive traffic to this landing page? I recommend doing all your pre-launch marketing on Instagram. Curate a mix of “behind the scenes” images of you building the business with aspirational images that appeal to your target audience, and send any Instagram traffic to your landing page where you can collect email addresses. You can also build your following by using hashtags that appeal to your target consumers and by following accounts that will follow you back.

Pinterest

Did I say you should do ALL your pre-launch marketing on Instagram? Well, not all of it. You should also start building your Pinterest presence before you launch. Pinterest is an important channel for fashion brands and will likely be responsible for driving a lot of traffic to your website. Start by creating a profile and 10 boards. Your boards are a reflection of your brand, so create board themes that reflect the lifestyle of your target audience. For inspiration on boards and board themes, check out brands like Anthropologie.

HARO

Get in the habit of doing your own PR by signing up for alerts from Help a Reporter Out. HARO sends out several emails a day to a list of 500,000+ people with requests from journalists looking for sources. It's a great way for you to get free publicity. Sign up and start monitoring and answering queries before you launch. (True story: I know a fashion entrepreneur who got placement in the New York Times by answering a HARO query.)

Website Content

It’s never too early to start planning your website content. If you’re going to be selling your products on a website you should understand how basic SEO works for e-commerce. This means: how to properly add content to your home page so your website shows up in search, as well as how to title and describe your products and product collections so they can be easily found both on your website and when people search Google. You might also want to start thinking about how to plan blog content for your website so you can drive traffic to your site based on lifestyle queries. 

These few marketing tasks will put you leagues ahead once you website is finally finished and you’re ready to start selling your products. The world isn’t waiting for your business to launch — it’s YOUR responsibility to manufacture the excitement around it.