After many painstaking months of long hours, order-in sushi and cheap beer, the time arrives to release your app into the wild. In the case of our shiny new helpdesk app Groove, we spent our spring months (4 to be exact) in product development and recently staged our preliminary launch in a private beta. With 50 companies locked in for our beta, we pulled the trigger on our marketing site, opening it up to the public. In the time that followed, we continued to prepare for our public launch scheduled for October.
Our goal in dropping the marketing site wasn’t to bring on the masses and make a big marketing push, but rather to slowly bring on a few users organically so that we could collect valuable feedback on the marketing site and app. This soft launch took place just 7 days ago.
Since then, Groove has gotten over 1,000 private beta signups with more coming everyday. So how’d it happen? First off, we released a beautiful marketing site that was complimented by an equally gorgeous app design. If you’re entrepreneur reading this, about to get ready to release your app to the wild I offer you this advice: IT’S. ALL. ABOUT. DESIGN. After you get the touchpoints for your app hammered out, get ready to spend money, time, and creative energy on design. Start with the back (app) and move to the front (marketing site). This will allow you to take the design elements from your app and work them into the DNA for your public-facing communications, giving your brand a cohesive look and feel.
So how did design affect the spread of Groove? Because we released with a gorgeous marketing site and app, people from Twitter and our close-in networks started to buzz. To our surprise, that buzz led to an article in The Next Web. The team at TNW gave us a great write up, and from there it was on. Positioned perfectly in the article, Groove was elevated to a post alongside the market leaders in the space, Assistly and Zendesk, both of whom are killing it.
Another asset that contributed to the cash of early signups was the integration of an effective viral signup form. From its conception, the integration of a viral signup was an important cornerstone to our early launch strategy. The case being that while many product marketing sites may be beautifully designed or contain some really provocative messaging, start-up entrepreneurs often forget how they’re going to pull users to their marketing site in the first place. No pull to the marketing site; no push to the product. Of course, we had some doubts as to whether this would be effective for a B to B app, but the results were outstanding. The viral sign up form probably quadrupled our signups through sharing the links on Twitter and Facebook.
That’s really it. So you might be wondering, as an entrepreneur or startup team, what can you take away from our story thus far?
- Find a good team. If you don’t have a team that is invested in the success of your idea, with the chops to deliver, then the items that follow below don’t matter. You cannot be successful with a team that is not 100% engaged.
- Spend time building your roadmap strategy, and plan to refine this throughout the process. In our experience, we took the time to strategize our top-level business goals and our corresponding, early-phase product cycles before our ideas left the napkin. Think of these factors as boundary stakes; focus your energy on the items within those bounds and bucket your hurdles into groups to make them more actionable.
- Remain flexible and avoid Waterfalls. Simply put, gone are the days when the project leader or CEO would hand a product brief over to his/her Senior Developer to retreat with to a cube for several weeks, returning with a finished product. Today it is all about iterative workflows. Secondly, embrace collaboration. Bring together interaction designers, IA guys, “big picture” guys, branding guys and (of course) talented developers, and have a conversation about your product. Be open and receptive to feedback, and respect the call for a change in direction.
- Keep it real. Keep it simple. The ingredients to our early success are fairly simple: build a product that people need and want to use; integrate a viral component and get your social networks involved to get the word out.
- Social networks are no longer optional. Conversely, they are essential in creating that base-level buzz needed to make those first key impressions.
- Design. Design. Design. Save the best for last; I can’t say it enough. It is all about design.
Heads down finishing the app. Groove is receiving amazing feedback from the companies participating in our beta, and we’re preparing for a launch in October-November. Excited. Nervous. Scared. Loving it.