5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go! – Finding Customers Before You Launch

  •    Seattle-based marketing consultant and the owner of The Marketing Desks and author of 365 Days of Marketing.

Worst case scenario for entrepreneurs? You “build it" and no one comes. Amid all the fun and chaos that goes along with starting a business, don't forget to fill the sales pipeline with customers before your launch.

Like everything else you have to build from the ground up before launching your new business; it will take time to effectively find, engage and motivate your future customers to take action. Here are five things to do in the five months leading up to launching your business. Follow these steps to ensure your marketing plan is up and running when your new business needs it most.

5 Months Before Launch – Name It and Claim It

One of the most important aspects of brand awareness is your business name and website URL. If people can't remember your company's name or find it online you stand a good chance of missing out on sales, especially early on. Naming your business and claiming a URL (web domain name) go hand in hand today. You want both:

  • To be easy to remember
  • To be easy to spell – especially if there are several other businesses with names similar to yours
  • To convey meaning relative to your products and services, brand values, industry or some other aspect that will be meaningful to prospective customers

And ultimately, you need your business name and website domain name to be available. Before deciding on just one, narrow your choices down to your top three or four, then research whether there are other companies that already own the rights (such as trademarks) to your business name, or whether there are URLs available that would be a good match.

4 Months Before Launch – Go All in on Design

The earlier you define your business's basic brand identity, the more time you will have to build a website, social profiles and the marketing collateral your business needs. Now is the time for you to flesh out brand identity in terms of design style, brand colors, logo, etc. so that you can create the marketing collateral your startup will need to succeed from day one:

  • Logo
  • Colors and fonts
  • Imagery and overall style
  • Website
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Menus
  • Social media profiles
  • Email newsletters and marketing messages

In particular, the earlier you start your website the more time you will have to perfect it, ensuring that all product and service pages are published and it is well-optimized for search. Once it has been submitted to search engines and your pages are showing up in online results, you need adequate content to help move site visitors to take action, whether that is coming to a brick-and-mortar store or buying online.

3 Months Before Launch – Plan an Epic Party

Every epic party starts with a great theme and a guest list. In this case, the party's theme is your grand opening, and your guest list should comprise of (a) likely buyers and (b) people who influence your likely buyers. This is about more than identifying your target audience, it's about identifying the key segments of your audience who are most likely to be ready to take action when you are ready for business.

2 Months Before Launch – Build Anticipation

Nothing takes anticipation to new heights like having to wait for something you really want. As the day nears when your new business will launch, you can create intrigue and anticipation for the big day.

  • Send email and direct mail “save the date" invitations
  • Create intrigue on social media and email marketing with teasers and hints about your business or grand opening events
  • Begin attending local business networking groups
  • Join your city's Chamber of Commerce – they will often hold a ribbon cutting ceremony when new members launch their businesses complete with a press release

Even if your new business is completely web-based, you can hold a live online launch event thanks to tools like Facebook live, Snapchat and YouTube.

1 Month Before Launch – Start Advertising

Waiting until after your business opens to start promoting it is like waiting until a wedding has started to invite the guests. In the weeks before you start selling, you can begin attracting customers who will be ready to buy on day one with:

  • Low-cost, targeted sponsored Facebook ads or boosted posts
  • A mobile-friendly, search optimized website with content-rich pages and blog articles
  • A pre-grand opening sneak peek for VIPs, influencers and early pioneers who will endorse and talk up your business
  • Ecommerce functionality for pre-orders and reservations

Many entrepreneurs dream of opening their doors on the first day of business with customers lined up around the block to get in. No matter how genius your startup idea seems, the reality is that you still need to find and engage your target audience to get your new business off the ground.