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Launching a Product on the Web          Print the current page
by Brian D. Chmielewski

Indifference. That's how the Internet regards your product or service without promotion. Luckily, marketing lends itself as a solution to indifference without concerning itself with your product's identity or stage in development. As with any marketing strategy, planning precedes action. Launching your web site can be a simple process if you simply plan. Let's break the marketing plan into three stages: Product pre-announcement, product announcement, and post- announcement.

Product Pre-Announcement
No doubt about it, stage one of the product launch can be disheartening. It involves the most time-consuming and tedious tasks, but sets the framework for attaining success. Assuming that you already have a web site, you should commence with this stage about two to three months prior to the scheduled launch date. Four necessary ingredients of the online pre-launch are proper search tool listing, press release(s), strategic linking and fine-tuning traditional collateral material.

Search engine, directory, and yellow page listings should begin as early as possible. This will be a great source of semi-direct marketing traffic. For the best results, choose your keywords carefully and know how to treat each of the major portals independently. uPromote Optimization Guide < http://www.uPromote.com/guide.html > explains how to optimize your site for the greatest marketing effect. Precision in placement during this step can amplify the amount of targeted traffic visiting your online business. Although many of the engines now index within under one month, you will need additional time to become familiar with the intricacies of each one and optimize your listing for launch.

A newsworthy release should be communicated to the press well in advance of launch. The media relies on an editorial calendar to dictate the release date of an article. You must find media outlets, especially popular and targeted ones, that have an opening or a scheduled article that relates to your product or service. This is an opportunity to discuss your site and product editorially and to build relationships with contacts in the media. The media has seen it all, so concentrate on the benefits that the online community will derive from your web site and leave out the fluff.

Strategic linking is a powerful tool that builds branding, creates an indirect marketing channel, and improves your relevancy in some of the major search engines. The more links you originate, the more popular your service appears to the human and search engine robot eye. Strive primarily to establish vertical link alliances - alliances with site's within an industry. Secondary linking should take a horizontal linking approach, looking for similar and related categories to build additional streams of traffic upon. For example, a bagel company linking with an orange juice company since they compliment each other in the marketing of breakfast food. Reciprocal linking is fairly standard. If you want a link, you may need to give a link. Rather than creating a single page for these, you may consider utilizing the directory format, implanting the links into their appropriate categories. Visitors will appreciate the added appeal of an industry-specific directory, a valuable tool to keep them coming back.

And since you have a Web presence, the world should know it. All of your materials must clearly identify your Web address or URL. It is surprising to see Fortune 500 companies, who have expended large interactive budgets in the development of their web site, failing to tout its presence in traditional ad campaigns or in its collateral material. Web sites have the potential to capitalize on impulse, however they cannot accomplish this until their identity is established. Launching a product requires that all messages are coordinated and connected between platforms. Accordingly, the home page of your web site should pique the curiosity of its visitors. Text that reads, "We're releasing a new product soon. Come back in two weeks," is ineffectual, while, "Help us give industry X a facelift on June 15," has a direct call to action. Allow your visitors the option of registering to be notified when the release takes place. Don't lose an opportunity to connect with a potential customer.

Product Announcement
On the day designated as product launch, you will concentrate on the influx of Web-generated traffic inquiring about your business. There are three important promotional provisions to take advantage at this point: Opt-In direct email, Banner delivery and Newsgroup promotion. Each of these tools is cloaked with its unique shortcomings, but if you take care to use them properly, they will intensify your launch.

Opt-In direct email is positively the best method for contacting people interested in your product or service. It's is the marriage between those who request information on certain categories and the distributor of that information. Since the recipient requests/subscribes to the information, the odds of a positive reaction to your new product is greatly improved. Product launches typically associate incentives, such as software web sites inviting people to download the free demo, investment web sites offering a 30-day free trial of their service, etc. - which work well to drive traffic. If your product or service really is essential to them, the customer may take the logical step to purchase your Web merchandise. The drawback: Since you are competing with other email and time, you must explain its benefits concisely and originally, urging the recipient to come to your site for the details. Effective email copy is not easy to develop, so be patient and practice. If you attempt to use bulk mailing systems that are not Opt-In, you risk damaging your company's reputation.

Targeted banner delivery is another great way to target your audience on the product launch date. Remember from a previous article on banners that you can target in two ways: through the banner message itself and through sites that you choose to host the banner. Ideally, you want all potential customers at your web site at product launch, so coordinate the distribution of your banner impressions. Simple is honest. Do not employ misleading or trick banners to get people to click through. You will not get the conversions that you think. Be enigmatic. Drawbacks: Banner impressions can burn quickly or go stale if you do not target and rotate the creative. Many people simply don't click on banners and it is not uncommon for one person to view multiple impressions of the same banner. Your banner could get poor placement, being counted as an impression when the page loads even though it may never seen by human eyes.

Newsgroups are comprised of people who post messages on thousands of topics. The majority of newsgroups are moderated in one way or another - by an assigned moderator or by someone who assumes the role. Commercial posts are not always welcome and can damage your reputation in this promotional arena. Research the groups that may be appropriate for you and monitor them to understand their culture. If you find a group that is appropriate, introduce yourself and list the benefits of your new product. Allow users to determine the value or your goods for themselves, offering an email address and a URL in the body of your message. Drawbacks: No matter how careful you are in the crafting of a message, you run the risk of it being considered spam. Some of these groups have conversations that have been ongoing for months, so if you interject a message off-topic or are not familiar to the group, your message will not be received enthusiastically.

Product Post-Announcement
Several weeks after the product announcement it is time to reflect - and breathe again. You should have experienced increased levels in both traffic and sales. Having implemented a system to allow people to register for further information about your site, you can now share updates, announce sale prices and other newsworthy information through a periodic newsletter. You may develop case studies on how the product has been used successfully and share them on your site.

Every online marketing campaign is unique. Whatever type of campaign you are considering, the development of a perfect strategy is manifest in time, budget, and product. uPromote specializes in shaping targeted marketing channels to uncover your web site's potential. Contact us today and let us help you turn your vision into reality.