This is a guest post from Mukund Mohan.
When Brian Solis and I launched BuzzGain in January 2009, we had 5 primary blog(ger)s who covered us out of the top 10 influential ones that we targeted and 27 other blogs that made a mention of our launch. Chris Brogan, Louis Gray, Mashable (Jennifer Van Grove), TechCrunch (Jason Kincaid) and Brian Solis covered us over 2 days. Thanks to some deft management by Brian, we were able to also be on the twitter trending topics for about 13-15 minutes. Besides these blogs, our press release got picked up by Marketwire, BizJournals and MSNBC. It got play at Techmeme and helped us get to 292,030 pageviews, 102,394 unique users, and 7874 registered users over 1 week post launch.
Our primary audiences were PR professionals and social media consultants who were looking for an inexpensive solution to monitor and track their customer’s brand on social media. Our launch was a beta version, free to use for up to 5 keywords and pricing started at $99/month for more keywords. Our initial launch expectations were to get 5000 registered users, hoping to get 500 users to repeat usage weekly and 50 paying customers from the launch.
Since the timing of the blogs posts were different by at least 1-2 hours, we had the opportunity to view and understand the traffic patterns, conversion rates and track all our users with Google Analytics, including source of the referral, time on various pages, conversion to registration and finally usage within our product. There were 5 primary patterns that we noticed a week after launch:
- Techcrunch (TC) dominated pageviews and registrations. This was an avalanche. After tracking one week trending, TC provided us with 35% of our pageviews and 29% of our user registrations. The article provided some screenshots of our product so Jason had taken time to review it rather than just mention its launch. What we noticed however was that fewer than 15% of registered users cared to setup a basic campaign and about 4% returned again after the first registration. Of those that setup their campaign, only 2 people actually emailed us to request pricing and possible upgrade.
- Mashable provided the best usage patterns over a week 1 period. Jennifer covered us within 15 minutes of the TC coverage and wrote the most comprehensive piece on our launch. Mashable provided us 22% (direct) pageviews and 14% registrations, but the most amazing part was that the users were really interested in the product. We got the most feedback, the most campaigns setups and the best write-ups post their usage of the product. Mashable users were also kind enough to participate with twitter mentions, which helped us get even more users.
- Chris, Louis and Brian provided the most users who converted to paid users. All three of these influential bloggers together provided us about 15% of our pageviews and 8% registrations. Usage patterns of their users indicated serious understanding of our product, many mentions of features that our competitors had that were missing and led to 11 active sales cycles and negotiations and price quote requests. 19 of their users took the time to write reviews of our product post their experience and highlight what they loved and disliked about our product.
- Coverage from Techmeme gave us the most email requests from potential partners. We had 4 potential partners who mentioned they heard about us from Techmeme. All four of them were relatively larger companies and were interested in talking to us about reselling our product or integrating it with theirs. This was an unexpected side benefit no doubt, but one that took several cycles away from our core objective.
- The press release and its coverage gave us the most calls from recruiters. While this might seem very facetious, the net effect of the press release was negligible or even useless directly. While we did get 4-7% of our pageviews from these mentions, the user registrations were not worth counting. I did gather though, that these helped us very much indirectly. We did get many large companies that had heard of our name because of seeing the press release. Many of them had setup Google alerts on keywords associated with those on our press release and heard about our company.
So what’s my recommendation to entrepreneurs and marketing professionals who are looking for an awesome launch?
a) The right set of launch objectives are the hardest part of your campaign. Almost every marketing campaign tracks the 3 metrics (pageviews, registered users and converted paying customers), but I get a sense that engagement of users instead of paying users was a far better metric to track during beta.
b) There no silver bullet if you have more than 1 objective to achieve. We wanted to track 3 items, as I mentioned, but it was clear after a week that one primary source was not going to get us there even though the number of pageviews and registered users met our targets.
c) Influence is so nebulous that it is better not worth measuring. I know Klout thinks otherwise, but I got more value from Mashable’s 8 users and the influential bloggers 19 users who wrote blog posts reviewing our product in detail than any of the coverage due to the press release.
Most startups launching products typically adopt one or two mechanisms – at an event such as Demo, etc. or a significant PR activity to ensure we grab the attention of potential users. While most of us have a sense of the key places where our target users will be, it’s not very obvious which mechanism will get us the best return on the key campaign metrics. If I were to do this again, I’d focus on getting to the 100 “influencers” who were below the radar who would actually take time to review the product, and let us know the key issues and recommend features which would convert users to buyers.
Image credit: Sean MacEntee