Startups can survive anything except obscurity, which is why you need to start building your audience and market for your startup before you start coding your killer disruptive app. One very effective approach is creating a prelaunch page for your startup. That’s what I’ve done today for Project Y – a.k.a DeveloperMemory.com.

Your modest objectives for this page are threefold: win a tiny modicum of attention, get permission to at least announce (if not market) via email your startup to potential customers, and win a toehold for your startup in Google’s search results. It is not to list the 24 features of your app, promise the world, or (with apologies to LaunchRock) “go viral” before you have anything to show.

Here’s what that list of people willing to at least look at your startup gets you:

  • Huge morale boost as you see real people who aren’t being nice to you interested in your startup. Akin to getting date with Angelina Jolie because she’s interested in you.
  • A pool of potential private beta customers who can hammer on your product, provide testimonials or even pay for your beta product.
  • A beginning to the customer discovery process as you engage with these earliest of adopters – a process you ignore at your peril.
So how do you create a great, memorable prelaunch page quickly for next to nothing? WordPress of course! Here’s how I did it: total time, about two hours.
  1. In one of my two favorite hosting services, Bluehost.com, assigned developermemory.com to a subdirectory, installed via SimpleScripts the latest stable build of WorkPress. (5 minutes)
  2. Went on to Themeforest, went looking at landing pages, prelaunch pages: way too many choices, most too complicated for what should be a very limited experience. (30 minutes)
  3. Googled around a bit and found LaunchEffecta free WordPress theme for viral launches. Turns out it’s not just software startups that need prelaunch pages. Downloaded, installed, filled out all but the main copy. (15 minutes)
  4. Now for the image. The point of a prelaunch site is emotion. Not marketing, customer education, or self-congratulation. You want one image that grabs the visitor’s attention and connects emotionally with them – at least enough so they will provide an email.
  5. Checked out my usual image source – istockphoto.com – but then went over to Themeforest’s new sister site for images, PhotoDune – and found two shots that I think connect the visitor to my startup. (PhotoDune’s half the price of istockphoto pricing and 50% credit back for November purchases didn’t hurt.) (5 minutes – really.)
  6. Resized the image, wrote the first cut of the copy (pulling from my running file of DM marketing concepts and pitches).  (20 minutes.) Let it stew overnight so I could have a fresh look at it this morning.
  7. Tweaked the copy and its CSS this morning (h2 line-height) while writing this post, found that you do need something in the “Description text, after submit” field, and set up a new Google Analytics tracking code. (30 minutes)
Notes:
  • Biggest issue with this first version of LaunchEffect is it does not integrate with a double opt-in mailing service like Mailchimp. The developer is promising this by November 15.
  • Remember, this is all about emotion – and forging with the image an emotional connection.
So there you have it: a creditable prelaunch page for your startup in two hours. Now my problem is which of these two images works better?

Do you like Photo A or B for DeveloperMemory.com's prelaunch page?

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Prelaunch A

Prelaunch B