Launching a product can sometimes feel like being the last kid picked to play kickball. You can’t instantly grow 6 inches, you can’t improve your 50-meter dash time immediately, and you can’t absorb 20 IQ points from the brainiac standing next to you. Rather than being the Kobe Bryant of your school’s kickball championship, you’re more like Shaquille O’Neal at the free-throw line. Success is going to take some work.
I’ve already successfully launched a company, but the feeling of uncertainty that accompanies a launch never truly goes away. You always feel like that lame kid on the bench, wondering if anyone’s going to give you a chance to play. As I embark on a new venture, I’m reminded of the things that separate champions from failures. Here’s how you can overcome discouragement and become a force to be reckoned with.
Remember what got you here in the first place.
It’s easy to get distracted by the obstacles in your path. It’s human nature to focus on the negatives in our lives; why do you think those Debbie Downers down the hall seem to have so much influence around the water cooler? If you’re readying for a launch, that means you have the opportunity to follow a dream of yours. Not everyone gets to do that – feel fortunate to have the luxury to do so, and envision that finish line in your mind. Don’t let the trivial things distract you from the big goal. The big goal is what will supply motivation in moments of doubt.
Have realistic expectations.
We all hear about overnight successes who seemingly took the world by the storm. They launched this or that, and they made a fortune. (For proof, check out the picture of Money Bags Mitch standing next to his Ferrari!) That’s just not likely to happen to most of us, especially in a first attempt. Stop with the comparisons, and focus on what could feasibly happen. Having unrealistic expectations is just setting yourself up for failure.
Keep your team in the game.
You have to model the behavior you want to see from your team. Lead by example: be happy and proud of what you’re doing. Show your team that you care about them, and acknowledge their achievements, big and small. You know what it’s like to sit on the bench. You also know how much better it was when your coach was a little more supportive and a little less Bobby Knight, right? Give them positivity and warmth to get it in return.
Remember that people are motivated by different things. Some people love challenges; others like flexible hours or the opportunity to work with like-minded people. Play to those preferences.
Get the word out.
Your launch won’t succeed if people haven’t heard of you. You have to create a plan that incorporates marketing as much as product development. List all the marketing endeavors you plan to undertake and when you plan to execute them. You can only get out of anything what you put into it. Simply building a website doesn’t mean people will come – you’ve got to take it to them. If you have little time or money for marketing, the results will follow suit. Kobe toots his own horn. Why can’t you?
Use social media and exclusivity to your advantage.
Manipulating your image early on can be a boon to your business. If you limit the number of people who can access your product or service (in other words, make it exclusive), people will clamor for information. (Look at Paris Hilton vs. Charlize Theron for a quick example of how accessibility enhances your image – or derails it.) People hate being left out (see: us, sitting on the bench). This makes it natural to ask your visitors to share information about your venture with their friends via social media – their friends are intrigued because they don’t have access. You’re simply asking them to satiate others’ curiosity, and that’s a win-win.
Take advantage of your network.
Let affiliates promote you. If they can rally up their networks, that’s an exponential score. Letting others do the marketing is huge, not only in terms of the expanded reach, but also because of the work you’re saving yourself. Use an already-launched company’s resources to make yours successful. There’s shame in hiding behind the tall kid in kickball, but there’s no shame in asking him to help you here.
A launch is exciting, but it can seem like there are obstacles everywhere you look. Keep your eye on the prize, get your team in the game, and market your butt off. You may feel like the last kid picked in kickball, or Shaq at the free-throw line right now, but that won’t last if you keep discouragement at bay. As I recall, that Shaq guy eventually became a big deal. You can, too.