Startups: When is the right time to put up a ‘Coming Soon’ page?

Even after 4-5 months, there was no response from the founding team – so I started looking out for alternatives (did I say, I was desperate?) and realized that there aren’t any good alternatives in the market. So what did I do? I looked for substitutes.

I was once fascinated with this US based startup that launched a product we were planning to use on Pluggd.in. The startup was doing a beta with a media site in US and I liked the product from day one. When I visited the site, I was greeted with a ‘Coming Soon’ page and I did enter my email id thinking I will get a response within a week.

But I didn’t and again entered the id at least 3 times and even sent out a mail to the founding team to break the ice.comingsoon

I was desperate, you see! I was really desperate to use a product like that, as it did fit our requirement and was even willing to $hell out a good money for the service.

Even after 4-5 months, there was no response from the founding team – so I started looking out for alternatives (did I say, I was desperate?) and realized that there aren’t any good alternatives in the market.

So what did I do? I looked for substitutes – i.e. similar services which had different forms, but offer similar functionality.

And we did find one. {Read this earlier note on Substitutes vs. Alternatives – Understand your Competition Better}.

We are currently using the substitute product and even though it didn’t fit the exact requirement, we have tweaked it for our purpose and frankly, happy with what we have.

But, what about this Silicon Valley startup? Well, it took them almost a year to realize that I was actually a potential customer and are now offering me $1000 worth of credit to use their service.  That is almost a year after me sharing the details on their ‘coming soon’ page! How cool is that?

Am I interested?

Not anymore.

Should I be?

No. Even though it’s a great product (I still think its an awesome product), I am not going to bet my money on them anymore. They have set the pretext of ‘delayed communication’ that makes me believe that they aren’t professional enough.

Lesson learnt?

No matter which stage is your startup in, be clear about your communication. You shouldn’t put up a ‘coming soon’ page 6 months in advance. It starts to build an expectation that the product will be launched ‘anytime’ soon and if it doesn’t, your customers will just move on.

And it’s not just about this startup, but several Indian startups who tend to aggressively market their product way too early and get a damp squib response when the product is launched. And while they tend to blame on lack of early adopter crowd etc, do realize that people aren’t dying to use your product – they have their own lives and you need to figure out a place for yourself in their life.

So, when is the right time to launch a ‘coming soon’ page?

The ‘Coming soon’ page should go live at a maximum of three months before the launch. An ideal coming soon page should consist of the following:

  • Logo of the brand.
  • Brief description of the service (“excite me, please?”).
  • Email subscription option.
  • Link to Facebook/Twitter profiles (should be active accounts).
  • Link to company blog, which can be used to give a sneak peek into the product in making.
  • Bonus: Have an expected date timer.  It just builds the right expectation.

But, here is what a lot of Indian startups do not care about (when they copy the ‘coming soon’ ideology from US counterparts) – Engagement.

Most of the startups use email IDs collected from ‘coming soon’ page to alert about the launch (which can happen anytime soon), but they never care about engagement.

As an early stage startup, the key  is to start engaging with those who signed up early. Share blog posts with them. Tell them what you are doing. Ask them for help when it comes to deciding on features. Given them a sneak preview of what’s cooking. Involve them in decision making.

In short, get them to participate. Make them feel special. They are the ones who expressed interest in you – so treat them nicely. They could be your first seed of marketing and will go a long way in building the business.

But first, stop treating your ‘coming soon’ as a lead capture page. Instead, think of it as a marketing activity and while lead generation is inbound (i.e. actions are dependent on product/sales timeline), marketing is always outbound (and is done as a planned activity, unlike lead generation which is trigger based).

What’s your take?

[Pic credit: Coming Soon movie/IMDB]

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