No such thing as a free launch: A launch marketing checklist for multilocation businesses
Launching in a new city can be rewarding... or a massive flop. Columnist Megan Hannay outlines tips to help you build trust with your new audience and turn a potentially lackluster launch into a successful one.
I recently tried a nationally known local delivery app that launched in my area. Upon logging in to try out the service, I was disappointed to see how little information was presented in terms of delivery options. I was so confused that I emailed customer service, asking if the app had enough delivery staff members in my area.
The response was lackluster.
I’d spent time poking around the app and decided where I wanted to order from, only to learn that it wasn’t fully launched in my area. But why hadn’t the app communicated this delay earlier in my purchase funnel?
I live in a smaller city — so it’s understandable that the app, a startup that’s large in New York City and San Francisco, hasn’t reached full-scale operations in my area. And building at scale is hard — it can take a few weeks or months for a product or service to get off the ground in a new location, especially for companies with a two-sided marketplace.
But launch is a time when marketing and support teams shouldn’t write off a new city. A new location’s first customers are your local early adopters; they’re the folks who may (or may not) tell their friends about your service. And a lackluster launch can slow or halt growth.
But there is a way to launch locally in a way that pleases new customers. Even if a company is experiencing supply shortages or glitches, great local marketing tells those early customers that you’re aware of new city issues. The tips below were created with local sharing economy services in mind, but they can be applied to almost any brand that provides location-based services, from local information pages to lead-generation sites and brick-and-mortar businesses.
New city launch: A local marketing checklist
1. Share new city information in the site/app.
Create onsite messaging for customers in launch cities explaining the scale of service at the moment. If the city is not yet at capacity, say so upfront — explain that wait times may be longer, provide messaging at times when services are not available, and offer rain-check discounts to compensate. Telling the truth goes a long way toward customer trust.
Some questions to answer:
- How close are the new city services to “fully operational?” This can be given as a percentage if sharing numbers doesn’t feel right (“We’re at 85% capacity! Keep spreading the word!”).
- What beta launch delays may new customers encounter?
- Are there rain-check coupons or feedback forms for new customers whose initial experience wasn’t up to par?
- How can new customers help build local community around the app? If it’s a two-sided marketplace, where can they sign up or invite friends?
2. Create unique drip email campaigns for new city launches.
Creating unique email marketing campaigns for each city — regardless of how newly launched a service is — is ideal, but depending on how many cities a brand operates in, it may not be a logistically possible endeavor. However, it’s wise to at least create a separate email campaign for new cities. Instead of focusing purely on customer retention, these emails can also focus on a company’s new city growth, as well as tips for using the new service.
Prep announcement messages to be sent when certain thresholds are passed in a given city — for example: “We’re celebrating our 500th customer in [CITY] with a discount!”
Plus, you can send early adopters coupons when the service has reached full capacity, encouraging those who may have been turned off by launch-scale services to give it another shot.
3. Ask new customers to write reviews.
This advice can work for a company in any stage, but for brands working to establish themselves in a region, reviews are a must-have. For sharing economy businesses, this means user reviews, too. (And yes, there’s a startup for that).
4. Create location-specific content.
Location-specific content can be difficult to scale manually, but transparency goes a long way toward making this project easier. App-generated data, such as the number of local users, local availability by time of day or day of week, or average cost of various services can be automated on city-specific landing pages. This process creates unique content for locals and builds out informative local pages without starting from scratch in each city.
For recently launched cities, extra FAQ and help sections can be automated for the first few months as well.
LiquidSpace.com, an on-demand office space rental startup, does a great job of showing potential customers, even before a login page, the office space availability and costs in a given city.
Peer-to-peer car rental startup Turo also finds a way to share local content for various hub cities. The service’s blog features “market guides” to each city, including a hall of fame for its most active local users. This tactic is easier to execute a few months or years post-launch, but a post celebrating early adopters could be equally appealing.
5. Build relationships in new cities.
I’ve written previously about the benefits of local sponsorships for national brands, and city launches are a crucial time for a brand to establish its name in a community. For newly launching products or services, it’s essential to attract the attention of target customers. Local sponsorships can also enhance a launch pitch to local press outlets.
A transparent launch builds trust
If you’re launching services in a new city, tell customers what to expect. New folks will be more understanding if they find out about potential shortages upfront, before investing time in a service that isn’t quite ready for them. There’s a reason we promote beta products as such, instead of launching them as fully functional.
Marketers, in general, aren’t charged with product or service quality assurance, but we are the ones who see the results of poor experiences. And a marketing team or agency can be proactive on a company’s behalf, ensuring that customer communication is reliable, even during a lackluster launch.