There it is! You woke up this morning with the idea of the next billion-dollar company. But how to launch it, without a developer, without resources and with only a few hundred euros to invest in it? Don’t panic; it’s rather good news. All you have to do is test your market and focus on your value proposition. This will save you from spending money on a crazy idea without validating it first or spending three months developing a super app that is useless to anyone or anything.
In this article, we will talk about the tools at your disposal to launch your idea in a flash, but also about a methodology to avoid wasting time focusing on tasks that are worthless at the idea stage.
In five steps, you will :
- Frame your idea
- Building a facade
- Engaging clients
- Preparing the launch of your startup
- Finding mistakes to avoid
Framing his idea well
It’s a good idea (of course it’s yours), but what does the market think?
In your head, it’s clear. But have you tried to talk about it with anyone? If you’ve been rowing for ten minutes and needed twenty questions and answers for the person to understand. Then imagine someone alone behind a screen.
Who’s your target? What is the problem you are trying to solve? What are the key benefits of your solution?
Tool: Early-stage Strategy Canvas (more suitable for early-stage than the Business Model Canvas where some questions are not always relevant)
Objective: Putting your idea down on paper will force you to make choices. What do you want to sell? Find the right words, the right tone. What are the keywords and the value proposition? And not just: “an app that does it all”…
Time: 2-3 hours
Create and build a facade
It’s time to build (your favourite moment!)
No, you are not going to build your app/your solution. Not now!
You are going to create a façade to test your value proposition. Make sure that the problem you want to solve is a real problem, and that potential customers are interested in it. A façade is any strategy that allows you to test a solution and its appetence, without actually building it.
Examples of proven strategies include:
DropBox (home page here) – Drew Houston put online a website with a video that shows how DropBox works when the product doesn’t exist. He collects 75,000 email addresses in a few days.
CaptainParrot.io – An example of a still active frontend. The product does not exist, but 150 emails collected on Facebook groups.
AmazonGo – Amazon wants to launch the cashless store with facial recognition and automatic payment. No question of developing the technology (ultra-expensive) before testing. One web page (the original one), one video for hundreds of press coverage.
CrèmedelaCrème – A landing page to explain the concept. A phone number to receive orders by SMS. A team is doing Ctrl+F research by hand for their first 2000 customers.
The good news is that there are dozens of tools at your disposal to create your facade.
NB: Our selection highlights those that allow you to get started for free or almost free.
Build a landing page
The landing page is the easiest front to launch: a site to present your idea that will capture the first interests.
Strikingly – the fastest and easiest site builder to get started. You have no knowledge of design, web or site-building. Use this one, the templates are easy to handle, and you will go at full speed.
Weblium – advanced builder with blocks to edit yourself. It will allow those with web design knowledge to customize their site. You will have to tame the hundreds of blocks available and not to “break” too much the global design of the chosen template…
Squarespace – your project is about to design, photography, high-end eCommerce (clothing, interior design.). Squarespace templates will be perfect, and the builder is made for that. Beware of its extensibility and handling.
WordPress: avoid this builder if you are not experienced. It’s extremely powerful, but long to learn.
See the structure of a good landing page here (step 5)
Objective: build your presentation site without a developer and without CTO. Show your value proposition. A presentation site must be built and updated by the Marketing and Sales teams!
The specific case of e-commerce and launch of physical products:
Kickstarter: for promotion and product appetence testing.
Shopify: invest 30 euros per month, receive payments immediately and fill orders as quickly as possible. See also the more basic modules of Strikingly and Squarespace. To get started, avoid WooCommerce, Prestashop and Wix, which don’t have the necessary “code-free features.”
Here, your front end can even go as far as payments. Collect them and then be honest with your customers and say that the products are not ready yet and that they can choose to wait for delivery or to be refunded.
Time: ½ day-1 day
Add royalty-free images and icons
To make your site attractive and enjoyable, add images – royalty-free.
Unsplash – a royalty-free image library by the thousands! (be sure to read the Terms and Conditions carefully)
Pexels – ditto, more videos.
Smartmockup – insert a visual (logo, screen, photos.) on dozens of supports to put it in the situation.
Flaticon and The Noun Project – millions of icons at your fingertips to support the benefits of your solution and give visual cues.
Undraw – Professional illustrations to customize.
Creating a brand image
Tailorbrands, Logopony or Brandbuilder – automatic creation of your corporate image and logo.
Objective: don’t waste time and let the generators do the work for you. You will have plenty of time to have a beautiful logo designed when you have millions.
Time: 1 hour
Choosing a Name and Baseline
There’s nothing magic here. it’s all about creativity.
Methodology: five-minute timer. Everyone makes a list of three names. Vote with three stickers per person. Take two turns if necessary. Repeat for the baseline.
You may not have the best names and baselines in the world yet, but you’ve gone fast, and you can move on to the next one.
Startupnamecheck – Make sure the domain name is available as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter extensions.
Objective: spend as little time as possible there.
Reminder: Focus on the value proposition!
Time: 1 hour
Create a presentation video (optional and very time-consuming part!)
A good way to present your solution is to make an explanatory video (like Dropbox!). Nevertheless, make sure you don’t waste too much time on it, and the added value it brings, as you will have to create the video content “by hand.”
To do your editing, use Magisto – add some effects, choose a soundtrack.
To create the material before editing :
Case 1: you can explain the concept with simple words and graphics.
Biteable or Powtoon – build a video with pre-existing content (images, graphics and words).
Case 2: you absolutely must show the product
Physical product: Film your products in action: design, use.
Get the video rushes.
Digital products: first, create interactive mock-ups and then record them as screencasts (recording your screen).
To create your mock-ups :
PowerPoint, Gslides, Keynote – (our recommendation if you don’t know how to design). Imagine your screens on slides and link them together.
Invision, Marvel or Sketch – only if you have experience in UX/UI design.
But society – specialized for chatbots experiences. All in one.
Time: 1 day – ∞
Engaging your leads
Make the first move!
Define the objective that your landing page should fulfil:
Capture emails for a later launch in beta-private (B2C)
Organize meetings with potential prospects of your target group (B2B)
Give access to your solution by invitation (B2C/B2B)
Buy the product in pre-order (B2C/B2B)
💬 Installing lead sensors (prospects)
B2B and B2C. Capture your first leads and get to talk to them and understand why they showed interest.
Drift – chat to be installed in two clicks on your site to talk to prospects browsing it.
Sumo – capture emails with pop-ups that can be automatically placed on defined pages.
Place forms with a suite of qualifying questions with Google Form (the simplest and free), Jotform (the most design).
OnOff – Create a second number in five minutes to be contacted by phone or SMS.
Objective: to talk to visitors to your site. Why would they use the solution?
Organize calls with the first 30 leads to understand what motivates them.
Time: 1-3 hours
Make a digital brochure or booklet (B2B)
Do you want to be professional once the first contact has been made?
Canva: dozens of templates ready to create a sales brochure in no time, as soon as a prospect asks.
Time: 2 hours (if you have done step 1 correctly)
Understanding your prospects
Hotjar or Smartlook: very easy to install (plug-in with all the site builders mentioned above). You will be able to replay the behaviour of your site visitors: in a heatmap, by replaying the session. And understand what has challenged them, their clicks, and what to change for the next ones.
Google Analytics: if you don’t already know GA, go on your way…
Objective: to understand after launch where leads click and improve the message of your façade!
Time: 3-5 minutes of installation!
Launch & Promotion
Who are you going to tell?
For your big launch. Go through all the channels at your disposal:
1- Talk to your network and announce the release of your offer by email
With Mailjet to make mass marketing emails. Create your emails like on-site builders and send them by the thousands (your emails will surely arrive in the “promotions” tab).
YAMM or MixMax to make personalized messages (in the “primary” tab).
Tip: only use your personal contacts or people who know you!
2- Communicate on social networks: Facebook groups (share your problem with other people to see if they have the same one and make them react), on Twitter and Instagram with the #, Linkedin. Share links, shorten them and track clicks with bitly
3- Target and send a message to Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin influencers profiles who might talk about you again.
4- Evaluate if FacebookAds and GoogleAds can be relevant. Make small tests and be careful not to waste money. See here.
1- Use your network.
Send relevant emails to targeted contacts with MixMax or YAMM (free plan).
2- Contact prospects on Linkedin with Sales Navigator.
3- Define your targets and make targeted advertising.
For apps, software and other digital solutions, think about distribution platforms such as ProductHunt, HackerNews, BetaList, BetaPage, Reddit. Be careful to manage your reputation on these platforms!
Time: ½ day (more if you are preparing a Kickstarter campaign)
Your number 1 and most valuable resource: time!
We can never say it enough, but at this stage: no articles of association, no company registration, no contract, no discussion about which offices will be, who will be the mascot, which snacks will be delivered to the office.
Final reminder: focus on the value proposition to your future customers.
So are you ready to get started?
You’re armed with all the tools you need to create your façade, without a developer, without resources (except your time!) and without money. But launching your startup is all about having the right mindset: sweat, galleys and a lot of resilience.
Good luck, and good luck! (attention: the methods given in this article do not apply or hardly apply to Biotechs)