Ask Amanda About Marketing – Episode 21: Houston, We Have a Pre-Launch PR Strategy


You might think you’re ready to blast off into the world of startup success…but are you fully prepared for launch?

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(Also, if you were wondering how many animals in space gifs there are…it’s a lot.)

I’m joined by Justin Adelson, founder of Perfect Pixel Marketing, to discuss how to successfully prepare for a website launch.

We discuss a variety of tactics:

  • Organic outreach
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Content development
  • Paid ad strategy

Example questions that are answered:

  • What kind of marketing goals are best to have for a strategic partnership?
  • When is it worth investing in a paid ad strategy?
  • What is the best way to utilize analytics before you even launch?
  • How do you decide which publishers are best to target?

Check out the episode to hear our tips for crafting the perfect pre-launch digital marketing strategy.

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Have any additional insight on pre-launch digital PR strategies? Post it in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Full Transcript:

Amanda Milligan: This week, I’m excited to have a guest, Justin Adelson, the founder of Pixel Perfect Marketing. But before I dive into that, I want to make a quick note that the show is switching to a biweekly format. So instead of every Wednesday, it’ll be every other Wednesday. The episodes will probably trend more towards half an hour. I know we’ve had some shorter episodes around 15 minutes, but since we’re doing it less frequently, I’m going to try to beef up the episodes a little more and I’m really excited about that. So just wanted to give you a note in case you’re wondering why we’re missing last week. We’re going to continue on, just on a bi-weekly basis.

So this week, the topic is pre-launch digital PR strategies. And the reason for that is, I got a question submitted from a founder who’s launching a company this month. What he asked was:

“I have my list of journalists and editors and my press releases all prepared and email pitches ready to go. Do you have any suggestions on anything else I should be doing prior to the site going live.”

Yes, we do have some suggestions and I’m excited to have Justin on the show because he has 15 years of experience helping startups and consulting on pre-launch strategies. So Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin Adelson: Hi, thanks for having me.

AM: Just to start, do you mind talking a little bit about your experience and you know, give a little background as to the type of work you’ve done?

JA: Of course, and I’m sorry to say this on air, but it’s actually Perfect Pixel Marketing, you switched it up. We specifically made it really hard for people to remember so don’t feel bad. It’s the kind of title that you have to say three times fast. So, it’s one of the challenges. No, but thanks for having me. You know, as you mentioned, I have 15+ years in marketing. My career has always been in entrepreneurial environments. So it’s given me the opportunity to wear multiple hats and to really, you know, drive some value for whatever startup, company, or clients I’m working with or for.

Most recently, I’ve been focusing a lot on digital marketing, you know, creating content that can be found online, you know, so your search engine optimization, creating websites that are easy to navigate and they have low bounce rates. But as well as doing some outbound marketing as well.

Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Google AdWords. So I feel like I’m a full stack marketer. I do a lot of things. I can provide a lot of value to teams because I’ve had to actually do a lot of different roles throughout my career. It’s something I love doing and I always look forward to learning new things.

AM: That’s great. And I think it’s appropriate to talk about a pre-launch strategy because there’s so many components that go into it. I don’t think it’s one of those very narrow strategies. I think that there are a lot of tactics to consider since this is one of the biggest pushes you’re going to do. Acquiring as much attention as you can is going to be crucial.

So just to dive into the conversation, since the person mentioned this kind of outreach component of reaching out to journalists and getting that kind of publicity, I’d like to start there about any tips you might have in terms of how to find out who the right publishers or the right audiences to target even are? I know you’ve talked a bit about this in the past and I’d like to get your feedback on how do you better understand your audience?

JA: So your audience—that’s a really good question because I think there’s a lot of times people assume what their audience is and it turns out that they’ve been targeting the wrong people or they’re targeting them in the wrong way. So, this founder mentioned that he is targeting specific journalists and editors and hopes to have a small piece or something written about them in their publication. I think that’s a very wise thing to do because you are trying to get something written about you in a publication that’s written by your target market, of course.

You have to still think to yourself, is this publication really the people that are going to be acting upon the information that they’re reading? So for example, if you have a—I’m just making stuff up as we go here, let me back up. I have one of my clients, Trade Hounds, great company. They created a job site specifically for the blue-collar worker. So the person who is looking to start a career or move their career forward through skilled trade jobs.

One of the things that they did was partner up with This Old House, which if anyone up in New England knows or anyone who’s a Bob Vila enthusiasts knows that this is a show that’s been going on for years and years and years about people doing renovations of “This Old House.” In theory, it’s a great partnership because you have people who are contractors. They’re plumbers, they’re painters. There are people who are actually knowledgeable about performing these renovations that will be occurring on these homes and whatnot.

But at the same time, that might not actually be the best audience for them to be posting a lot of content because these contractors are not actually watching the show to learn about how to do these things. It is people like myself that are DIY, do-it-yourselfers, those who want to learn how to change a light fixture or remodel their kitchen or just even do a flooring repair or something like that.

So you have to be very cognizant about who’s actually reading or paying attention to the programming or the publication. Is your company or is your startup actually going to be of interest to those who are consuming the information?

AM: Yeah, it’s so crucial to think about the intent, like you’re saying. When I talk to potential clients and I tell them the kind of work that we can do for them, I often explain that there is value in general brand awareness, especially at the beginning if you’re trying to reach a very wide audience. But if you have more of a niche target, there has to be that level of more targeted brand awareness like you’re saying. Reaching those people who are actually relevant to your service offering or your product. So, I think that’s a great summary.

JA: One thing I will mention real quick though is the partnership that Trade Hounds and This Old House partnership is actually a very good partnership because This Old House—they started this new program called Generation Next, which is supposed to get some of these younger skilled trade workers into their programming. They actually do a competition and the way that Trade Hounds helped was they were able to find those young apprentices would be perfect for their programming and help “This Old House” get the best candidates for this new show that they’re doing.

So it’s a great job of the two of them, creating an awesome strategic partnership, but at the same time, Trade Hounds still needed to create new content that their audience, “This Old House,” would actually be able to get some good viewership and readership if that makes sense.

AM: It definitely makes sense. And I think strategic partnerships are a great point and I’m curious about what tips you might have for finding those opportunities. Like if you’re thinking there has to be companies that it would make sense to work with, where we have a mutual or you know an overlapping audience. Do you have any strategies for going out there and finding other companies or publishers that it might make sense to work with?

JA: Well, yeah, definitely. Anyone who is starting a new company should know who their competition is and if there are any strategic partners available in the same space. One of the markets right now that is really taking advantage of strategic partnerships is baby toys, baby-wears—things like baby clothing and like—make your own baby food products things like that.

A lot of the time, there would be one company who might create, you know, great baby bottles and storage and then there’s another company that makes great baby clothes. These two companies are actually not competitors because one’s creating a wearable item and the other one’s creating food storage and feeding items.

So having them work together and do some sort of promotion online such as you know, the person—you see this a lot: “Mention two friends and you’ll get a free entry for a $75 gift card from both, you know, Company A and Company B.” So where I’m going with this is, try to find somebody in your industry or has a similar target audience and do a promotion or do something similar that will benefit both players.

One thing you want to make sure is that you’re not substantially helping the other person, that it’s not heavily weighted on one side because you’re going to be doing so much for that other company, but getting very little in return. Which, don’t get me wrong, everybody likes helping out the small guy or the new company or something like that, but you should at least have something set so your company—or at least both sides—are getting equal value from the partnership.

AM: What do you think are the most effective goals to have when you’re getting into the strategic partnership? Is it about getting your brand name out there or generating links if you’re creating content? What have you found to be the most effective in that kind of environment?

JA: That’s a great question. You know, a lot of people are like, oh, yeah, I’m getting my brand out there. And before I know it’s gonna be raining money and revenue this is going to be great. No, it’s not great. That’s the worst thing to do is say “it’s gonna be great for my brand.” Well, how many people you’re actually going to reach? How many people are going to engage with these posts or engage with these promotions? And you know, it helps you out in the end.

So you brought up a really great point. You need to have a measurable goal and a lot of times—specifically if you’re doing a strategic partnership and you’re trying to do like one of these promotion things like hey, refer a friend and you get entry into our fifty dollar gift card blah blah blah—make sure that you’re actually taking all of this information and storing it somewhere and then using it to your advantage to help get some more leads or to get some more sales.

So if you are having people referring friends, take that data as long as—of course, you have to make sure that you know confidentiality is important. You’re not breaking any, you know, social networking rules or whatnot. Get a goal from it. Specify a specific goal and then find a way that you can actually say, all right, this promotion with this company this week did this and then next week, if you do another promotion with another company, how well did that work?

And then that way, at the end of the month, you can look at all your data and say all right, our goal has been matched and we performed this well each week and then you can make more market-needs decisions and data-driven decisions in the future that will be valuable and beneficial for your company and most likely the other company.

AM: And I saw in your Trade Hounds case study that you mentioned installing the tracking software and monitoring the progress of campaigns you have going. When we’re talking about a pre-launch strategy, nothing’s quite happened yet. What kind of preparation do you need to be doing? Like what tools do you recommend? And what do you think is the most important to be tracking and what metrics to keep an eye on?

JA: That’s it. Well, how much time do we have? That’s a whole ‘nother episode. I can’t wait for next week. Well, you know, we’ll try to make it as general as possible. You have to set up your Google Analytics, you have to set up, if you are expecting on doing any sort of paid advertising or if you’re going to be doing any sort of engagement on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, you have to throw up those pixels right away. And even if you say to yourself, alright, I’m not going to spend any money on advertising for a few months, it’s great to at least get a pixel up there.

It’s going to start watching your traffic and then from that traffic, you can get some audience insights. That will help you do more targeting in the future. It costs nothing to do it and almost anybody with some decent tech savviness is able to actually install all of these pixels and all this analytical software and you can get it running immediately.

One great tool that a lot of people do not use are ATM—it’s not ATM codes you want to keep that to yourself—UTM codes. UTM codes for those who don’t know, it’s just a little piece of information that goes on the URL. Everyone’s seen it it would be like perfectpixelmarketing.com./utm_source=facebook. Or you’ll see like “utm_campaign.”

What happens is when that URL and those parameters are launched inside of an address bar, Google analytics or whatever, you know software you’re using, will see that and we’ll record it immediately and then we’ll follow that person’s behavior and flow throughout the website. So if I have a specific promotion that I’m doing with you guys for instance and I’ll put in “utm_campaign=” you know, $25 promotion, I can see how many people went into the website through that specific link and then how many people might have become a lead. How many people have made a purchase? How many people bounce—they went straight to my website and didn’t like what they saw and left.

So you can use that information to monitor and to compare how your channels and sources of traffic as well as you know, maybe campaigns are doing. So I would highly advise, you know, especially if you’re doing things on the cheap, you know, install all the pixels and analytical tracking software as possible and utilize UTM codes.

You can find all this information online and a lot of different ways how to install them in the strategies and how to use them.

AM: I think that’s so important because I found that a lot of people use Google analytics but for really top-level insights, like, they look at general traffic and you know, it’s not until you hone in and see how people are behaving in your site the entire time that you really start to understand what kind of campaigns you should be launching, what kind of content you should be creating.

So I think that’s a great point. Speaking of content—I’d love to talk about that next—because the question originally asked did not really talk too much about content and maybe I’m biased because I work in content marketing but I think that it’s extremely important to be thinking about that when you’re launching a company and what kind of content is going to be valuable to your user.

So in your experience—and maybe you could talk a bit about Trade Hounds or other case studies you have—when you’re just starting out, what are those initial research points you’re doing to say, okay. This is what I’m prioritizing as the content we need to create first.

JA: Right, Trade House is the perfect example about content marketing. I don’t want to say what they did wrong, but it had the right idea, wrong execution. The founder, David, when he first started the company, he went out around Boston and he was speaking to his target market, to his target audience, people that he would be creating content for and asked them: how do you search for content? What do you like reading about? And how do you consume said content—is it on a desktop device or a mobile device?

Everything that he got back from the from these guys was that after a long shift, they all go home and they consume their content on their mobile phones and they love reading about sports and you know, general guy stuff.

So one of the examples was Barstool Sports, which is a well-known publication focused toward male topics around New England. So that’s what he started to create on his website. It was information about Tom Brady and you know, the cutest blue-collar female worker of the week and all these other things, very bro-esque sort of content.

The problem with that is that he is creating stuff that other people are already doing, first of all, so now you’re competing against some big players who already create this stuff. But he’s not posting any content about the needs of his target audience. He is not providing a solution. He’s not providing an answer to some questions that his target audience might actually be searching for such as “how do I get ready for a blue-collar career? What do I need to do for a blue-collar career? What can I make as a plumber? As a painter? As a subcontractor?

These are the things that he didn’t write about and because of that, you could tell immediately. According to his earlier analytics, no one was actually finding the website because he didn’t have that content available. And so one of the very first things I did when I started working with that company is to create a content strategy, specific keywords and topics that his audience would actually search for when they were you know, starting their skilled trades career.

Because of that, we saw a significant and quick increase in organic traffic to the site and normally—and I’m sure you guys have talked this talked about this before—a lot of times content strategy and search engine optimization will not show any specific, significant results for at least four to six months. We were able to start seeing something within three months after we started adopting that new strategy. So it’s really important, you got to do your research.

He did a great job about doing and asking some people: “What do you like reading about?” But they were asked if he was talking to people who already have jobs. They weren’t looking for jobs. This is the thing that they like to read as leisure, not things that they want to read to further their career.

Specifically with a start-up founder who’s launching soon, he needs to think about what are people going to be searching for and where are they reading it and what has been written about already. Then start focusing on content like that because some of his target market might actually love Tom Brady or sports or things like that.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to read something about Tom Brady then become a paid user right after that—actually, just a quick digression. I was listening to one of your podcasts from earlier and you notice something about geo-targeting. I couldn’t agree more about it.

By Trade Hounds specifically talking about New England sports, that might you know upset the 49er fan or the Ravens fan or the Yankees fan specifically. So by geo-targeting your content, you can actually really hurt your whole national target because you’re specifically focusing on a small area and the only time you really want to do that is if your services or stores are only limited to a specific region.

AM: Right, that last point I think in the episode we were talking about how the best strategy that we found when producing content is to take a national approach. But ask those demographic questions so that you can speak to those individual local audiences without being alienating like you’re saying. If you’re just talking about one area and that’s not where your whole audience is located, it’s going to sound like you’re not talking to the rest of your potential audience.

So I see where you’re coming from. But yeah, we found that too when we’re producing content. It’s like well, let’s ask the general audience and then see what interesting insights we can pull about specific areas and then highlight all of those areas. A map of every state. You can find where you are in, relate to it, and you don’t feel like you were left out.

JA: Yeah like top five—if you’re a beer magazine, top 5 best places to get a beer made by
Belgian monks, you know, you’re looking at different places instead of focusing only on one section where say if it was only California, you know, California is one of 50 states and not everyone’s traveling there all the time. So you have to give a lot of options.

AM: I agree a hundred percent. Absolutely and I think you made a lot of excellent points in your broader answer. I agree that the strategy of asking is a really good one. You have to be pretty narrow about it. Like you said, you can’t just—it sounds like he was succeeding at building bigger buyer personas, he was understanding the people he was trying to reach but you have to ask questions specifically about your service offering and what those people are going to want from you or what they’re looking for to be able to answer the appropriate questions that they’re going to be looking for.

To your note about producing content that’s already out there, that is so important. I can’t tell you, people—they just produce things and don’t look to see if somebody else has done it already. I mean literally search the keyword in Google and see what comes up and this is a whole other topic of keyword research, which I think when you’re talking about what kind of content you want to create for your audience keyword research is a huge factor in that to see what people are actually looking for, in addition to asking them what they’re looking for. You can already see what’s been the trend in the past.

Even if you’ve identified a keyword and you’re looking at the results, even if it’s already been done, I think there’s always room for improvement—okay, always a strong maybe not always but—a lot of the time you look at the results and you see what people have produced and ask yourself, if you can provide more value on that. Was it not explained clearly? Did that leave out a really important perspective?

There’s a lot of room to provide your voice in that way. Have you had that experience when you’ve been looking for content ideas, Justin?

JA: It’s definitely something I’ve looked into. To borrow a page from Bill Halligan’s book “Inbound Marketing,” he always says to create unique content and you’re better off as a start-up to write about a specific topic that speaks specifically to your niche audience. Yes, sometimes, your product might be something very broad like sunglasses.

So, you know, you can’t there’s only so much content you can create, posts about sunglasses, but maybe there’s a lifestyle that you are specifically trying to, you know, really drive. So, a type of sunglasses I wear a lot are called Blenders. They’re $35 for polarized glasses and I got them because I have two kids who will most likely grab them and will tear them into two.

But I’m not going to be upset because they only cost me 35 bucks. But where I’m going with this is that you know Blenders can create a feel. They create posts on Facebook and Instagram that show people living, you know, the—I don’t want to say a cheap life, but they’re they’re enjoying the outdoors, you know, on a budget.

They’re not in Saint-Tropez wearing $500 glasses. They’re floating down the river with a six-pack if that makes sense. So being able to tailor your content—even if that content has been already discussed before—finding a way to tailor it to your audience is the best way to avoid getting lost in competitive content that’s already out there.

AM: Yeah. No that makes a lot of sense. I think yeah when I’m talking about competitive research and looking to see what’s out there, it’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s, what is this content lacking that needs to exist? I think sometimes people see a subject line or something like a title. That’s like, “how to pick the best sunglasses for you” or you know as an example.

But then you click on it and it’s 5 really basic bullet points and you realize, oh the content that’s been created around this is kind of garbage. Maybe it’s ranking high because there’s not a lot out there already and there’s a ton more to think about that my brand could provide. So absolutely, I think you have to decide what your value is like, what you offer that other brands don’t and make sure that you’re incorporating that into any content you’re creating and searching for those gaps and what already exists out there.

JA: Yeah in most cases, some people they might say, alright, I need to put in 20 bullet points about you know, this broad topic. No, you’re actually almost better off just picking five of those 20 and just make that the focus specifically toward your niche audience.

AM: Yeah, but being thorough, right?

JA: Of course.

AM: Yeah. What I mean is, I see things—it’s like well, make sure you like the sunglasses. Okay, that’s great. But anybody would have known that already. It’s kind of like, if you find low-quality stuff, if there’s not a lot of it out there, there’s a possibility that it can be ranking. So just looking for those gaps and what value you can add. Like you’re saying, being really targeted and comprehensive about it can go a really long way.

So we have two minutes left. I wanted to touch very quickly—I don’t know how we’re gonna be able to touch on at this quickly—on paid. We’ve talked about organic outreach and content. How do you decide whether you or even going to launch a page strategy? What are some of those really top level questions when you’re talking about a launch?

JA: Page strategy is great compared to non-paid because you get instant results. It’s the complete opposite of inbound—you pay to get your information out there immediately and as long as you’re all your pixels and everything has been set up correctly, you see the results immediately and you can act upon them, not instantly, but pretty quickly. Significantly faster than outbound.

For anybody who’s thinking about going the outbound route, there’s a few quick things that you should consider. First of all, budget. Do you have five hundred, a thousand, three thousand, five thousand dollars to spend on doing ads right?

Two: do you have the audience out there? A lot of people might think oh Facebook’s the way to go, I’m definitely going to promote my marketing services on Facebook. That actually might not be the best platform to go. Do your research figure out, A) which platform might be the best for you and then B) how much targeting, how many potential audience is out there. So look at the demographics look at the audience sizes and make sure that you know, it’s the right platform and there’s people there. Yeah, we got like 30 seconds left.

AM: Maybe we don’t have to—I won’t cut you off.

JA: Right. No, but I mean, right away, those are the two biggest things. It’s budget and it’s audience size. But the last thing is really about, why do you need to do outbound? Are you trying to increase leads? Are you trying to validate your business model? Are you trying to get into a market that you haven’t targeted before?

You want to be able to learn from the money you’re spending on these ads and so you don’t want to do it—the one thing I tell people, don’t spend money on trying to get new likes. Don’t try don’t spend money on boosted posts. More people are going to see this content and it’s going to help you a little bit. But if you’re trying to squeeze every penny, a lot of times, you’re better off just waiting for content strategy and SEO to really start taking effect than spending $10 a day or $20 a day and trying to boost your own content.

So, you know, I always recommend, you know, it’s just like what we’ve mentioned before about establishing a goal. If you are going to do some sort of outbound marketing, make sure you establish a goal that you can measure the success on because you are spending a decent amount of money in the short term and you want you know—if you just do it in the dark, you have no way to measure, you know, the performance and how successful that outbound marketing campaign will be.

AM: Yeah. That’s an excellent point. I think it’s tempting to dive into outbound because like you said you get those prompts results, but ultimately you should also be setting up a foundation for inbound. It’s an investment but it’s that long-term value you’re getting. Sometimes, pairing them is the best way to go. You get those short-term results, as long as they’re goal oriented like you’re talking about.

Which I think a lot of people don’t do or they forget that they should have a specific goal in mind when they’re initiating those pieces but you know a lot of the times it’s a combination that works the best and making sure you’re not overlooking the inbound benefits.

JA: I highly recommend anyone who’s considering doing outbound, the first thing they should do—if they have enough traffic—is start a retargeting campaign. You take your pixel, you put it on your website, and then whenever somebody hasn’t performed a specific action, which you can do on Facebook or Twitter and whatnot, you then show them an ad three days later to remind them. Hey, you know, you saw my piece about—I don’t know—about search engine optimization. Why don’t you contact us about our Facebook ad services?

The great thing about retargeting is that you have someone who’s already interested in your product or service and that you’re reminding them that you are available—it doesn’t work for everything—but you’re available for the products available or the service is available or etcetera. So I highly recommend it.

AM: That makes total sense. Well, Justin, thank you so much for being on the show. I apologize for misspeaking of the name of the company. It is Perfect Pixel Marketing, but this is a really valuable conversation, and I really appreciate it.

JA: No, my pleasure. Thank you for having me. I’m sorry. I get excited about marketing. I get to talk a lot about it.

AM: That’s why I love doing this, is talking to people like you who are enthusiastic about is it’s great. No need to apologize. I’m happy to be involved. Thank you.


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