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How to Launch and Promote a Product with Social Media (2019 Guide)




Rebekah Radice: Well, hello and welcome to another edition of Social Chat 2.0 with SEMrush and me, your host, Rebekah Radice. Now today, we're talking about product launches and how you can use social media to get your product, your service in front of a whole lot more people.

So just real quick, for those of you that are joining us here today that don't know Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang, she is an educator and an entrepreneur. She received her MA and PhD in communication with Syracuse University and the University of Maryland. She is the founder of Classroom Without Walls and coaches education professionals to leverage social media to build powerful brands and communities. We are so excited to have you.

Dr. Ai A.: Thank you so much for having me here. I'm so excited. I can’t wait to get started.

Rebekah Radice: Also, joining us today is Jessika Phillips. Jessika, we've known each other for quite some time. So impressed with all that you do as a social media strategist. Jessika also founded NOW Marketing Group in 2010. Today, the company is a Forbes recognized agency partner and a certified inbound partner with HubSpot. NOW Marketing Group works with more than 100 clients across the United States and beyond, choosing to serve, not sell. I love that.

Jessika P.: Thank you, thank you. And thanks for having me here.

Rebekah Radice: You bet. Last but not least, we have Leonard Kim. Now, for those of you that don't know Leonard, Leonard is recognized as a talented marketer and personal branding expert by countless publications. Plus, he's getting ready, I'm very excited about this, to launch his new book with co-author Ryan Foland. It's called Ditch the Act, Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success. Leonard, welcome.

Leonard Kim: Thanks for having me!

Important steps from idea to launch

Rebekah Radice: All right, so we're gonna jump right in. Talk to us about your launches and what that ideation really looks like. What's your first step?

Dr. Ai A.: Yes, absolutely. There is a process. First, you need to know your audience. You absolutely want to have 100% clarity on who is your audience. What do they want? Why are they struggling? What are their pain points? The more you know them, the better you can serve them. The better you can serve them, the more successful your launches are going to be.

The second is to know yourself. What is your product, and what services are you offering, and what is your brand message? And the more you understand yourself, and the better you are going to be able to provide and to serve your audience what they are looking for.

And the last one is to really understand the market. You want to do your research. You want to know, are there other people doing similar things? What are they doing? How are you going to be different? And what is your unique point, and what makes you stand apart from the rest of the competition, from others?

So know your audience, know yourself, and know your market. So those are kind of the three important points for anyone to get started, and before they start the launch.

Rebekah Radice: Well, and knowing who that audience is, as you said, makes it so much easier to tailor your content, as well.

Dr. Ai A.: Absolutely. When I started my social media journey a few years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I was chasing shiny objects and every time when there was something new, I was there. And my brand was not growing, I was not serving my audience, and the worst part is, people were confused. They were like, "Ah, what do you do?" What was your service?" And people were confused. I was confused, so there was no alignment between my audience, my service, and the market. I was just all over the place.

Rebekah Radice: Yeah, and I would imagine that showed up in your sales and your interaction, your communication. And that's where we can feel very much out of alignment and that tug of war between our audience and ourselves. And so you, taking a step back, it sounds like really identified who is your audience, what are they looking for.  And then did you come back at it with kind of a renewed message?

Dr. Ai A.: Yes, yes, definitely. I was doing research and really making an effort to get to know my audience, to really understand them and talk to them and listen to them and really understand that social media is not just about me or about whatever I'm selling, I'm providing. It is only part of the picture.

The bigger part of the picture is actually my audience. And I think marketers are problem solvers. And to solve the problem, we really need to understand our audience.

Rebekah Radice: Well, and I think that segues so nicely into Jessika. And Jessika, your focus of relationship marketing; I'd love to hear your take on just every piece that I just talked about, and how relationships fit into that, how they really play such an active role in the research that you're doing on the front end.

How to connect with your audience

Jessika P.: Absolutely, yeah. So knowing your audience is foremost key, because you have to understand what a day in their life looks like so you know how to present your messaging so that they understand you. You know what's going to resonate with them, who your competitors or perceived competitors are, who will complement your industry and that already has kind of that audience relationship buy-in with their tribe so you can collaborate with some people that already have that.

And then also understanding the process that your audience is going to want to have to get to know your product more. So it's one thing to market and build these relationships online, but... there may not be a clear path for them to start talking with you, get to know you, and then wanna dive in more.

So you really have to think through, not only who's my audience; how do I wanna connect with them on a meaningful level and get to know them, what pain point am I solving so I'm not just pushing out a produce, a service, a thing; but I'm pushing out a solution?

And then once they get to me and they start building...this...trusted relationship with me, they can easily transition, then, into the sales process that is clearly identified online and thought about ahead of time.

So making sure that you've thought through that whole sales process, and how you're gonna maintain and develop and nurture the relationship with somebody longterm.

Rebekah Radice: Yeah, always looking down the road, right? In anticipation of what is that next step? How do I continue to nurture that relationship? And Leonard, a word I think of as Jessika is talking, about all of this, is intrigue.

How have you used social media to really create intrigue around your product?

Leonard Kim: Well, the big thing to really look at is, social media does jack when it comes to promoting anything because what you really need to do beforehand, is you need to build those relationships. You need to go out there and make friends. You need to go out there and build a community.

Some other things that really come into that are one, making sure there's enough time in advance to go out there and do the launch. You see so many companies out there, what they do is they launch the product immediately, and they put their campaign out there, and they're like, "Oh. Well, it's a flop." And the reason is because they didn't really prepare beforehand.

When it comes to the preparation, I don't think there's one overarching strategy that works best over the others. What we have found is the strongest way to really get the product launch going is, I guess if you stream it down to one singular tactic.

That's either a DM or talking to someone on a one-on-one basis and getting that one person to buy in because I got, what? 600,000 followers? I can put out a tweet that says, "Hey, there's this book coming out," and then how many people care? Five, three, two? Maybe no one.

But if I go, "Hey, Ai. Ai, since you're on this line with us today, I'm really going to ask you a favor. You know we've been chatting for a while, we build this relationship over time. I guess you kinda want to chat with me and stuff. Could I ask you for a favor? I'm coming out with a book, can you help me out with it?"

That one-on-one interaction is really what works.

Rebekah Radice: That is such a great takeaway. I don't think we can highlight that enough, Leonard, in how meaningful and memorable it is to do that one-on-one communication.

To speak to what I call an audience of one, instead of an audience of none. Which, to your point, you said you have 600,000 followers. How many of those people are going to care at that exact moment about your product or your launch?

Ai, I'd love you to kind of speak to this part, is, how do you stay that heavily involved and actively listening to really know who those people are, to have those targeted conversations with?

Dr. Ai A.: I love this question. And so to answer your question, Rebekah...when I started my social media journey, I wanted to talk to every single person who is alive. And I wanted to sell my product or service to every single educator on planet earth.

And then I quickly discovered while I was trying to talk to everyone, I was serving nobody. And again, this goes back to the first point, there was no clarity. My message was vague because I was trying to talk to everybody.

So I think the better we can define our audience and be okay with serving a small group, but targeted audience. Knowing that those people who are like us, they are going to have a very strong buy-in. And once they truly buy-in into our message, and they are going to go out and convert, so to speak, other people who are non-believers.

How to attract the right audience to promote your product or service

Rebekah Radice: Well, and that leads us perfectly into a question we have which is, "What would be the best and fastest way to create an audience without going into dark territories like buying leads, and similar practices?"

Jessika P.: Please don't buy the leads. And I tell you, it seems like a long game, what we're talking about. Talking to one person, one-on-one-on-one, but I promise you, it has this ripple effect.

Going back to Ai's point, knowing your audience and knowing also, then, who they're following, who they're connecting with, who already has that community and that person that they trust, because people do not trust marketers.

We are the least trusted people on the planet, honestly. Above used cars salesmen and ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. Consumers don't trust marketers, but what they do trust, and the most trusted source of leads is word of mouth and word of mouth referrals, and that comes from already people having a connection our a relationship with their audience.

And I like to say it like this, so relationship marketing at its essence, is turning those followers like Leonard was saying, he has 600,000 followers, to fans. 'Cause there is a big difference.

So how can you activate them in a way that's meaningful, or go a little bit above and beyond with the experience that you're having so they're sharing your message out. And then how can you take your community and turn them into collaborators with you?

Rebekah Radice: Yeah, really terrific points. And I think another big aspect of that is creating differentiation. If you want to attract the exact right audience, you've gotta be able to separate not only your message but your brand in the mind of that consumer.  

And Leonard, talk to us a little bit about how you're doing that.

Leonard Kim: So one of the things that I and Ryan did right before we launched the book, is we... documented out a 28-page document that outlined every single thing that we would probably need for the launch of the book.

That included updating bios, everything on their website, on their social media properties. The super simple stuff most people overlook, all the way to what kind of content marketing we would be doing to who we'd need to get buy-in for quotes, advocacy, media, and other things like that.

But at the same time, one of the things that we really wanted to do is we really wanted to get buy-in and endorsements from other people. So one thing I did, is I reached out to Tara Jaye Frank and asked her if she would be willing to read the book and provide a blurb for it.

She did it, and once she did, I asked if she knew anyone else who would be a great person to also leave a quote. She referred me to Kamau Witherspoon, who's the SVP of Operations over at Target. We have a call with him tomorrow, talking about the blurb for the book.

But now, also, since I had Tara's quote, I was able to go ask my friend Jonathan Alpert, who is the author of Be Fearless and a psychotherapist. Like, "Hey, I got this quote from Tara. Do you mind giving a quote also?" And Jonathan's like, "Oh, yeah, absolutely."

Then we had these two quotes, and then we go up to Tiffani Bova whose the Chief Evangelist over at Salesforce. And she's like, "Yep. You know what? I'm in."

So now we've got all these great quotes, so we go up, and then we go and we contact our list. And what we're doing is we're just taking one success to the other success, and it's something that I like to call success stacking. It's how to take one success and lead it to the next success, and lead it to the next success, and the next success.

And luckily, I guess, we build up enough credibility beforehand, because we've been building; Ryan for about three years, me for about five years going, "Let's give, give, give, give, give the world," and now that we've given so much, I'm just like, "Okay, I guess this is the time to start taking,"

Rebekah Radice: I heard so many great takeaways within that. First of all, be fearless in going out there and asking. You could've easily shied away from asking people to give you those testimonials. And instead, the other key piece I heard in there is you're using those third-party testimonials to really create differentiation and really stand out in the marketplace. And as you said, just being able to stack that success, I think it gives you that momentum, too. Right?

Leonard Kim: We have all these quotes from all these people, once the book comes out, it's gonna have 50, 100 different quotes. And then in October, that's all these people talking about it, and it's like, "Oh, now the products out here." And people are like, "Oh my god, all these people have said great things and we don't have access to it?" And they're just going to want to continue to buy into that.

Rebekah Radice: So, we've talked about how to really know your audience, understand what your audience is looking for. But I think a big part of that is actually the assets within this product launch. And there are a lot of pieces of content that go into this.

What important assets should accompany any product launch?

Jessika, talk through kinda that checklist, for you, of what are those important pieces that you're gonna be sharing beyond the testimonials that Leonard just talked about. Maybe walk us through the prelaunch as well as the launch and the post-launch with those assets.

Jessika P.: Yeah, so definitely, we already hit on the first points: Knowing your audience, knowing your message, which is key.

And then also having some things internally so you know through the buying process, so what is that going to look like if you had mapped out? So once you do go live on your crowdfunding campaign, or you know you have your book out, and it's going to be going live, that you already have that whole process mapped out on your website.

Where they're going for information, what kinds of questions that they're going to be looking for that you should have already on your website, your social media channels set up, easily accessible. There's somebody kind of there, on-call, if you will, to be able to answer questions if messages start coming in.

And then making sure that you have some of those questions answered in blog posts and videos and anything kind of assets that you can have and on your home base.

So yes, I know we're talking about social media, and I love social media as much as the next guy or gal on this panel. However, something that you are creating needs to live outside of that on a home base, and already have the best representation of yourself, digitally online.

I think you've heard it a couple of times here today, all of us saying like, "Social media isn't necessarily gonna drive into sales." It's gonna build the relationships that then lead into the sales, but the sales happen, a lot of times, on your website or on that specific page, if it's a transactional thing, and that's where they're opting in.

So making sure that you have that full journey from them discovering you and wanting to know more about you to the conversion to then having the content that's feeding into people even after it, because the sale's not done after the sale is done. That you already have thought through all of those elements and have it in place, and have a system in place in order to nurture those people.

Rebekah Radice: Yeah, such great points because it is easy for us to get so caught up in the launch that we forget about the aspect that comes after the fact, of what are people expecting? How do we continue to answer their questions, maybe their most frequently asked questions, get them onboarded into that product instantaneously so that they are actually seeing the results of your labor?

How to recover from a failed product launch

Now, I wanna ask Ai. You, Ai. A-I, what happens when you launch something and...not exactly the results you were looking for? How do you kind of pull yourself back, reign yourself in, and reassess?

Dr. Ai A.: So, to answer your question, Rebekah,I think, as entrepreneurs, small business owners, we all have those moments. And I think it is important to treat those as learning points, and ask people. Ask our community, right?

Ask people; those people who did register for your product or services, why did they do it? And those people who didn't, why not? Right? And experiment with things, and ask people and gather their feedback, and just keep trying. Keep experimenting with things and just don't give up.

Rebekah Radice: Yes, great point. Well, we've got a question from Steven; do you have a bullet point, kind of a checklist, that you follow from beginning to end so you can go back and say, "You know what? I reached out to 100 people and only 20 people responded, and of those, only 5 people purchased," so that it's almost systematic and you're able to go back and say, "You know what? I'm gonna do some interviews or reach back out to those people," like you were talking about.

Dr. Ai A.: I frequently schedule video Zoom chats with people who purchase my product. Why did you purchase? And social media doesn't have to be on social media. Schedule face-to-face meet up and talk to people, gather their feedback, and use those feedback to improve and launch a better product or service next time.

Jessika P.: No matter if it's a product launch or the product's been around for 20 years, you're never done with it. The marketing funnel does not exist anymore, right? I think of many people who've been talking about it. It's a flywheel approach. The better you get with it, the more momentum it's gonna have and grow out, but you do have to have a checklist.

So yes, I have an internal checklist. So we go through the planning process, attracting, how we're gonna engage, how we're going to delight to make those talkable moments, the experience, and how we're gonna measure what's working and what's not, and then go right back to the beginning, refining, deepening down those relationships and the plan, and keep going back through the beginning.

That checklist also goes into, again, mapping out your sales process. Where are people getting hung up? Is it that they're not coming back? Is it that they're not having a conversation with you?

And at the beginning, start really measuring the conversations. That's your one metric: How many people do you have talking about your product or service.

Rebekah Radice: I think another mistake a lot of people make, especially if you're just building up your audience, is... you're brilliant in your space. You have the expertise and a very specific skillset. And you think, "I wanna create this huge signature product”. Instead, you could start much smaller and test the market and start to build up that following. Like every single one of you has talked about, where you're building those relationships, building that conversation.

So would you also, amongst this panel, agree that it's easier to start small, build that momentum and that conversation and then stack those additional products onto that?

Dr. Ai A.: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessika P.: I would 100% agree.

Reverse-engineering successful launches

Leonard Kim: So something that I've always thought, is I've looked at reverse engineering success. So let's say, theoretically, on the day of launch, you want to sell 10,000 of your products. How are you going to do that? You're going to need buy-in from certain people. You're going to need buy-in from certain industries. So let's say, theoretically, it's a book. Who are your biggest stakeholders for that book? They should probably be within that book.

You're building your clients into your product because once you've built them into your product, guess what. When you launch, it's going to cater to their exact needs.

So many people go, "Oh, you know what? I'm going to build this product, and I have no idea if it's even going to be something that my audience wants." And that's usually why a lot of launches don't end up happening in the right way.

And then when you think about your product, you have to continue to think about who else is going to really support this? Who else is going to go out there and do this? What advocates do I need? What people do I need backing this?

So when you build your business, most people build it forward. They're like, "Okay, product. Now, let's build it this way, this way, this way, this way." But what if you take it, and you went backwards and you start building it backwards? Then you can get to where you wanna be from point one.

Dr. Ai A.: Definitely, definitely. All of us who have a social media presence, we have a community. And before you launch the product, you can share the ideas. Don't worry that other people are going to steal your ideas or things like that. People are going to give you really constructive feedback.

And I'm planning to launch something, approaching the end of this year, and I openly shared my ideas online, and oh my god. I got hundreds of comments, people are giving me constructive feedback. They were like, "Sign me up," and some people also say, "This is not a good idea, I'm not going to do those."

Jessika P.: So depending on if you already have a service, a product, a thing, you can, one, start with your best customers and have them test the thing or ask them what they want. Create this little case study, R&D group, if you want. We use Facebook groups for this because we always not only want their feedback, but we also wanna keep them engaged with all the things that we're doing and keep them kind of super supporters. So definitely, you can start there.

If you're not, and you're starting from a brand new idea, definitely doing what Leonard said and going out and reaching out to some people and kinda reverse engineering, I love that, and I think that's super smart.

I think the best thing to start with, though, is just the art of serving first. Before you're asking somebody to do something for you, how are you going to show up in a way that's helpful first, and kinda lead with that, instead of just asking, asking, asking from your community.

Leonard Kim: I think what's hard about this is most people, we've been raised to kinda be transactional. Okay, "I do this for you, you do this for me," or, "You do this for me, I do that for you," or, "I'm exchanging money, you give me this." And then, I guess, because so much of society has become transactional, when we go and try to build a business, we try to do that transactional stuff, too. And it doesn't fly when you're doing it, because so many people are just turned off by it, and no one wants to live that life that way.

But the truth is, you have to kinda be that person you were before you ran the business because that's your true, authentic self. If you're going out there, hanging out with friends, giving love, sharing your time with others, and doing all the things you were doing before, and sprinkling in a little business here and there, then people are probably going to like you, trust you, and buy from you.

But if you go and shift all your things to just going out there and doing pure business stuff, it's like, "I don't wanna talk to someone who's talking about their business all day." I wanna avoid that person. I wanna actively go as far away from that person as possible because they just keep going out there and talking about it.

Rebekah Radice: So you've all talked about serving your audience, creating conversations, making sure you're showing up consistently, give, give, give. What would you say to that person that says, "You know what? I've given a lot, and I'm tired of giving for free." Is there a point where you're oversharing, or you've shared too much, or you can maybe slow down on how much you're giving?

Leonard Kim: Well, yeah. If you gave your entire life like Ryan's given for the last three years. And I'm like, "Come on, you have to ask, now," and he just doesn't get it. I'm pushing him that way. I'm like, "Look, you've given so many people all this stuff for three years. Go back to them and get your testimonials.

Jessika P.: Can I say one other point to that? I've also seen people get so deep into the serving and showing up and talking about the thing, that they forget to do the work. Where they've actually been on engaging and getting caught up and all the conversations that they forget to actually have an action and an endpoint and a goal. So I really think that's why it's important to have your checklist of checking back in and feeling the pulse of how things are going.

So do you feel like you're at this launch point with what is your launch? Is it ... You know, do you have this set as a 12-month plan, a 6-month plan, or what? And when are you measuring your results along technology way to see kinda how you're doing and check in?

So it's all a balance thing, right?

Dr. Ai A.: Absolutely.

Jessika P.: Knowing when to ask, knowing when to give, and just keep showing up.

Leonard Kim: Yeah.

Key takeaways on launching and promoting products on social media

Rebekah Radice: Well, and I'm gonna find this very hard to believe because this hour flew by, but we're almost to the top of the hour. It's crazy. What is the number one piece of advice; the most important thing somebody should be focused on? Jessika?

Jessika P.: Having a process and knowing it ahead of time and making sure that you stick to it. So don't get too excited to launch before you're ready, but also don't be so committed to everything being perfect that you don't do anything.

Rebekah Radice: How 'bout you, Leonard?

Leonard Kim: I hate launches, so be prepared to give up the rest of your life until the product's out there. So that's going to be the worst time of your life, but if it works, it works.

Rebekah Radice: How about you, Ai?

Dr. Ai A.: Kind of fail to plan, plan to fail. And I really think you need to have a plan. Just because you are really passionate about this, you want to do this tomorrow, it is not going to happen like that. Be patient.

Rebekah Radice: Yes, absolutely. A perfect note to end us on.

All right, well thank you again to all of you for joining us here for Social Chat with SEMrush. We will see you back here next month.

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