The step of launching a business is an important milestone itself that entrepreneurs often do not give enough attention to or even celebrate enough. Launching a business is significant achievement and an exciting event that should be treated as a grand opening and a true block-buster event. Announcing the arrival of the business and its products gives the business a place on the local business scene and in the community at large. Contrary to what some entrepreneurs may think, it is not a waste of money but rather an essential investment in good public relations, customer acquisition and generation of broad-based goodwill towards the business. Unfortunately, for many entrepreneurs, by the time they reach the stage of launching their business, they will already be in financial distress and for that reason can only afford a low-key introduction of the business to the market. In these circumstances, the business may take a long time to gain market traction and sometimes even fail to do so altogether. It is important to set aside a budget for launching the business early on as an important activity that must be undertaken rather than an optional activity that entrepreneurs can chose to dispense with. Launching a business can essentially be divided into three parts, that is, the pre-launch phase, the launch day itself and the post-launch phase.
Before launching a business, it is essential to have a calendar that counts down towards launch day encompassing key activities that should be achieved as movement towards launch day takes place. Not only should responsibility for carrying out specific activities be fixed supervision and follow-up should also be carried out by the entrepreneur because the buck stops with him. In preparing for launch day the entrepreneur should ensure that:
- The product and equipment have been tested and are working as they should.
- The shopping, check-out and returns process has been tested and working well.
- Invited guests and participants in specific activities have confirmed attendance of the launch day.
- Promotional materials are ready for distribution.
- Performing artists and their equipment are in place.
- Security equipment, personnel and procedures are in place to ensure and orderly launch day event.
- The Facebook page and Twitter account are in place and with some initial membership, initial content and initial correspondence.
On launch day the business takes centre stage as it is introduced to the public and to the local business community. The objective of launch day activities is not only to draw attention and create excitement but to keep the tills ringing. Launch day activities should include:
- A launch ceremony and ribbon-cutting.
- A guided tour of guests and ‘hired’ shoppers.
- Distribution of free samples and free trials.
- Publicity stunts involving local celebrities and well-known personalities.
- Offering prizes for participation in promotional activities.
- Obtaining customer information from attendees and signing them up as customers for store cards or the business’s Facebook group.
The entrepreneur and his team should be visible and mingle well with the crowd. The product should be at the centre of the event, with banners and various forms of communication showcasing the product.
After launching the business, it is important to leverage the momentum generated by the euphoria of launch day while it lasts. At some stage, the momentum of launch day will dissipate. However, before it does, make the most of it by having a post-launch day follow-up plan and programs. Post-launch customer engagement with the business is important and therefore, contact with customers should be maintained as should incentives be offered to retain customer interest in the business and its products. In addition to following up on customers after launching the business, the entrepreneur should also focus on improving their business and revising their offer to customers considering observations and experiences that they have had thus far in their operation of the business and considering the feedback that they have received from customers up to that point in time. Essentially, the entrepreneur enters a learning phase in which they will adjust their product and business until they find the winning formula that begins to draw large customer numbers and at that stage the business receives the approval and confidence of customers to do business with it. In order to eventually become successful, it is important for the entrepreneur to be able to:
- Listen carefully to customers.
- Be willing to learn and to change previously held ideas and beliefs.
- Be patient as they search for a winning formula.
- Have enough money to tide them over this period of experimentation and adjustment to finding a product that has the market’s approval or through a period of intensive marketing to acquire enough customer volumes for the business.