build buzz for startups
May 22, 2000
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
President Clinton addressed the assembled technology community
at the Spring COMDEX show in Chicago in April in order to capitalize
on the event's power to support his message about the Digital
For the same
reason, legendary advertising executive Jay Chiat used the 1984
Super Bowl to launch the Apple Macintosh.
and visionary ad men everywhere are learning is that offline "launch
events" in the physical world can be crucial to success online.
In fact, the launch event is becoming a marketing art form unto
itself-particularly in the nonstop world of high-tech marketing.
hasn't changed much since ancient times. People love to come together
around the hearth, share nourishment and converse. AOL chat rooms
achieve something like this in cyberspace and launch events accomplish
it in physical space. Aristotle said we are by nature gregarious;
both online and, surprisingly, offline, the Internet phenomenon
proves his point. But that's not the only reason launch events
are so important.
events… force the company and the team that's building the
product to draw a line in the sand and say, 'At this point in
time, we have to accomplish x, y and z,'" says Louise Webber,
senior vice president of marketing at New York-based Internet
Financial Network (IFN).
IFN launched InfoGate, a free personalized information service
and desktop tool that provides customized information to users
wanting to track financial and investment information in real
time. It's a cross between Yahoo! Finance, the Bloomberg financial
news service and Windows, enabling users to customize their computers
and have their chosen selection of daily financial news and information
delivered to their desktops. Like many Net startups, InfoGate
needs eyeballs, and a launch event was a way to generate awareness
and trial by building buzz through the media. InfoGate hosted
a satellite press conference at which executives demonstrated
the product and beamed the conversation to reporters all over
was only one of InfoGate's launch objectives. The company markets
its product through intermediaries: Partnerships with financial
services firms such as Salomon Smith Barney and DLJdirect lead
InfoGate to end-customers. The launch event helped InfoGate gain
credibility with these strategic partners.
were the investors. InfoGate wanted to demonstrate its product
and success to investors from Citigroup and share the new invention
with the Silicon Alley community.
importantly, the team at InfoGate, like Internet teams the world
over, just wanted to celebrate after a lot of hard work. And,
they did-from dusk 'til dawn, beginning with a press conference
at the Cyber Café in midtown Manhattan and finishing with
a late night gala at IFN's Wall Street offices, InfoGate was born.
it take to hold a launch event? Here's my list of seven secrets
the little stuff. Define a clear, minute-to-minute
the right venue. The location can make or break a launch
clear objectives. Launch events may feel like parties,
but they have a business purpose. Set measurable goals for what
for synergy. The best launch events achieve multiple
ends with multiple audiences.
for edgy creative, not over-the-edge. Go for it. Be
unique, but remember that business purpose.
Review the details with the entire team and have contingency
reaction is all that counts. No event runs perfectly,
so smile-never let them see you sweat.
One of my favorite launch events occurred when Austin, Texas-based
Trilogy Software Inc. was marketing its affiliated Web company,
Carorder.com. To make a splash, build awareness and knowledge
and basically capture eyeballs, the company put a banner up on
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge offering free tolls for the
day in honor of the new venture. Then, as reported by Forbes magazine,
it was slammed the next day in the press for desecrating a national
landmark. As the launch event moved to New York, however, battle-scarred
company President Joe Liemandt went on talk radio and asked New
Yorkers if they cared if he give away free tolls for the day in
the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels.
As you'd expect,
the New Yorkers didn't mind.
lucky; he got a second chance. Most are one-shot deals.
And then there's
the other problem with launch events: They're only the beginning.
Even as the
hangover arrives, you have to begin delivering a great product
and great customer service 24-7 and every day thereafter.
is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago.
He can be reached at email@example.com.