The unofficial guide to using Launch.it

When something new comes out and you want to tell your friends about it, how do you present it to them? Do you use the press release format to announce the newsworthy event? Do you use an informational article format to explain what it is? Probably not.

You likely use stories. You tell your friends an enthusiastic, honest, hype-free, factual story about the product or service.

Launch.it is a place for you to tell those stories. It’s a place for new things to launch.

In this guide, you will learn about…

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Launch.it in any way nor am I compensated by them to write this. I’m just an enthusiastic user. Also, please note that Launch.it is in beta so this information is subject to change.)
 

LAUNCH.IT: WHERE NEW IS LAUNCHED

Launch.it is a community platform that aims to be a searchable database of everything new. It is not just another place to create the same old content… they are pioneering a new way of communicating brands to the world.

  • On the publishing/promotional side, Launch.it is a place to tell stories about new products and services and ideas: It’s not another press release distribution site; it’s not another article site. Launch.it wants to be a “spin-free zone” where brands tell honest, fact-based, no-hype stories about whatever is new.
  • On the audience/readership side, Launch.it is a place where readers can interact with the brand in multiple ways. It can include sharing on social sites, clicking to the site to make a purchase or learn more, participating in crowdfunding, contacting the brand, and more.

Unlike press releases and articles, Launch.it stories (they call them “launches”) are more social, more focused on action, and they can be updated as facts change. I might not be 100% correct here but it feels like their site is aiming to be more like an engaging magazine that tells interesting, factual stories about new ideas rather than a newspaper that reports only the cold, hard facts.

As a writer, I’m interested in finding stories to cover. As an entrepreneur, I’m interested in telling the stories of new brands I develop. So here is an unofficial, unauthorized guide to launching your brand’s new idea from Launch.it.

LAUNCH.IT

The Launch.it homepage is made up of a few different sections…

  • Across the the top is a menu of high-level categories that launches are filed under — Technology, Consumer Electronics, Fashion, Media, Medical and Pharma, Services, Food and Beverage, Health and Beauty. (There are other categories you can file your launch under but they don’t appear on this list).
  • Below that is a section of the top ten launches. I’m not sure how this is sorted (although I’m guessing it’s by number of visits or number of shares). To the right of these top-10 featured launches is a sidebar that includes a ticker/”odometer” of the number of launches, a featured launch, and a link to Launch.it’s Facebook page.
  • Below that second is a section that lists 60 other launches in a 5 x 12 grid.

INTRODUCTION TO LAUNCH.IT

From the Launch.it homepage (http://launch.it)…

Click the “Sign Up” link to sign up (you can create an account or sign in with LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook). I created my own account.

From then on, click the “Login” link to get to the login page…

Once signed in, you’ll be directed back to the homepage but you’ll have two new links at the top of your page. These are the two main areas you’ll use on Launch.it: The Discoverer Dashboard and the Launcher Dashboard.

Here’s the Discoverer Dasboard:

Although mine doesn’t look very interesting right now (hey, I’m still new to Launch.it), this page is your dashboard to follow industries, writers, and brands, and to save launches for later viewing. Right now I’m following just one industry (Finance) and the launches in that category appear in my news feed.

Keep reading below because I’ll share some ideas about what you can use this dashboard for!

The other dashboard is the Launcher Dashboard…

On this page, you can see at a glance a number of stats about your launches — how many launches, how many views, how many comments and followers, how many stars your launches have earned, plus there are links on the lower half of the page to your launches, to analytics, and more.

Next, I’m going to show you how to launch content on Launch.it. If you are already familiar with that, skip this section and check out some ideas to use Launch.it to find stories or ideas to use Launch.it to launch your own news.

HOW TO LAUNCH ON LAUNCH.IT

From the Launcher Dashboard, click the great big button in the middle that says “new”…

And the next page you’ll get to is the page to create your launch story…

On this page…

Choose your byline from the drop-down menu. (It might be you or it might be other writers you’ve created, for example if you have several on staff who are sharing the same account).

Choose your brand from the drop-down menu. You can select your own brand (if you’re writing stories for your brand) or you can add new brands (if you own several brands or are a marketing firm).

Write your headline. Although the title can be pretty long, I would suggest that you try to keep it short because only the first 34-37 words will be displayed if your launch becomes featured. Check out the example below to see what I mean. Notice how the title is cut off a little? It’s not the end of the world, of course, but I think it would be more powerful if someone could read your entire title. So 34-37 words is the rule of thumb.

Write your subheading. Your subheading isn’t a reiteration of your headline but should instead provide additional information or context. Also note: Your subheading only shows up when someone views the blurb on its own page (it doesn’t show up in the condensed view on the home page) so make sure that the information is helpful but not essential to understanding your launch.

Write the body of your launch. This is the main content. I’m not sure how much space you have but presumably you have enough to get the story across. I would suggest aiming for a minimum of 400 words and a maximum of 1500 words. Too little and you’ll end up not getting your point across; too much and you’ll lose your readers. For more information, Launch.it provides a brief but helpful guide.

Note: Another important thing to consider is the length of your first paragraph. If your launch becomes one of the top ten featured stories, they will post the first part of your first paragraph (about the first 40 words or so) so make sure you create good content in that first paragraph. Check out the first paragraph of the launch below as an example:

Select your industry. There are several to choose from. Pick one that makes the most sense.

Write your key message bullet points. These will appear in the sidebar of your story. I’m not sure how many you get to write. I wrote 3. I’ve seen 5. I think 3-5 is a good, digestible number for your readers.

Upload your lead image. Make your image 680×490. The image will appear in different sizes but always in that ratio. In some places, the image will be only about 27% of of the larger size (approximately 186 x 132) so make sure that your image is recognizable at that size too.

Add advanced features. Definitely add advanced features if you have them! These include video, links for buying/fundraising/contacting you, more images, etc. The more you add, the more visually attractive and engaging your content becomes. When it comes to interaction, select as many as you can — Give them a place to click to visit your website and a way to contact you.

Once you have filled everything out, you can save, preview, and publish your launch story and it goes immediately to the home page of Launch.it. Later, you can always go back to review and edit your launch story from the Launch Dashboard.

HOW TO EDIT YOUR LAUNCH

Once you have a launch launched, you can edit it. I love this feature of Launch.it because (unlike press releases and some article publishing sites) information changes and you should be able to go back and update it. To edit your launch story, go to your Launcher Dashboard and at the top of the page, click the button labelled “Launches”…

(Note: There are other places on the page where you can click to view your launches but as of this writing, this is the only button that gets you to a place to edit your launches).

On this page, you’ll see the launches you have published, as well as links to edit, view, unpublish, and get analytics.

IDEAS TO USE THE DISCOVERER DASHBOARD

The Discoverer Dashboard is useful to filter the growing number of launches to keep track of what is important to you.

I love the idea of being able to follow industries, writers, and brands. I’m planning to use the Discoverer Dashboard in the following ways:

  • As a business, finance, and real estate writer, I’m going to follow related industries to pay attention to what’s going on in each space. The dashboard gives me the ability to filter by industry so I can quickly scan on a regular basis to find new ideas and trends.
  • As a writer, I’m always interested in connecting with other writers and learning how they are covering stories. This will give me a chance to meet experts in specific fields.
  • As a writer, I want to follow specific brands to see how they grow. They might be part of a story or trend I’m following or a competitor for one of the businesses I own, or the next big thing that I want to learn more about if I’m looking for a great idea for an article.

IDEAS TO LAUNCH ON LAUNCH.IT


The Launcher Dashboard is where you create content to engage with your audiences about your new idea, brand, product, service, or whatever. So here are some ideas you can launch with:

  • Launch your new brand
  • Launch each product or service
  • Launch new versions of products and services
  • Launch the latest version of your website
  • Launch your mobile app
  • Launch your new store
  • Launch your new Facebook page, Twitter profile, etc.
  • Launch a news story about you (Remember: This isn’t a press release but you can still create a story about what’s new at your business)
  • Launch your email newsletter
  • Launch sub-brands
  • Launch partnerships and joint ventures
  • Launch your blog
  • Launch individual blog posts (within reason, of course! I’m not suggesting that you spam Launch.it but there are times when an individual blog post is worth launching)
  • Launch a free report
  • Launch your ebook
  • Launch your print book
  • Launch your new location
  • Launch a story about that big project you landed
  • Launch when a new executive joins your team
  • Launch when you develop a new innovation
  • Launch a story that you hope to get some exposure about (we writers are watching!)
  • Launch your latest project for which you want investors/crowdfunders

So go Launch.it!

QUICK LINKS

Website: Launch.it
Twitter: @Launch_It
Facebook: LaunchItNews

How to use press releases in your sales funnel

I love press releases. They’re a great way for marketers to bypass a lot of internet marketing effort and get lots of high quality backlinks and even some media attention.

Using press releases effectively requires an understanding of your sales funnel. Specifically: A press release is not going to get you more customers. Yes, the work a press release may help to contribute to converting more prospects into customers but a press release itself won’t get you more customers.

A press release ultimately drives traffic to your business – either to your storefront or your website. It informs people about the new thing you’re doing and, if the press release audience is interested, they’ll click through to your website or they’ll get into their car and drive to your store.

So, when writing your press release, keep this in mind. Don’t try to create a press release that sells your product. The press release is a platform to talk about your new product or service but it won’t replace your marketing collateral. Create an effective press release by getting your press release audience excited about your business and your news (whatever that news might be) then drive them to your website.

Bonus tip: You can accelerate the speed that they advance through your sales funnel by sending them to a specific page or blog post that sells your product or service (just make sure it’s relevant to your press release, of course!).

How to find more leads for your real estate or financial business

Real estate leads, Financial leads

In this business, your success is entirely dependent on leads. The more leads you have, the better. So where do you find these leads?

HOW TO FIND LEADS

First, start with you.
List you all the different places in life where you interact with other people. These are called your “spheres of influence“. List as many spheres of influence that you have. (By the way, you probably have more than you realize).

Some common spheres of influence include:

  • Immediate family
  • Extended family (don’t ignore family who may not live nearby!)
  • Close friends
  • Friends
  • Acquaintances
  • Current co-workers
  • Previous co-workers (list all of your previous jobs)
  • Alumni (college and high school)
  • Church (past and present religious affiliations)
  • Charity connections
  • Other organizations (Toastmasters, etc.)
  • Online connections (Twitter followers, Facebook friends, people you frequently talk to in forums)
  • People you do business with (accountant, dry cleaner, mechanic, dentist, etc.)
  • Current clients
  • Past clients (past clients at your current job and past clients at your previous job… Just make sure that you are complying with any non-compete clauses if your are still in the same industry)

Second, list names
List all of the people by name in each sphere. Yes it will take a long time but the more time you spend being thorough right now, the more successful you will be later.

Third, gather contact information
Figure out how to get in touch with the people. If you know their number or email address or postal address, great! Collect it all into one place. I suggest a database of some kind.

Fourth, identify how you can help them
This step is optional but I think it helpful. Figure out how you can help them. If you’re a real estate professional and they are renters, you’ll likely be able to help them buy their first home. If you’re a financial advisor and they are near to retirement, you’ll likely be able to help them transition their portfolio into safer, income-producing investments while minimizing tax consequences.

If you really want to improve your odds, check out this blog post: 6 sales funnel tips for real estate professionals (it applies to financial professionals, too!)

Fifth, get in touch with them
Using whatever method you have identified (face-to-face, phone, email, or postal mail), get in touch with your contact and let them know what you do and make a recommendation about how you’d like to help them.

Chances are, one of the following things will happen:

  • They will become your client
  • They will hedge a little; they won’t commit, and they’ll tell you that they’ll think about it
  • They will tell you no
  • You won’t reach them or they won’t respond

If they become your client, that’s great. Congratulations! However, most people will fall into the second category and some people will fall into the third category. In those situations, thank them and let them know that if anything changes, you’d love to help them. Ask them for permission to stay in touch and collect any contact information you don’t have (so you can email or mail them something). Don’t delete the ones who never responded; just keep them on file and from time to time reach out to them.

GET EVEN MORE LEADS

Now that you have this list started, it’s time to generate even more leads. Here are three ways:

  • Add another sphere of influence. Join a group, join the gym, get involved in a new organization, volunteer for a charity, etc.
  • For each of your leads (yes, that big list you just created earlier in this blog post), do the same exercise and write down THEIR spheres of influence. Sure, you might not know their names but just get down the spheres of influence first. Then create a strategy to approach those people and make a request like: “Can you put up my business card on the bulletin board at your work?” or “can I put on a presentation about insurance in the lunch room at your office?” Make sure to keep the request easy for them to do. Remember: They won’t agree to anything that makes them uncomfortable!
  • You probably already have a website that is geared to people who are ready to become clients. (Most real estate and financial professionals have a site like this). Move up your sales funnel and create content that is geared toward lead generation instead of prospect conversion. For example, a real estate professional might want to create content that answers some earlier stage questions like “should I buy a home right now?”. You can do this on your own site, or start another site, or use internet marketing (like articles and press releases and social media) to help you drive traffic to your website.

3 steps for real estate professionals to dominate local search

It doesn’t make much sense for someone to type in the word “real estate professional” or “REALTOR” and find your website or blog in the search results. If they’re in Dustytown, Australia and you’re in Wausau, Wisconsin, there’s not much you can do to help them.

So you need a plan to focus your search engine optimization on only your most likely prospects. So where do you start?

STEP 1: FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR TARGET MARKET IS LOOKING FOR

Well, you first need to start by figuring out who your most likely prospects are. Are they people moving into town from out of town? Are they people buying or selling within town? Do you have an even more focused niche than that? (Hopefully you do).

Each of these groups is looking for something different.

If your target market is military families who are moving to Wausau, Wisconsin from elsewhere to work on the ultra-secret military base then they are searching the web for very different terms than if your target market is soccer moms and dads who are looking to sell their first home and upgrade because they have baby #3 on the way.

Figure out what your target market is looking for and the types of words they are using to search online.

STEP 2: GET THE SEARCH TERMS

Head over to Google’s Keyword Tool and type in some of those words into Google’s keyword search. In the example below, you see I’ve done that with the fairly generic term “Homes for sale Wausau Wisconsin”…

By the way: The key here is to combine an action verb — “buy home”, “sell home”, “list home”, “find home” — with a location — in this case “Wausau Wisconsin”. Don’t forget to try mixing words like “buy house” instead of “buy home” and also try the short form of your state instead of the full name (or, drop the state altogether and see what the results are).

When you click the Search button you get the result of your search…

And just below that, you get a big list of ideas that are similar to the terms you’ve written…

This list is useful because it shows you related keywords that people are searching for that you might be able to use.

Find a few that you want to focus on — somewhere between 3 and 6 keywords. If you help people buy AND list homes then consider focusing on 3 buying-specific keywords and 3 listing-specific keywords.

STEP 3: USE THOSE SEARCH TERMS EVERYWHERE

You’ve found the terms that your clients are looking for. Now it’s time to use those search terms everywhere. Use them in the following places:

  • In your website domain name
  • In your website title and subtitle
  • In the title of your blog posts and web pages
  • In your article marketing (in the title of the article and in the text)
  • In your press releases
  • In the title of your ebooks
  • In the title of your print book
  • As the name of your ezine
  • In the title of your Storify locally-focused stories
  • In your Twitter description
  • … and anywhere else that you put online and offline

Mix and match them. Pepper them throughout your work. “Own” the words by making your brand synonymous with those words.

My 5 favorite content channels

I’m frequently asked by clients where they should concentrate their efforts while marketing their business. They know that the right content in the right channels can make a significant and positive impact on their business but there are so many choices!

Of course, every business is different but here are a few that I recommend frequently (in no particular order):

  • Blogs
  • Articles
  • Twitter
  • Press Releases
  • Reports

I’ve found that a significant effort in each of these options can help to grow a business with better search engine optimization, better positioning, more traffic, and higher sales. I’ll briefly touch on each of these content channels and how to use them in your business.

CONTENT CHANNEL #1: BLOGS
I think there is no better value for your business than to have a blog that you post on regularly. A blog provides you with a direct voice to your consumers that seems more intimate than an article while also offering a way for them to communicate with you (through comments) around the stories you tell.

Furthermore, a blog is like a laboratory where you can share your thoughts and develop ideas, even if they are not fully thought-through.

Here’s how to grow your business with a blog:

  • Make sure you have a branded blog (a blog with a .wordpress or .blogspot in the domain name is okay but not as good as one that is entirely yours).
  • Try to post three times a week minimum.
  • Keep posts between 250 and 1000 words, but an average of 400 to 500 is good to aim for.
  • Develop a list of topics you want to write about so that you are never at a loss for what to say.
  • Identify 3 keywords that are important to your business and make sure they are in nearly every blog.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. People visit blogs to read blogs with the full understanding that they are one person’s take on a situation.
  • Each week or month, stockpile a handful of blogs in your “drafts” folder that you can publish at a moment’s notice if you find that you do not have time that day.
  • Avoid overtly selling in your blogs but a self-promotional link or advertisement in the footer or sidebar of your post is appropriate.

CONTENT CHANNEL #2: ARTICLES
Even though there are millions and millions of articles out there right now, there is still space for you. Articles continue to be a powerhouse traffic-driver for many businesses.

You can use articles to position yourself as a leading thinker in your industry. That will drive highly qualified traffic to your site.

Here’s how to grow your business with articles:

  • Create a publishing calendar so that you have enough articles to publish 1 a week for 6 months to a year. If you can hire someone to write your articles, you may want to consider doing more (say, 1 a day). However, most people don’t have time to write 1 article a day without the help of a professional. (You’ve got other things to think about!)
  • Aim to keep your articles between 450 and 600 words. Some articles are suitable to use words like “I” and “me” but many articles are best when they use a more neutral voice. This helps them to appear more credible. Save the “I” and “me” voice for your blog.
  • If possible, prewrite and stockpile as many articles as you can so that you have some on hand for when you’re too busy. (This is frequently a marketing channel that is neglected when things get busy).
  • Look around for highly trusted sites to publish your work on. Consider who the target audience is first, but don’t forget to take PageRank into consideration.
  • Write content that is highly valuable to readers. One easy way to think of topics is to consider a question your audience has. Make that question your title and then respond to the question in the body of the article.
  • Use the resource box to promote yourself.

CONTENT CHANNEL #3: TWITTER
Twitter really burst into the mainstream in 2009. Soon, business was being conducted in tweets of 140 characters or less. Twitter will continue its strong position in the market in the near future but now that the “honeymoon” period is over, users are forced to make sure that are doing the right things to be effective.

Here’s how to grow your business with Twitter:

  • Remember that Twitter is a social network. People don’t want to be sold. They want to build relationships with others. Leave your hardselling techniques for your website and instead focus on sharing yourself with your followers.
  • Twitter is a microblog so if you’re not sure what to write, just think of it as a blog… only smaller. It’s okay to talk about what you’re doing or where you’re going or a movie you just saw. Contemporary business does not separate business life and personal life but finds a balance between the two.
  • Use a URL shortener like bit.ly to compress long domain names into manageable ones.
  • You can keep your social engagement manageable by engaging with a small handful of people on a regular basis and with your broader network slightly less.
  • Although most tweets should be written in the “here and now”, there is room for some pre-written tweets which can be scheduled to post later at HootSuite.
  • While you shouldn’t sell on Twitter, you should make sure that your bio points people in the right direction so that when they are ready to buy from you, they can find you easily.

CONTENT CHANNEL #4: PRESS RELEASES
Press releases continue to be a solid producer of results and, thanks to the way the web has changed how we do business, press releases are now a channel that can be accessed by the media (just like they’ve always been) but also by consumers. Press releases provide a way to get into Google News rapidly and get relevant backlinks.

Here’s how to grow your business with press releases:

  • Make sure that whatever you are writing about is newsworthy. Too many businesses write about non-newsworthy content and try to pass it off as a press release.
  • Keep your press release to 400 – 600 words. Much longer than that and people simply won’t read it.
  • Make sure you have some contact information inside your press release.
  • A press release should be written from the point of view of a journalist (so you should refer to your business in the third person). However, be sure to include quotes in your press release and those can be in first person and are ideal to promote yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend money on distribution. Businesses frequently hire me to write press releases but then release them through a free service which is often less credible and very limited. PRWeb is the best service with paid distribution services between $80 and $360.
  • Typical newscycles are a month or less. So consider publishing a press release each month about your subject.

CONTENT CHANNEL #5: WHITEPAPERS AND REPORTS
Reports or whitepapers are highly credible positioning documents that businesses can use to demonstrate thought-leadership on a subject. While some reports may not generate huge amounts of traffic or be solely responsible for a sale, they play a key role in driving more traffic and more sales by compelling people with their credibility. A business that wants to rapidly achieve the status of an authority on a topic should produce reports or whitepapers.

Here’s how to grow your business with whitepapers or reports:

  • Create a publishing calendar and plan to produce at least one report every quarter or, better yet, one report every two weeks.
  • Aim to publish reports that are at least 3 pages (not including a cover). However, reports of 5-20 pages are better. Reports of a hundred pages or more are not unheard of but will need to be extremely valuable for customers to read them. (After about 40 pages, you may want to consider breaking it up into 2 or 3 reports).
  • Reports need to strike the balance between being thought-leadership pieces and being relevant for consumers. It’s okay to produce a report that anticipates trends a hundred years from now… as long as your business is also producing reports that address immediate needs.
  • Good report topics should combine high quality information with high value applicability so that readers can apply what they’ve learned.
  • While not always necessary, reports may be considered more authoritative if they have links and footnotes.

There are, of course, many other content channels out there. These are my favorite and I’ve seen them produce good results for clients. The important thing is not to adopt as many content channels as you can, but rather to find the right mix of content channels to reach your target audience.