How to evaluate launch success?
By boris, September 11, 2012
For every start-up, launch day is THE big day. The day you have been working for over weeks and months, the day that you are finally showing your “baby” to the world. And while you are excited to get feed-back from users and customers, you are also asking yourself how success at launch day looks like.
When it comes to evaluating launch success, I often get asked two similar threads of questions: what early signs from the first month can foretell the likelihood of big success down the road and what type of launch metrics should a startup track.
Measure engagement and the customer experience
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring success, my general advice is to focus on a few core metrics around engagement and customer satisfaction and avoid getting too excited about “vanity metrics” (like registered users, downloads, etc.). A newly launched and well-hyped website might see a huge spike in traffic growth over the first week(s), but often these numbers don’t say much about the long-term success of a product.
Specifically, a startup should consider the following when evaluating their launch:
- Focus on “engagement metrics” that indicate the customer experience. How long are users staying on the site? Are they interacting with the site or simply browsing? How many times or how frequently are users returning? Do they share the product with their friends?
- Emphasize qualitative data. This is the time to really dive deep into early customer feedback. Ask users about their experience: What do they like? Are they experiencing any problems?
It’s easy to get new sign-ups, the challenge is keeping them around
A solid, well-executed PR and social media campaign can drive traffic to your website, but they can’t control what happens next. After the media blitz and buzz, the real challenge rests in keeping users around and compelling them to come back. That’s why in the early days, it’s critical to focus on the user’s experience and engagement. It’s far easier to bring in more traffic than it is to create a happy customer.
For most startups, the best launch approach is a closed beta where you can control the influx of sign-ups. Private betas work well for the initial validation of your MVP, without overwhelming your support infrastructure in the process. After all, what’s worse than having a few initial glitches? Not responding to those glitches or unhappy users in a timely manner. In addition, a closed, invite-only beta can increase the buzz surrounding your site due to the exclusivity factor.
During your closed beta, focus on the activity stream of your user group. Remember, at this point, it’s all about engagement and retention. Once your engagement and repeat visitor metrics are where you want them, then you can switch your focus to adding more visitors and beginning to scale up.
In short, avoid the temptation of racking up big numbers early on; startups that focus on the real metrics of engagement and retention can make their products better and their customers happier.