Setting Up a Prelaunch for Your Subscription Business

Prelaunches provide excellent branding and messaging exercises and can be a source of some of your most loyal customers. Here’s how to nail your prelaunch.

“Prelaunches”, also referred to as a soft launch, can be one of the most effective tools to acquire loyal customers and establish brand presence, all while testing the quality your idea. They require little commitment in terms of design and financial commitment, and they provide immediate return for your business, giving you insight on many of the most important aspects of your business, namely on how well customers respond to your offering.

A prelaunch is hosted on a landing page. The idea is simple: push traffic to a landing page in order to convert visitors into leads. They’ll hit the page, check out your idea, and hopefully leave their email address. It’s asking them to sign up, and instead offers them a way to get first in line, in case they want to sign up come launch time.

Here’s an example:

Prospurly Landing Page

Over the next 4 steps, we’ll check out how to create an effective launch page you can use when starting your subscription business.

Step 1: Set up a Prelaunch page

The first step is to set up a launch page. We’ll use the Prelaunch Basic theme from Cratejoy for this example, but if you’re not on Cratejoy here’s some other platforms for consider:

Here’s what the Prelaunch Basic theme looks like from the Cratejoy Designer without any customization:

launch-page

You can easily integrate this theme with your MailChimp list by adding the free app in Cratejoy applications page.

The Cratejoy Designer allows you to change text, add social buttons, upload a background, and even re-arrange the elements on the page. The goal is to have a very simple page that primary drives email sign ups.

Extra Tips for Your Launch Page

  • Considering adding a lucrative element to presubscribing, like giving away a free month, or special discount or niche-oriented gift.
  • Keep it simple: Avoid asking for lots of information – just gather the email address and name, or even just the email address! Less to fill out means a higher chance that the person will complete the form and officially become a presubscriber.
  • Get smart on expectations: You should expect launch pages to convert visitors into presubscribers at or around 10%. In better cases, this can reach up to 20% or higher, especially depending on your source of traffic.

Step 2: Build out Social Channels

A strong launch page means you’re ready to interact with potential customers. Now’s the time to build out your social channels, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. On these networks, you should focus on crafting niche-oriented content that will resonate with your audience and relate to your subscription, either culturally or to products you’d include. Be sure to use high quality photos and artfully add your branding whenever appropriate.

Here are some examples of posts on each channel: Prospurly Social Media

Setting up these channels is the first step to pushing free traffic back to your landing page.  Here are a few tips for pushing this traffic on each channel:

Instagram

  • Use #hashtags to navigate to pictures related to your niche. For example, if you’re box involves dog products, consider finding pictures under #dogsofinstagram
  • Like & comment on pictures. Instagram is reciprocal social network, and these people will like and comment back on your photos.
  • Follow potential customers. Like the above, like ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ some of these people will follow you back.
  • Instagram has a cap on likes, follows, and comments. When it gates you, give it some time before continuing.

Facebook

  • Design a nice cover photo to attract eyes on your business page
  • Add a handful of photos and posts to create some initial traction on the page
  • Invites friends & family to Like your page
  • Get quick with messaging: Facebook now shows reply time, which can serve as a great badge of service to customers

Twitter

  • Like Instagram, you can use #hashtags to navigate to posts related to your niche.
  • Retweet, follow, and comment on tweets for the same interactions as instagram.

Pinterest

  • Like Instagram, you can use #hashtags to navigate to pins related to your niche.
  • Like, comment and follow pins and users (the same processes Twitter & Instagram)
  • Build albums based on specific interests within your niche. Consider making custom cover photos, like in this example.

Now can also be a great to connect with social influencers who fit your niche. Making connections early on can help establish a rapport with potential future marketing contacts, and the prelaunch phase is an excellent time to build a contact list of these people.

When asking influencers to do a review/plan a review, there are two main ways you can do this: asking for a review up front, or asking to send a box, then following up and asking for a review. Here are two simple prompts to start from:

Influencer Prompt 1: Direct Ask

Hi there! We wanted to reach out because we absolutely love your feed, and we’d love to send over a free box in exchange for a post/review. Is that something you’d be open to?

Influencer Prompt 2: Indirect Ask

Hi there! We wanted to reach out because we absolutely love your feed, and we’d love to send over a box as a gift 🙂 Would you like to check it out?

In each case, try to keep the “vibe” of your message non-committal. Make it easy for your reviewers/influencers to get a box and share it with their audience in a natural way. This helps maintain engagement on their posts (because it isn’t structured as an “ad”) and helps keep costs down (favors are cheaper than sponsored posts!).

Step 3: Keep Your Leads “Warm”

As you gain presubscribers in this phase, it’s critical to remain in contact. Keeping your leads “warm” simply means you’re regularly establishing contact with these presubscribers, perhaps in a weekly email, or email every other day in advance of your launch. Entice them with sneak peeks, urge them to continue sharing, and show them that your brand is growing and will be a cool “thing” to be a part of.

Welcome Email Example

Here are some additional email prompts:

  • ‘Progress’ Email: An email meant to show the progress of your prelaunch:

Hi [Name]! We’re making tons of progress here at Joy Box. When we launch, you’ll be first in line to experience both our Premium Pack and our Starter Pack (valued at

  1. ‘Reminder’ Email: A reminder about your launch/the progress:

Hi [Name], It’s almost here… Joy Box’s official launch! Remember: we’re opening subscriptions on October 31st, and there will be only 100 spots open for our first month. With thousands RSVP’d that means you need to order quick to ensure a box!

  1. ‘Last Chance’ Email: A reminder about entering a contest or participating in prelaunch activities. Example is for a giveaway:

Hi [Name], There’s only a few days left to get your extra entries in for our giveaway of a LIFETIME subscription. All you need to do is share this [LINK] with friends & family. For every person you refer that signs up for our prelaunch, you get an extra entry toward the giveaway. No purchase necessary!

Of course, these emails are completely flexible. Try your own ideas – just keep in mind that this is the time in your prelaunch to excite, entice, and keep your launch top of mind.

Step 4: Build Momentum When You Launch

Finally, in your final days/weeks of your prelaunch, begin to build extra momentum for your official launch.

  • In general, bring more and more attention to deadline that’s pressing, emphasizing sign up date and the promotions you’re offering presubscribers.
  • Consider a “Countdown Week”, where you post on social media every day with a 7/6/5 Days Remaining etc.
  • Plan 2-3 emails the week of your launch to your prelaunch list: 1) A reminder that week 2) An announcement the day of and 3) A reminder within 48 hours, emphasizing the few spots remaining.

This momentum should be carried over into your launch, as this isn’t only a chance to convert presubscribers – it’s also a chance to convert those ‘lingering’ customers from your early marketing efforts. These are the people who may have not presubscribed, but started following your pages. Transition directly from your countdown to launch to the remaining spots left for your first box.

Reflect During Your Prelaunch

Throughout your prelaunch campaign, reflect on your branding, messaging, and value propositions to customers. This is the perfect time to hone in on your understanding of your target customer and the messaging that resonates with them. Try to correlate specific efforts you took throughout the prelaunch to spikes in presubscribers or large changes in conversion rates. Gather as much information as you can during this phase, and you’ll position yourself for success in the future.

Interesting in using a prelaunch to kickstart your subscription box business? Sign up for Cratejoy and install the Prelaunch Basic theme.

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About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

69 Responses

  1. 2ndhelping

    My biggest conundrum besides in developing COGS is getting it launched. How far in advance should prelaunch run?

      1. Londya

        Hi, Jameston, what is the difference between a prelaunch and a presale? And when you do this, do you overlap the two? Or run one right after the other?

  2. Eric

    Hey guys Eric from Instapage http://goo.gl/KLxTE2 here! Would love for you all to check us out (it’s free anyway) and let us know your thoughts! Over 150k businesses use our builder and pre-launch is a BIG BIG reason why.

    We’re super easy to use, more affordable and give you more control over how your pages look and feel. If any of you have questions or want help, I’m happy to help eric at instapage dot com

  3. whitney

    Would you normally just keep one of these presale/launch websites active for the few months before selling product then closing it and only running the subscription selling site. Or would it be on-going?

  4. Rachel

    Did you use an email marketing tool (i.e. mailchimp) with Launchrock or is it unnecessary at the pre-launch phase? Would you recommend using such an email marketing tool to help engage your customers /keep them “warm” as you put it?

  5. Whitney

    Okay I’m just trying to get all the dates right for my presale. If I start my presale on the 1st of a month, but won’t be shipping until the 6th of the next month (because I want a bit of a head start in my first month). Say a few people buy in the first week, can I switch the date of their re-billing cycle to be the 11th of the next month and thereafter? Or if I set the date of the re-billing cycle to be on the 11th, they will get charged again on the 11th of the month they already signed up on (and get double charged).

  6. hayden

    In the picture of the thanks for joining email you have written forward this email to get your first box free.

    How do you track who forwarded the email?

    So you know who has earned a free box.

    Cant find this feature on mailchimp

  7. Heather

    I’m confused as to how to switch from a pre-launch (say Launchrock) to the site where you are actually selling the subscriptions (like Cratejoy). How can you transfer all of the info?

  8. Kaley

    Hey Jesse, good stuff here. When creating your launch page, should you put the normal price of the box (not just your special intro deal)? I’d hate to have a lot of people sign up but then not actually purchase because they didn’t like the pricing. I would want to be testing the pricing out on my launch page so I know it will work. But, would that actually deter people from pre-signing up?

  9. Justin

    If I offer an incentive for the emails should I also offer an incentive for the early subscribers? Also how do you keep track of all these incentives you have given people when you are ready to launch?

    1. Stuart

      @Justin

      If you are using Mailchimp, it allows you to subgroup your leads. So what I would do is look at my list and sort it by the date they joined. I select the top 25 and click on Actions > and either copy them to another list or add them to the VIP list feature.

  10. Nicole Stark

    I’m not sure how to ask this but say when it comes to pre launching and I put up a few products as a background image of what could possibly be in the box, do I have to have some sort of permission or guarantee that those products will be in the box? Is it ok if I take those product to market my box even if they may or may not be used in the box?

      1. Thomas

        Hi Jesse,
        How do you set up mail chimp with launch rock. I am having trouble setting up automated emails to people who subscribe on my pre-launch page. Would really appreciate any input.
        Thanks

  11. Bob

    Hi Jesse,

    After or during the prelaunch, what theme or how do I build my site on WordPress. I can’t find information on how to build a subscription site on a WordPress platform.

    Thanks,

    Bob

  12. Lavina Rose/Caketails

    Hello,
    Thanks so much for your tutorials!
    I set up my prelaunch page : http://www.caketailsdesserts.com
    But how do I set up the email responders to those who have joined?
    And how to I design the progress emails?
    I know you’re busy, but please answer me. I’m trying to set this up to start a presale mid November and the whole month of December. To ship my first boxes in January.
    Thank You!

  13. Hey Jesse,

    I’m trying to set up an automatic email that will be sent immediately to any new subscriber using MailChimp but I’m having a little trouble figuring it out.

    Is this feature only available on MailChimp’s paid version or is there a way to do it on their free version?

    Thanks!

  14. Lindsey

    Hi,

    I was wondering if you could explain how to promote your pre-launch page once it’s created. How do I drive traffic to it? How do people eventually see it? And what ways would you recommend driving traffic to it?

    Thanks, Lindsey

  15. Great, great info. Just one question for clarification. During the pre-launch stage, would you have purchased the products for the boxes or would you do that after the pre-sale stage? I’m guessing that for the pre-launch, talking in advance with brands you would want to work with would be good and getting some samples would be ideal for the pre-launch images. Thank you!

  16. Veronica

    Hi, OK so I’m a little confused on the steps. i understand the “landing page” method (just to gather emails/potential buyers) But after that, should there be a whole other website to cater to the “founder” customers? and then another, for the actual selling website launch? are we talking about setting up 3 different web pages?. I’m sorry, I’m a little lost and not familiar with web pages yet. But i will not be using crate joy because i want to learn on my own.

  17. Dan

    Hi Jesse
    I am wondering how soon, is too soon for a prelaunch.
    I will have my products established (food product), which will be late this year, say November. How soon can a generate interest in the subscription box?

  18. Judith Mandis

    Thank you. Great information . How does any of this detail change when you are
    planning on a quarterly box? We want to use CrateJoy.

    1. Felicity Fromholz

      Hey Judith,

      The prelaunch process would be the same regardless of the frequency of your box. However, Cratejoy is no longer offering the quarterly option to new merchants. My recommendation would bed moving to a monthly (it’s actually the most successful of the frequency options for all CJ merchants) or trying Shopify.

      Best,

      Felicity

  19. Mario

    In regards to reminding them about the Contest, how do I actually set it up? For example, Jesse gave a great example of it E.g. “You can get your first box free by forwarding this email OR inviting your friends at join.prospurly.com!” This is perfect but how do I manage or keep track of people who actually participate? Thanks in advance.

  20. Great article !

    I am at the prelaunch stage and little confused on when to start creating my social media channels. I have just finished my media kit which is ready to be sent to potential brands to partner with and I was wondering when is it the right time to start building my community on IG, FB, Pinterest etc … Should I build a channel on IG for example without the actual product or should I create my platform when I have sourced the product & able to take great pictures of them? What would be the actual steps?

    Thanks a lot 🙂

    1. Felicity Fromholz

      Julie,

      If you’re in pre-launch, now is a perfect time to get your social started and, you don’t actually need the product you’ll be featuring in your box to get things rolling! A lot of brands start with posts centered around the aesthetic of their brand – like pictures featuring the colors of the brand itself or memes that represent what the brand is about. You could also start with some fun images of your branding or box. Your main goal should be to create enough content that it validates the actuality of your box – people tend to go to your socials before your actual website so good social makes helps legitimize your brand.

      One of the things I’d make sure of as you put all of this together is that the names of your social accounts are the same – or as close as possible. For example, you’d want @mymadeinbox (or something similar) for both Tiwtter and Instagram, it’s makes your brand easier to find.

      Best of luck!

      Felicity

      1. Julie wojtkiewicz

        Thanks a lot for your feedback Felicity ! I was so hesitant before but your advice makes me getting started 🙂 !!

  21. I am considering a re-launch? What suggestions from this article should I take? Also, because my current social media page has all my prelaunch pictures and giveaways, should I create a new social media page? Can I reuse pictures from my prelaunch for my relaunch?

  22. Hi Jameson

    My Name is Frank and i recently launched my pre launch for my subscription box called business book monthly. I am having trouble getting people to sign up for it and so far i have used Facebook ads with not much success. I launched all the social media channels but struggling to generate buzz. I am on my first week of the pre launch phase and getting a bit nervous since its suppose to be around a month process or so, would you have any recommendations on how to make my landing page better or how to get leads? below is the landing page. Thanks for you help

  23. Hi, I’d like to do a prelaunch, I’ve already bought my domain name and I’m using Square Space for my website, I was wondering if it would be possible to use Square Space for my prelaunch, or are there added benefits in using Cratejoy or Kickstarter etc? Many thanks

    1. Felicity Fromholz

      Hi Anja,

      You can definately set up a prelaunch page w/ SquareSpace where you can collect email addresses, etc. Do you know who you’re using as your payment processor? Are you planning to design everything yourself. I’d recommend checking out Cratejoy simply for the fact that it is already set up to handle your business vs. you having to design all your own tools. …as for Kickstarter, that can be hit or miss and is really for gathering funding vs. a true prelaunch campaign.

      Best,

      Felicity

  24. Kira

    Love you articles, they’re really helpful! So in the example you said that Prospurly was only selling 100 boxes in their first shipment, so I was wondering should I limit the number of boxes available for the first month?

    1. Felicity Fromholz

      That is very much up to you. Limiting quantities is a great way to control your inventory costs. It also give you the opportunity to create a little exclusivity with a “waiting list” of sorts for the next month. You can start an email list and open up new subscriptions to folks as you purchase more for the next month.

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