7 Tips for Launching a Great New Idea
Have you got a brilliant idea that you want everyone to know about?
Maybe you’ve started making cross-stitch patterns of popular internet memes and you’d like to see if you could sell them. Perhaps you and your friends have formed a stand-up comedy group and you’d like to start performing in your local area. Or do you make amazing jam and you want to found Jam Lovers United in your local area, to trade recipes and ideas?
What these examples have in common is that you’re not going to be getting in touch with local investors to see about seed funding, but they’re not such small endeavours that you can do them without any help or promotion either. Getting your cross-stitch efforts, your comedy group or your jam club off the ground could be time-consuming and difficult even if you know that there is an audience out there; they still need a way of finding out that this idea exists, and you probably can’t afford to spend very much, if anything at all, on advertising that would enable them to find out about you. And you don’t want to find that you’re delivering hilarious and insightful comedy to an empty room. Not to mention that if these activities prove to be a success, they could offer great material for future university or job applications.
So if you have an amazing idea but don’t know how to make it happen, here are our top tips on how you can launch a great idea – no matter what it might be.
1. Get your online presence ready to go
If you’re reasonably tech-savvy, one of the easiest things in the world is to set up a good online presence for your new idea. After all, you probably already do your best to present a good personal brand on social media – choosing the photos you post carefully, considering which statuses will get the most likes – even if you don’t think about it in those terms. And while you know that it’s the work of an afternoon to get a Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account set up and looking good, much of your prospective audience is likely to be less clued-in and therefore more easily impressed. A few careful close-ups of needle and thread or reposts of blogs about unusual jam flavours could go a long way towards making your idea seem concrete – once you’ve gathered a decent number of followers, it may not be obvious that the idea is brand new.
We’ve started with this tip because it’s useful to have a social media presence set up and ready before you get involved in any other activity. It means that if people hear about you and search for your idea, they’ll get some useful results. It’ll help you figure out what would be a good name for your idea, and how you can summarise it within the limited space of a Twitter bio. It also means that your other promotional activities will have a place to send people to get more information. You don’t want to have a word-of-mouth buzz going but nothing to back it up when people are interested – and chances are that by then you’ll be busy with more important things than taking arty photos of pretty jam jars.
2. Take advantage of free local advertising
Social media is great because getting some degree of presence on it is free of charge. But there are some more traditional ways of promoting your idea that will also cost you very little. For instance, if you’re promoting an event – such as the stand-up night or your jam-lovers group – especially if it’s free to attend, there are lots of places that might well be willing to put up a poster or a notice about it. Local cafes will take posters as decoration (making your poster attractive to look at as well as informative can help) or will have a bulletin board for local residents to find out what’s happening in the area. Supermarkets may have something similar, as may hotels and youth hostels if you’re in a tourist area. If you don’t have a printer at home, then getting posters printed will cost you money, but finding free sites to put them up in your local area could just be a case of asking nicely.
But it’s not just finding free poster sites that can help you promote your idea locally. If there’s a local newspaper – or several – they’re often in need of stories, especially positive ones with a human-interest angle. Get in touch and you might well find that your jam group gets a full page spread complete with a photo of you in the kitchen, and links to your social media pages (this is why you made them first!) so that their readers can find out more. You can do some of their work for them to making telling your story more appealing – how is it connected to the local area, for instance, and is there something emotionally affecting or quirky that prompted your idea, that will make the article more interesting to read?
3. Connect with local influencers
It might surprise you that for the right person – i.e. someone who’s just trying to launch a fun new thing, rather than primarily trying to make money – there’s this much free advertising available. But from the perspective of the cafes, for instance, putting up your poster shows their engagement with the local area and will help draw in customers; it’s win-win. But that’s not the only way that you can get people to promote you to everyone’s advantage.
Running a Twitter account, whether for a person or a company, can be a thankless task. Imagine you’re running the page for a local pub. You don’t just want to tweet about special offers or photos of the Sunday roast all the time, because your followers are likely to want a little more variety. Posting about a new stand-up comedy night could be just the thing to liven up your feed, especially if you can encourage those attending to pop into your pub for dinner afterwards. You can think of something similar for most contexts.
Anyone with a social media presence and an interest in demonstrating their involvement in the local community is a great person for you to get in touch with and request a plug for your new idea. There’s no harm in asking; the worst they can do is say no. And if they do promote your idea, let them get something out of it by thanking them prominently too.
4. Do some basic marketing work
While you might not think that your idea needs proper marketing, it can’t hurt to cover the basics. For instance, no one would launch a new commercial idea without doing some market research. Does your idea actually have enough of an audience; will anyone buy cross-stitch internet memes locally, or should you abandon that idea and focus on selling them online? Does your local Women’s Institute group already have a dedicated jam club, so your idea would be redundant? Does anyone like your comedy style locally? Beyond that, you’ll want to look at your competitors; there’s no point in having your stand-up night on a Tuesday if that’s also the comedy night in your local pub. These things might seem simple, but they can take a good bit of research to figure out, and you shouldn’t skimp on it.
It’s also worth getting some basic marketing collateral in place. We’ve already talked about social media and posters, but you might want to look at things like business cards – you can get a sizeable number very cheaply online, and you might find that once you’ve got in touch with local influencers that they’re happy to hand them out to people they know who might be interested in your idea. A pdf leaflet or flyer that outlines the idea could also be useful to have on hand.
5. Get to know the local community
Not all of the local community are likely to be high-value social media influencers, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get to know them, especially if your idea is dependent on enthusiasm within the local area. They might not be able to retweet your idea to thousands of followers who hang on their every word, but there are plenty of other things that the local community can be useful to you for.
Let’s imagine that there’s a local bike shop – not a business that has all that much to do with jam-making. But if you take the time to get to know them, they might be able to recommend a venue for your jam club. They might be able to offer you some sponsorship once you’ve got the idea going. If you do an annual jam-making competition, they might offer you a voucher as one of the prizes. The ways in which different parts of the local community can offer help and support to each other may be much greater than you realise. And if you get into any difficulties – perhaps the crowd for your first stand-up night is much bigger than you expect, and you end up making a lot more noise than intended – if you’re already friends with the neighbouring people and businesses, then they’re likely to be more forgiving than they might otherwise have been.
6. Ask your friends to help out
Doing all of the points above is hard work; there’s a reason that marketing and PR are jobs that people get paid good money to do. While you presumably don’t have the resources to pay someone to do it all for you (at least, not until your idea really takes off), you don’t necessarily need to do all of it yourself. For almost every point on this list, your friends and family can either help out or do it for you.
They can like your social media posts to boost engagement levels and ensure that they appear more prominently on other people’s feeds. They can help with taking photos or setting up pages. They can let you know where there are poster sites in the local area, and ask about putting up a poster on your behalf; “can my friend do this?” is often easier to ask than “can I do this?”. They can promote your idea within their own networks, pass on your details to their own contacts, and generally spread the word on your behalf within groups that you may not be able to access otherwise. Spread out over a large number of people, all of these things are relatively small requests – and if your friends or relatives turn out to be really fond of cross-stitch/jam/stand-up, they might even come on board and get properly involved in supporting your idea.
7. Make sure your idea is as great as you think it is
All the marketing in the world is only as good as your product, and that holds here too. You can get an audience of hundreds at your first stand-up night, but if you don’t make them laugh, they won’t come back for a second go. The same is true if your cross-stitch is bad or if there isn’t enough for your jam society to do together – or any other idea that you might have.
Don’t spend ages on creating the perfect Instagram post and neglect the idea that you’re supposed to be promoting. Before you get stuck into carrying out any of the points above, make sure that your basic idea is sound. Market research can help with that, as can talking to your friends and requesting feedback that is honest, rather than kind. And the process of promotion itself can be a guide – if people are rushing to support you, you know you’re onto a good thing. Best of luck!