What expecting the unexpected teaches you about effective startup launches

keep calm

This is the second post in a series of posts aimed at preparing startup marketers for a product/service launch. The first post can be read here.

In startup world, expecting the unexpected is one of the first hard lessons you learn. But during a launch, this increases two-fold — and for good reason.

Based on experience launching dozens of startup product and services currently and in the past, as well as two big projects/services of my own, here are five things to expect and prepare for during a launch:


1. Communication Overload: Emails, Ideas, Questions…  


What to Prepare For 

Be ready for those frantic 2am emails from your founder, CEO or team members bursting with ideas, concerns, verifications, etc. Yes, it’s distracting enough to get work done during the day when emails keep flying in, but you’ll be thrown a new bone during launch time when urgent emails coming in during dinner, on the weekend, and far too early in the morning. Be ready for them and accept them for what they are. You’re in game-time mode, and hopefully your friends, family or significant other can understand (and tolerate) that for a little while.


How to Prepare and React

Here is the caveat: While it is important to be as responsive as possible, know that some things are not possible — and that’s okay. Before your team goes into launch prep mode, be sure to set your own boundaries:

  • No, you do not need to set an alarm to get up in the middle of the night to check for emails.
  • No, you do not need to sit in front of your computer all weekend long waiting for stuff to come in
  • No, you do not need to work on stuff you can certainly get done the next morning just because you feel you should be doing something.

Decide when you’re best available and optimal to crank on your work. Perhaps you’re best starting at 7am. Perhaps you love wrapping up at 8pm. Then, communicate to your team when you’re available after-hours to check on things, thus setting your availability boundaries. If you don’t, you’ll get sucked in, and that can be a slippery slope if you don’t catch yourself.


2. Those Fun Late Meetings — Scheduled Last Minute


What to Prepare For 

You’ve been at the office at 8am sharp, working through lunch, foregoing social hours and even closing out GChat just so you can focus on all that you have to do. And then a last minute 5pm meeting comes knocking on your door to do a team review of a press release, product function, etc.


How to Prepare and React

It’s okay, breathe.

When I used to work in-house doing marketing for startups, I was definitely at work until 7 or 8pm most launch-prep nights only to head home to continue working until 11pm or later as things came up. It’s not ideal, and many times not fun, but us crazy startup people do it for a reason.

You can prepare for it by reminding yourself of a few key facts:

  • You care deeply about the launch going off without a glitch.
  • You hopefully like your job enough that you put in the extra time and effort just because.
  • You’re not in this alone. Your colleagues are also putting in the extra time and effort because they care just as much. You all wouldn’t be in a startup otherwise!


3. You might be asked to do something outside your skill range


What to Prepare For

Especially if your team is still small, a lot needs to get done and there are not enough people to do it.

That means you might be asked to:

  • Write the press release when your experience mainly lies in writing blog posts.
  • Write some in-app copy but you’ve only done website copy.
  • Project manage the entire launch and you’ve never managed anyone before.

It’s can be scary to take on a new responsibility when the stakes are high, but there are several positive things that can come of it, as I describe below.


How to Prepare and React

I recommend you take this as a great opportunity.

This will help you in several ways:

  • You will get to learn something very fast and have those skills for the rest of your life
  • You can prove your value in other ways, thus setting yourself up for a raise and/or promotion down the line
  • You can explore different areas of expertise that you may end up loving even more than what you do now
  • You will get to interact with new colleagues on new projects, thus deepening your team bond


4. Even the friendliest can get a little unfriendly


What to Prepare For

When under a lot of pressure, even the nicest of people may become not so nice. This might even include you — I sure have turned into this Grinch once in awhile. Stress sucks, and it happens to the best of us, so we just need to anticipate and brace for it while identifying ways to reduce it.


How to Prepare & React 

Know that just like you, your colleagues are under pressure and are likely not snapping at you or anyone else for no reason. During this stressful, high-impact period of time, agree to look out for each other. If someone seems to be burning out, frustrated, or just downright tired:

  • Invite them on a refreshing walk
  • Go out for a coffee break
  • Grab a relaxing drink after work
  • Encourage them to have a relaxing weekend.

All those reminders can help — they certainly helped me when my former colleagues gave me that exact advice.


In a Wrap

Startups are like family — so treat each other with care and understanding and ask that they do the same for you. You will all come out of the launch happier, more energized, and with a closer relationship than ever before. For those of you who have also launched your own company, project, etc., you’re probably familiar with having some of all of these frantic reactions too. Launches are a truly exciting time, so set the right limitations for yourself, while also having an understanding of the madness at hand, and strike a healthy balance.


Extending your Reach

If you and your team are approaching a launch and need a few extra hands to help strategize and execute on launch activities, let us know. We’re a full-service digital marketing firm in Boston specializing in early stage startup marketing and launches. We’ve been there, we completely get it, and we love it. So get in touch!

The next post in this series on startup launches is how to best embrace being in overtime mode — even when the times get really, really tough. 

Read on here >