Announcing a website launch can be a tricky effort for marketers to tackle because instead of marketing a product or service, you’re marketing about your marketing efforts.
Nevertheless, launching a new website is a huge undertaking and one you should promote. I sat down with Inbound Marketing Strategist Kylie Halpin to discuss best practices for announcing a website launch.
Kylie recommends dividing your strategy into three phases: pre-launch, launch and post-launch.
In the time leading up to the launch of your website, the goal of your promotional strategy is to inform and enable relevant stakeholders and prepare educational materials for website users.
Start by identifying which audience segments will need advance notice of changes to your website. While leads and prospects tend to be the primary audience of most marketing websites, they typically won’t need training on changes, so you can wait to inform them until closer to launch. On the other hand, if your current customers access your product through your website or go to it regularly for support, then they will need to be informed.
“If it’s a subscription-based service with a portal or customer-facing resource center, you want to make sure that you’re giving notice about any changes that could affect their experience,” Kylie says.
Ideally, you can even have the customer communications go out from account managers or CSMs so that they seem more personalized, and host webinars or other training sessions around how they’ll be able to still access everything they need on the updated website.
“If your customers do not regularly visit your website post-sale, it’s less important to go into detail except to ensure you’re highlighting features they might need — for example, how to access support resources or product FAQs. Otherwise, a simple: ‘Our website is changing. We’re very excited. Here are the high-level features...’ is sufficient,” Kylie says.
You also need to consider how internal teams utilize your website so you can prepare them appropriately too.
Customer-facing teams will need to understand how changes to your site will impact the clients they work with so they can provide support. Sales will need to understand how to find resources they can send to prospects and how leads navigate and convert on the website.
“Make sure to disseminate training materials and host Q&A sessions for internal staff, especially services and sales teams. Customer-facing individuals will need to understand the new features and be ready to answer questions before the launch happens,” Kylie says. “With any launch, you should anticipate a QA [quality assurance] timeframe and allow staff to test the new website and its features before sharing with external audiences. Having internal Q&A meetings for those teams will also prepare them to guide customers post-launch.”
You can communicate about the approaching launch through channels like email newsletters, customer groups on social media and events. When you’re starting the initial announcements teeing up the launch, be careful not to be too specific about details because things can change.
“Avoid mentioning a specific launch date in order to give your web team and staff some time to work out any kinks during the QA period. Keeping announcements broad, such as ‘coming this spring’ or ‘coming next quarter,’ will allow you that flexibility so the launch isn’t rushed.” Kylie says. “You’re also managing expectations with your audiences and avoiding the need to change any previous communications you’ve put out.”
Kylie recommends starting the process of planning your website launch announcement strategy about three months prior to launch.
The initial prep work will be more about creating training materials and scheduling sessions for Q&A. Compile a list of all the audience-specific assets you’ll need to create and the different events you’ll need to host so you can ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Then as you get closer to the launch and have more specifics around what changes are happening, you can start to make announcements featuring specific teasers on various channels. You could even do a screen capture tour of the website to help internal and external audiences familiarize themselves with what the new site will look like.
The launch itself is like the eye of the storm. While your new website will be live, you don’t want to immediately start promoting it far and wide.
“Don’t send anything to your customers during launch week,” Kylie says. “Give about five business days or so of buffer time to QA and make sure that everyone on your internal teams has familiarity with the new site.”
Encourage all your staff to explore the new website and host events for them to ask questions and provide feedback.
During this period, it’s also vital that you provide channels for employees to inform you of any issues they encounter that way you can address any bugs before promoting the website to a larger, external audience.
After your team has spent a couple of days familiarizing themselves with the newly launched website and you’ve had a chance to make sure there are no issues, then it’s time to start promoting it externally.
Post on social media, send out emails and mention it in meetings with prospects, customers and partners.
“In terms of communicating both pre- and post-launch announcements, include any channels that you would traditionally engage,” Kylie says . “Additionally, if there are any online communities you’re part of, partners you collaborate with or relevant publications in your industry, tailor your messaging to each of those channels and promote there as well.”
You could even consider hosting a post-launch event or webinar to celebrate the new website and give a tour.
In your promotional messages, try to include different types of media. In addition to links back to your site, use graphics, gifs and videos to talk about and show the new changes you’re excited about.
“Sharing a short video from your head of marketing or CEO to introduce the new site is a smart move because it helps solidify an important iteration of your brand while incorporating a human aspect. Putting a face behind something intangible like a brand update establishes a more memorable, relatable connection.” Kylie says.
Challenge yourself to call out the pieces of your website that are the most exciting and impact your audience the most. What makes your website better than it was before? Then the call-to-action for every promotion should be to explore the new site further.
Where possible, you should try to segment your promotional content so that all audiences can focus on the features that are most relevant to them. What’s changing for them? What features will impact them the most?
“Instead of sending the same email blast to everybody, write with your specific audiences in mind: speak to the expertise of your internal team, the expectations of your customers, the brand recognition by leads and subscribers,” Kylie says.
For channels that you can’t be as targeted with, like social media, consider promoting over time through a series highlighting multiple features so that you don’t exclude any segments.
Consider your website launch as a 2.0 of your brand. Don’t shy away from making a big deal of it because it is newsworthy.
“Your website is a vital organ of your business. It is often the most customer-facing, prospect-facing, partner-facing aspect that people will interact with on a regular basis, so it should be treated like the core foundation of your company,” Kylie says.
Make sure you start planning your promotional strategy in advance and account for the needs of all audience segments so that everyone can get excited about the new site and understand how it will specifically benefit them.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.