Step 2: How to beta launch a product

Wouldn't it be amazing to sell a million widgets on the web and become rich overnight? With a beta launch for your product it can help give you important feedback before you go big on investing in inventory. With a global customer base and a global virtual store, the sky is the limit. If you have a great product, it only takes a little work to beta launch you product for sale on the web. In this post I will cover beta testing you online store, online advertising, and product marketing materials.

Two disclaimers about selling products online:

  1. When you do business online you are required to follow all the federal, state, and local laws for doing business. If your not sure what you need, start with government site on small business: SBA.
  2. In computing, the term "beta" is used as (usually) the last release in the software release life cycle. It is sometimes referred to as 0.x in version numbers or x.x by where x represents a number. Typically it is the last version before the software is fully released to all actual customers. Last "test" release before the "released" production version. (wiki) I'm using it loosely to describe setting up your own system for testing your product with the implication that you will need to adjust and change based on the results before a full scale launch.

Selecting an e-commerce website

web-design-concept These days there are many options for an online store. Depending on the product(s) the type of store that you want might be different. (In this case I'm going to demonstrate the process with one product that has a few variations. The product is a card game. If you are interested in learning more about this sample product idea, check out my post on prototyping a product to sale on the internet.) I like to check out comparison lists to see what the main feature options are. In my case I have a commerce option from the marketing website I already have (squarespace). If you are starting from scratch you should check out the options. Honestly, the complexity for online stores is almost infinite. I hope that this brief outline will give you an a general idea of the process - but please keep in mind this has been simplified for the presentation format. In my case the business website on squarespace costs $192 + the % they take on sales.

Beta product design and initial inventory

In order to fill out all the details on your new store website you need to have photos and details about your product. In my case the product is a set of cards. I needed to have the cards designed, printed, and packaged. (I'm a designer and an artists so I was able to use my own skills and graphics to save money. I have included estimated prices to help give you some idea of the cost.)

Budget for graphics/art for product

I used 33 images for 33 cards + a designed a new logo. It's taken me 3 years of monthly vector drawings to come up with these 33 images. If you were purchasing graphics online you might get images for as low as $30 per image for royalty free - however they would be stock images that other people can also purchase. For original illustrations the price starts at about $250 per image. SO - in this case the cost of graphics would be from $1,000 - $9,000+ (on the low end). 33_Graphics_mitracline

Budget for graphic design and printing

As a graphic designer I looked at various printing options for my beta product launch of the card product. In looking for an affordable (and green) printing solution I came across the square business cards from moo. They let you print up to 55 different images on one side of your cards. (I suggest figuring out the costs before so that the designer has the printer specifications from the start. The last thing you want is to design something that ends up being too expensive to print - you might end up having to redesign the whole set of cards. I suggest using an excel spreadsheet to calculate costs: Shipping, Packaging, Printing...) numbers Once the cards arrived I was able to take photos for the product pages. Below is a slide show of the graphics that were sent to the printer and also the photos taken when the cards arrived. It took me about a full day to create the first set of graphics - with all the materials the specifications provided. Estimated cost is $300-500 for card design. The photos were taken in about an hour when the cards arrived a week later - estimated $100. I designed:
  • 33 cards + a coupon and instructions card
  • Logo
  • Product photos
  • Banner images
  • Product video(s)

Adding content to your web store

Once you have all the information and marketing graphics/photos on your product you are ready to fill out the information on the website. In most cases you will simply upload and fill out the information that is asked of you. I will not go into too much detail. The basics are: Photos, Price, Description, Shipping, and Tax. Below is a basic product description page from my card game. It took me about a day to add all the content to the website. I did make several changes to the various graphics along the way - estimated costs $300 - $500 for 7 product pages. PDP_mitracline

Marketing your new product online

Alright! So now I have a product online but I need to figure out how to market and sell it. I decided to budget for online advertising ($300 google and facebook) +  landing page ($200 design time) + free email newsletter campaign ($100 design time per month) that is shared on my social media accounts. How will the world respond to this product? social-media-concept

Paid Advertising

The point of trying out the online advertising is to see what types of keywords advertisingperform better. I'm not sure if my card game would be more interesting to spiritual people or for people looking for a way to improve their creative thinking. What I found out is that the "cool art games" approach had the best click through rate to my landing page. This feedback gives me some ideas on how I should change the verbiage on my landing page and product packaging for the next version of my product. (It's hard to tell when the numbers are this small - but over time and with money it becomes more clear what is the best way to advertise a product) I also got some demographic info from advertising on Facebook. Based on this info the target audience for my card product might be creative women over 45. Facebook

Marketing and Social Media

The landing page is where people end up when they click on ads. This page should have lots of info and options for people to click on things. Below is a copy of my landing page. There is also a need to write text for the marketing... this can also be something you can hire people to help you with. Creative-Thinking-Game-—-Foreverbird-Studio-2015-02-22-22-02-11 Below is version of the email I send out each day at 7:30 AM and that is tweeted at the same time with hash tags about art and creativity. I send a email out every day and set them up about 2 weeks at a time - it takes about 30 min. I search for quotes on creativity and I also use a random number generating website to select a number from 1-33 for the 3 cards per day. I have 18 people on this list after the first month. It does require ongoing work and will eventually cost money as the list of subscribers grows, but it's free to start. I get some nice feedback from people who enjoy the cards. Ideas-are-like-rabbits.-2015-02-22-22-10-15

In conclusion

This beta launch as been a great learning experience for me. Based on the results I have had so far I do plan to expand and change the product. For now I'm going to slowly collect information and ideas on the next steps. I hope this post has given you some insight and if I can help you launching your own product idea, please contact me!