You have your logo, product/service and an awesome domain name. You’re a month or two from launch and smack-dab in buzz-building mode. Creating and pushing live a Coming Soon page should take about an hour, right? Um, not so fast, mister.
1) Can you define what makes your company different?
While this may seem like something that should be nailed down before deciding to launch a project/company, it’s not always the case. Making a Coming Soon page represents a commitment to designing/developing a website, which in most new businesses will be the largest investment made in year one. It will also challenge your perception of what you do and force you to explain it in clear, concise language.
2) Do you have a tagline?
A good tagline is a natural fit and acts like a nickname, enhancing what is already obvious. A bad tagline is an obtuse, obvious generality that does nothing to differentiate.
-Tip: Segment what type of tagline you are looking to create. Start here for help —Types of Taglines
-Of note: Not having one is better than having a bad one.
3) Have you given some thought to brand attributes and voice?
If you were going to assign the design and copy to a freelancer, how would you summarize what you are hoping to convey about your company?
4) How clear are you on your service/product offering?
If you can’t score an 8 out of 10 on the “describe what we do in one sentence test” to your friends, then you aren’t ready for a Coming Soon page — really. This is your first chance at impressing the influencers and gaining some pre-launch buzz. The idea part of the show moves to the execution phase once a “Coming Soon” page goes live. There will always be iterations, V2 features and like it or not, gold-plating but having the core of your idea nailed down is critical at this juncture. How does this differ from #1? Your company is what you stand for. Your services are what you do.
1) What’s the purpose of the Coming Soon page?
To build an audience? To build buzz? To prove to investors you’re in development?
2) Are you collecting email addresses or creating a limited, invite-only beta?
No: Most Coming Soon pages collect email addresses, but invite-only betas have their advantages. A trusted, closed environment accomplishes a number of things. A. The creation of a vetted testing community. B. The why-not-me/this-must-be-fantastic buzz factor created by an “invite-only” beta. C. The ability to iterate, reinvent and fine-tune behind closed doors with expert input.
Yes: If you are going to collect email addresses you need to consider how, and if, you are are going to confirm email addresses. If you are going to confirm you will need to add in time/$ for coding and a minor database setup.
-Tip: Use web form best practices. If you don’t know what they are then get Luke Wroblewski’s book
-Of Note: People differ on strategies here. Some say, don’t capture email addresses if you don’t have a clear launch date. I say if you can estimate what season it will launch, ex. (Summer 2012) then collect addresses.
1) Purchase your URL
Hopefully you have already done this. And quickly afterward you reserved your company name on Twitter/Flickr/Vimeo/Facebook, right?
2) Determine who is hosting your Coming Soon page
You don’t necessarily need to host your Coming Soon page with the same host you bought it from but sometimes it is easier (see below). Some hosting services have built-in templates that you can modify, others provide only a “Parked Domain” page, or the ever popular “Under Construction” with the yellow hardhat and pylons – Yay!
-Tip: If you’re not ready to select a hosting provider just yet, consider a landing page hosting service, which will also manage email subscriptions for you. Ones to research: Performable, Unbounce, Capturely or Launch Soon.
-Of note: If you go ahead with a traditional host, know that ICANN, the international domain registry organization, has a 60-day wait policy on registrar transfer. This means that when you ARE ready to launch your full site, switching hosts may not be immediate or easy. Which is why you should consider #3.
3) Have a pretty good idea where your site will be hosted upon V1 launch.
Not always, but in most cases, you bought a domain name and have it parked somewhere. If you are reading this prior to purchasing the domain look into the hold-over time your hosting service requires before moving the domain — standard is 60 days. Depending on your time line this may be ok, or it may be a huge p.i.t.a. Better to know now.
1) Do you have a logo?
Clarification — A final logo?
2) Do you have colors, fonts and a living style guide?
The design of your Coming Soon page should reflect the elements of the brand you are building. Ideally you want your brand assets to be as close to final as possible. If the logo you are using is just, “for now” stop right now and reassess. And while you may love comp 1 over comp 2 – usability should be the ultimate decision maker. There are a number of reputable A/B testing services. We like AB tests.
1) Have you provided all the necessary copy elements to your designer?
- Company Tagline
- Body text (aim for 70 words or less)
- Call to action
- “Submit” button text (i.e. Subscribe now, Notify me, etc.)
- Error copy for form submit errors (required field, incorrect email, email already on file, etc.)
- Confirmation message for submission
- Submission confirmation email
- Social Media links
- Twitter/Facebook push
- Email link
Your primary goals are to create a buzz and collect emails.* The way to do this is with active, intriguing language and engaging call(s) to action. Keep it short, simple and sweet as Pecan pie. There is such a thing as just enough copy*. And it’s usually much less than you thought. Hat tip to @brownthings
2) No really. What did you name your buttons?
“Submit”, “Subscribe” and “Signup” are all clinically unclear and not relevant to what the user is actually doing. (And “Click here” is nonsensical.) Make the button name part of the narrative, something active that reflects what the user is actually requesting. In most cases your Coming Soon page is asking/convincing users if they want to be contacted when the site launches. Try: “Notify me” or the ever-neutral “Go.”
3) Designing the Coming Soon page?
From a cost perspective a well-designed/coded Coming Soon page will cost between $800-2000 depending on the designer and the scope. It will usually consist of one main page, a form-submit and a post-submit landing page. Examples of good Coming Soon pages.
1) Will your Coming Soon page have Twitter/Facebook icons?
Do you have accounts set up on those sites? Have you built up a reasonable Twitter timeline? Is there content on your Facebook page? Do you have a social media strategy and/or someone who is going to man the social media fort? Ideally your social media campaign starts months before a “Coming Soon” page. Three Twitter followers and picture of your company mascot on Facebook does not inspire confidence.
2) Are you implementing a Facebook/Twitter push?
Giving users the option of sharing is the best way to extend your sphere of influencers. Facebook and Twitter both have simple code that makes it easy for users to share your Coming Soon page. Some gameify the push by moving users who share more up line on early invite to the beta. The line between marketing/tacky and useful/cool is a thin one, so make sure the sharing experience is about them and not you.
Email -To confirm or not to confirm?
1) Get confirmed
In order to weed out spam, and keep your database clean, send an invite code to the sent email for confirmation. This adds either one or two copywriting projects and a small coding project to your list of to-dos. The first — the invite code email (along with the code snippet). The second — a “you’re in, stay tuned” email, or landing page, that the user receives on select of the email code snippet.
2) No barrier to entry
The other route is to keep the user in the groove and let them submit any email address. This taxes the data integrity more than a bit and changes the entire strategy of the Coming Soon page.
Getting the word out
1) Now that you’ve done all this hard work, how will people find your Coming Soon page?
A newsletter seems to be lowest hanging fruit, so lets start there. Bear in mind newsletter coding is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, especially if you have to support IE6. Even if you use Mailchimp be prepared for a little HTML to work around the browser background-image issues. With that said, add one more copywriting project to your growing list of to-dos. First impressions count. But the sum of that impression made up of many, tiny parts executed flawlessly.
2) Newsletter design/copywriting
Unless you are going lo-fi add another $500-800 for a professional newsletter design to your timeline and budget. When working with your designer and copywriter keep in mind that the newsletter is not a duplication of the Coming Soon page.
Good news, this can probably all be done in a 2-3 days if you are focused, and have the staff. If you are hiring an agency or freelancers you can expect this to take 7-10 days depending on scope.
—Do the hard work now and don’t turn Coming Soon into Coming Sooner or Later.