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Why your local launches are failing—and how to fix them

By Emily Steele · April 21, 2021
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When I used to run a local networking group for women, I would see people get starry-eyed when they saw we had over 2,000 Facebook Group members.

"You mean to tell me that if I join this networking group, I have access to post to all these women?!"

While a select few actually used the Facebook Group effectively to build relationships, answer questions, and support the other women in there by tagging them, attending their events, and genuinely showing up for them, a majority of the members used the Group as a giant billboard.

As the admin of the group, I would see post requests come through from women who never introduced themselves, only promoted themselves, and would share basically anything and everything last minute ("Hey Ladies! I'm hosting a book club tomorrow at my office, RSVP to join!"). I had to publish the content since they were paying members, but I knew it wouldn't work out for them.

A year would pass, and these women would say, "I just didn't see results or get ROI from this."

Me: 🙃

Most of what I saw in that Group was a lot of women throwing together events, launches, and promotions in very little time, promoting it everywhere without thoughtful copy, and then crossing their fingers for a good turnout. And as I expanded to watching local business owners on Instagram, I saw the same exact thing.

Now's a good time to mention: this is not a criticism.

I totally understand being the person who says, "OMG THIS IS SUCH A GREAT IDEA FOR THE NEW YEAR EVEN THOUGH IT'S DECEMBER 10 LET'S JUST DO IT!"

You can ask my teammates and my closest friends: I'm 100% the person who enjoys taking an idea from 0 to 100 in about six days. But I have a lot of tools in my belt as a digital marketer, community builder, and someone with an engaged audience at Love Local. I know that I can typically (not always) pull off wild ideas because I've been doing it for a long time and know how to rinse and repeat the process, depending on what it is I want to launch.

Emily at a computer
This is me, looking way calmer about a launch than I actually am

I also want to acknowledge that a quick launch or limited promotion can help you generate cash for your business. Sometimes things get tight, and you need the extra dough to cover your bills or get the team paid. These launches you create come from both a good place and a place of desperation. It's real. I've been in that place.

When I had my baby last year, I threw together an online course because I realized I didn't have the capacity to do 1:1 services like I wanted. But I also knew my audience was ready for online marketing and local business growth education in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone needed to figure out how to be online fast and effectively.

The last thing I want is for you to read this and feel deflated. Instead, I want you to read this and see possibility. Whether it's more sales generated, more new customers, audience growth—the opportunity to get mileage out of a launch is available to you.

5 reasons your local launches are failing—and how to make them better

1. You're not giving yourself or your audience enough lead time

In that local networking group, I rarely saw people promoting an event with a long enough lead time. I don't know about you, but spontaneity is hard to come by for me—and practically everyone I know. Most people plan out their lives weeks or months in advance. Or if they don't, it's for a reason: they have no time. 

Think about yourself as a human outside of your business...I know it's hard.

If someone you barely knew asked if you could come to their event tomorrow, would you be available? How far out are you planning your schedule? What things do you think about when deciding what events to attend and when? 

I'm writing this during pandemic times, but before the pandemic, many launches I would see were event-focused. I absolutely adore seeing local business owners do this, especially when there's a collaboration element, but how much happens in your local community and your personal/business life on any given day? How many times do you scroll by a Facebook event or a post on Instagram about a new launch and think, "Oh...that sounds awesome!" and then move on with your day?

You likely need to see it a few more times, perhaps get sent a direct invite from a friend or the owner, see an email in your inbox with the details before you fully jump on board. It takes time to effectively create and execute a game plan for a launch, both as the business owner and as the person deciding if it's the right time, location, and price.

There's not a perfect formula for the lead time on promoting a launch, but my suggestion is this: understand what the goals of the launch are. If you're launching a brand new service, how far out can you book those services? How much does the service cost? How much time are you willing to put into promoting it? If you can book 75 appointments with your staff, and it's valued at $100, that's $7,500 in revenue you didn't have before. But could you realistically book 75 appointments in a week right now with no prep? I'd consider giving yourself a solid timeline to tease the new product and have a live launch week. 

And I know I said there's no perfect formula, but I do have a rule of thumb: six weeks. Give yourself six weeks.

2. You don't actively engage with your audience, so they're not really paying attention when you do launch

I see a lot of people still using social media to post and ghost. They're showing up spontaneously to promote a new product, and then logging off for a week. 

If this is you, honestly, you're better off not using social. You may as well focus your time on other areas where your business is generating leads and sales. If you continue to treat Instagram or Facebook like a billboard, or only use it when you happen to think about it, people will tune you out. 

Social media is meant to be social. So comment, DM, engage, send messages to ideal customers on Facebook—stay connected. If you're working with a freelancer or agency, ask them how they're cultivating community, building your audience, and converting them to customers. Because social media can do that, but only if you use it the right way.

One of my former clients, Mallory, opened Des Moines Mercantile in the middle of a pandemic, and she has thousands of people not only following her brand but actively shopping with her and posting about her stuff. She's not lucky—she's a strategic community builder (who was featured in Vogue!). We worked together in 2020 to ensure she was using her social media platform to effectively launch and promote everything that was coming up for her.

Des Moines Mercantile's Facebook Group

Your audience is ready to listen if they've hit that follow button, so make sure you're engaging.

3. You're hiding behind your product or your boutique or your beautiful branded designs

I know. It's easier to share your pretty products or your beautiful space or those killer graphics you created in Canva. But if you want momentum, it's time to show us your face.

When you're in a local community, people borderline expect to know the owner, the chef, the barista, you name it. Those connections are so meaningful and highly underutilized. People do business with people.

You don't need a curated feed or a perfect hair day to show your face in your content. Start infusing who you are in your Stories, Facebook Lives, and everywhere in between so people can get to know you: what you stand for, the snacks you choose during the workday, the coffee shops you buy from, and the other small things that connect us to one another. It may feel small, but it will bring in the people that align with you in both big and small ways.

4. The launch just wasn't juicy enough

Why should I attend? Why should I buy now? What will I learn? I have like six other things happening that day—why is yours the most important? What problem does this solve for me as a customer?

People are busy. They need a reason to make this launch a priority, so help them do that. Get really clear on who your ideal customer is, why they would want to participate in this launch, and what might prevent them from doing it.

One of my clients was hosting a once-a-year sale and event, and wanted to ensure customers would attend (pre-pandemic days!). She decided to offer free appetizers and champagne along with raffle gift bags and balloons people could pop to discover their prize. These small touches turned a sale into a sought-after event in town that resulted not only in many sales that night but also new customers coming into her clinic for many months after.

Give your launch some spice to encourage people to spend their money or time with you.

5. You didn't maximize the platforms that are totally free to use

There are so many free tools available to promote your launch. Use them.

Create a Facebook event, post in the event, DM people (please make it personal—you can copy and paste, but make it feel like it's actually to me!), post multiple times on multiple platforms the week of the launch, put your event in your Google My Business profile, create an events tab or share the promotion on your website, get an email out to your list. 

You don't even have to do it all manually—you can use a tool like Zapier to do some of the repetitive tasks for you, like cross-posting on social media or sending reminder emails to people who sign up for the launch.

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

If you're going to launch something, get the most mileage as possible out of it.

Wrap up

Remember that there are other benefits of launching, even if people don't attend. Maybe they came across your Facebook Event and followed your page. They're not quite ready to invest in your brand, but they're curious. Or maybe a friend shared an Instagram post of your launch, and now you have a new follower, but they couldn't participate. 

I think about everything we did when we launched the Local to Legend podcast. It was a ton of work, but it grew our audience dramatically, increased the leads coming into the business, and grew our email list. The long-term benefits of launching the podcast the way we did will be felt for months if not decades to come.

Your launch doesn't have to be as drastic as a podcast. It could be a simple sale. Or a collaboration with another local business. Or a canned food drive for a local food pantry. But whatever it is, you want to make sure it's worth the time, money, and energy you pour into it. Avoid these pitfalls, and turn your launches into big winners for your business.

This was a guest post from Emily Steele, a creative entrepreneur on a mission to help individuals + business owners create a bigger impact with their presence online and offline. If you're a local business owner looking to create an irresistible and profitable business, Emily would love to hear from you. If you need something to run with today, she has you covered with this free training for local business owners who want to become a staple in their own local community. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.

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Emily Steele picture

Emily Steele

Emily is a creative entrepreneur on a mission to help individuals + business owners create a bigger impact with their presence online and offline. She has spent the last 10 years finding innovative ways to make a difference. From launching a local bike ride that has given a community in Ghana access to clean water + education to creating POP UP YOGA DSM to introduce yoga to more people in the metro, Emily has an ability to take an idea and mobilize it by getting the community on board. You can currently find Emily working with local community builders (hummingbirds) and with local business owners around the US to increase their visibility + impact inside of Local Business School. When she isn't diving into fun work projects, Emily can be found exploring the world with her husband Zach + baby Penelope or hopping around different local coffee + brewery establishments. Learn more at www.emilyasteele.com.


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