16 brilliant hacks to launch a successful online business


Launching a new product or service isn’t what it used to be. In the “good old days,” you could hire a PR agency to craft a press release and set up a press tour. For good or bad, those days are gone.

We are in a connected world today. The internet, along with smart phones, has changed the way business is done. A lot of businesses now exist solely on the internet.  Running an online business is inherently risky.

That’s why we’ve drawn up a list of brilliant hacks for launching your online business and increasing the probability of your success.

1. Start your preparations early

Don’t expect reporters to write about you when you want. Get a head start and begin preparing long before you plan to launch. A rolling launch is a great way to keep the conversation going. Start your outreach activities 6-8 weeks before the official launch date and then keep the news going up to, and beyond the official launch date.

2. Make the product or service available to important influencers

Influencers can be friendly customers, prospects, or even bloggers who have a sizable online presence. Encourage these people to use your product or service, all they have to do in return?  write reviews articles.

These folks are also great resources to talk to analysts about your offering pre-launch.

3. Create a Sense of exclusivity

Inject your online business with a sense of exclusivity.

You could make it such that the only way users can access your service is by getting an exclusive invite either from the company itself or from an existing user.

You could also let in a limited number of users every week.  Finally, make it imperative that your prospects are spreading the word about your business at the same time as they are trying to sign up.

4. Reward new customers and referrals

Let’s use Paypal as a good case study. PayPal’s brilliant hack when they launched was extremely simple, yet incredibly effective – pay $20 to each new person who signed up, and another $20 for referring their friends.

The result? Paying for referrals enabled PayPal to achieve 7% to 10% DAILY growth, very quickly skyrocketing the service from 1 million users in March 2000, to 5 million users in the summer of the same year. Over time, the reward scheme dropped to $10, then to $5, and then disappeared altogether. But it didn’t matter, for by then the PayPal network was so big that it had enough value in its own right, so cash incentives were no longer necessary.

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This is a very good example from Uber

You might not have a big marketing budget to spend but you will have a marketing budget of some kind. You can also incentivize users with the very thing you’re selling.

5. Gamify Your Waiting List

This hack works if your product is yet to launch but want to get as many people on your waiting list as possible.

Now, you might think that there’s very little you can offer customers who aren’t even actual customers yet. But, there is much value to be had in gamifying the waiting list process. For example, those waiting eagerly to gain access to your product/service can be bumped up the list in accordance with how many of their friends they successfully referred. This is a sample from

You can see the snowball effect clearly in your mind’s eye – referrals will breed referrals. The trick, though, is through the gamification of the process. Each person who signs up is presented with a thank you message, for instance, and the number of people already on the waiting list (i.e. providing the social proof that your product/service is worth waiting for). But, if you wanted to jump the queue, all you had to do was refer your friends.

Insert the CTA buttons to accomplish that and Voila! Watch the referrals pile up.

6. Do something unusual during the release cycle

Some examples include creating a funny video, doing a stunt centered around an industry event, publishing a survey that supports the value of your product, or creating an interesting infographic that describes the need for your product.

For example, for a recent product launch, this company created a mock public service announcement (PSA) website that warned of the ‘dangers’ of using their new mobile product while walking. The irony created an enormous buzz around the launch and even led to a huge spike in free product downloads.

7. Run a Contest

If you have an awesome product then people are going to want the chance to win it (especially if they can get early access). Use this demand to run a contest that leverages virility & sharing.

8. Build a free plugin

Free plugins always win! are an easy way to grab a slice of a mass market (and also plug your main product).

They are an easy way to grab a slice of a mass market (and also plug your main product).

9. Use Timing To Your Advantage

You can leverage events or specific timing to the advantage of your app. For example, when Google announced they were shutting down Google Reader – Feedly instantly created a landing page to allow easy import to their service.

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10. Leverage Your Own Network

When starting out, a smart thing to do would be to rally all the people within your network. The logic behind this is simple… you want these people to rally all the people they know within their own network to use/try/test your product for early feedback & validation.

If you have a consumer facing app then this tactic can also bring you a lot of your early adopters or beta testers.

People to consider:

Friends & family

Facebook friends

Friends from College/High School/University

Twitter followers

Usergroups (i.e. Facebook social groups)

Meetup attendees

Just remember, that these people may or may not be the target market for your product – so ask them if they know anyone (or can refer anyone) that is!

11. Make It Easy To Get Press

When launching your startup, you want press, lots of it. The “But” is it isn’t going to come without a significant amount of work done.

Scout websites/press sites you want to feature on, woo the journalists (You can do this by leaving in-depth reviews on their articles) by so doing when you send them a message asking for an interview or a review it’s easier and there’s the likelihood of getting it free.

To make things easier, you should consider building a press kit to make it easy for journalists that want to write about your company. Consider including:

Overview: Give a brief overview of your business. What is it about? What problem are you solving? what is your mission, your vision? mention briefly how your business intends to solve the problem

Founder Bios: People want to see the who behind the what. Provide a founder’s bios that details your qualifications, experiences, qualities and possibly how you conceived the idea for your startup. See TickPick’s co-founders bio.

Founder High-res Images: This is non-negotiable. Find the time to take professional photographs. If you intend to get your face in front of everyone, you might as well look your best.

Other details you can provide in the press kit include Company Background, Industry Expert Quotes, Product Screenshots, your company Logo and case studies.

12. Organize Your Web Assets

This extends much further than just organizing your business. Your web assets are everything from your website to your social media profiles to your hosting account. These need to be in order.

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All relevant assets should be optimized for your brand. For example, your social media and web pages should have the relevant keywords.

They should fall into an integrated marketing plan. And they should be completely updated with the latest information about your company.

13. Maintain Customer Records Safely

One problem business owners have is that they need to be able to keep records safely. You have a legal obligation to protect any customer information obtained online. For example, you should store information on separate devices and have a number of secure backups.

Your systems must be kept updated and controls should be implemented and access should be restricted only to specific employees.

14. Know your competition

Any good business will know its competition. You need to know who you’re competing against so that you know why customers choose you over others or vice versa. Nowhere is this more important than in the online world.

You should be aware of social media channels your competition is using. And you should inspect keyword usage from all your competitors using the variety of tools Google provides.

15. Protect Your Brand’s Online Reputation

Online business is all about reputation. A slip up can taint your brand forever.

Setup a Google Alerts notification for your brand. That way, you’ll be able to inspect any mention of your brand.

Have a firm set of branding and social media guidelines, so anyone posting on behalf of your brand is aware of what you expect from them. Learn to deal with customer complaints and adopt a mindset of solving problems; even if the customer is wrong.

16. Invest in a good internet connection

Since an online business runs online, it is only common sense to invest in a fast and reliable internet connection. Without a fast internet connection, you could miss out on orders and customer questions. In short, your business could be paralyzed.

The principles of starting and growing a successful online business, as a matter of fact, any business remain largely the same. If you are just starting your own online business, go through the list above and pick a combination you feel could work for your business.

If you have been online for a while, do a review to find out which of the hacks you have tried, if they aren’t working, see which of them you haven’t tried and give them a shot. You can’t go wrong with these launching basics.