As tube strike chaos hit London, and with my bike out of action, I thought it would be wise to avoid the sardine like conditions of public transport yesterday and work from home to map out the launch plan for a new service we are launching in January: ULCC Digital Services.ULCC Digital Services will aim to help colleges and universities embrace the benefits of digital marketing, with a particular emphasis on SEO, PPC and social media.LaunchingWith a limited budget, and a strong belief that the marketing associated with the launch should be based around engagement rather than interruption wherever possible, the initial plan is going to heavily consist of a mixture of permission style marketing (check out Permission Marketing by Seth Godin for more details) and inbound marketing. Social media will act as the core distribution and engagement platform.The range of initial launch activities are as follows and will hopefully act as a useful reference point for those looking to launch new services with limited budgets in the new year.The points below do not reference the market research and service development phases etc we went through to determine whether the proposed service was commercially viable. These bullets are purely focused on the marketing related activities associated with the launch.Let me know what you think in the comments below.Pre-Launch Activity

  • Obtain list of decision makers from within target audience – be sure to use DMA approved suppliers (growing a list organically will be the core focus for us on an ongoing basis but an initial list is considered useful to drive the early stages of the permission marketing related launch activities)
  • Produce and share our business manifesto document – essentially the agencies approach to business and customer service etc. Being transparent and customer centric is going to be a core element to the ongoing management of the agency
  • Identify key influencers (individuals and groups/associations) within the market place –  follow these on Twitter etc. Google alerts, blog search, Twitter search etc will be used to determine these individuals and groups
  • Social media – setup presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (set up company page and setup/join relevant groups), SlideShare and YouTube. Tools such as Forresters Social Technographics model will help you profile your target audience and establish which tools are most relevant for your marketing efforts. The audience we are looking to serve, for example, are a mix of Joiners and Spectators so the tools referenced above and a blog are considered relevant.
  • Blog
    • Set up blog
    • Brainstorm content ideas
    • Write initial selection of 5 posts

Implementation PhaseThe range of activities during the launch phase are shown below. While focus is very important during these early stages, it will also be important to remain flexible in order to adapt to situations within the market place as they present themselves.Again, the following bullets are designed to give a feel for how we are going to manage the launch of our new business unit. This is not an in-depth plan.

  • Blogging – create value add content based around our target audiences core challenges. Content, with some exceptions, is not going to be about our service as such, but be focused on our customers and helping them meet their objectives. Ongoing commitment to create content (both written and video) will be incorporated into all future phases of the development of the business.
  • Social Media – create, share and, most importantly, interact and engage with targeted people on the social networking platforms selected during the pre-launch stage. Create lists of key influencers, prospects and relevant search terms, for example, in Twitter. The aim will then be to live within these groups and focus on dialogue and building relationships, rather than just broadcasting sales messages. After time, though, more sales messages will be incorporated but with balance.
  • Events (tweetups/unconference) – After an initial focus on building relationships/credibility online, it is proposed that we then host a small number of community events. The aim of these events is not to directly sell, but to act as a custodian/facilitator of the community. The aim is to be seen as a valued member of the community rather than simply a sales person.
    • Tweetup – run a local tweetup to give people within the community an opportunity to get together and share best practice about digital marketing within the academic sector. Adding value is a core focus with these events
    • Unconference – After time, organise and host an unconference style event to give the community a slightly more formal opportunity to come together and share their experiences. Again, the focus will be on adding value to the community rather than directly selling.
    • Speaking opportunities – (see key influencers) – seek out speaking slots – dont make it about the service (call to action should, again, be value add orientated). Examples could be to ask delegates to give their business card and be emailed the slides or e-book on the subject etc
  • Key Influencers – connect with (in person or online) the key influencer group identified within the pre-launch stage. The aim here is to get feedback on the service, identify potential co-marketing opportunities and ultimately add value to the groups etc they represent. This will be a crucial stage.
  • SEO – both the value add content and web pages about the services on offer will be search optimised for the common search terms used by the target community. Tools such as Word Tracker will be used to help this process. All pages will have a call to action – sign up to email alerts, friend us on Facebook/Twitter etc – and will be monitored and optimised on an ongoing basis.
  • PPC – paid search, again using the key words and phrases highlighted during the pre-launch phase will be used to enhance more tactical orientated activities.
  • Email – using purchased list, run a series of targeted mailings (use a service such as MailChimp which offers great reporting functionality on open rates etc) to share the value add content. Focused on sharing something of value that stimulates a response to receive additional communication (sign up for email alerts or friend on Twitter). With an emphasis on social media for the opt-in option, frequency can then be achieved both cost effectively and with permission at, typically, less cost than advertising etc.

Traditional sales activities to follow-up and nurture the opportunities that are generated along the way combined with a focused CRM programme will complement the points list above.This is just a rough overview of the sort of activities we are going to focus on to launch the agency. It obviously lacks any real detail or specific examples, but should hopefully act as a useful guide for some.As I mentioned previously, I would love to hear what you think about the approach above. Also, if you have any questions about how you can use social media, in particular, for your launch please feel free to drop me a line. I would be happy to share any advice I can give.

Flickr image credit