A #LeanStartup interview with LaunchBit’s Elizabeth Yin
AgilityFeat recently held a great event in Costa Rica called DareToBeLean, where we invited entrepreneurs to join us on the beach for workshops on lean startups and agility. As we were planning that event in the fall of 2012, I looked at a number of ways to advertise the event. One looked particularly appealing to me: LaunchBit.
LaunchBit places your ad on email newsletters
LaunchBit is an ad network for email newsletters. They help you get your message in front of very targeted demographics by placing your banner ads in multiple newsletters that will reach your customer segments. It’s very easy to use, and you can see what sort of traffic you are getting from each newsletter, and opt-out of advertising in any newsletters that you don’t think are a good fit.
I was curious to learn more about how they got their start, so I did a brief interview with co-founder Elizabeth Yin.
An interview with LaunchBit’s Elizabeth Yin
I grew up in the Silicon Valley during the dot com boom. And, during that time, I interned with a number of startups and was so inspired that my best friend Jennifer and I decided to form a pact to one day start a company together. Lots of years came and went, but Jennifer is my co-founder today.
We started working together at the end of 2009/early 2010 just dabbling in a number of different web ideas before deciding to do LaunchBit in the summer of 2011.
Q: How did you validate your business idea?
LaunchBit is an ad network for email newsletters. Much like a Google ad widget serves up ads on blogs, we do the same for email newsletters. Building an ad server with targeting and a bidding system is not trivial, so we decided to validate our idea with no technology at first.
The first week we got the idea for LaunchBit, we cold-called up a handful of email newsletters and a handful of potential advertisers to see if they would be willing to run some tests with us. And, by the end of week 2, we had manually placed a couple of advertisers’ campaigns in a few email newsletters and collected their money in my personal PayPal account. After the results looked promising — meaning the publishers were happy with the revenue, and the advertisers found value in their campaigns, we decided to ramp up the number of publishers and advertisers we were working with.
We had virtually no technology during this time period. We only wrote out some code to measure basic analytics to report back to both parties. But, beyond that, we worked with everyone in a concierge like manner — almost like how an agency would work. As things kept looking good, we started building technology to enable people to upload ad campaigns, pay, bid, serve ads, do targeting, etc. But, all of that came gradually. Our philosophy is to sell first and then build in parallel what you know you need, and whatever you currently don’t have serve manually.
Q: How is newsletter advertising different than search engine ads?
Search engine ads are great for products/services that are already established. For example, finding a plumber or finding accounting software. But if you have a new product that no one is even searching for, search engine ads can be tough to get value from.
Newsletter advertising gets you in front of particular demographics. For example: software developers, or entrepreneurs, or new moms. Moreover, this demographic tends to be quite loyal, since they opt-into these newsletters (as opposed to just stumbling on a particular blog article).
Q: What is the best way for a startup with a limited budget to use Launchbit?
Our minimum budget for LaunchBit is $500 per month. We initially had no minimum, but we found that when people only tried $100 or so, it was really just random chance if our network could help. Depending on what an advertiser bids, our platform tries to place each ad campaign in a variety of different email newsletters to see which ones work well for the advertiser. We don’t believe all newsletters will work out, so that’s why having a good enough budget to test is important.
Early stage startups utilize our network to acquire new customers to help get product feedback, typically to help get them to product/market fit. Later stage startups who have a good sense of their lifetime values will use our network to help them acquire customers rapidly in their growth phase.
Q: Launchbit is described as “beta” on your site. What’s beta about it, and how will you decide to take off the beta label?
We have the core aspects of our ad platform in place, but there are some major user experience issues and features that could make our product a lot better. For example: on the advertiser side, advertisers cannot upload multiple creatives. They can email us multiple creatives, which we can upload in the back, but right now, in our interface, you can only upload one creative. We know this is a problem and something I would consider to be core to any ad network (though not a top-top priority), but we haven’t gotten around to it. I think a product comes out of beta when you can look at that product and say, “Wow, this product has a great user flow and does all the basics 99.99% bug-free.”
Q: Launchbit is particularly good at lead generation, which is important to startups. What is the key to generating good leads for a new product?
1) Having a good landing page is really important. I see a number of startups send traffic to a page without compelling info in an easy-to-read/act layout. There are lots of blog articles now on how to make a high-converting landing page. It’s key to do this first before running ads.
2) Write compelling copy on both the landing page and the ad creative. It will take some time to find messaging that sticks. One way to find messaging that works is to test lots of copy with different ads, which can cost money. But, another way is to narrow down that list by pitching lots of people in-person first to see if people even understand what you’re talking about. I.e. Figure out if your messaging is clear before seeing if it resonates.
Check out LaunchBit!
In my experience, LaunchBit provided a much better click through rate than Google Ads, and so it’s a great option to consider for your startup. From their home page you can see all the companies that have tried them out, and it’s a pretty impressive list. That helped push me over the edge to try LaunchBit too. To learn more and setup an account, visit LaunchBit.com
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