It’s what every startup dreams about: launch day! But how  do you incentivize your first handful of users to try out your service? Tenporium recently launched into private beta after two years of hard work. I had a chance to chat with Luke, one of the founders, about his launch strategy and how they were able to obtain strong traction and positive feedback from early users.

So what exactly is Tenporium?

Tenporium puts a social spin on product reviews. Through a fun and interactive community, we collectively determine the top 10 products in various categories. For example, the top 10 iPhone accessories.

What was your launch strategy?

For the last two years, we’ve had a homepage up with a place to enter your email if you’re interested in Tenporium and want an invite once the service launches. We used this invite list to seed our private beta. We also created a blog post about our 300 t-shirt giveaway. And used various forms of marketing to market that post. For example, Stumbleupon ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, Google Adwords, paid tweets, social bookmarking sites, submitting to contest sites, posting on forums, contacting Amazon reviewers, etc. The first 300 people to create an account and write five reviews got a free Tenporium shirt.

Did the incentive work to increase signups and reviews?

Yes, it definitely helped us get people to sign up and write reviews! People like free stuff and the winners were pretty excited about the t-shirt. Before we launched into private beta, we weren’t really marketing our site or generating much buzz. We didn’t really have an existing user community before the t-shirt giveaway, so most of the users who completed the contest were new signups who came primarily to win a t-shirts. However, the majority of these users ended up liking the site itself and gave us very positive feedback on the concept.

Anything you’d do differently next time? Advice for other Startups?

Yeah, it was a learning experience. Next time we’d track our marketing efforts better. Set up tracking so we can differentiate our different campaigns and see which marketing channel was the most effective. We’d probably use Google Analytics in conjunction with their URL Builder to generate tagged links.

It would have helped to make the objective of the contest easier. For example, write three reviews instead of five reviews. We would have had even more t-shirt winners and three reviews is still quite a bit of content in exchange for a t-shirt.

And it was no small task to handle the logistics of the promotion. Identifying the winners was time consuming. Maybe we should have had had the user email us when they finished instead of querying the database to determine the winners. Even more time consuming than identifying the winners was contacting them and having them reply with their size/ shipping info and then collecting that info, storing it, and fulfilling the merchandise. Next time we’d improve the fulfillment process.