Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and The Hare, tells the tale of a race between a tortoise (a slow and steady mover) and a hare (an animal with explosive speed). You’ve likely heard the story. The hare’s speed makes him arrogant. Confident of winning, he takes a nap midway through the race. When the hare awakes, he finds that the tortoise, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him.
I like to reference this fable in launch marketing, not because “slow and steady” is the better option but because it’s a wonderful analogy of the two types of trajectories entrepreneurs and creators can pursue in their launches.
The Tortoise launch trajectory is slow, steady, and focused on incremental improvements over a longer period of time. Entrepreneurs going this route will often launch without much fanfare. Instead, they opt to stay under the radar and make improvements to their launch marketing day by day. They tend to consider reaching their destination (a goal, such as revenue or customers) as a marathon, rather than a sprint.
This is how I have launched my organizations, without fanfare and fireworks, simply keeping my head down, working day by day, and seeing steady improvements successfully scale up the business.
The Hare launch trajectory is fast and explosive, focused on creating a massive impact on day one and using that momentum to spark sustained growth. Entrepreneurs going this route will be zeroed in on the launch day, with the vast majority of pre-launch efforts focusing on maximizing the potential of those first 24 hours. They hope that rapid, early success will put their brand and product name out there instantly (no flying under the radar for creators going this route), and help them to reach big goals quickly.
This is a favorite of Apple for release of any of its latest innovations. It often launches with a bang: long lines outside Apple stories, global launch events, months of anticipation in the lead up, and even the occasional “accidental” leak of a design, event, or date to boost excitement among its loyal followers.
Both the Tortoise and the Hare tactics are powerful, successful, launch marketing strategies. Only you can determine which is right for you, but consider a few pros and cons as you make your decision.
Pros and Cons: The Slow and Steady Tortoise
- Ability to minimize inefficiencies in spending (budget/time)
- Production and manufacturing remain manageable; don’t become overwhelmed
- Allows you to use profit as your marketing budget from day one
- Doesn’t provide big, impressive launch day revenue numbers to quote to media, investors, and other stakeholders
- Requires patience and longer-term thinking; doesn’t generally allow for quick, significant strategy pivots
The Tortoise strategy should be considered by entrepreneurs and creators who:
- Have small budgets and require revenue in order to invest further in their launch strategies
- Have a particularly low tolerance for risk
- Have tight margins and need a laser focus on making each and every marketing effort profitable before scaling up
- Are in the very early stages of product/idea development (for example, a prototype doesn’t exist in any form)
- Are pursuing their idea as a side gig or part-time project with limited hours available to commit
Pros and Cons: The Fast and Explosive Hare
- Can take your product from zero to “global hero” in a matter of days
- Draws higher levels of interest from investors, media, and other stakeholders
- If you fail fast, you learn fast (and can pivot quickly)
- Riskier and more stressful (more pressure for a big, fast, successful launch)
- Can require substantial budget prior to bringing in any revenue
- Can become a victim of your own success; are often beholden to production and manufacturing partners who may be unable to ramp up quickly enough to meet the demand (resulting in unhappy customers)
The Hare strategy should be considered by entrepreneurs and creators who:
- Want to launch through a crowdfunding platform
- Have sizeable budgets that come from sources other than their own launch revenue (bootstrapping, VCs, angel investors)
- Seek immediate success at launch, due to their need to show investors promising data, to capture market share quickly, or to feed their own ego
- Have a higher tolerance for risk
- Have a product or idea ready to go for immediate shipping/delivery to early customers
- Have a comprehensive team (whether internally or working with external partners) and substantial time/bandwidth to invest in the launch
Both launch trajectories should end up at the same destination (a revenue goal, for example) within roughly the same amount of time (a 30-to-90-day launch period). Essentially, they offer two different paths to that destination.short url: