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[Review] Launch

Launch

How does one achieve success on social media? How can companies achieve phenomenal growth without spending on advertising? 

The secrets to this and more can be found in “Launch“, by social media marketing guru Michael Stelzner. Subtitled How To Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, the book provides useful and practical tips to guide marketers in creating their own content marketing strategy and tactics while leveraging on both internal and external influencers.

Host of the popular Social Media Marketing podcast (I’m a fan and regular listener), Stelzner’s book is a treasure trove of social media tricks and tips. Using the analogy of a rocket launching itself into space, he proposes a marketing formula called the Elevation Principle which goes like this:

GC + OP – MM = G

Read as: “Great Content” plus “Other People” minus “Marketing Messages” equals “Growth”, the Elevation Principle can be defined as “the process of meeting the core desires of prospects and customers by helping them solve their basic problems at no cost”.

At its heart, “Launch is about producing great content (aka “primary fuel”) such as detailed how-to articles, expert interviews, case studies, and more to help other people solve their problems. By producing helpful content that inspires, informs and engages, we’re able to “demonstrate expertise by the content (we) produce, the ideas (we) showcase, the stories (we) share, and the people (we) attract”. This in turn reduces the need to advertise to attract people to your business.

Planning & Discovering

Before embarking on our marketing mission, Stelzner advises us to be clear with our vision, develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals, and set our course trajectory. We should also look for role models by asking peers and industry experts, study big brands, or ask our community of followers. 

To augment our knowledge, we should set up “idea vaults” and create a discovery system that allows us to find influential people and experts, discern industry trends, and locate interesting content. Sources include Google Alerts, bookmark services like Delicious.com, Twitter Search, conferences, Amazon’s Hot New Releases list, and more.

Working with People

There are three groups whom we should work with.

Customer Community/ Reader Base
Develop personas and profiles for our ideal reader base. Who should these people be like? Which industries/companies are they be working in? What are their topical interests? What job titles do they hold? Probing more deeply, we should also identify the problems that they face, their familiarity with our topics, as well as their desires, needs and wants.

Outside Experts
These are the folks with the experience, training and knowledge to take things up a notch. They can help to expand your network through mutually beneficial arrangements, add credibility, attract other experts and help your business to stand out. To provide value to these experts, offer to expose them to your crowd, promote their projects, and make it easy for them.

Fire Starters
The “superheroes” of our industry, fire starters are experts with direct access to a highly engaged reader base that closely matches the base we’re trying to acquire. Often, these experts have incredible influence. However, they need to be provided with unique opportunities to be part of something big.

Gifts, Social Proof and Calls to Action

True gifts engage people and help build relationships. In the social media world, this means content that is genuinely helpful and is not wrapped in marketing messages. Beyond free content that helps people solve their problems, we should publicly recognise the outstanding efforts of others, promote other people’s content, and provide social proof (eg Facebook Fans, Tweet numbers, Email subscribers, etc).


A call to action is a “suggested activity that guides people toward an outcome”. Often, the use of popup subscription boxes and integration of a call to action in the navigation bar helps. In the book, these includes phrases such as the following:

- Register for our free newsletter;
- Click here to access special content;
- Join us on Facebook;
- Please leave your comments in the box below; and
- Purchase now by clicking here. 

Great Content – the Fuel of Marketing

According to Stelzner, great content is highly relevant, education, easy to digest, visually appealing, and conversation inviting, while lacking a sales angle. Ideally, we should develop an editorial calendar which includes two categories of content:

1) Primary Fuel
Part of your regular programming, primary fuel is equivalent to the “gifts” that you routinely provide to your followers and community. They can be developed by yourself, outside experts, or freelancers, and includes “how-to” articles, expert interviews, reviews (books, videos, etc), case studies, news stories and contrarian stories (those with an opposing view to a main idea). 

2) Nuclear Fuel
Considered more “potent” with the potential the grab the attention of many people, such content is usually more difficult to produce. However, they could reap significant benefits if done well. Examples include research and survey reports, white papers, top 10 contests (e.g. favorite people, products, blogs or businesses), and micro events (e.g. webinars and other “live” events).

Marketing and Selling

Finally, to monetize on all the followers and fans that we’ve built through producing great content, we should tactically weave our marketing in through the following approaches:

1) Create marketing messages that drive people to our content, and not our products and services;

2) Generate leads by asking people to register and sign up for free valuable content;

3) Promote free content as opposed to products and services; and

4) Market through our subscription channels like emails, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts.

Through the Velocity Launch approach, we can market our products and services to our subscribers and reader base by “building anticipation and momentum that excites (our) reader base about (our) products or services while also moving them closer to a purchase decision”. The key here is to infuse our content with subtle marketing messages while guiding readers towards our offerings. Here, Stelzner provides a detailed case study involving his company’s Social Media Success Summit – its main cash cow.

Overall, I found “Launch to be a highly readable and compelling guide to navigating the world of social media. Although the book was published in 2011, most of its principles still ring true in this day and age.

A firm believer in “giving to get” marketing, Stelzner is generous with sharing his experience and insights. In fact, you can still get lots of great content for free on Social Media Examiner!

Highly recommended.


Walter is a seasoned marketer and publicist with almost 19 years of experience in marketing, communications, social media engagement, events management, strategic planning and corporate development. A judge of the Singapore Blog Awards, he blogs at Cooler Insights.

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