I'm a software guy so the approach I tend towards is to build something which does at least some core functionality first before telling anyone about it, and refine it through usage.
But recently I met someone who was from a marketing background and he had launched an online "coming soon" type campaign which was quite flashy and looked great but there isn't a line of code written or even any software design behind it. I was shocked that he would expose his ideas before having something done because anyone out there could copy the concept and beat him to market. However he does have the advantage of refining the concept through feedback before even investing time in building anything?
What are the pros and cons of the two vastly different approaches to launching a web application concept?
The terms that cover this type of activity are "Lean Startup" and "Minimum Viable Product"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_viable_product http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_Startup Google around those terms and you will find a huge amount of info. Eric Rees seems to be the man of the moment on this particular 'revolution'
Taking this to the extreme is the idea that you put up a landing page describing what you're going to do with an email sign up form if they are interested. They have to be somewhat interested to give you their email address so you get to test demand all before you've got a single line of code written. (You can use same to test marketing strategies at same time - e.g. see how many signups you can get for $100 of adwords). For the landing page you can use some pre-built templates or a 'viral' take on this at LauchRock and KickOffLabs.
Cons could be
One of the biggest issues I see with making the announcement too early is that in software development, the scope, sometimes including 'basic' features and functionality, tend to change throughout the development process, not to mention the launch schedule. This means a possibility of creating incorrect expectations in the marketplace, promising a schedule you can't meet or simply spending time marketing a concept that at launch will have changed, maybe drastically.
That said, with the right branding but lack of too much detail, you can run a fun 'teaser' campaign (ie 'Coming Soon!') in order to collect email addresses as mentioned in the previous reply, to develop a social media following, and to begin collecting analytics on the people who do visit the teaser landing page. Also, don't discount the SEO benefits of getting a 'Coming Soon' page up sooner than later. Social media especially is a great place to get buzz going around an idea that has yet to fully develop without spending too many unnecessary resources too early.
I have been coding for long and then switched to marketing and starting my own business. In my opinion marketing and campaign goes side by side while you are developing the product.
No matter how great your product would be finally, if not done marketed properly it won’t reach the end user.
So IMHO you should plan your launch campaign the same time you started conceptualizing your product. So as you proceed with the development, you can keep your followers or targeted customers updated.
For example, the day you created a logo or the first GUI, share it with the world. Let people share their feedback at every stage.
So if there is a need to tweak something in the product, you have a chance to tweak your campaign as well. Also if you start your campaign alongside the development, you will have at least first 10 users who would love to test your product
Another advantage of this approach is, you will be able to perfect your pitch for marketing your product.
And with respect to others copying your idea or concept, one should not be worried. Because some one who wish to copy with copy it even after 3 months or six months. So start on a positive note J