You and your team have spent thousands of hours bringing a new product to fruition. You’ve invested energy and not insignificant financial resources in multiple development cycles and you’ve worked through prototypes that almost worked, could have worked, and were almost good enough. Finally you are ready to go with a product that you and your team are proud of and it is time to press the button on the product launch.
But what should you have in mind before you press that button?
We’ve pulled together some of the best advice around to help you answer that question.
HubSpot: 14 Essential Elements of a Flawless Product Launch
Rick Burnes has a long list of advice for anyone contemplating launching a new product or a new innovation on an existing product. He covers the entire spectrum of the launch, from identifying the customer though to practicalities of launch day, including this tip on the launch speech:
If you’re launching with a speech, do a test run in front of your whole company.
Many companies launch new products in a speech at a major event. If you’re doing this, have the executive giving the speech do a dry run in front of the whole company. Marc Benioff does before Dreamforce every year, and we’ve started doing it at HubSpot before INBOUND. You can pitch it to the executive as a way to communicate the launch messaging to the company (you don’t need to mention that it’s also a great way to get him or her to practice in front of an important audience).
Fast Company: 8 Ways to Ensure Your New-Product Launch Succeeds
Marsha Lindsay at Fast Company offers product launch tips on everything from avoiding the hype to mapping and metrics to keep an eye on. Significantly in these days of social media marketing she also identifies why simply collecting ‘likes’ on a Facebook page isn’t necessarily converting customers to your cause:
Face what you must really accomplish through Facebook.
Nielsen reveals that the number one reason a Facebook user “likes” a brand is to receive a discount or special offer. Their research also shows 84% of users who “like” a brand on Facebook never return to a brand’s page after exercising the incentive that got them there. This means the typical marketer’s Facebook strategy is doing little to grow their customer base, and worse, it could be inadvertently and dramatically hurting their margins. Marketers must ask themselves: What—beyond a discount—will both incent new customers to like my brand and habituate their interaction with it?
Smart Insights: The 11 Step Startup Launch Marketing Plan
Andrew Laughlan offers some expert advice at Smart Insights with an 11 point plan for tech startups. While his audience is specific, the advice can be applied outside of the startup sector and tech industry. Indeed, his very first step is essential for launching a product in almost any industry:
Strategic positioning (and Early Adopter target market definition)
The first step in a successful brand/product launch program is a strategic positioning exercise, including the early adopter target market simulation. Correct positioning is as critical as aiming your guns in the right direction at the start of an assault.
Start by defining the ‘category’ that your product/service exists within and then map it to its key product benefits, the core value proposition and competitor benchmarking – right down to core messages and launch strategies, plans and objectives – at least for the first 12-24 months.
Keep asking: ‘who exactly is my customer and why exactly should they buy from me?’
Inc: 9 Things to Do Before Launching Your Startup
Janine Popick at Inc magazine takes the product launch strategy a step back and highlights the importance of building an audience for your launch even before you have a working prototype of your new product. She explains her reasoning thus:
Building an audience before you even have a product is critical. You’re going to need to tap people to test what you’re building, and it can’t be Aunt Mary and Uncle George. You’re going to have to answer the question every potential investor asks: “How many people are using the product today?” (Tip: Almost no one anymore invests in companies that don’t have customers.)
Companies have proven that you can build an audience with prelaunch marketing. This is how Gmail started, isn’t it?
Indeed it is. But even if you don’t have Gmail-like ambitions, Topic’s advice is valuable and directly on point.
HBR: Why Most Product Launches Fail
Finally there’s the cautionary tale from the Harvard Business Review that takes the alternate position. Instead of telling you how to get your product launch right, the HBR explains what most product launches get wrong. Joan Schneider and Julie Hall highlight five key flaws commonly found in product launches, including what might be called ‘the Segway problem’:
The product is revolutionary, but there’s no market for it.
The Lesson: Don’t gloss over the basic questions “Who will buy this and at what price?”
The buzz spiraled out of control when news of a secret new product code-named Ginger and created by the renowned inventor Dean Kamen leaked to the press nearly 12 months before the product’s release. Kamen, it was said, was coming up with nothing less than an alternative to the automobile. When investors and the public learned that the invention was actually a technologically advanced motorized scooter, they were dumbfounded. Ads showing riders who looked like circus performers perching on weird-looking chariots didn’t help, nor did the price tag—$5,000. Instead of selling 10,000 machines a week, as Kamen had predicted, the Segway sold about 24,000 in its first five years. Now it sells for far less to police forces, urban tour guides, and warehouse companies, not the general public. If there was ever a product to disprove the axiom “If you build it, they will come,” it’s the Segway.
All this week DOZ is looking at the launch. Whether it’s the role of the outside expert, tips for business owners, using social media effectively to launch in a new market, or proven launch strategies to emulate, you’ll find something for everyone this week at DOZ.