Launching a new product can be an exciting time for any company. Whether it is the first product the company has offered, or an addition to an already existing line, the enthusiasm and buzz in the air is contagious as dreams of instant success abound. Before presenting your product to the masses, however, there are a few things that every company needs to do to prepare for the big reveal.
In this article, we look at 1) evaluations you must do before the launch, 2) the proper way to plan a launch, 3) successful execution of a product launch, and 4) things to keep in mind post-launch.
EVALUATE BEFORE LAUNCH
It is impossible to gauge exactly how the new product is going to be received – even the most experienced and large companies have had both wild success and epic failures with new product launches. Before sending out the press releases, spend some time doing a little introspective study.
- Evaluate the readiness of your company before starting to publicize your new product.
- Can your company support fast, overnight growth?
- If the launch is successful (and let’s face it – the reason you’re launching a new product is because you want it to be successful) then your company will need to be able to facilitate the increased demand.
- Do you have adequate staffing/supply lines/processes in place to handle the increased customer attention?
- Do you have protocol for handling customer inquiries and needs in a customer service department?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, delay the product launch until you have sufficient resources available. At the very least, establish a plan for acquiring the needed resources as needed before going ahead with the product launch.
Evaluate the product itself
When a company begins to prepare for launching a new product, there can be a tendency to sensationalize the product. Marketing personnel, ambitious sales personnel and even company executives can set their stakes on the wonderful new product they have. Taking a realistic evaluation of the product before releasing it to the public is vital to the launch success.
- Has the product been thoroughly tested?
- Does it deliver consistent results?
Asking hard questions internally will not only help improve the product, but will help to ensure that the product is ready to be launched. Once you have done an internal evaluation of the product, study the answers – even the ones that aren’t what you want to hear. It may be tempting to overlook the negative responses, but doing so may be putting your product and your company in peril. Setting high expectations for a product’s abilities can cause a swift backlash of angry customers when the product fails to deliver.
Evaluate the market
Most likely, there has been market research performed in preparation for the launch. Take a close look at the results of the market research to make sure that there is a market for the product.
- If your product is a niche product, is there enough of a market to support the product?
- Does the available market have a place for your product?
Conducting market research can be time consuming, but can lead to vital information that will help direct the launch of your product. Identify the feasibility of the market to accept your product, as well as the specific market that your product will appeal to. Market identification can help you to target that audience for your launch, increasing the chances for a successful launch.
PLAN FOR LAUNCH
Once you start planning the actual launch, you need to look at your competition, your market, as well as your marketing strategy.
Research the competition
During your market research, be sure that you are evaluating not only the potential market for your product, but thoroughly investigating the competition. As you study the competition, look for some specific details that will help you not only shape your own product launch, but will give you essential information about the market that your product will be placed in. Listing the top market competitors will help you study both their products and their marketing techniques.
Consider the market from your potential customer’s point of view:
- What service or product do they choose currently?
- What factors set your product apart from theirs?
- What are the key differences that would compel a customer to select your product over another company’s?
The competition is an important source of information as you prepare to launch your product – don’t overlook this vital step.
Identify your target market
In addition to knowing the competition, your ideal customer must be identified as well. Finding the specific demographics of your target market will help you to tailor the launch strategy to the people most likely to purchase your product. It can be helpful to develop a target customer persona – complete with a “biographical sketch” and picture. Compile a list of the ideal customer’s characteristics. Use magazines, newspapers, etc. to find a picture of someone who represents the perfect customer, and post the picture in a central location. By personalizing the target market, you can gear your marketing materials to “your customer” and have greater success in making sure that your intended customers are getting the message.
Develop your marketing strategy
Essential to a successful product launch is the development of a well-planned marketing campaign. Using a variety of marketing channels is more likely to result in a successful launch. Use the information you’ve gathered in identifying your target customer, and then develop a multi-faceted approach to reaching that customer. A combination of traditional advertising as well as the inclusion of social media tools will generate a wide range of interest in your product.
Evaluate the potential advertising options that are best suited to your product and your market, and establish a strategy for using those tools.
- Would your product be best highlighted through television commercials?
- Does a print medium portray your product best?
- Are your target customers sending tweets all the time?
- Do they have boards filled with pins of ways to use your product?
Target the people who not only use your product, but who use the tools that you’re marketing with.
EXECUTING THE LAUNCH
Everything is lined up, and you are ready to begin planning your launch. Even though your projected launch date is weeks away, there are still things to be done to ramp up for your launch. As the circled date on the calendar approaches, put these ‘pre-launch’ essentials into play to help create the perfect environment for your launch.
Start promoting early
Don’t wait until the actual launch date to start telling people about your new product. Start promoting the product several weeks before the actual launch – and start helping your target market recognize the name and/or product. Name recognition is key to getting customers to try your product – make sure that your product name is in front of the market place before the product is available.
Pre-launch trials are important
Before the launch of your product, let key people use (and subsequently, write about) your product. Offering your product to bloggers, editors, journalists and others who have a following and audience is a fantastic way to generate interest and excitement in your product. Having actual users give testimonials about the exciting new product about to be released will increase customer willingness to be on the lookout for your launch.
Expert reviews have credence
Put your product in front of experts in the field that your product belongs to. Releasing a new technology device? Let a programming expert put your product through its paces. Develop a new line of cookware? Ask a celebrity chef to cook with your product and write a review. Expert users give credibility to the claims of your product as being new/revolutionary/improved, etc. By providing potential customers with a quote from experts who have used the product, you are solidifying the validity of your product claims. Even if you can’t arrange for ‘big name’ celebrities to try out your product, look for local personas that have a standing in the community where your product will be launched.
Provide product information leaks
By using planned ‘leaks’ of information, you not only control the amount of information that is released to the public, you are generating a sense of drama which brings excitement and interest. Some of the largest product releases in recent years have successfully used the information leak technique to draw attention to their new product. (Think about Apple’s last few product releases for examples of this.) A few well-placed pictures of the product – even a portion of the product – will begin to create a buzz of excitement. A set of launch campaign ads that feature ‘coming soon’ highlights will increase a customer’s interest in the product. Highlight a few unique features that set your product apart from the competition to get people talking about your product before the launch.
Any company can create a boring, traditional marketing campaign. If you truly want to launch your product into the marketplace with a bang, think outside the box. The more creative, the better. (Think about your favorite marketing campaigns or commercials you’ve seen. Most likely, you’ve talked about ‘that great new commercial’ with your friends or co-workers.) Generate that same type of hype about your product launch by maximizing your marketing materials with creativity.
- During the lead-in time to the product launch, release videos or commercials that are unique in nature or that make people laugh.
- Take a poll of your target audience and correlate the responses into an infographic or survey response that lets potential customers see the need for your product.
- Consider an industry related release campaign to capitalize on the days leading up to your launch. For example, a new kitchen product may want to maximize on an up-coming holiday season by highlighting how much easier preparing large meals will be with the new product.
Look for product tie-ins that will lend themselves to creative marketing for your product launch.
Use people with a vested interest
Distribute products to the investors who have committed funds to launching the new product. Let them use the product and begin to tell others about it. By having a vested interest in the success of the product, they will be highly motivated to promote the product to their circle of influence. Using investors to promote the product is a win-win: the product gets attention and generates excitement and the investors are helping to ensure that they get an ROI (return on investment).
Social media has forever changed the way that customers relate – to each other and to the global community. Harness the power of the social media by using it to generate conversations about the product launch. Explore connections that may exist solely in an online capacity – and develop meaningful interactions with new social circles that may be interested in your product. Instead of focusing on social media numbers, focus on the depth of interactions that you can generate. Provide compelling content about your product and then start conversations about it. As the social circle widens and expands, more and more people will begin to talk about the product, who will then in turn tell others, and so forth – starting a grass-roots movement to help launch your campaign.
Unless your company is one of the massive organizations dominating the marketplace, your product launch may not even cause a ripple in the mainstream media. This does not spell doom for your product! Your launch date should simply be the date that your new product is available in the marketplace – fanfare is not necessary. In addition, not getting covered by every news media organization isn’t the end of your launch – so unless your new product is cutting edge and revolutionary, don’t set yourself up for frustration by expecting to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Look for solid content from the smaller media outlets, and build your marketing strategy around other outlets.
AFTER THE LAUNCH
Once the launch date has passed, your efforts should not stop. Your launch promotion should continue to work.
- Maintain a steady supply of topics to reporters/journalists about the product itself.
- Detail customer uses of the product – including reports from some of the initial users of the product.
- Describe the changes that the product brings to the market.
- Write press releases about the just released product.
Since you have no control over when a journalist may be able to write about your new product, keep them informed about the product through well-written content articles.
As people become more aware of your product, make sure that they have easy access to not only your product, but to more information about the product as well. Offer free trials, videos, product demos – all specifically geared to inform the public about the new product offering. Don’t be afraid to ask customers to tell you about their experience with the new product – good or bad – and then use those results in further advertising.
Throughout the course of the marketing strategy, your campaign will need to be altered as ads become stale, sales become stagnant or customers seem to lose interest in the product. Be vigilant about keeping track of what efforts are starting to lose effectiveness so that you can make the appropriate changes. Monitoring the market conditions can also be an indicator of when a product has run its course and needs to either be revamped or pulled from the market completely.
In the same manner, keeping track of which media tools were the most successful in converting potential customers into sales will give an indicator of where your efforts should be spent. Dropping the ineffectual methods and replacing them with renewed efforts in the productive methods will help not only generate income by identifying new customers; it will maximize the customer awareness.
26 Product Launch Strategies
Preparing for a product launch can be both exhilarating and horrifying. The list of things to be done seems endless – and the product hasn’t even been released yet! Don’t try to do everything on your own. Engage the help of professional writers, marketing strategists and other personnel who can help you initiate a successful launch. For an emerging company, it may seem frivolous and unnecessary to spend money on a pre-launch campaign, but investing in preparing the marketplace for the launch will be some of the best money spent on the product. Getting professional assistance will ensure that not only is the product being released to the target market, but that it is getting the exposure and support that it needs to be successful. Navigating the waters of a product launch requires planning and diligence, but can be accomplished – even by a complete novice.