Launching a new product is both exciting and risky. Getting it right is no easy feat and there is no such thing as a marketing silver bullet when it comes to launching a product. Launching a product is a process, not a single event. It is 90 to 120 days of sequenced activities that lead up to building momentum and awareness in the market. Here are nine tips to make sure your launch does not crash and burn.
- Start early. Winning product launches takes time to align internal groups, create launch programs and collateral, train personnel and put systems in place. If you wait until 30 days out to prepare your marketing assets, public relations and lead generation programs, your launch is likely not to meet expectations. If you estimate it is going to take 30 days to complete something, double it – everything takes longer when something is new.
- Know your customer. It sounds clichéd, but success in marketing always points back to thoroughly understanding your customer. Interview your current customers and learn about their motivation, pain points and challenges. Talk to your sales force as well as your customer service representatives. They will have insights that you will never glean from just interviewing customers. Create detailed personas, fictional, generalized characterizations of your target customers, and map their buying journey. Share this information with people within your company who are responsible for creating marketing programs, selling your products, servicing and training your customers.
- Make sure everyone in your company is on the same page. Lack of cross-functional communication is one of the reasons product launches fail. In many organizations, departments operate in silos and do not have insight into the inter-dependencies and timelines of their peers in other departments. Be inclusive and over communicate.
- Join the beta team. Get to know your beta customers. Learn what they like about your offering and what they do not like prior to launch. Test your message and secure customer references to validate your claims.
- If you are not ready, delay the launch. Sometimes companies put a stake in the ground and commit to an arbitrary product launch date. In some cases, it is prudent to push the launch date out, particularly if you are not going to be able to deliver product within a 60- to 90-day period. If you announce too early, you can easily undermine your credibility if you do not deliver on your promise, as well as waste the momentum that you generated during the launch process.
- The press release is not dead. You need to use both push and pull tactics to create a surround sound effect for your launch. Press releases are a push tactic and are still a very valuable tool in a marketer’s toolkit. Today’s press releases integrate digital content, images and persuasive calls to action to tell a story and wire distribution services are a quick, economic and efficient way to get the word out to a broad audience. We have B2B clients that regularly receive inbound calls from prospects who have seen a press release and are asking for a sales rep to call them.
- Set appropriate expectations. You need to set expectations with the CEO, executive team and possibly the board on when they can expect to see results. I once had a CEO cancel all of his appointments on the day the press release was hitting the wire in anticipation that his phone was going to ring off the hook. Unless you are a major consumer brand, it is likely going to take days (and maybe even weeks) for the message to reach the market.
- Don’t forget internal employee communications. Everyone in the company should receive some type of internal communication the morning of the public unveiling. It should provide product information, marketing campaign information, and common Q&As. Some firms – more specifically product managers – even set up a marketing hotline to answer employee and sales questions during the first few weeks of the public debut.
- Keep it rolling. Product launches are a process, not a single event. We still believe in the old marketing adage, the rule of seven. The rule of seven states that a prospect needs to hear your message seven times before they take action. We believe that this is still true in the digital age. Keep publishing relevant content and use social media to amplify and engage prospects.
Why Do Product Launches Fail?
- There is no process. Many companies do not have a process in place or they do not have the experience to understand that a process is necessary to ensure all the items and departments are coordinated and ready for launch.
- The launch is under-resourced, in both personnel as well as funding. Team members focused on daily operational issues may not have the capacity to do what is required for the launch. If funds are severely limited for new content development, then the marketing engine and sales team will have a hard time generating awareness.
- The company has not fully committed to the product. I am surprised at how often this happens. Sometimes a company will launch a “skunk works” project to see how it does. In many cases, it has a limited number of feature or capabilities, isn’t ready for market, and as a result is not able to compete or gain traction.
The bottom line is that if you don’t want your launch to crash and burn, you need to make sure you focus on two key items.
The first, at the core of all successful launches is “know thy customer.” If you don’t understand your customer, it doesn’t really matter what you launch because your message, no matter how you deliver it, is likely to miss the mark.
Second, successful launches are the result of planning – lots of planning. When you don’t leave enough time or if your teams are not aligned, chances are your launch will fall flat.
This article was originally published in Forbes. Red Javelin is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.