Launching a product is a process, not a single event. There are many signs along the way that indicate growing interest. The most obvious sign that your launch was successful is that orders for your new product are pouring in and you are hiring more sales people to keep up with the demand. How do you know that the new product introduction is generating that “surround sound” effect needed to generate buzz and momentum for your company?
How long does a product launch take?
Longer than you think. I know we have our work cut out for us when a potential client calls and wants to come out of stealth mode and launch a product next month. From that one statement I can infer; that the company has probably not done any of the “upfront work” required when introducing a new innovation, that they believe the product launch consists of press release and a wire date, and they have no concept that launching innovation is a long process that spans a significant amount of time.
A launch is only complete when the product is generating consistent revenue. By this we mean that a sales person can sell it, the customer readily understands it, the product can be shipped as soon as the PO/contract is in hand, the product can be installed by any trained technician (not just an engineering SWAT team), and the product can easily be supported. It means the product is ready for prime time, and sales, operations and support can scale. If any of these steps is still in “beta” mode or if the product requires an engineering team to get it up and running, then the launch is not complete from a marketing and communications point of view.
Introducing emerging technology into any market takes 18 months – if you are lucky. Emerging technology requires a communications program that educates, educates, educates, then validates, validates and validates. You need to validate with customer stories, awards, and partnerships long after you introduce your product to let the market know your offering is shipping and viable.
Here is what I mean by that. In the old days of print advertising, there were many studies that illustrated that a potential customer needed to see your ad 5-7 times before they could remember it. It is the same with introducing new technology – people need to hear your story over and over again, from different points of view, before it resonates.
And that takes time.
Creating the Surround Sound Effect
The goal of any product introduction is to create and sustain a buzz that actually moves the needle for the business. Buzz for the sake of buzz and doesn’t matter if the product doesn’t generate revenue or add some intrinsic value to the bottom line.
Marketers need to use all of their tools to create surround sound including PR to generate awareness, a multi-pronged content strategy where your content is used in all marketing activities, awareness and lead generation campaigns both digital and traditional, thought leadership activities, SEO, events, blogs to expand on your message and social media to amplify your message.
Looking at the Sign Posts
Let’s take a closer look at some of the “sign posts” that we look for over the course of a product launch. Individually, each of these signs do not tell a story but when you put them together the picture changes.
- Wire stats show a steady increase of people reading and clicking through on your press releases.
- News is getting “pick up” by more outlets.
- Reporters are taking your calls and calling you for commentary.
- Web traffic is steadily increasing, organic search is up, and inquiries are coming in.
- Your content is showing up in unexpected places.
- Your blog traffic is increasing and you are gaining subscribers.
- People are spending more time on your web site, visiting multiple pages.
- Your company begins to win awards.
- At the big annual industry conference, people are coming to your booth telling you they read an article or saw your email.
- You run out of tickets for your party at the big annual industry conference!
It is like a perfect storm. When we begin to see these these signs, sales usually kicks in.
Now that your product is taking off …
The launch is finally complete and you have carved out a leadership position in your industry. Congratulations, but there’s not a lot of time for rest!
So, what’s next?
Look for ways to validate your product launch as your product matures – with customer case studies, videos, speaking opportunities to continue to fill your sales funnel.
Next, your content strategy needs to adjust – you need to keep the constant beat of communication, but now you also need to look 3-5 years out. How will the technology evolve? Will it enable new business models? How will it change the way people interact with your product or service? Marketing and communications never stop, they just evolve and adapt.
To learn more about how to launch innovations, download our ebook titled "65 Steps to a Successful Product Launch" here.