8 Critical Elements of a Successful Product Launch
One of the most exciting times in business is when you’re launching a new product. Adrenaline runs wild because there’s the potential for tremendous success, and the risk of incredible loss at the same time. A successful product launch calls for a different approach than managing an existing campaign, or even opening up a new market for an existing product. Here are 8 things every marketer should remember for a successful product launch:
1. Develop a Specialized Marketing Plan.
Most marketing plans fall into two distinct categories: creating awareness of the product, or selling the product. However, a successful product launch requires you to do both simultaneously. You already have a customer base for an existing product, and you can leverage that base when opening up new markets for that product. But new products have no customer base, so the number one priority is to quickly and simultaneously create awareness and drive purchases.
Many marketers focus on marketing new products to their existing customer base, converting them from an old product to the new one. This approach does little to increase the bottom line because it’s not creating new customers for the company – the whole point of new product development. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having existing customers buy new products – Apple does it every time they upgrade the iPhone and iPad. But the primary goal of developing and launching a new product should be to attract new customers to the company.
A successful product launch requires a larger marketing budget and a significantly more aggressive marketing plan. Remember, your goal is to quickly ramp up awareness and buzz, so you’ll pushing out marketing materials more frequently.
2. Review the Plan, and Make Adjustments.
All marketing plans require a lot of research, thought, and time to develop; and it’s rare to get it right on the first draft. In fact, it’s common to go through several drafts before you have a workable plan. An effective way to build a solid plan is to involve other members of your team at every step along the way. Encourage members to play devil’s advocate to help find weaknesses in the plan. No plan is perfect, so fostering an environment where honest feedback is encouraged will result in a better plan. If you ignore this element, it will come back at you later in the form of additional expense at best, and complete failure at worst.
3. Test Your Product and Your Message.
It’s rare for a new product to stumble out of the gate, then go on to succeed. You really only have one shot at a successful product launch, so you can’t leave anything to chance. That’s why testing your product and message on current and potential customers is critical.
Gather a group of existing customers and potential customers, and demonstrate the product to them. Allow them to use it and ask questions, then get their feedback. You should also present them with variations of your marketing message and materials, and get their feedback on that too. At the very least, take careful notes. Better still, set up a video camera to record the group. Going over the video later allows you to hear their exact verbal responses and see their body language. Armed with that information, you can make adjustments to the product itself and the marketing message, if necessary.
4. Establish Goals and Measure Progress.
When you take a long road trip to a place you’ve never been before, do you look at a map once and just drive until you get there? Probably not. If you tried that, you’d risk missing your destination. So you periodically check the map, road signs and other indicators to make sure you stay on course. In marketing you need to do the same thing.
When creating your marketing plan incorporate key metrics, then measure and monitor them to ensure your plan is producing the desire results. With so many sophisticated measurement tools, many of which are inexpensive or even free, you can monitor key metrics in near real-time. This lets you know quickly whether the marketing strategy is working and enables you to make necessary adjustments.
5. Nurture Public Relations.
If the PR section of your plan only calls for distributing a press release or two, you might as well not bother. PR is only effective when it’s comprehensive and ongoing. For several weeks before the actual launch, you should be creating and nurturing buzz through repeated contacts with journalists and bloggers who cover your industry. Offer personal demonstrations and make your CEO and key product developers available for interviews. Journalists love these behind-the-scenes peeks at your company. If you don’t already have relationships with these people, you should start cultivating them.
6. Understand Communications Channels.
You probably know which communications channels your existing customers use, and you’ll use those channels to market your new product to them. But do you know where the new people you want to reach with your new product are? If not, you need to find out and start using those channels to market to them. Remember, the goal is to simultaneously build awareness and generate sales. If you’re not expanding beyond the same old channels, you’re not reaching prospective new customers and expanding your customer base. Using new marketing channels is also a good way to reach new customers with your existing products.
When using different channels, adapt your message to each channel. For example, you wouldn’t use the same format in an email that you use on Twitter. And you wouldn’t use the same format on Facebook that you use on Twitter. You must customize your message to fit the channel.
7. Turn Your Staff Loose on Social Media.
Just like the rest of the world, your staff members are probably active on social media. Some may even have thousands of followers! So why not leverage that by asking your staff members to post something about your new product? Of course, this should be completely voluntary, but most would probably be willing to do so, especially if they have some involvement in developing or marketing the new product.
8. Leverage Business Relationships.
You undoubtedly have relationships with other, non-competing businesses within your industry – vendors, manufacturers of related products, current customers, etc. If you’ve nurtured those relationships, you should be able to ask for their help with your launch. For example, you could ask them to include your new product announcement in their next newsletter or email, or to post about it on their company blog or social media pages. Leveraging these relationships can help get your message into markets you might otherwise not be able to reach.
Remember, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. That adage also applies to new product launches, so you’d better get it right the first time. For more ideas about how to conduct a successful product launch, contact us. We also invite you to check out the additional resources below for more information and insight on this topic.
18 Tips for Planning a Flawless New Product Launch