How to successfully launch a new product
I’ve been asked, “What does it take to launch a service (product)?” If I’m being asked that questions, I assume at least two things …. (1) there is a product, beyond the “idea” phase and potentially in development and (2) you haven’t launched yet, allowing time to create a launch plan. If the first isn’t true, fine, but if the second is — you’re in trouble and you’ll make bigger mistakes (which you can overcome). In general, it’s best to be thinking through “how to launch” during the development cycle.
Conceptually, launches are not a difficult thing to get your head around, in essence, it’s just releasing your product into the market. That being said, here are a few of the steps within the “critical path” you will need to consider.
1) KNOW (or at least have a really good idea) who is willing to pull money out of their pocket and buy your product. This is the first thing to determine. There are lots of people jumping right into building their “great idea” only to find out no one cares. In essence, you are solving a problem no one wants solved.
Solar is perfect example — is it a great idea? Yes. Can it help the planet? Yes. Do most people really care? No. In this case, there is not a perceived problem. It’s solved today for most people. BUT, there are customers for solar, it’s your job to match the product, with the market.
It’s up to you to determine your market. Determine who might care first, then go beyond that to determine who might be willing to spend money to solve the problem. If you haven’t thought through this, it is absolutely impossible to gain traction with your product launch.
Everyone is not a market — it’s a dream.
2. WATCH how your primary market acts with regard to “buying”. Once again, products don’t sell themselves, people buy them. There is only one exception to this, and 99% of don’t fall into that category. So, unless you’re the federal government, your buyers will need to make the decision to buy.
Meaning, they know they have a problem, and they are looking for a solution. Granted, at this point, they still have lots of options available:
- Do nothing (wait it out)
- Solve the problem in a different way (alternatives)
- Solve the problem with a competitor’s product or service
- In the case of a service, they could determine to do it themselves
After considering alternatives to solving the problem, there is a need to evaluate how buying decisions are made. If you have an enthusiastic market, and buying decisions are made quickly, your messages have to elicit an emotional trigger; if on the other hand, it’s a longer sales cycle, with lots of people involved — you will need to integrate both emotional and logical triggers into your messaging. Each product or service has its own rhythm, it is up to you to determine how best to leverage it for your product.
3. LEARN where your market gathers. Prior to launching a product, think of yourself as the Master Hunter — it is imperative you know as much about your target market as possible. Where do they gather (online and off); with whom do they associate; how often are they available; are there any identifiable traits for the best buyers?
Think through everything you can, get inside their head, learn about their patterns. Watching and Learning go hand-in-hand, those two activities will give you a huge leg up on the actions you take during your launch, the messages you create, the sales approach, pricing, almost every aspect of “how to find and how to attract” the buyer to your product.
4. ACT, EVALUATE, ITERATE. this one isn’t rocket science. Almost everything in your plan to this point is merely an assumption. And almost everything you BELIEVE to be true, will only GENERALLY be true, while some of those assumptions will be completely wrong.
Launching a product is a process, successful launches are based upon quick action, quick evaluation and quick course correction.
If you know American Football — think of yourself as the Running Back and your product as the football. You practice all week, preparing for the game, but until you actually have the ball in your hands, running to the goal line, making quick adjustments based upon what is happening at the moment — it’s all thoughts in your head. Rarely do events in the real world go according to what you believed to be true.
Once you launch, nothing is actually scripted, it’s up to you to navigate through the obstacles, correct your course and move forward.
To have a successful launch, you will need to conquer these four areas:
- Know your market
- Know the buyer
- Bring value
- Keep Testing
The actual tactics you us for each product launch may differ, but these four are universal steps. All the marketing savvy, technology and product planning won’t help if you don’t know your market and how to influence them during the buying process (and that’s a learning curve for almost every product out there — even the hype-fanatical-gotta-have-it-now products).