Launching a product is a scary moment for any business, whether it’s a startup or an established company expanding its offerings. New products have the potential to increase your profits, but the expense necessary to create and market the new product can drain your resources and potentially, endanger sales of established products (we call the product cannibalization), so a new product launch represents a serious risk to the survival of your brand. To ensure a successful product launch, it’s important to adopt an approach that is well thought out (building a detailed strategy and considering contingency options) and flawlessly implemented. Here are six key steps to consider when introducing a product to the market.
How to successfully launch a new product
As you can see in the image above, launching a new product doesn’t start with a flashy conference or other event to introduce your new product. A successful product launch is the culmination of months or years of effort devoted to creating a new product that meets the needs of your target market better than those offered by competitors. Think of a product launch as the tip of a very large iceberg where much of the build lies hidden beneath the surface. If the base of the iceberg is stripped away the tip sinks under the waves and slowly disappears to blend into the water.
The same is true when it comes to launching a new product. A successful new product launch begins well before you introduce the product to your target market, the media, and consumers in general. It begins with research.
Conducting market research: Identifying the target audience;
First and foremost, understanding your target market, their unmet needs, where you can reach them, and their biggest pain points is essential. Further, you want to know what they look like (consumers are more likely to buy when the ads reflect “them”), how they communicate, who influences their purchase intentions, and their lifestyle. Designing a product simply because you can puts the cart before the horse and is bound to fail. Products succeed when they meet a true need and when the ability of the product to satisfy this need is clearly communicated in the right channels.
This step serves as the foundation because it shapes how you position your product and determine your target market. Utilize surveys, focus groups, and market analysis to gather this information. The outcomes of this research will guide your marketing strategies, pricing decisions, and even product features.
Product development and testing
Based on the insights gained from your market research, your next step is to build your product, which, as you can see in the graphic above, is an extensive process that proceeds iteratively between development and testing until you have a product that satisfies your target market. It is imperative to focus on creating an offering that addresses the market needs and differentiates itself from competitors’ offerings, something we call competitive advantage.
Once you have developed a prototype or initial version of the product, thorough testing becomes essential. Feedback from beta testers can prove invaluable as they provide insights that may lead to improvements in the product. Testing helps refine the product by ensuring high-quality standards are met while meeting customer expectations.
I once worked as the CMO of a tech startup. We went through five or six iterations of the product without writing a single line of code before we actually built the MVP (minimum viable product), which was a working version of the product without all the bells and whistles we envisioned in the final product. We tested all along the way, from concept to MVP to product launch to iterations of the product to reduce the cost of development. Tools like Justinmind and Adobe XD are great for building prototypes of digital products without the huge expense of coding. Instead, these tools build a working prototype with only the front end to test how easily users can navigate to accomplish tasks and how intuitively the interface works. For physical products, 3D printers and maker spaces allow you to build single versions of your product to allow users to test their functionality.
The packaging of your product plays a role in shaping consumer perceptions. Custom packaging not only safeguards your product it also serves as a powerful marketing tool. Your packaging should be visually appealing and reflect your brand identity while providing information about the product. Effective packaging enhances the customer experience and helps differentiate your product on shelves or in marketplaces.
Branding and marketing
Building a brand identity and implementing a marketing strategy is crucial for a successful product launch. It’s important to create a brand that resonates with your target audience reflecting the values and benefits of your product (called a USP or unique selling proposition). Developing a marketing plan that encompasses channels like social media, email marketing, content marketing, and traditional advertising is essential. Craft your messaging to directly connect with your target audience emphasizing the USP of your product.
Before launching your product, build excitement with teaser ads and media coverage so that your actual product launch is the hottest ticket in town. Steve Jobs, of Apple, was a master of this so he (and his successors) packed large conversions halls with media, influencers, and stakeholders when he held his flashy events. Release a few products to influencers and the media ahead of the actual launch to help build excitement for the product.
Consider incentives like early bird specials or special pricing for the first batch of products sold.
Launch planning and execution
Planning the launch involves setting timelines, budgeting, and strategizing how to introduce the product to the market. Commonly, brands plan a launch party either physically or virtually as a way to build excitement for the product and introduce it to prospective buyers. Selecting a launch date and building excitement through teasers, social media campaigns, and pre-launch offers is important for a successful launch. Make sure that all teams, including marketing, sales, and customer service are on the same page and well-prepared for the launch.
While hosting a launch party sounds simple, there are hundreds of elements that must come together to build a successful product launch. Here are a few things to consider as you build your actual launch plan:
- Ensure the timing for product delivery. You should hold off on the launch until you can deliver products into the hands of consumers. Otherwise, you risk wasting the effort and expense devoted to the party. Best case, you should let attendees use your product and either place orders or purchase one at the event. Work backward from your planned event to build a Pert chart of activities so that everything comes together in time for the launch event. The example below, while showing a Pert chart for building a product works the same way for any activity that requires multiple steps. The chart shows the order of events, how much time each planning activity takes, and which activities must wait for the completion of other activities. This highlights the critical path, a list of activities that must be accomplished on time if the final project will be delivered on time.
- Get all your communication channels up and running. Add the product to your website (or build a website), establish profiles on social media platforms where your target market hangs out, create brochures, invest in paid advertising about your product and event, create an event on Eventbrite or a similar ticketing platform, and start an email campaign related to the product and event. Start blogging and guest blogging to get the word out about your new product.
- You need to choose a venue for your event that’s convenient, fits your budget, and will hold your anticipated attendee number. Ensure it has all the amenities you need such as a kitchen if you’re having food and drinks, seating, tables, and bathroom facilities. Parking and public transportation are also considerations. Also, you likely want WIFI that can handle the load of you and your guests.
- No party is a success without food and drinks, so work with a caterer to provide them. Ensure the venue can meet the caterer’s needs, such as heating food or cooling drinks. Consider dietary restrictions in your planning.
- Establish a minute-by-minute schedule for the event.
- Have a greeter to welcome attendees and collect email addresses/ business cards to help with followup. Offering an incentive such as a drawing will encourage attendees to provide this information.
- Plan to have swag to hand out at the event. Items used in everyday life act to advertise your product to everyone who sees your item, and items only used in private act to remind the individual about your product.
- Train team members to answer questions that might come up during the event. If you’re selling at the event, ensure you can take credit cards and accept cash.
Analyzing post performance and incorporating feedback
Once the product launch is over, it’s essential to monitor the performance of the product and comments made by buyers or prospective buyers. Dive into sales data, customer feedback, and market response to gauge how well the product is received. Utilize this information to make any adjustments to the product itself or to tweak your marketing strategies or customer service approaches. Continuously gathering and incorporating feedback is vital for ensuring the success and improvement of the product.
Remember that a successful product launch goes beyond creating a buzz, it’s about maintaining momentum. By following these steps you can effectively introduce your product while also setting a foundation for its success in the market. Each step, from market research to incorporating launch feedback plays a critical role in ensuring that your product resonates with your target audience and achieves your business goals.
Need marketing help to support business growth?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get our FREE guide to creating an awesome website, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.