Successful product releases are difficult to pull off. On top of preparing the product itself, you have to deal with budget, promotions, and strategies to ensure that your product enters the market successfully.
Statistics show that out of nearly 30,000 products released every year, around 95 percent fail. A separate survey also revealed that around 45 percent of product launches get delayed by a minimum period of one month.
If you’re looking into releasing a new product soon, you’re probably more concerned about not being part of failure rate statistics, no matter what the actual number is. So the question is, ‘Is there a tried-and-true formula for product launch success?’
There is no formula, at least in the mathematical sense.
However, what we can offer are key principles that have proven effective time and again for effective product releases. In this article, we’ll be discussing best practices to help you have a successful product release process. We’ll discuss challenges and strategies that will help you prepare for the worst and best-case scenarios by the time your product launch date rolls around.
The product isn’t the problem
You might be both surprised and relieved to hear that, in most cases, the product isn’t the problem. Why is that so? For the most part, innovation is a very complex process.
If you’ve gone as far as innovating a product and developing it until its ready to go to market, chances are high that you’ve already ironed out the following:
- Product pricing
- Market research (to validate interest in the new product and test out its design, functions, or features)
- Addressing a problem or gap in the market
- Designing and packaging your product
Consumers purchase new and unique products for a variety of reasons, such as:
- For convenience: Innovations that make life easier, such as nifty kitchen and laundry tools, tend to attract consumers easily. New products that simplify chores, tasks, and work are naturally appealing to humans because of the promise of more free time and less busy work.
- For information: Part of the reason why print newspapers and magazines declined in sales was because of the advent of digital subscriptions and tools like Kindle and Kobo, which offer a ton of information at the touch of a finger.
- For entertainment: People love novelty and entertainment. Netflix, Hulu, and other digital streaming platforms that regularly offer fresh content are proof of this.
- For wellness: The wellness industry is currently valued at over $4.75 trillion. People consume a wide range of new health and wellness products regularly, from fitness content subscriptions to gadgets for working out, as well as trendy diet foods that promise longevity.
- For personalization: The ability to design or purchase unique personalized products is getting more popular daily. Consumers love the idea of owning a product that reflects their personality. For example, customers are looking to buy personalized phone cases, jewelry, eco-friendly t-shirts, or even duffle bags for the gym. And being able to offer many customization techniques for any product is a big deal.
It goes to show that it isn’t the inherent ‘newness’ of a product that might result in failure post-launch. If anything, innovation actually piques consumers’ interest. So where do some companies go wrong in their product launch process flow?
Most of the problems that companies face concerning product launch failure stem from a lack of focus on the sales and marketing aspects of the release process. Of course, there are other factors, too. But the truth is that a lot of companies treat sales and marketing strategies as more of ‘nice-to-haves’ or afterthoughts and not as essential components of the product release process.
Some companies who still subscribe to more traditional modes of selling still dismiss marketing as ‘fluffy’ or inessential. However, the truth is that in today’s digital age, relying solely on something that used to work—brand equity, for example—just isn’t enough anymore.
Consider tech giant Apple, which launches each new product with a solid marketing strategy every time. Sure, they already have brand equity. People already know them as an established, reliable brand in tech. They might even get away with selling a large number of iPhones, iPads, (or whatever new product they have) even if they didn’t put as much effort into their sales and marketing strategies.
So why do they make an effort to come up with elaborate launch events and press releases every time they introduce a new product? The answer is simple: more sales. Statista reports Apple’s revenue growth as ‘dramatic,’ having increased from $8 billion in 2004 to $2,274 billion in 2020. That’s massive, and just goes to show that whatever they’re doing to market new products is working incredibly well.
In the next sections, we’ll discuss what you need to include in your product release checklist, as well as helpful tips for effective product launch planning.
Tips for a successful product release process
You probably already know that one of the keys to a successful product launch is planning. Lots of it. But what exactly does ‘planning’ entail in the context of a release cycle?
There are a lot of aspects in a product release plan that may change. As such, teams must be flexible enough and agile in adapting their strategies to ensure that goals are still met. Borrowing from agile product planning, the concept of agility we hope to highlight in planning for product launches is somewhat similar:
- Maximizing planning to achieve business goals despite deviations from the original plan; Planning for eventualities and risks
- Helping teams collaborate and develop a strategic release plan to aid in meeting business objectives, stakeholder expectations, and customer demand
- Helping teams make informed decisions based on data
Do market research
One of the most important components of product launch planning is market research. When it comes to effectively marketing a new product to potential consumers, knowing your customer is half the battle.
To do this, you’ll need to identify not just basic information about them (such as demographics) but also other aspects that drive consumer behavior, like:
- Their pain points
- Motivations and/or Aspirations
Finding out what makes your customers tick will give you valuable insights into how you can effectively communicate with them. By talking to 10 to 15 existing or potential customers, you’ll gain insight on:
- The language and tone you’ll need your messaging to take
- How you can market your product as a solution to address their current needs or problems
Come up with a strong positioning statement
Your positioning statement must be clear, concise, and must answer the following questions:
- Who is your product for?
- What does it do?
- What differentiates it from existing products in the market?
You can also further elaborate your positioning statement by including:
- Information about your target audience
- Your target customers’ profile
- Evidence or data that proves your product’s edge against key competitors.
Leverage proven successes
Maximize systems and processes that have worked well for you in the past. If possible, select a team leader and team members who have had significant experience in successfully launching new products.
If there are talent and experience gaps in certain areas, you can always hire consultants or contract professionals who have a proven track record in launching new products. This way, you don’t need to officially hire new talent and can easily downsize your team once everything is in place.
Team members and consultants with significant experience can provide valuable feedback on processes relating to launching and promotion through various channels.
Ensure stakeholder awareness and cooperation
Before launching your new product, it is crucial to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Present the positioning statement you crafted to ensure that the stakeholders in your company are well-informed about your launch plan and goals.
In the process of ensuring that your stakeholders themselves are sold out on your product and launch plan, you can also strengthen your strategies and possibly iron out any issues that may arise.
This will also encourage cooperation and will ultimately improve lead generation and conversion rates down the road.
Plan a Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy
This is the overarching strategy that you will be using to launch and promote your product. Ideally, your GTM strategy should identify the following:
- Target Audience
- Competitive Demand
- Product Market Fit
There are four common GTM strategy models that you can choose from:
- Inbound: Utilizes various forms of marketing like blogs, events, content marketing, social media, and SEO to create brand awareness and attract potential customers. Focuses on attracting the right audience with the right content at the most opportune time.
- Sales Enablement: Focuses on increasing productivity and sales results by equipping your salesforce with content and training. This approach highlights the importance of providing sales teams with adequate resources and support to drive more sales.
- Account-Based Marketing: Focuses on B2B marketing by equipping marketing and sales teams with the right content and technology to close deals with high-value clients.
- Demand Generation: Utilizes outbound approaches such as email campaigns, TV commercials, cold calling, and sponsored webinars. This approach is not typically used on its own, as it uses a lot of traditional media that needs to be supplemented with digital efforts.
Set launch goals
Proper goals need to be set before implementing your GTM strategy. Having goals will help guide your team’s efforts and determine launch success. A lot of launch teams use the SMART guidelines when setting goals. ‘SMART’ stands for:
For example, your goals may look like the following:
- Build awareness for your new product or brand
- Build company credibility
- Establish your product’s name
- Create sales opportunities
- Cross-sell a new product to existing customers
Don’t ignore promotional efforts
Aside from your GTM strategy and SMART goals, you should also focus on creating promotional content that will help create buzz and excitement about your new product and brand.
These efforts include blogs, press releases, demos, events, tutorials, and landing pages that will inform potential and existing customers about your new product’s features and encourage them to wait for its launch.
What should you include in a product release checklist?
A product release checklist ideally includes key procedures and tasks that are related to the product release cycle. This includes key information about messaging and positioning, as well as action points regarding development and customer support post-launch.
Having a solid product release plan will aid in tracking tasks, team coordination, and overall development monitoring.
Some key items to include in your checklist are:
- Development Milestones: For checking whenever each development milestone is reached; Helps teams track completion and testing of deliverables in each milestone before going to market
- User Documentation: To help system administrators and end-users set up the product; This includes tutorials, user guides, troubleshooting instructions, and other relevant material.
- Legal Agreements and Regulatory Compliance: To ensure that all legal agreements and regulatory requirements (such as GDPR compliance) are in place prior to launching.
- Success Metrics: To measure levels of launch success. These can be closely tied to your launch goals to effectively track strengths and areas for improvement
- Feedback Plan: To set up the types of feedback, as well as methods and channels that will be used post-launch
- Pricing Structure: To help guide pricing strategies (competitor-based or value-based) as well as marketing strategies related to pricing (like free trials or freemium models)
- Promotion Strategy: To outline a promotion strategy and identify key employees who will handle tasks related to it. Also includes channels for promotion and messaging.
- Sales and Customer Teams Training: To ensure that customer-facing teams get the right kind of training and are equipped with materials they need prior to launching. They may also be trained to handle feedback and gather insights to help improve the product down the road.
Launching a new product is painstaking work. However, success is possible with extensive planning and strategizing. Like we’ve discussed, most new product launches fail not because of the product but because of gaps in sales and marketing efforts.
In most cases, the key lies in adapting to newer methods of strategizing while leveraging older methods. In the context of word-of-mouth marketing, for example, a 2012 Nielsen research reports that 92 percent of people trust the recommendations of their family and friends.
Word-of-mouth marketing, for example, is something that used to work under more traditional settings.
This classic principle still holds true today, albeit not in the traditional sense.
Modern word-of-mouth marketing has less to do with actual feedback from close relations and has more to do with a combination of targeted promotional efforts and sharing social proof to encourage conversion.
Such information should then be used to continually adapt to new ways of preparing for product launches as each product release cycle is started and completed. After all, there is no single formula for success, but there is value in remaining agile and proactive towards trends and new ways of thinking.