You’ve developed a product that will solve your customers’ problems. You’ve worked for years to make it as perfect as you can before putting it on the market. The next step is a daunting one: releasing it into the world in all its glory. A good product launch can make or break a product’s first quarter (maybe more), so it’s critical to put the right steps and strategies in place on the road to the launch to make sure it goes off without a hitch.
Before the Launch
1. Analyze the Data
The first step to launching a product is to understand what it is that your customers want. Using the data you’ve collected during your time in business, come up with a cohesive picture of your customer and their desires. Does your product fill a need? Does it offer value? Does its anticipated effect match the corresponding data?
2. Talk to Customers
While data can provide a lot of information, it’s not the sole source for insight. Direct interaction with existing customers will offer details that the data may have missed. Ask them open-ended, direct questions and pay close attention to the answers. What are their needs? Why did they choose your company? What features of existing products do they currently use? What features would they like to see? How do they speak and express themselves? All of these can provide great insights for product features, marketing efforts, and more.
3. Do Market Research
The next big place you can get questions answered is the market itself. Compare and contrast your product with others currently on the market. Is there anything like it? What makes it different? How does it stand out? What need does it fill that no other product on the market fill? It’s one thing to launch your product as the next big thing, but you have to be able to define what makes it so big, important, useful, and different.
4. Validate Ideas by Going Public Early
Next is the stage when your product begins to be put to the test. It will allow you to validate your ideas before you release them on a broad scale. Assemble a test group consisting of current customers, acquaintances, and friends. Have them test the product for you and give you feedback. Get them to define key features and flaws. Define whether the product is of value to them.
5. Build Your Audience and Community
Creating a community to receive your product well in advance of the release date is critical for product success. Community creation can be accomplished in several different ways. One is to blog about the product, the problem it solves, and space it exists in. Another is to answer questions on places like Reddit and Quora. There are also great options for posting about it on visual platforms like Instagram.
6. Define the Ideal Customer
Before you can make a targeted marketing approach, you need to know what that target is. That’s where the ideal customer comes in. This definition needs to be much more specific than a couple of pieces of demographic data. It needs to encompass as much about that ideal customer as possible, including age, gender, professional status, income, interests, hobbies, and more. The more specific the picture of this customer, the more targeted your advertisement and launch will be.
7. Craft a Compelling Narrative
You’ve spent the past several steps focusing on your product and who you’ll try to sell to. The next step is to shift focus to why. What is it that will make your ideal customer pull the trigger? What problem does that customer have that your product solves? How does it solve it? This step of the game is all about storytelling.
8. Write a Draft Press Release
It’s critical to get the press into the mix when it comes to launching your product. However, to gain customer interest, you’re going to have to offer them a good story. That’s where the press release comes in. In its simplest form, a press release describes the product, the problem it solves, and how it solves the problem. Ideally, you’ll also be able to include other elements like a quote from your company, testimonials, and a guide for how someone can get started with your product.
9. Make a List and Contact Press, Partners, Affiliates
Next is when you establish the necessary connections with other people who can help with your launch. The list should include all of the specific members of the press you want to reach, any current partners with whom you have an established relationship, existing customers, and other allies to the cause. They can help promote and release your information. Also, if you will be using affiliates, now is the time to establish those contacts.
10. Build Your Marketing Page
The marketing page is one of the most critical elements of your launch. It’s the place you’ll send your customers on launch day, and it’s the last place they’ll visit (ideally) before they take the plunge and seal the deal with you. As such, it needs to include all the critical information about your product, from a description to the problem it solves, along with testimonials and a call to action. In addition to touching all the salient points, it needs to be visually engaging with excellent copy.
11. Define the Customer Journey and Gather Creative Assets
The customer journey is the process your customer will go through between total ignorance of you and your product and buying it. It’s about getting as many points of contact as possible with the customer before the launch day. To do this effectively, you’ll need to know a lot about your customer and their habits. You’ll need contact information, information about their behavior online and where they go, who their communities are, and who they talk to. From there, you will develop a range of content for them to have access to, ranging from blog posts and videos to Facebook ads and e-mails. Using the information you have, work to move your customer in order through the proposed pieces of content. By the end of the process, they will have seen or heard from you 6-8 times, which should prime them to make their purchase with you.
12. Use Pre-orders to Build Hype
Early sales offer a number of advantages. In addition to appealing to early adopters, they let you test your marketing, continue to build community, and test your price point. They can also drive sales momentum. It’s especially effective if the pre-orders are in limited supply.
13. Set Goals
If your team is going to work in concert, it’s important for them to have a shared vision of what success looks like. This is where setting goals comes in. Establish very clear metrics for what you’d like the results of the launch to be, and everyone can rally around them and push those goals over the top. For a launch, sales are likely to be the key metric for goal setting.
Related: 5 Steps to Achieving Your Goals
14. Assemble the Launch Day Strategy
Before you can launch your product, you’ll need a plan. Establishing a launch day strategy will enable you to detail exactly what needs to happen, what elements need to be at work for it to happen effectively, who is involved, and what their responsibilities are. There should also be a schedule detailing what exactly is going to happen when.
During the Launch
15. Announce the Launch in the Right Places
By the time you get to launch day, you should have a lot of information about your ideal customer. This information will help guide you to the appropriate places to make launch announcements. Hint: the announcement should show up where your ideal customer hangs out. This will allow you a targeted impact.
16. Host an Event
Events are a great way to expand your reach. While you may not have the budget for a big soiree, there are online options to get people involved. This may take the form of a product webinar or a question-and-answer session.
17. Reach Out to Extend Reach
A product launch is a perfect time to tap into your personal network. Make a list of everyone you know who may have any interest in the launch of your product. This can include friends, family members, colleagues, mentors, and former associates. Let them know what you’re doing, why you think it’s important, and what’s exciting about it, and ask them to spread the word in any way they feel comfortable.
18. Follow Up With Press
You’ve already sent out your press release to the people on your list. Now is the time to touch base with them again to let them know you’ve gone live. Include links to your marketing page, along with any other relevant content.
19. Ask Current Users to Spread the Word
Current users are a great way to get the word out about your product. One quick way to get them on board is to write a pre-worded tweet, message, or e-mail promoting your product and ask them to copy and paste it to their media.
20. Get Current Users on Board
As the launch moves forward, be sure to include your current users on big milestones. These include major press, funding goals, and coverage or support from influencers. Make sure your base knows without overloading them.
21. Convert Leads
This is where the money happens. There’s a lot going on during a launch, but one of the most critical aspects is what’s happening with your sales team. Make sure you’re providing all the information and support they need in order to close the deals that day.
After the Launch
22. Analyze Results
Once launch day is over, it’s time to analyze the results. In other words, “How did you do?” There will be a lot of different kinds of data to cover, so be thorough and systematic when approaching this task. After all, you’ll need the information for your next launch. The biggest question, obviously, is whether you met or exceeded your goal. If you did, how did you get there? Where did the traffic come from? What affiliates and partners contributed most to success? Which e-mails were most successful? Pick it apart until you’ve discerned the recipe for your success.
23. Follow Up With Potential Customers
There will always be customers who just aren’t quite ready to make the deal. Following the launch is the perfect time to touch base with them to see if there’s a way to change their minds. Establish a series of follow-up e-mails and remarketing ads. Get in touch with these potential customers to see how you can tip the balance in your favor.
24. Systematize Issue Resolution
Just like it’s important to track metrics, it’s important to track bugs and problems. Create an easy-to-use system for keeping track of problems that need to be solved, so they don’t fall through the cracks and become bigger problems.
Finally, hold a debrief. Review your strategic documentation and determine what worked and what didn’t? What was missed altogether? What went to plan and what didn’t? Why? What can you do to address the problems in the future?
A good launch can make a huge impact on your business. Approaching the effort systematically with a clear head will help make the launch as successful as possible. In addition to the initial approach, remember that this may not be the only launch you ever do. So, be sure to gather the lessons from this launch to make the next one even better.