There are thousands of companies creating and promoting thousands of products in the global marketplace each year. You probably haven’t even heard of the vast majority—many of which failed on arrival. According to Harvard Business School research, 95 percent of new products fail in their first year.
You may have a great, ground-breaking product idea, but if you haven’t done your due diligence to set your product up for success, you may set yourself up to fail. From performing the necessary market research to getting the word out about your launch, releasing a successful product or service is a delicate, time-consuming process.
Whether you want to launch something minor or something revolutionary, take time to get your ducks in a row before launch with this step-by-step guide.
Define your target audience
Your first question when launching a product should start with “who,” rather than “what.” Clearly defining your target audience will guide your production, marketing efforts, customer experience and everything else involved in a buyer’s journey to get your product.
A new product is a reflection of your brand, so when you’re just starting out, think in terms of how this product will best represent your brand and help you connect with your customers. Market research is vital to a successful launch, and it begins by simply talking to your current customers.
Contact 10 to 12 of your top customers via email and ask if you can pick their brain about your business. Identify their goals and motivations, their day-to-day needs, and what their pain points are—both with your products and in general.
The more specific you can get, the better you can develop your product to meet current customer needs and hone a marketing strategy that uses the right messaging. Design a few buyer personas to illustrate who your customers are and help your sales, marketing and customer service teams better serve them.
Validate your product
Once you’ve defined your target audience, you need to validate your product idea. After your initial conversations with customers, you’ll be in a great place to do this because you’ll already have an idea of what they want and need. Chances are, your current customers have a lot in common with your future ones.
A great product has answers to these questions:
- Who is it for?
- What problem does it solve?
- Why would someone want this rather than a competitor’s product?
Of course, you can go further than this based on your specific niche or industry. Product validation should make you ask some deep, probing questions about your audience and your business. A validated product demonstrates a fluent understanding of who your customers are and why they want or need this product.
Pre-sales are a great way to validate your product. If, when speaking to your customers, you can offer an upcoming solution to their problems with your proposed new product, everybody wins. If your existing customers won’t buy a new product based on a pitch, new ones aren’t likely to buy the final product.
Separate from the competition
Nothing is original in modern business. Pretty much everything is a repackaging or repurposing of everything else, which is why it’s essential to differentiate your product from the competition.
Spend time researching and studying your competitors. Take note of their messaging, of where and to whom they’re marketing their product, the problems they aim to solve. You may want to borrow some things—like investing in targeted Facebook ad campaigns—but, ultimately, your competition should inspire you to go in other directions.
Your job in launching a new product is to innovate and improve upon what exists but isn’t solving a need as it should. It’s unlikely that you’ll be the first to market with a brand new invention, but by recalibrating and growing upon what exists, you can distinguish your product as the smartest or best way to solve a specific problem.
Develop a go-to-market strategy
As you’re designing and developing your product, you should also create a go-to-market strategy, the plan you’ll use to promote your product at launch to hit the ground running. This can require many, many moving parts and be a little complicated, which is why Hubspot created a helpful template.
Before launch, take an inventory of the resources you can put behind this campaign and understand your limitations. Make a clear budget and hire new employees or outsource work where needed.
When you’ve determined a budget, create brand guidelines for your marketing voice and tone. You should already know who you are and what this product is all about. Consistency is everything for a brand, and that remains true when marketing a new product.
Implement your go-to-market strategy
After planning and developing a go-to-market strategy, it’s time to start executing it. And yes, execution begins before launch. Before launch, begin producing content that will support and align the promotion you laid out in the strategy. Content like blogs, landing pages or videos may be time-consuming to produce, so it’s best to have a wealth of content before launch.
Before launch, create some buzz by offering discounted pre-orders, free trials, beta participation rewards and other perks to entice potential customers. Think about Apple’s product launches: Every year, they host an entire event dedicated to creating buzz around their upcoming products, and it becomes the talk of the town for a week. (Of course, Apple has incredible brand recognition, but the point is that getting people talking about a new product before launch is a powerful tool).
After the product launch, your work is just beginning.
Track your progress and make adjustments accordingly. Be sure to properly attribute any shortcomings or failed expectations so you know what to tweak. Have you not reached enough people? Adjust your marketing strategy. Are you processing an unexpected amount of returns? Address customer concerns, and hire more customer service agents to help restore customer trust.
Great entrepreneurs are never satisfied. If you’re always prepared to pivot or adjust aspects of your product launch, you’ll never be caught off guard. By keeping track of as much data as possible and deriving action-oriented insights, you can catch a product launch before it derails, or push it to even greater success.
Prepare for what’s next
After release, begin working on updates or future releases of your product to keep customers happy. Continue to gather feedback to know what is and isn’t working. Loyal customers feel like you are listening to them, and improving a product is a great way to show them they matter. Stay hungry and innovative by planning improvements, releasing new models and developing plans for the next major product launch.
The bottom line on product launching
The truth is, most products fail. There is no perfect product launch or fail-proof methodology, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances for a successful launch. This guide should help you develop a great product that your customers want, and help you reach new audiences, as well.