Ready! Set! Go! Launch Your New Product with Confidence.
You’re excited about your new product. You’ve beta-tested it to the max, you’ve revised, you’ve tested again, and it’s ready. Now what? The purpose of this post is to give you a basic blueprint of what you need to do in order to have a successful product launch. We’re going to assume the product is, indeed, ready (so if patents are needed or distribution agreements need to be signed, we’re going to assume that this is all set). We’re also going to assume that you’ve done your market research and that there is, in fact, a market for your product.
An important note: We recommend that you start thinking about the launch while you’re still finalizing the product itself. We realize it’s a bit of a chicken-or-egg conundrum. Shouldn’t you wait until you’re absolutely sure you have a product to launch before you spend the time investing in a launch plan? Yes and no. There will come a point as you’re developing your product where you’ll know it’s moving forward. At this point, you’ll likely have a solid sense of timing, too (i.e. when it will be ready to market). This is when you should seriously start to develop your launch plan, which should include the items outlined below.
Product Launch Strategy
1. Determine your budget. You’ve no doubt poured a lot of money into research and development, but now you need to have a number in mind for your product launch (which is just a fancy way of saying “marketing”). Be realistic, but make sure you have a number to work with.
2. Determine who will be on your launch team. While it’s not impossible to launch a product on your own, it does help if you have at least a couple of other marketing and/or social media savvy people to help. Identify your team and include them in strategy discussions.
3. Develop a website strategy. If this is a brand new product for a brand new business, obviously, you’ll need a website. Creating a brand-spanking new site is straightforward: you want great responsive design, easy navigation, clear messages, and an obvious way for people to buy your product (either online, in store, or both).
But what if you already have a business website? What if this is a brand new product for your existing business or perhaps a new product in a line of existing products? How do you make sure site visitors learn about it? How do you highlight it without losing focus on the other things your company does?
See? This is why you need a website strategy. During the initial launch, and probably for several months afterwards, you’re going to want to have some sort of call-out on your home page about the new product. This should then lead to a section on your site where people can learn more: product details, the “story” behind the product, how to buy it, customer reviews to date. This section should be clear, clean, and easy to navigate, and it should allow visitors an easy way to return to the home page.
4. Develop a “buzz” strategy. Buzz goes beyond simple PR, press releases, and media lists. Those things still matter, and they will be part of your overall buzz plan, but you should also think about the following:
- How will you alert current customers about your new product? Think of all the means at your disposal for contacting them: snail mail, email, text messaging, etc. Now, create a strategy for announcing your new product through all the different media. Remember, it’s much easier to sell to current and past customers, so you’ll want to make sure you have a plan for reaching them.
- How will you attract new prospects? Think about where your core audience “hangs out” and will see information about your product. Are they online? Are they in-store shoppers? Do they love coupons?
- How will you engage with the media? Will you simply send a press release over the wire using a service like PRWeb? Does your product have “local” appeal, meaning you could land a feature in a local daily or weekly paper (we recommend checking out your local Patch outlets)? Does the product have a larger story that could land some additional press, such as TV coverage? See our blog post on “When to send a press release,” since it will guide you on discovering the all-important news “hook,” which you’ll need to do with this product if you expect to get any press.
5. Develop a social media strategy. At first blush, it might make sense to make this part of your overall “buzz plan,” but social media is such a big undertaking that it needs to have its own separate strategy. So what will your strategy be? Some items to consider:
- Create a Facebook page specifically for your product. Use Facebook ads to drive awareness/likes. Over time, you can use the ads to drive sales.
- Contact review bloggers. A great way to get press is to reach out to bloggers and let them use your product in exchange for an honest review (and bloggers would need to reveal in their blog posts the fact that they received the product from you). Car companies do this a lot, allowing journalists and bloggers to conduct road tests.
- Pitch articles as a guest blogger. Blog owners are always looking for content. Remember, though, that your article can’t be a thinly veiled sales pitch for your new product. Instead, figure out a story that makes sense for the blog you want to write for and then include a mention of your new product in your author bio with a link back to your site (this is great from an SEO standpoint as well).
- Create a series around your new product for YOUR blog. Think that sounds boring? If you’re putting out a worthwhile, buzz-worthy product that your customers want and need, then they’ll be interested in reading about your product. Google does a good job of writing useful posts around various products it releases, like this one on tips for using the Google Maps app.
- Make sure you have plans for updating all of your social media profiles with info about your latest product. Think LinkedIn (which has a products tab on company pages), Google+, your main Facebook page, etc.
6. Gather ideas from the masters. You might think of companies like Apple when it comes to splashy product launches, and you can certainly look to them for inspiration. But remember this: “products” run the gamut from gadgets to books to cars to films, so consider following and focusing on companies you might not have necessarily thought of before, especially when it comes to figuring out how to engage people on social media. We recommend following some upcoming movies or television shows and watching how the film and TV studios use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. to engage fans. (For a great example, check out the Les Mis Facebook page and scroll back to, say, last September when buzz was really starting to build for this movie — this product.)
7. What will your launch party look like? It could be a virtual launch party, a more formal “party” like what Apple does every time it unveils something big, or it could be a gathering with customers, vendors, and employees (a good example to use as a model: book parties that publishing houses hold). Whatever the venue, your “party” will have certain staples, such as food/beverages, an official “unveiling,” and some sort of interaction with the product/product maker and guests. Beyond that, you can get creative: perhaps there will be prizes/giveaways and/or entertainment. The key takeaway is that you should mark/acknowledge the official day.
8. Stock up on promotional items. There’s probably no time where promotional items make more sense than new product launches. The more cool items you can have imprinted with your message and the more hands you can get these items into, the better. From full-color magnets (pictured) to custom T-shirts, promotional products should most definitely be part of your overall strategy.
9. Consider wildcard ideas. During some of the strategy phases above, you or your fellow team members might come up with a “wildcard” idea that might seem easy to dismiss. Don’t. Keep track of these long-shot ideas, and as you get closer to the pre-launch phase (more on this below), consider your budget and just how crazy some of those ideas are. When you sit back and look at your overall plan and what you have covered and what you have lacking, you might see a place for one of those ideas that seemed a little too crazy or “out there” when you first sat down to strategize.
It’s important to note that some of these steps might very well happen concurrently with one another.
10. Now for the nitty-gritty: map out a pre-launch, launch, and post-launch plan. Steps one through nine above involve strategy and ideas. Now you can match those strategies to specific timeframes. For example, during your pre-launch phase, you’ll be getting the web pages finalized, and they’ll officially “go-live” during the launch itself. During the pre-launch phase, you’ll be creating your social media strategy — perhaps even crafting tweets and Facebook status updates that you schedule for the launch day (and days that follow) itself. You get the idea. This document will be your team’s roadmap with info on what needs to be done, when, and who is responsible for what. Post-launch is the time to evaluate how things went (hold a postmortem discussion with your team) and to make adjustments based on information/reaction from customers and prospects.
Pre-launch phases can last anywhere from one to four weeks (give or take) and the launch itself can range anywhere from one to seven days (again, give or take — these aren’t “rules” that have been written in stone, but merely guidelines).
11. Implement the plan. Seems obvious, but it’s worth stating. Once you’ve done the leg work, the research, and have created a plan, it’s time to execute it. This is an exciting time, and it should be more fun than stressful if you plan it right. Get ready to rock your project launch and enjoy the journey.
How about you? Has your business ever launched a product? What suggestions do you have for fellow business owners based on your experience? Share in the comments.