Boosting product launch success

A study by Statista reveals an increasing number of new businesses over the past 12 years. Why is this an important metric in our conversation? It is mainly because businesses launch to deliver new products into the market.


Business launch vs product launch

Before we proceed, allow me to clarify that a business launch is different from a product launch. They are not the same thing.

A business launch refers to the birth of a new venture. A business is the platform/entity that creates and supports the existence of the product/solution, which the market interacts with. A product launch happens when a business introduces its solution/product to the market.

A product launch is one of the phases of a product’s lifecycle. We are here to discuss key aspects to this early stage of your product’s life cycle; the stage where your product is introduced to the market.

To do that efficiently, let’s ask an important question: Where do products come from?

Most products are from someone identifying a problem and creating a solution for it. These problems can be existing problems we all encounter during the course of our day-to-day lives or a proposal to interrupt/improve the way we do things, but better. Some of these problems are obvious to us (think of malaria and the introduction of anti-malarial medication) and some of them are far-fetched (think of hot air balloons).

As I often say, “one man’s problem is another man’s project”.


Product launch fail and increasing success chances

Having touched on where products come from, I’ll quickly touch on five of the many reasons their introduction to the market fails.

1. No need for the product: A good number of products are created from the fancy of the creator and nothing more. In rare cases, one can find a market for a product they personally had a fancy for; but in most cases, the product finds low or no resonance at all when presented to the market. Poor product-market fit occurs for different reasons. Some are:

a) Maker’s bias: This means making products you like and hoping other people like it.

b) Poor market assessment: This happens when a product is developed from a market need, but the maker doesn’t engage the intended users in the process of building the product. This means the product will not end up addressing the user’s real need.

2. Poor product development: Sayyou’ve done your homework and found a good market, but then go on to float the development stage with poor quality goods, or make a great product with poor packaging. Production mistakes really impact market perception greatly.

3. Weak marketing/communication plan: Say you have done the hard work of finding market fit for your great product, introducing it to the market requires a clear communication plan delivered in phases. Failure to successfully connect with the people, who need your product can be a huge deterrent to product launch success.

4. Poor timing: There’s such a thing as a great product released at the wrong time. Some products are ultimately great and fit for a problem, but the time mismatch comes into the picture when the top adopters of a product do not find the product useful or do not influence the other tiers of adopters as quickly as is needed to ensure product penetration into the market.

5. Unwillingness to retry: When a product launch fails, it is hardly ever the end of the road for that product; it’s a key part of the feedback loop, which tells what needs improvement. A product that had failed at some point can become a market success, if feedback is properly implemented. Do not underestimate the power of a proper re-launch. Seasoned product managers and marketers have brought back otherwise dead products and made them enticing again. We hope it comforts you to know that no one is immune to product launch failure. The best and the biggest companies still fail at product launches.

Increasing the likelihood of success

The first thing about improving chances of a product launch success is that you require a system to ensure success.

Product launches require a lot of forethought. Building a checklist enables one to ensure follow through. What should your checklist have?

In no particular order, here are some thoughts we hope will get the wheels spinning when it comes to getting things in place for a proper product launch.

1. Market research: While Building your product, you worked with the users, assessed the competition and the product landscape for that product. It is time to do that again, but this time with a communication objective.
What words do the users use? What is the competition’s communication strength? How best do we segment the audience? What can you learn about the communities relevant for market penetration? How best can you work with these communities in the long term?

2. Positioning statement: A positioning statement is built from proper market research, knowledge of the product and from the product’s unique value proposition. Your product’s positioning statement speaks to the priority problems or needs of the market you aim to capture. Sometimes, it is your value proposition put out there in literal terms or implied using substituted words. For instance, “We are a fintech reducing the cost of transactions for users” can be stated literally (if you are the first mover in that direction) or can be implied as “Freedom to pay” or something close. Get the drift? You will know you have the right positioning statement, if it makes the user feel and think what you want them to feel and think about your product.

3. Set goal: All this work with planning and execution is for the sole intent of ensuring the product succeeds in the market. Correct? Well put a number to it. How many orders will you like to rack up on launch day? What other success metrics are you looking at? These help you really begin thinking how best to accomplish them. It also help all internal players know how much work will be required of them.

Pro tip: It is always better to set audacious goals and fail forward than to set average goals that are easily attainable.

4. Plan with stakeholders: You did not build the product alone (and if you did, we do not advise you launch it alone). There is a creator bias, which inevitably messes up the communication side to a successful product launch. This is where you work with other people to ensure the acceptance of the product by the market. Building a proper launch involves seeking the advice of key participants in the process to ensure their investment in the process. When you pull this together, you have a big plan. Now it’s time to show everyone the big picture, so that they know what they are a part of.

5. Develop go-to-market strategy: This sounds complicated, but it really is a series of actions calculated to ensure you communicate a clear message to a specific audience per time. A go-to-market strategy basically ensures you capture a particular audience per time and build that relationship from there.
A media plan is a good part of your go-to-market strategy. It really is a combination of a clear message you aim to put out on what you want the world to know about your product and the different channels (online and offline platforms), which will ensure you reach this audience and get them to act.

6. Create launch offer: Include bonuses, discounts, one-time, limited time offers and other forms of incentives that sweeten the deal and heighten the buying experience for the intended market. This one step increases your chances of success remarkably and is often missing in otherwise good product launches.

7. Choose date: Without deadlines, everyone is easily worn out from continuous and seemingly needless work; there is no cohesion and nothing for the team and the market to look forward to. When you set a launch date, you give everyone something to anticipate. Even if you have to postpone, it is better to have a well-thought-out product launch day for everyone to anticipate.

8. Communicate details: This reads like “Present to stakeholders” yes? Well, when you started, you did not have a few things figured out; you took a few steps forward, and that’s a good thing. You have a launch date and let everyone, internally and externally, know what to anticipate. Communicate your plan to all internal stakeholders to ensure alignment.

Equally important is that you assign roles to team members. The development team has to ensure your product can withstand the stress of a surge of traffic. The fulfilment system has to be ready for mass intake and to scale exponentially in the event that the product goes viral. Communication materials have to be ready to ensure that reliable people are deployed to handle these things, and you are clear about what is expected of them.

9. Pre-launch internal test: Your promotional material really is a promise to the world about what your product can deliver for them. It is important to check, test and re-test for as many scenarios as possible to minimise vulnerabilities. It is important to avoid failure on the launch day proper, as the market does not easily forgive a bad first impression. While it is best to avoid a launch day flop, a failed first impression is not the end of your product. In fact, it can be the rebirth your product needs and, if well handled, can be the very thing you need to build mass appeal. But that’s for another article, so let’s get on with this.

An internal launch is a very serious affair; sometimes, even more serious than launch day itself. It is different from product testing, which is focused on the product. But the internal launch tests all aspects of the launch strategy across all departments. If your internal launch is strong enough, all you have to do is scale it as you put it out externally.

10. Communicate externally: This refers to you deploying the different phases of your external communication efforts: pre-launch, launch and post-launch. When you have achieved a high enough level of satisfaction about launch day proper, it is time to put out your communication materials and build a lot of anticipation prior to the release. It is important to build up a lot of anticipation about the product release and launch day, as this is what grows attention about the product, consequently driving demand. Also, ensure to create key promotional materials: banners, design, press releases, ad copy, etc. Ensure they carry the key information and distributed using channels that reach your target audience.

11. Tracking and measure: To ensure your launch efforts are properly invested, it is important to ensure that measurement is properly done. This helps you evaluate your efforts properly. This enables you determine what is working, so you can do more of it.

12. Plan for orders: Fulfilment is key to trust and reliability. Many product launches fail because they, sometimes, either do not consider the extreme possibility of stress on fulfilment systems on launch day/week or do not plan to manage those properly. Sometimes, unforeseen stress on fulfilment will require post-launch communication to manage the situation properly.

13. Fly: With all things ready, it is important to throw in as much enjoyment into the launch day activities as possible to reward everyone involved. This makes for a great experience for your event guests (if you have an event).

14. Post-launch: The market has met your product. Whether launch day went as planned or not, it’s time to reward yourself and your team. Product launches take a lot of heart, and work as well. After the dust from launch day has settled, it’s time to count the eggs.

In summary, we hope the points above help you get a hold of things in general.

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