A product launch is always exciting. There’s nothing like sharing your creation or service to the world. Many entrepreneurs hardly wait when they know they have a winner in their hands. Ka-Ching! They’re already counting the chickens before the eggs hatch.
I’ve been involved with several product launches, and have witnessed others go through the same. Many are hits, but unfortunately, there have been a lot of flops as well.
I’m going to share the best hacks, common elements and techniques that I have learned through many of the most successful launches, so you’ll succeed with your own.
The Challenges You Face
First, you’re not the only one with a new idea. Every day, new products from every industry compete for attention. According to Jack Trout, American families buy the same 150 items, mainly out of habit. Most of these purchases are for personal needs, and it takes a lot of convincing for them to change brands or adopt new products.
Also, there’s a chance your competitors are launching similar offerings. It’s tempting to launch ASAP to get ahead of them. Look at the smartphones industry. The new lineups are almost all alike. However, only a handful of brands rise above the rest. Why? The companies behind these bestsellers don’t take their competitors for granted.
A new product or service launch requires planning, preparation, patience and timing. Here are some questions you need to answer first:
Are you prepared?
According to this HBR article, 80% to 95% of new products fail. It’s a sobering statistic, but this shouldn’t discourage you. The biggest reason for failures is the lack of preparation. Many companies fail to meet demand once their product takes off, while others are unprepared to handle inquiries because of poor customer service.
Is your new product user-friendly?
Home, a Facebook app launched in 2013, was unsuccessful because of glitches and snags. Users complained of difficulties toggling between the app and their Smartphone’s interface. Was it served half-baked? This is one question on many people’s minds. The product was quietly dropped.
Is your product more hype than substance?
Another reason why new products fail is they fall short of expectations. Does Windows Vista ring a bell? It’s one example of a product that definitely didn’t live up to the hype. How about Segway, the product that was supposed to completely revolutionize transportation? Amazon Fire? Anybody?
Is your product too revolutionary and expensive?
A new product can be a great idea but ahead of its time. Did you know that video calling was already possible in 1964? AT&T introduced Picturephone at its exhibit in Disneyland. The first video call was made in Pittsburgh, PA. Then … nothing … until the very recent era of Zoom and Skype over 50 years later.
Maybe this will happen with Google Glass (which also suffered from poor preparation.) Augmented reality has been here for over a decade … but it’s still too much in the realm of science fiction. Who knows what will happen in 50 years, though?
Is your launch timely?
Timing is everything. Are you selling seasonal products? For instance, if you’re launching the latest sunblock, the winter season might not be a perfect time. Analyze the current economic environment. Is your new product sorely needed? Holding off a launch during a recession might be the right move.
Everyone loves the underdog, but choose your battles wisely. When Apple launches its new iPhone, the other mobile phone companies stand back and wait. They’re not really giving in. They’re just watching for weaknesses they can exploit and the hype to die down so the fickle spotlight can shine over them.
Now, are their common elements and characteristics of successful launches? Certainly! Here are 11 sure-fire and time-tested ways your product launch can be successful. They work for both small and big businesses, and for any product or service launch. Most of these are incorporated into the product launches I am involved in.
1. Engage your Fans
If you want to gauge if your product will sell, test with your raving fans. They can suggest improvements and even better concepts for your future launches. You can also find out how much they’re willing to spend on your new idea. If you want a better feel of your target market, go to them directly, either by communicating with your email list or your Facebook Group.
Your fans are also perfect for A/B split testing. Offer participants discounts or even freebies for their time and contributions.
Lego’s Ninjago became successful because it scaled up its engagement with its fans. The company uses online forums like its message boards and Lego Ideas to listen to its customers. Lego offers a 1% royalty on ideas that become actual products.
2. Offer a free trial
This is one tried and tested way to create buzz about your new product. You’ll find free-trials everywhere, online and offline. Samplings of new culinary concoctions, apps, software, vitamins and delivery services are just a few examples.
Harry’s is a company that launched custom-made razors at lower prices than those of its competitors. They offered a free trial of its products and only asked $3 for shipping. Customers were then encouraged to enroll in a plan that supplied them with refills. If they were unhappy with the product, they could cancel anytime.
Posted on its webpages and through social media advertisements, Harry’s free-trial offer was an instant success. With at least 3 million current customers, the company is now a big online retailer.
3. Offer Big Savings on Pre-Orders
One way to measure demand for your new product is through a pre-order campaign. Don’t forget to promote on social media. You may not be as famous as Apple, but it doesn’t mean you won’t generate brand awareness. Also, discounts on pre-orders might be enough to get fence-sitters on board.
Aside from the added sales, there are other benefits of pre-ordering. The lack of enthusiasm or response can indicate that your product or service may be short on features, or your marketing needs more testing. Conversely, your forecasts might be lower than the actual demand, so you can pivot and plan for higher order numbers.
4. Employ Influencers
You don’t have to hire celebrities to promote your new product or service. Micro-influencers are as just as effective, if not better. They have loyal niche followers who are very engaged. I’m sure you have customers that are active on social media. In their own way, they can become your influencers too. Why not ask for their support?
LaCroix sparkling water got influencers to test their new water flavors. They focused on fitness influencers. They even employed Tinkerbelle the dog to promote their products. LaCroix asked people to share photos of them enjoying the new flavors on Instagram with captions inviting others to try the drinks too.
If you already have influencers, don’t forget them for your product launch! We have an entire article on contacting and hiring influencers to help market your business.
5. Make Your Product Launch an EVENT
It doesn’t have to be a big affair with the press and media present. You could do it virtually from the confines of your office or home. Your audience can include your fans, friends and family. Ask them to invite others too.
Not only can you talk about your new product’s features. You can do a live demo. Kate Spade live-streamed their 2017 spring collection, which enabled viewers to buy what they saw. With an excellent presentation, people started ordering.
6. Turn Your Launch into a Contest
Macy’s promoted their new fitness clothing through a contest. Fans only had to like their FB page to enter. The winner received a $1,000 gift card for a new fitness wardrobe.
A contest is a better way to launch a new product or service. You can run sweepstakes, photo, short video, art or even a writing contest. A countdown timer will let your audience know when your contest ends, which can coincide with your product launch.
Contests keep your loyal fans engaged and excited about your brand. It’s one way of showing customer appreciation. We have an article on how to run a contest to gain new leads, and you can easily modify this to generate viral buzz about your launch.
7. Give An Online Showcase
This could come in the form of a video or social media posts. Always create a landing page for your new product. Include a demonstration video or 360 degree photos. Then, send traffic to it via your email list, social media ads, Youtube ads and press releases.
Many companies also call these “drops”, as in “Our new product drops in 5 days!“
8. Get Expert Opinions
Are there authorities, consumer media outlets or popular review blogs in your industry or niche who can review your product or service? They don’t usually favor any particular brand. This is what distinguishes them from influencers. An objective evaluation will help your new product take off.
Your customers will value a review that is honest and believable, and you can often place a “As featured on” seal on your landing page.
9. Know Your Target Audience
It’s never about you or your product. It’s always about improving the lives of your target audience. Even big brands like Apple fail when they lose focus on their customers. Think of the failed iPhone8. It was barely different from the previous iPhone version, and Apple was already talking about sizzling features for the next version … not good marketing for the iPhone that had just come out. Customers were definitely turned off.
Levi’s ran a campaign with the tagline, “hotness comes in all forms and sizes.” The image that went with the promotion was of three super-slim models. Clearly, they didn’t represent the average woman. Here is an example of a disconnect that escaped the marketing team of Levi’s.
Always focus on who your customers are and what they need. When you do, you’re most likely to succeed. We have this article on finding out who your target customers are.
10. Build Up Trust and Excitement
Similar to the last point, remember that your audience are people. Do they want your product? Do they trust you? For a successful launch, you must get them excited and yearning for your product or service!
How to do this? You have several ways, but there’s definitely a couple common strategies I use:
Trust: Testimonials, a money-back guarantee, an About Us page showing your company and a little about yourself. You are not some faceless corporation, but a real person passionate about what you sell.
Show the benefits, not the features: You widget has a fancy button. That’s great … but how does it improve people’s lives? How does it solve their problem? Showcase the benefits to the owner, and you’ll generate much more interest and excitement from your audience.
Pre-launch campaign: Make sure you build up an audience before your launch. Once you advertise to your target audience, don’t sell the product right away. Get them onto a dedicated mailing list and promise bonuses and discounts not available to the general public. Have a countdown timer on your landing page showing when your product or service will launch. Build up the anticipation.
Send emails every day or few days explaining the benefits, sending bonus materials and showcasing it in action. Remember, they signed up for you list, so they WANT this information from you. Your pre-launch campaign should last about a week before the launch.
When the day comes, BOOM, massive sales due to all the build-up!
11. Plan Far Ahead
Create a plan, complete with a timeline. Depending on your product or service, you should have a strategy in place months before you launch. This should include checking out what your competitors are doing, and making sure all bugs are ironed out and everything is ready to sell.
Set up a budget for your marketing. You’ll likely spend on advertising, surveys and contests.
Your plan should be flexible, allowing for adjustments when needed. Also plan all the emails you’ll send, the workflow for your sales funnel, and contingencies if your product sells out.
Once you’ve launched, there’s no turning back. It’s better to delay if, for instance, you suddenly discover a significant flaw in your new product.
However, if you’ve done your planning, prepared your product and service and incorporated some or all of the points above in your launch, it’s all systems go. Then, you can begin your successful countdown. T- minus …