Whether you're a newby or a veteran of product launches, there's no denying the anticipation of opportunity along with the stress of accomplishing all of the tasks the launch team faces. As the launch date approaches, the flurry of activity increases, making it easy to overlook something or cut corners. Keeping track of who is responsible for what and when challenges even the most organized. Many business leaders find it is in their best interest to seek external support to help organize and execute key activities.
According to the Corporate Executive Board, the top three challenges that impede a successful product launch include product planning; internal communications; and product launch execution across a launch team comprised of people from broad disciplines including engineering, marketing, sales, supply chain and customer support. Shifting from product development to product launch can complicate who owns what and when.
Product Launch Plan
Often the product launch plan is captured in a high-level product development plan; however to get it right, a separate, more detailed launch plan is best. You can segment your plan into phases:
- Initial planning
- Pre-launch activities
- Sales & channel launch readiness
- Launch day
- Post-launch follow-up
Use the following guidelines to develop your launch plan:
Phase I: Initial Planning
Timing: 3-6 months before launch date
Key questions and activities:
- What’s the key objective of the product launch?
- Grow share-of-wallet with existing customers
- Target new market or geography
- Leverage new technology
- What metrics will you use to measure success the objective(s)?
- Who is the customer the product is targeting and how will the product benefit them?
- Write a succinct positioning statement that will serve as the basis for your external and internal communications. Launch team participation and buy-in is key.
For example: “To deadline-oriented business people, Federal Express is the overnight package delivery service that is most reliable because of its sophisticated package tracking system.”
Phase II: Pre-launch
Timing: 3 months before launch date
- Develop a content calendar that highlights deliverables, themes, topics, timing, and marketing channels you’ll use to promote the launch.
- Create a style guide for terminology to be used in reference to the new product, as well as creative and visual aspects of product branding.
- Use our marketing roadmap template to plan key launch events and supporting marketing activities.
- Finalize pricing and distribution strategy.
- Develop sales training materials and sales collateral.
- Develop strategies for creating buzz around the launch.
Buzz should be created both internally and externally. Internally, this can include the use of intranet or screensaver messages, posters or banners in the break room, internal social media sites, email notifications, and meetings.
- Share content calendar and style guidelines with your creative and content team.
- Inform your launch team of key events, activities, roles and responsibilities.
Phase III: Sales and Channel Partner Launch
Timing: 1 month before launch date
Launch to channel partners (if you sell through channels), train, provide sales tools and collateral, and communicate process and support.
- Communicate a plan for providing ongoing sales and channel support.
- Train sales and channel partners.
Phase IV: Launch Day
This is the stage where all your planning and preparation comes together. From press releases and web pages going live to the public unveiling of the product — often at a trade show or other industry event — months worth of hard work is set in motion. You're now able to step back and observe, ensuring that everything goes smoothly — and making necessary adjustments if it doesn't. You can also start watching for initial positive or negative reaction to the launch. And don't forget to enjoy it!
Phase V: Post-launch and Follow-up
Timing: 3+ months after launch, depending on the length of your sales cycle
- Use metrics to monitor launch performance and compare with initial objectives.
- Gather feedback from customers, sales and channel partners.
- Establish an ongoing plan for lead generation and awareness.
Use early customer successes to capture momentum. Gather testimonials to use in marketing initiatives, and encourage positive social media engagement, reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals.
Learn how we can help your business test viability in the market and sort through the clutter of product launch planning.