Hitting Your Product Launch Targets
New product launch has gotten more challenging since we last wrote about it. As corporations have cut back on true R&D, it’s often smaller companies bringing new technologies to market. There are often resource challenges, unclear accountabilities, and ad hoc project teams with competing priorities.
Both large and small companies face common barriers to product launch success:
- Lack of data — Companies often have insufficient information on market sizing, customer needs, and other market factors. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to solving a problem that doesn’t exist, or solving a problem for too small of an addressable audience.
- Internal communication — From lack of buy-in to strategy, to confusion in roles and accountability, poor internal communications can slow time to market.
- Lack of involvement — Early cross-discipline support and alignment from engineering, marketing, sales, IP/legal, supply chain and customer support is critical.
- Lack of resources —“Business as usual” is consuming enough. Fresh ideas and dedicated resources may require looking to outside partners.
- Lack of objective milestones — Measurable objectives and clear goals are critical to smart product launch.
Our comprehensive checklist provides step-by-step marketing and product launch tips to help you ensure that each part of your launch is communicated and executed effectively.
Product Launch Plan
A detailed product launch plan with quantifiable goals can set you up for success. We've identified five phases of product launch and included key activities and metrics that your company can use to stay on track.
Phase I: Initial Planning
Timing: 6-9 months before launch date
- Determine your key objectives. For example:
- Grow share-of-wallet with existing customers
- Target new market or geography
- Increase average customer spend
- New product orders from existing customers
- Web leads, RFQs, or orders from new market/geography
- Lifetime value per customer
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. External buzz will include social media campaigns, email blasts, and PR. Create buzz internally, too, using intranet or IM messages, posters or banners in the break room, social media, email notifications, and all-hands meetings.
- Share content calendar and style guidelines with your creative and content team.
- Inform your launch team of key events, activities, roles and responsibilities.
Metrics: To gauge interest at this stage, consider tracking:
- Downloads of product-related content
- Product waiting list sign-ups
- Social media mentions and engagement
- Media interviews and published articles
Phase III: Sales and Channel Partner Launch
Timing: 1 month before launch date
Launch to sales 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.
Metrics: Identify which channel partners to invest time and training in by measuring engagement via email open rates, website portal visits, etc.
Phase IV: Launch Day
Launch Day is when months’ worth of hard work is set in motion. Web pages go live, and the product is finally unveiled—often at a tradeshow or other industry event. You're main goal at this point is to observe the public’s response.
Of course, a soft launch is a common launch plan when companies lack the time and resources to properly launch. It is a practical strategy, especially when testing a minimum viable product, but be sure to create a launch event retroactively. Treating your product launch as a distinct event creates the momentum you need to fuel sales.
Metrics: Pay attention to website and landing page traffic on launch days and the days following. Monitor social media and PR buzz, and keep track of how many people attend your launch event.
Phase V: Post-launch and Follow-up
Timing: 3+ months after launch, depending on the length of your sales cycle
- Use the metrics you chose during initial planning, and compare these results with your 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 buzz, reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals.
Metrics: Continue to assess launch performance throughout the follow-up phase. Use these numbers to optimize ongoing marketing efforts and to inform the planning and goals for your next initiative.
If you'd like a second opinion on your product launch plan or need some advice on where to start, give us a call or request a free consultation.