In the last few months, some very high profile products launches have been deemed a “bust” shortly after their debuts. The most notable of these is the HP TouchPad. Although no one can guarantee that a product introduction will be a success, there are ways to avoid mistakes and reduce the likelihood that it will be a failure.
Each company’s business strategy is different. This means that the amount of time and resources a company will invest to develop a new product and nurture its adoption and growth will vary. No matter what your firm’s strategy is, when planning the launch of a new product, take steps upfront to avoid launch mistakes.
A previous post outlined eight “Must Haves” when planning a product launch.” To avoid mistakes, follow these eight “Don’t Do’s” when preparing for a launch:
1. Don’t assume that a market exists for your product. Early on in the development process do research to confirm that there is a large enough market for what you’re creating. Segment the market and size it. Identify your target users and project the return this market can generate. Is your concept financially viable? Will people want to use the product or service? What is different about it? Does it solve an unmet need? Get answers to those questions and more before heavily investing time and resources into its creation.
2. Don’t develop a product without customer input. It’s not enough that the research showed that there’s a market for the product. Whether you’re creating a whole new product or improving an existing one, have people try it out first. Expose the product to different use cases and types of users. Leverage social media to help recruit beta or focus group participants. Given that business is increasingly competitive and many buyers remain cautious with their spending, customer input early on is essential so that you ultimately produce something that customers will want to purchase and use.
3. Don’t release a product that doesn’t work. If the product has technical issues or doesn’t do what is claimed, then fix it before releasing it. This may sound like obvious advice, but companies have been known to forgo quality concerns and push product to market prematurely. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Mislead customers’ expectations and they’re unlikely to forgive and forget, much less buy from your company again.
4. Don’t start preparing at the last minute. Launches should never be an afterthought. A lot of planning and effort goes into the creation of a new product. Inevitably it needs to be introduced to the marketplace. Start preparing months in advance, not weeks. Two months is the absolute minimum, but even that timing may be way too tight.
5. Don’t go forward without a launch strategy and plan. Without a clear strategy and plan, operational chaos can easily erupt. Prevent that outcome. Early on, determine what the business objectives are for the product that’s coming to market. Build a strategy to achieve those targets and a plan that captures the tactics necessary to do so. Specify how the launch’s success is going to be measured. Circulate the plan, so that everyone involved in executing it understands it, knows what they’re responsible for and when their tasks must be completed by.
6. Don’t forget to get all the involved departments ready. Form a core team consisting of members from all the departments that have responsibility for some aspect of the product’s introduction. See that they work as one cohesive unit, not as separate functions, so that all the deadlines are met on time and the debut goes off as envisioned.
7. Don’t keep your partners out of the loop. Your partners are an extension of your company. They need to be knowledgeable about your products so that they can do as good a job of selling as your own salesforce. Educate your partners on what’s coming so they are ready to help move product right away.
8. Don’t spend your entire budget on the launch. Launches are essentially the kickoff campaigns for new products. Make sure not to spend your entire budget on them. You’ll need funds to continue to build awareness, generate leads, run promotions and provide superb customer support. No matter what combination of advertising, social media, PR, email marketing or other marketing methods you use, it all costs money to do.
If any of these “don’t do’s” sound familiar, you’re not alone. We can all learn from past marketing mistakes. Follow these tips and you’re likely to make fewer errors when launching a product.