June 15, 2017

Effective Product Launch

Launching your product is, arguably, the most important function you will undertake with your company.  It can mean the difference between success and failure, or, at least, between immediate success and deferred success.  Many entrepreneurial CEOs struggle with the product launch process.  They tend to be inexperienced in the marketing function and, therefore, focus on code completion versus market launch.  This leads to disappointment when the market does not rush to their door.

A successful product has some basic characteristics associated with it. First, it meets some recognized market problem or need (or even needs). Organizations are willing to spend money on solving that problem. The product is very good at solving the need. It has captured a significant portion of the desired market. It has integration touch-points with other related applications. The customers for the product are referenceable and generally satisfied. There is serious differentiation from potential competitors and the differentiation is defensible. In other words, it is not easy to duplicate the product or its perceived differentiation in the market. Plus, organizations recognize that differentiation as something that they are willing to pay for. The product is stable and free of defects. And finally, it uses the most appropriate (or newest in some cases) technology. For instance, it is a cloud-based product and the rest of the world is still in desktop or client-server technology.

So, as an entrepreneur looking to build a new product, it is critical to know and fully understand all of the variables that make a successful product. Hitting on one or two of the criteria will not make the product a successful one. The entrepreneur needs to think about the total criteria list.

It is also important to begin with the common errors of product launch which cause products to fail in the market.

  • Not thinking about product launch from inception of the product
  • Waiting until the last minute for execution of critical elements (mailing lists, conferences…)
  • Celebrate when the product is shipped out the door versus when a customer successfully buys and uses it
  • Describing the product and not its use
  • Did not build MSP (minimally saleable product). If it doesn’t sell, it is a hobby.
  • Clarity of message (structured and simple message points)
  • Lack of comprehensive and organized marketing campaign (piecemeal)
  • Reliance on social media and SEO
  • Lack of references
  • Lack of defensible differentiation
  • Lack of knowledge of ideal customer
  • No market need
  • Falling in love with the technology versus the use of the product
  • Unrealistic pricing (both ways)
  • Not understanding and documenting what outcome you want to achieve with the product and measuring that outcome when the product launches
  • Poor demo. After all that work building a product, many organizations mix up a demo with a training class.  A demo uses the product to solve customer problems, and focuses heavily on customer benefits.  A training class is a feature dump.

The solution to these problems is fairly obvious once you grasp the common errors.

  1. Perform adequate customer discovery and market research.
  2. Establish success metrics, market positioning and defensible differentiation before you even begin to build the product.
  3. Specify and build the product to the above metrics, position and differentiation.
  4. Conduct beta’s and pilots to gather learnings. Then have the discipline to stop doing pilots.
  5. Consider integration with complementary products (if possible).
  6. Develop a comprehensive market strategy. Get your market messaging right, concise, understandable and then and only then, develop a comprehensive lead generation plan that involves both outbound and inbound campaigns.
  7. Build your marketing support materials including your website, case studies, blogs… But build all of these to support your overall market messaging.  Don’t wander all over the place.
  8. Conduct internal sales and customer support training so that all of your people are in-synch and on-board.
  9. Perform proper market preparation and thought leadership to get the market prepared for your message and product.
  10. Conduct your lead generation campaign and measure what is working and what is not working. Either fix the things that are not working or drop them.
  11. Acquire customers and scale the business. Do not outrun your supply lines and over-spend. Make sure the market and your cash will support your growth plan.
  12. Establish partnership and referral programs to broaden your reach.
  13. Measure your results (sales, leads, conversion rates, outcomes…).
  14. Add to the product to make it stronger and more competitive. Focus your development on defensible differentiation rather than copying other functionality.
  15. If you have been successful, celebrate. Otherwise, determine what went wrong and fix it.

Also attached is a handy product launch checklist to help you determine what you will need in order to launch your product effectively.

For more information on how to conduct an effective product launch, contact Arbor Dakota below.  Arbor Dakota is committed to helping CEO’s grow their great ideas into great companies.