So you’ve got a great idea for a new product, what do you do now?
There are many reasons the products fail before or during a launch, while others rise to glory and become a staple of today’s business operations. To help your product avoid early pitfalls, you’ll need an understanding of your market and a strong marketing campaign to get it off the ground.
Here are five lessons we’ve learned through new product launches and from conversations with manufacturers and marketers over the years. Keep these in mind when you take that next great idea from brainstorming through production.
Determine Your Market and Customers
The first step to getting your product launch right is to look at the market and make sure there’s a hole your product will fill. You need to do a large amount of research in the market itself around the problem you want to solve.
Research needs to include who has the problem, what services or products already solve it and if whatever causes the problem is likely to present a solution. After you have an idea of the problem, turn your research to the cost of the annoyance the problem causes and the value that consumers would put at the solution.
If it’s a problem that the consumer can currently solve in just a couple minutes and only happens a few times a month, it’s unlikely that your product is going to sell for hundreds of dollars.
As you’re making these valuation judgments, you’ll start to get an idea of who your customer is and what their preferences are. Record as much demographic and persona information as possible so you know how to market your product. If you’re solving an issue for truckers, for example, you should understand their salary range so you’re not pricing yourself out of business even before you land in stores.
Attention Aims for Being Buzz-Worthy
New products need press, no matter where they’re aimed.
If you’re looking at the B2B space or a specific industry, your best bet may be the industry-specific publications of your customers. Make your pitch about identifying and solving problems in a cost-effective measure.
Keep it simple and define your product as a clearly defined solution.
If you have the time and know the market, consider giving one company a test run before your product comes to market. This can provide you with a great case study and product evangelist before you start a true marketing pitch. Happy customers are great advocates, and giving someone a sneak peak is a top-notch way to start out with someone on your side.
Case studies and beta testing can also help you build demand before your product actually launches. Anticipation is one of the greatest things your product can have before it goes on sale.
Once you have your message and a potential customer on board, start working on your message. Aim for a story that’s interesting and fun, something to get people excited about your product and willing to share what it does.
One great way to figure out what’s exciting is to imagine that you’re at the cocktail reception end of a long day of sessions at a customer conference. What products (not yours) or stories do you talk about and why are they compelling? Use this as a guide to building a thought-provoking message.
Make Honest Claims
One reason that many products fail after they launch is the company has been too zealous in claiming the benefits and solution it offers. Launch your product only when it’s ready to go to market and when it actually meets the claims you’re making.
Microsoft Vista usually comes up in these conversations because it was an unmitigated disaster at launch, even with Microsoft spending roughly $500 million on marketing. It simply wasn’t ready for consumers and its release actually helped improve competitor sales. Vista is what prompted Apple’s “I’m a Mac” TV campaign, a big hit for years.
Today, the risk is much higher because of your customers.
When a competitor takes you to task, many consumers will see this simply as part of the market. However, when your customers take to Twitter or LinkedIn and bash your product, consumers will see it as an honest review and a valid view on the problems with your product. Consumers trust peer reviews and word of mouth more than any other type of advertising, and study after study shows that online reviews from Yelp and other services are on this same peer-review level.
Leak Your News
Everyone loves feeling like they’re first to get something or learn something. This means leaking your information can be a great way to add an exclusivity to a product before it launches – even if you’re creating a mass-market product.
Leaking information to targeted publications, bloggers or experts will give you control over what’s released and when. Slow leaks and rollouts build up anticipation for the audience that’s waiting for your new product.
Leaks aren’t just for big products like smartphones. If your product has a smaller reach, you just need to be more selective for your leak. Aim for trade publications that hit your demographic and publish lots of pictures. A great photo that shows your product and how it solves a problem can be worth more than any ad you place.
However, don’t neglect those ads! After you select a publication for your leak, buy up some ad inventory either in other parts of the publication or in later issues. Tout that you’ve got a product coming up, but keep it as a teaser. If the publication sees a lot of interest in those ads, it’ll re-run your leaked information or it’ll improve the location of the story online, because the publication will make more money as page views get higher and higher.
Talking After You’ve Launched
Monitor the coverage of your product immediately after your launch. Keep a note of the companies and publications that give you the most positive reviews and those with constructive criticism.
Use company advocates and happy customers to answer any of the complaints or questions published about your new product. Offering journalists an independent person to speak with or an in-person demonstration of your new product can help change their mind. It also gives them new material to write a follow-up article, extending the new cycle of your product release.
If someone has been very supportive of your product, reach out to them and offer an interview with an executive or product head. A receptive journalist is more likely to write up an in-depth interview and have specific questions to help their readership. These interviews not only provide you with good press, but they can also help you verify that your buyer personas are on the right track.
By Philip Odette, 2014