Every day new products are launching, sometimes from the top dogs in tech (hello Google Pixel 2XL), sometimes from an ambitious group on Kickstarter (I see you Exploding Kittens), and even from well-established B2B or B2C companies (Reese’s Outrageous Bar coming soon anyone?).
Something new is always brewing and believe it or not each of them has something in common. They all have the stress of getting the product to market on time and within a set budget.
What does that mean “get the product to market on time” anyway?
Usually, really important people in the company decide on a timeframe to launch a new product for reasons important to the company’s future, such as a way to kick off the quarter, appease board members, in time for holiday sales, and so forth. They all have a unique reason for a specific launch date. Most product launch reasons include “make money” as the key factor.
Each piece of development, design, engineering, production, and everything else in between requires a checklist of what needs to happen in order to make the launch deadline.
When you’re first thinking about a product launch you need to know who’s vital to it. Figure out which teams need to be involved.
Once you have the team members identified you can move onto the logistical pieces.
Have you figured out the product proposition? Have you identified your target customer? Did you decide on a really good (marketable) product name? Please tell me it’s a good one.
Does the messaging align with the target personas? Are you documenting all of this somewhere? You should be.
- Have you figured out the components required to get the product developed?
- Do you have the bandwidth to actually get the thing (or things) built?
- Are you able to QA and test the products before launch?
- Does the product need to approved by any regulatory agencies?
- Does it need to be patented? (Do this before you even think about a launch date).
Don’t forget to develop the packaging, product manuals, and specs. These are important for your distributors, resellers, and customers. Sometimes they even require special versions for different channels because that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Where’s It Gonna Be?
Have you figured out where your product(s) are being sold? How are potential customers finding the product?
Will you have an online presence? Is it available on Amazon, on your website, or can I find it at the nearest CVS?
Is it a SaaS product? Does that mean it’s only available on your website or via a marketplace? Is there a trial version available? Where’s that going to be available? Is your solution on-premise or cloud?
Have you considered what experience the customer will have if any?
Psst: Make sure they have a good customer experience, please. It's really important.
When thinking about delivering a good customer experience you need to consider:
- A customer support component
- An option for customer returns (if applicable)
- Communicating backorders
- Free shipping
- Discount or bundle options
Promote, Promote, Promote
Okay, awesome you figured out the first part of your product and product launch. Next, you need to figure out how you’re going to promote it. You need to get the word out and figure out the new age version of the lemonade stand.
Are you doing all the promotion yourself, in-house, contracting it out to an agency? Either way… plan, plan, plan and then plan again.
What are the other ways you’re telling the world? A well-written press release? Some snazzy launch event? Sometimes they are worth it. Sometimes a web presence is enough though. Each product launch should be unique and it should make sense for the product.
Plan and really think about your display ads, AdWords, social efforts and if you want a physical presence anywhere in particular. For some companies, roadshows and physical events are preferred.
Make sure your website is up-to-date and you have all the necessary info and assets to get the product out there. The next step will be to get your lead generation campaigns prepped within the right marketing automation tool that makes sense for your company. Get everyone in the company on board with employee advocacy and the right sharing tools.
Employee advocacy is key for product launches and company news in 2018 and beyond (or at least until I update this post).
In the age where everyone has a social media profile take advantage of your employees’ unique voice to get the news out there. Use a tool like Guru to aggregate and share graphics, messaging, collateral and video amongst your teams.
Whether you’re launching a new version of Stride gum, a temperature controlled coffee mug or a new piece of software that will help me automate my invoices, you will need a product demo.
You’ll need some sort of demo for internal use to train the sales teams, marketing mavericks and distributors as well as an external demo to drive sales pursuits and garner interest on the world wide web.
Don't Give Freebies
The whole part of a product launch is to make money, right? You’re not giving it away for free, are you? (or maybe you are — if that’s the case, right on ya!)
Figure out your pricing structure and format that works for the product. Is it a SaaS product? Is there special pricing for resellers, distributors, etc? Compile all that data in one central hub and make sure it’s accessible by who needs it.
Say your distributor is Dick’s Sporting Goods and you want them to place your new SUPER AWESOME skateboards in their stores on the launch date but you forgot to include the pricing information in their documentation. You can bet the skateboards will not be on the store floor come launch day.
That would suck, right? Don’t let that happen.
Not sure where to price your product? Consider doing a competitive price analysis for something comparable in the market. See how your product stacks up against competitors (if there are any). It goes without saying that you should make sure that your price makes sense with what it costs to make the product. You want to make money not lose money.
Figure Out Your Channels
Dick’s Sporting Goods is an example of a channel. Before you go to launch you should most definitely figure out which channels you want to sell your product in or if you’re going to stick to e-commerce alone or if you are only offering the product(s) in your own brick and mortar. Once you decide you’ll need to implement channel processes, communication plans, create sales guides, pricing models, training packs, and so forth for those channels.
Be sure you’ve planned for the necessary stock you’ll need for each channel. And create a process if and when the stock depletes. Plan for any potential surprises.
Launch is Near
Great you’ve done all that prep stuff. You have your launch date set. You’ve figured out a communication strategy for the right channels and markets and you’re ready to rock and roll. But as you’re getting ready to roll out everything you realize you have your data in way too many places.
You’ve got spreadsheets amongst different team members, a cloud folder full of product photos, your training manuals are living on the project manager’s laptop and you’ve got to get the word out but the time to compile all that data is going to cut close to the launch date.
Thanks to technology we have a solution that can avoid all of this last-minute stress.
Product information management software exists to house all of this data. The pricing info, training packs, packaging specs, marketing language, product photos, videos, and whatever else you need to include can live in one platform so you can just point and click what you need to who needs it.
I know. It’s wild.
You don’t need to individually email your distributors a spreadsheet of pricing unless you really, really want to because for some reason email has a special place in your heart.
You can use product information management (PIM) software to smooth out the product launch process. You can import your data from your ERP, suppliers, and any other third-party system to make sure your product information is 100% accurate and complete.
You can push that product data out to all of your channels, distributors, sales teams and whoever else you want to share it with because you’re that excited about your launch.
Almost Go Time
Alright, the end is in sight.
You’ve used PIM software because I made it sound a lot less stressful than the other option. You’ve created “after-sales” support training packs for your CS (customer service, customer support) team. You have all the metrics in place to decide if the launch was/is successful. Your support documentation is ready and on your website. Us in the biz call it the “F.A.Q” section of the website.
Each team is ready and onboard.
You’ve scheduled post-launch meetings, feedback meetings, and evaluation checkpoints for after the launch with the appropriate people.
You’ve dotted all your i’s, crossed all your t’s and double tied your shoelaces.
You’re ready to go. Set forth!