Planning a product launch can be both an exciting and stressful experience for many members of an organization. Learning how to prepare for a launch can help your team choose which strategies work best. It also helps decide how to execute an event that benefits both the business and the customer. In this article, we discuss what a product launch is, review how to create a launch plan, and list the steps you can take to make your launch successful.
A product launch is a planned effort to debut a new product in a company’s market. This makes it available for purchase to your general audience. One of the primary goals is to make sure everyone at the company, your stakeholders, and your target audience know about the new product. Other purposes for a launch can include:
The actual product launch event can manifest in different ways. For example, you may have a traditional party where your team gives demonstrations, answers questions, and provides a place for product sales. Book launches often work this way. You may also have a virtual launch party over video chat or a social media live stream. In retail, and more recently, music, collection drops use social media and paid advertising to get people excited for the product and then release it at a certain day or time.
There is no single “perfect” formula for a product launch. But, there are tips you can follow to make your launches more successful. One key element is making sure that members of all departments involved in the launch understand their roles and expectations. Some teams that may take part in a product launch include:
Other tips to help create a more successful launch include:
If you’re launching a highly competitive new product, it may be more important to get it released quickly rather than perfectly. If you wait too long, another company may beat you to launch and take the market share you were trying to capture. Instead of waiting to make the launch perfect, try to schedule the release once you’re confident the product is valuable to users. You can then use feedback from your first testers or customers to make improvements, create secondary models, or otherwise update the product after the launch.
When considering a product launch, think not just about the item itself, but also about the full customer experience that comes with interacting with your brand. This means paying attention to the sales price, the ease of accessibility to the product, and the marketing and advertising consumers encounter, among other factors. When you consider how your product and all its related materials serve your users during and after launch, it may make the initial release more successful.
Many steps go into creating a new product and getting it out to the public. Create a plan that takes you all the way through the process before you build something new. This means creating planning documents, running test scenarios, or considering “what if” questions. Set product goals for your launch and the long-term sale of the product. Consider all aspects that go into bringing this product to life, from the initial planning to future improvements. This type of documentation can serve as a reference throughout the design and launch process.
What you consider to be a successful product launch may vary by product or industry. You don’t always have to measure success by how many people hit the purchase button or if you sell out of the product within a certain period. It can also come from preparing your entire team for the launch or having all the materials from every department ready on time. It could also mean training your support staff to answer customer questions.
Providing the best customer experience possible is another way to have a successful launch. Even if you don’t hit record sales on launch day, the effort you put in could extend the longevity of your product and keep people interested in it over time. In contrast, an unsuccessful launch may come when not enough people are aware of your product, they have an unpleasant experience at the launch, or it harms your long-term revenue prospects.
Image via Unsplash by @carlheyerdahl
Depending on the product you debut, the size of your team, and the size of your target audience, you may choose a different type of launch for each product. Some options include:
A product launch plan is a document that reviews the tasks necessary to execute product creation and launch and includes a timeline it takes to reach the launch date. Creating a plan makes it easier to choose your goals for the launch, pick strategies, and delegate tasks to different departments, teams, or individuals. Use these steps to make your own:
The first step in almost any product-related plan is customer research. This is because you have to know what people are looking for or what they want before you put effort into any other area. If you don’t have a product in mind yet, search for customer pain points. What do they want from products in your industry? What problems do they want to solve? Do they have any frustrations with competitors’ products? Understanding these things can help you discover a product that serves as a solution.
If you already have a product in mind, you can still conduct customer research to determine if it solves some of those same problems. Research may help you discover ways to make it better than you originally thought or address additional concerns you haven’t considered.
With any type of business strategy or plan, it’s important to set actionable goals to give your project purpose so you can measure its success. Setting goals can also help you understand which teams, factors, or areas deeply affect your project and where it’s most important to direct funds or resources. Goals for the product launch may come from all departments involved, including marketing and sales. Set key performance indicators (KPIs) for each goal to determine things like what resources or materials you need and the number of employees or work hours needed to get to the launch.
Once you’ve done your research and defined your goals, you can use a template or roadmap to compile all the information to take the product from ideation to launch. There are a variety of templates and planning software available online to help. You can also create your document from scratch. Ideally, you can have a separate section for each step of the process, including things you may have already done, like customer research. Within each step, you can include the focus KPIs, assigned departments or team members, and necessary resources. Template sections may include:
Within your template, you can also add your company branding tools, such as a logo, company fonts, or icons. This makes the document look more professional, especially if it’s shared with consumers, focus groups, or other shareholders throughout the launch process.
A product plan index summarizes the entire, more comprehensive, plan. There are multiple ways you can display your index, such as a timeline, standard table of contents, or through an infographic. The index can help give team members an understanding of the plan in an easier, more digestible way before introducing the specifics. It also makes the document more skimmable.
Consider adding a checklist to your product plan as a project management tool. Checklists can help break down a project into more manageable parts and actionable tasks. They can also increase morale and productivity by including achievable tasks you can check off when complete. The visual can serve as a record of progress. These lists can help project managers know what a team has accomplished and what still needs attention without constant follow-up calls, emails, or meetings with the entire group.
Your product plan may change over the course of ideation to launch. It’s okay to keep your product plan flexible and make changes that better support your goals as you begin to work. Make sure you let others on the project know about updates. You may make announcements at weekly meetings, send emails, or set up alerts for those with access to the document. Be sure if you make a change to always add the date of the last update to the document. This is one easy way to share that you’ve improved it.
Businesses plan product launches far in advance of the actual event. There are a lot of strategies involved in planning a product launch, and it requires coordinated efforts from a variety of teams and departments within an organization. Follow these steps to have a successful launch:
Before you can have a product launch, you have to have a product. Follow your product plan to get the item made and ready for the launch. Your vision may change throughout the creation process, so be flexible and patient. Make sure you create something of value for your consumers that’s realistic for your team to create.
Run tests before your product launch. While you may race competition to get your product out and claim your market share, there are some basic levels of testing to complete before a launch. Three primary ones include:
Doing these types of tests ensures that the product is ready for sale and that it provides what you promise to your consumers.
Though you may make sales and marketing materials throughout the product plan, you can review or revise them when preparing for launch. Materials may include signage for the event, social media promotional posts, brochures, or even product packaging. Make sure that your marketing materials accurately reflect the product and your brand. Commit to using brand voice and shaping the tone around the marketing of the product.
Your sales team is one of the first points of contact people may encounter to learn more about your product. They may need to answer questions about functions, pricing, compatibility with other products, the life expectancy of the product, or other relevant information. Training your sales team before the launch can help them prepare for questions customers may have on launch day and beyond.
Customer support is arguably the second point of contact many consumers may encounter with your product. Following the sale, these are the team members who may answer questions about how to get the product to work, troubleshoot issues, or handle things like complaints, returns, or exchanges. Getting them to understand the product in-depth, just like the sales team, is important. It can also be helpful to train them on customer service best practices to support the full user experience beyond the product itself.
Develop any technical documentation necessary to accompany your product. This could include building instructions, a technical manual, safety instructions, or other non-promotional documents. It’s important to give the same writing, editing, and quality control attention to your technical documentation as you do to your promotional content. These are the guides and manuals people use to understand or make your product work when they get it home or back to the office. Be clear and concise, while using language people can understand. You may also consider including diagrams or images where appropriate to support the text.
Let your entire organization know about the product launch. This is something to celebrate. Be sure to invite everyone who worked on the project, and senior management, stakeholders, or anyone in the organization who’s interested. This not only creates more buzz for the launch, but it promotes team morale and inclusion.
Like developing marketing materials, this is a step you may handle during the product planning phase. But if you don’t, it’s still important to create a customer purchase plan before launch. This is like a sales funnel, where you work out the steps of how you want the customer to find the product and make a purchase.
You can make a purchase plan specifically for the launch event, such as how you want the customer to learn about the launch, attend, interact with the product, and decide to purchase. Having this can help you determine what promotional tactics work best and adjust your sales funnel for product promotion beyond the launch.
Even if you’ve held focus groups or done testing, your launch may be the first time your product goes out to a wide group of consumers at once. Because of the influx of users, you may get more feedback during the launch itself or in the days following.
Create a plan for collecting, tracking, and responding to customer feedback. You may monitor your social channels or email to collect feedback from those outlets. You may also create a specific feedback form for people to share their comments. When responding to feedback, address all types: positive, negative, and neutral. Thank people for their positive and neutral feedback, offer solutions for negative comments, and note any feature suggestions or product updates consumers recommend.
To know if your launch was successful, track information and discover if you met the goals set out in your product plan. You may have your goals and KPIs ready, but how do you expect to measure them? What programs can you use? Which statistics can tell you the most? The metrics you choose may depend on the target audience, the type of product, and the type of launch you had. Tracking metrics can also help prepare you for your next launch and learn what was successful and what you can improve.
Before launch, get with your product team to think through situations that could derail your plan for the launch. This could include anything from a product malfunction, a weather emergency, or a website outage. If there’s a potential for it to happen, consider adding it to your contingency plan. Work together to come up with alternatives or solutions to problems that may arise so you’re prepared for anything on the day of the launch.
A product launch can be a rewarding experience after weeks or months of hard work. Being prepared can help you enjoy the experience and provide as much value to your customers as possible, which may encourage them to check out your next launch in the future.
Read More About Marketing Channels