Launching a new product can be as daunting as it is exciting. With the number of MarTech tools alone increasing by nearly 25% year-on-year, it’s easy for your product to get lost in the noise if you don’t get your launch right.
Due to the unique challenges facing new product launches in today’s market, in-depth planning is crucial for your product to be successful.
In this article, we’ll describe what a product launch is, then we’ll give you a new product launch checklist that covers the essential steps for a successful launch.
After that, we’ll provide some high-level strategies you can use to build anticipation for your product and drive sales at launch.
Table of contents
What is a product launch?
A product launch is a coordinated attempt to bring a new product to market. More than just a single event, a product launch involves everything from developing marketing and sales strategies to optimizing your product.
Each product launch will differ depending on the industry, type of product and target market. Depending on these factors, a company may decide on different degrees of launch.
For example, a soft launch is when a product enters the market with very little publicity. Often, companies take this approach to seek early feedback or when the product is highly targeted.
By comparison, a full-scale launch is when you try to draw as much attention as possible to the product when it enters the market.
A product launch is split into three broad steps: pre-launch, launch and post-launch. In the following section, we’ll discuss each of the key actions that should make up these steps to increase your chances of a successful product launch.
9 steps to improve your chance of success at launch
For a product launch to be successful, you need to plan it strategically and well in advance. A launch involves the marketing team, product managers, sales, customer support, finance and, especially in large-scale launches, several other departments.
Due to the number of moving parts and people involved, seamless coordination and communication are key. With that in mind, here’s a new product launch checklist to keep your teams on track.
Step 1. Know the problem you’re solving
The first step is to define your product and begin working on your product positioning. You have to get to know your product as well as possible and determine how it can solve your customer’s problem.
Write a brief description of two to three paragraphs that describes what your product is, its main features and how it fills a market need. This is your brand positioning statement, and it may take some work to perfect it.
Next, consider your value proposition. This should describe your customer’s problem and why they would choose your product to solve it over a competitor’s.
Slack’s value proposition is a great example of this, and as the fastest-growing SaaS startup ever, you know that it’s effective. Their proposition is that they save users time by simplifying how teams communicate:
To gain insight for your positioning statement and value proposition, ask yourself the following questions:
What are the major customer pain points that my product addresses?
How does my product solve these problems?
How is my product unique?
How does my product create value for my customers?
What are the core attributes of my product or brand that I want customers to focus on?
Step 2. Deeply understand the audience you’re selling to
To be able to define your product and sell it successfully, you need to get to know your target audience. You have to understand who they are, how they think, why they need your product and how you can communicate this need to them.
The customer data you collect will be vital at this stage because it determines the messaging and channels you use to reach them effectively.
First, define your target markets and create an ideal buyer persona. This is a hypothetical person with the characteristics you’re looking for in a customer and helps ensure that your products align with your audience’s preferences and needs.
Social listening (tracking mentions of your brand or your competitors’ solutions) is a great tool to find out more about your target market. Bain & Company found that launch leaders are 2.4 times more likely to utilize social listening data to guide their new product launch strategy.
Use tools like Sprout Social to discover the most relevant problems your product addresses or to learn about the flaws in a competitor’s product, then apply the insights to refine your launch strategy, messaging and offerings to become the best fit for prospects.
Step 3. Conduct in-depth market research
Once you’ve determined the market segments to target, it’s time to research your competitors. A competitor is any company whose product solves the same problem(s) as yours.
In-depth competitor analysis helps you to:
Learn from their mistakes and successes and apply this knowledge to your strategies
See what competitor products look like and how yours can be unique
Develop a clear picture of the competitor landscape
Determine where your product fits among your competitors
Determine how likely your product is to be profitable
The first step is to do some preliminary research and create a list of companies that compete in your target market. Next, analyze their product, brand and strategies and develop a competitor landscape to visualize any gaps where you can succeed.
Your competitor analysis targets might look something like this (click here to download an editable PDF version):
This is the final step in determining your product positioning, which helps you differentiate your product from your competitors. Here, you should work out your pricing (e.g. whether it’s more affordable or a high-quality, luxury alternative) and how your product can outcompete your competitors.
Step 4. Test your idea
Before moving forward with the launch, you need to get some early responses to gauge how people react to your product.
For example, software will often go through several rounds of testing before launch. This includes alpha testing (done in-house) and beta testing, which involves a small group of preliminary users.
The same goes for physical products. Testing helps to improve your product in a few ways. Firstly, it will discover any defective or improvable qualities. Secondly, you’ll be able to use the tester’s reactions to inform your marketing campaign and sales approach.
If your testers respond well, you’ve likely chosen to target the right market with the right positioning. If you uncover issues, you’ll want to involve the key stakeholders and update your product (e.g. UX designers for usability issues or copywriters if testers don’t feel connected to the messaging).
You should begin testing your product before launch, but it doesn’t end there. Most products will go through several changes before and after launch as the competitive landscape shifts.
Step 5. Create a go-to-market strategy
A go-to-market strategy is a comprehensive new product launch marketing plan that details each step for a successful launch. It combines all of the information you learned in the previous steps into a detailed roadmap.
A go-to-market strategy helps to generate demand for your product and mitigate risks involved with the launch. Check out our guide on how to create a go-to-market strategy for your new product.
Along with a product launch plan, it’s a good idea to think about:
A marketing strategy. Any new product will need a marketing strategy, even for established brands. Have your marketing plan outlined before launch to focus on key issues and goals that go beyond launch day.
SWOT analysis. Evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relating to your new product or brand can help you to perfect your positioning. Pay attention to evolving customer preferences and technological changes that could disrupt your position in the market.
Predict your ROI. You can get a better idea of your potential ROI by considering the size and value of your target market. Find out how many people make up your target market and how much on average they spend on products like yours every year. From this, you can gauge their tendency to buy and get an idea of when your product may become profitable.
Decide how you will measure success. Develop a list of milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that tell you if your launch was successful. For instance, key marketing metrics (e.g., leads generated, traffic and news coverage) will tell you which strategies are working and which you need to tweak.
Your go-to-market strategy should include an overall timeline for your launch, including your launch date. Once you have this, it’s time to get started with promotional content marketing.
Step 6. Generate buzz with promotional content
For your product to be a success, you need to create a buzz ahead of its launch. With great marketing, you can build anticipation for your product and get customers on board early.
Pre-marketing efforts are only successful if they’re planned well in advance. Since your marketing team will be coordinating their efforts across several channels, it’s vital that you perfect your content before you begin.
Here are several things you can do to drive anticipation for your product:
Create a landing page for your new product. The landing page is where customers can find out key information about your product, drawing attention to its attributes and driving interest. You should also include a consumer-focused CTA (e.g. requesting their email address so you can email them about its launch).
Develop a great email campaign. If your company already has related products and a great email list full of engaged customers, you’ll find this part easy. If not, you’ll have to do some groundwork to build up your email list. Include a CTA that encourages users to sign-up and receive more information, along with a link to the product page.
Check out Apple’s simple yet elegant iPad Pro launch email. It dives into the price and new features of the iPad, with two CTAs to either purchase or read more about the iPad. It’s well-designed and provides customers with all the information they need to make a purchase decision.
Use social media. Tease your product on your own social media platforms and consider reaching out to key influencers to create content and build awareness. Don’t forget bloggers, journalists and others in your industry who have an audience waiting to hear about your new product.
Inform the press. Create an embargoed press release and share it with as many media outlets as possible so that on the key date, they’ll all be talking about it. An engaging press release is one of the most effective promotional tools and can help generate wider awareness of your product.
Consider an ad campaign. Well-targeted ads can be incredibly effective at building awareness and generating leads. If your budget allows, you should advertise on as many of the key channels you identified while creating your go-to-market strategy.
Boost sales with a pre-order strategy. Pre-order strategies can build momentum for your product, driving early sales, which can help fund continuing marketing campaigns. They also help you to gauge the market demand for your product early on.
Step 7. Keep the team in sync
Everyone involved in a product launch needs to be in the same boat, from marketing to sales to customer service. This means that to be effective, every team member needs to know exactly what to do at each stage of the launch.
The marketing team needs to understand key promotional activities and when to release them
The sales team needs to know pricing details and have access to sales enablement content
The customer service teams should know how the product works and what features it has
Keeping the entire company on the same page throughout the launch process ensures that your customers will have a consistent, enjoyable experience as they interact with you.
Step 8. Launch your product
When the launch day comes, it’s time to let loose your promotional content, email campaigns and social media. Make sure you try to gather the public’s attention on the channels you decided on above. The more attention your product gets, the better.
During and immediately after launch, you will need to work with your sales and service teams to ensure they have all the resources they need. You should be present to answer any questions and coordinate your teams as the day goes by.
The key is to be prepared for the worst to happen. As part of your go-to-market strategy, develop a contingency plan for each risk so that you can act quickly to mitigate problems as they come up.
Step 9. Integrate feedback to improve your product
The product journey doesn’t end with the launch. In the months after launch, customer and market feedback will provide you with several opportunities to refine and improve your product, sales and marketing strategy.
You may also find that you can position your product to target other markets or that you’ll have greater success in a completely different market.
As you move forward, you’ll gain your customers’ loyalty as a brand that wants to provide the best possible experience for its customers. Plan future versions of your product before you launch. This way, you have a direction in mind, with milestones and ways to measure your success already in place.
5 product launch strategies to drive anticipation and stay on track
Launching a new product is incredibly complex, and there’s no guarantee your product will be successful. However, there are several things you can do to improve your chances.
Here are five high-level strategies you can use to increase your likelihood of success at launch.
1. Focus on the story
Your messaging should focus on the people you’re trying to sell to rather than the product itself. While it’s great to list your product’s key features, what really grabs a customer’s attention is how the product will change their lives for the better.
For this reason, it’s often better to create a story around your product. How does it solve your customer’s problems? How will it make them feel? The goal is to create a story that your target customers relate to and engage with.
To create the story, consider the journey you (and your product) have gone through to get to this point. Think about why you created the product in the first place and how that ties in with the customer’s journey.
It may take a few rewrites to perfect your story. The goal is to be relatable and lead your customer to the “aha” moment where they realize that you had the same problems and that your product is the solution.
2. Keep all stakeholders in the loop
Launching a product is complicated, and there are many moving pieces. Each team’s role will change as the product moves from development to launch and beyond. Further, you need to keep stakeholders up-to-date to ensure their continued support for the project.
This is why optimized internal communications are vital to a successful launch.
Each team will have unique contributions to your product launch, and great communication will ensure that there are no gaps in your launch strategy.
Efficient communication is also essential in the case of delays. A launch might be pushed back for several reasons (Gartner found that only 55% of launches take place on schedule). This may be due to hitches in product development, supply problems or planning delays, but in the case of a delay, everyone must remain clear on their roles going forward.
3. Listen to the market
If you assume that everything will go well with your launch, you’re setting yourself up for failure. This is why it’s important to analyze and listen to the market before, during and after your launch.
Making course corrections quickly can be the difference between a launch failure and a launch success.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to launch:
Is it the right time to launch? Think about market factors and whether your product will be more successful if you wait. For instance, if a well-known competitor is launching a product at a similar time, you probably want to either beat them to it or wait until their buzz has died down.
Are you launching into the right market? You may find after receiving feedback that your target market isn’t responding how you thought it would. Instead of going ahead with the launch anyway, consider other potential customers and markets that may be more suitable.
Do you need to adjust your strategy? Before and after launch, you should monitor all of your marketing channels for engagement metrics. If you find certain platforms aren’t performing, adjust your content and strategy. It’s also a good idea to check out new product launch examples that can help guide you through this process.
The Google Glass launch is a great example of a company not listening to market cues when releasing a new product. With privacy on the front of everyone’s mind, concerns were raised about the Glass being able to capture photos at any time. To make matters worse, the Glass was launched at a price of around $1,500, far more than consumers were willing to pay.
Despite these and other concerns, Google launched Google Glass to an unreceptive market – and the product flopped. Had Google listened to the market more and targeted the Glass toward specific user needs, the story might have turned out differently.
4. Draw out the suspense
Suspense amplifies anticipation and can help grow a core following for your product before anyone knows much (or anything) about it.
Apple’s marketing is a great example of this. They keep key details about their newest products a secret, creating an air of mystery around them. In the past, this has resulted in endless speculation about their products before they’re even announced.
To draw out the suspense, hint about your product early. As time goes by, drip-feed exciting information about your product to key people. Build a narrative around these leaks that gets people emotionally invested in your product.
Consider how Amazon marketed the Echo in 2016. Coming up to the Super Bowl, they released short commercial teasers that generated significant excitement. While Super Bowl commercials are out-of-budget for most product launches, the idea is the same. Release snippets about your upcoming product to get people interested and talking about it ahead of launch.
The key to creating suspense is to live up to expectations. If you create too much hype around your product and fail to match it, customers will negatively perceive your brand as “all talk”.
5. Make your launch an event
Launch events are a great way to build hype around your product and generate early sales.
Strive for an in-person event to show off your new product and build excitement. Invite customers, influencers and the press to “test drive” your product in a face-to-face environment. If an in-person event isn’t in your budget, you can affordably host an online launch event.
You can also have a series of teaser events leading up to the launch that gradually tease features and key dates for your product. This can help pull early customers in and generate a buzz about your product way before it’s available for purchase.
The goal of a product launch is to make a big deal about your product and reach as many potential customers as possible, and an event showcasing your product is the perfect way to do so.
For many, it’s as exciting as it is daunting to launch a new product. Give yourself the best chance of success with excellent communication and a detailed strategy. Use these tips and strategies to cut through the noise and make a splash with your next launch.