An oft-quoted AcuPoll research firm study found that 80 to 95 percent of all product launches fail, as measured by metrics such as revenue achievement and profitability goals.
Moreover, according to, Chuck Carey writing in the blog for his company, Compendian, Inc., out of those that do succeed, fewer than 10 percent of all new products produce enough return on the company’s investment to survive past the third year.
What action can you take to better the chances that your next product launch is part of the elite five to 20 percent that provides sufficient ROI beyond the next three years?
This might seem obvious. Yet, according to the Harvard Business Review, the main reason many product launches fail is lack of preparation.
“Companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game," wrote Joan Schneider and Julie Hall.
As Brandon Schaefer, CEO of MyVirtualSalesForce, notes, “Companies that launch a successful product are successful because they plan to be successful, by putting the time and money into the research before the product actually launches.”
2. Set Measurable Goals
Part of any good plan is to establish specific, measurable goals. Establishing upfront where you want to “land” helps you map out the best route to getting there.
As, Dave Daniels of Pragmatic Marketing points out, “Once you’ve established the goals of your launch, you need to consider how they will be measured. Do you have the tools and procedures in place to capture the measurement? If your objective is to get 100,000 downloads in the first 30 days after the launch event, will you have the mechanism in place to capture the download count? If not, now is the time to establish the tools and procedures in place or to re-evaluate your launch goals.”
3. Put a Great Team in Place to Execute the Plan
Training and development consultant, Andy Singer emphasizes the need to staff a dedicated team to run the product launch.
“Be sure the team members have the experience, time, motivation and tools required for project success," he wrote. "[Ensure] the team and their managers understand the value and importance of the project. Don't minimize the need for experienced marketing managers that understand product positioning and brand equity.”
4. Launch a Great Product Your Customers Really, Really Need
Entrepreneur, Danny Wong makes the point that, “Good products are a dime a dozen. Great products, on the other hand, are crafted with an intimate understanding of customers’ needs. So before you do anything, survey the market to learn what customers actually want. Then, perhaps, you will be able to create something people will actually happily pay money for.”
5. Focus on Users, Not the Product
Steve Jobs was famous for introducing products people didn’t even know they needed, until he announced them. Jobs successfully launched such groundbreaking products for their times as the iPhone and iPad by first explaining how they improved people’s lives.
Kissmetrics Blog notes that Jobs rarely talked about features or technical specs: “Standing on stage, he doesn’t push the speed of the iPhone’s processor or the screen resolution. He knows most people don’t care, and the ones who do, can easily find that information on Apple’s website or product literature. Instead, he goes out of his way to emphasize how the product affects you. It’s about simplicity, productivity, style, all things he knows people are interested in.”
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6. Determine How Your Product Sets Itself Apart From the Competition
How does your product distinguish itself? Is it price? Feature/functionality? Ease of use? The product has to bring something to the marketplace no one else offers, and the launch needs to emphasize it.
Study your competition and assess how you stack up. “Examine their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Examine their products. Evaluate how the additions of the new product will stand up against what is already on the market,” the Apptivo Small Business University advises.
7. Define the Key Message You Want to Send to Your Target Audience
Don’t assume that the benefits of your product are immediately obvious. Define a key message, or set of messages, that best communicate to your target audience what your product does for them.
“Start with a deep understanding of your customer,” is the advice of brand consultant Nicole Prefer.
“Who will this help? Who will you sell to and who might be interested in purchasing this product? [Then,] solidify the proposition. In one sentence, can you articulate the product offering and its benefits?”
8. Set Expectations in Advance of the Formal Launch to Generate Excitement and Anticipation
It’s all about creating buzz. Press releases, trade media coverage and pre-launch advertising are the traditional channels to whet consumer appetite for a new product.
Social media is ideal for the “Coming Soon” and other “We can’t quite talk about this yet, but if you’re looking for [insert some product feature or enhancement], you’re going to be super pleased” sort of posts.
Target those who are most interested in your products/services or are “power users” with special FYI emails and tweets with hints about the upcoming product launch.
You can depend on them to repost and retweet the news, helping build excitement while providing free publicity.
One caveat: Don’t overpromise or imply something monumental might happen when it actually won’t. You want to achieve the level of excitement you can satisfy.
9. Beta Test
Inviting a targeted group of select users to test a product before formally launching it is a standard of the software industry. It should be for every product for three reasons:
- You can fix unforeseen issues and flaws discovered during testing.
- Testers can help create buzz (see #6 above) prior to the product release.
- They can also serve as advocates once the product is launched.
Juliann Grant of marketing consultants Telesian Technology bemoans the all too frequent instance of companies that sidestep beta testing in order to get the product out the door.
“Just remember, haste makes waste, and you may end up alienating good customers with these practices,” he notes.
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10. Keep Going
Perhaps the most important element of a successful product launch is what comes next: marketing and supporting the product with your target audience, and then refining the product reaction to consumer response.
“The launch of the new product is only the beginning for this product. You are going to want to make sure that you have a long term sales strategy to maximize the return on the product so that you can continue to benefit from its success and create a strong brand loyalty with your customers,” notes the UK-based promotional and event staffing consulting company Breeze People on the company website.