You’ve done the research and development. Your new product has a market, and you’re conﬁdent you can make money. Seems time to celebrate, right? Not so fast. Don't let everything fall apart simply because you expect your product to sell itself.
Bringing a product to market involves more than simply unveiling it. You need an infrastructure in place ﬁrst to support your eﬀort. As a rule of thumb, keep this in mind: actually “bringing” a product to market is 25 percent of the eﬀort. The other 75 percent has to do with everything else so that when you ﬁnally launch the product, it doesn’t fall ﬂat.
**Note: we use the word product, but you could also be launching a service and the same guidelines generally apply!
Think about feature ﬁlms. Before a movie studio releases a ﬁlm (its “product”), many other steps are taken and systems are put in place, such as securing and building a website exclusively for the ﬁlm, shooting trailers, sending out promotional materials to reporters, screening trailers during similar ﬁlms, and showing sneak previews. By the time the movie actually “launches,” there’s so much buzz and hype that the “product” appears to sell itself. Of course, the reality is it took a lot of work to make that happen.
The same process applies to your product. You need a solid infrastructure in place before you bring it to market. Here are some questions to ask:
- Will you need a distribution channel? If so, what is it? Have you used it before? If yes, what problems have you encountered in the past? If not, anticipate everything that could go wrong.
- Is the product you’re launching an upgrade of an existing product? If yes, what are you going to do for current customers? Oﬀer incentives to upgrade? Rebates? While it’s important to think about the market you’re going after, you must consider the one you already have in hand.
- How does this product ﬁt in with your current product line? Does branding already exist or will you be creating a whole new brand?
- What are the customer support policies?
- Does the sales team understand what it’s selling (and is the message consistent for all sales reps)?
- Are you focusing on web-based sales, storefront sales, or a combination? Have you done enough competition analysis?
Once you’ve answered these key questions, you should write a product launch guide documenting all messaging, pricing, customer support policies, sales pitches, etc. The beauty of this launch guide is that its function is two-fold: not only will it help you with your current product launch, but also with future launches (what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to change, etc.).
Once all of this is in place, then you can think about “bringing” your product to market. This requires more than a single step, however. Here are some things to consider:
- What are your goals for this product launch? How many sales do you want in the ﬁrst year, ﬁrst six months, ﬁrst week?
- Where are the sales coming from?
- Have you carefully thought through the diﬀerence between what you’re selling and what customers are buying? For example, maybe you have a new hair product. That’s what you’re selling. But what are people buying? Beauty? No more split ends? More time in the morning to spend with the kids since this product will make styling hair a snap?
- Have you considered “buyer’s criteria” vs. “user’s criteria”? Is the person buying the product going to be the one using it? For example, maybe you’re selling a children’s toy. Remember, parents (more than likely) will be the ones plunking down the cash. How do you satisfy mom and dad’s needs, as well as the kids’ needs?
- Is there an event that you can wrap the launch around? Do you want it centered around a tradeshow that your customers will be attending or a certain calendar activity? For example, if you have a new product that helps in the detection of breast cancer, you might decide to launch in October, since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Try to ﬁnd an event that already has legs in the marketplace.
- Have you invested in a new media list (never use an old list) and researched othermediums you may not have used in the past? For instance, do you have a product that could beneﬁt from having a daily blog dedicated to it? If yes, this might be part of your new strategy.
- Have you created a standard product launch checklist (Has the website been updated? Have the ads been placed in print and on line? Are e-mail signatures and voice mails up to date? Etc.)?
Ideally, you should be planning for the launch at the same time you’re developing the product itself. Gather testimonials from beta tests. Start creating some e-mail buzz. A good PR person can feed a handful of reporters product information ahead of time, thus guaranteeing the reporters exclusives for their markets and creating buzz for you as your product launches, not after.
Movie studios do the same thing with feature ﬁlms. Some haven’t even ﬁnished ﬁlming when posters are plastered on cinema walls promoting the movie, even if it’s a year (or two!) out. In other words, the buzz needs to start during the development. This, of course, doesn’t mean the movie—or your product—will be an instant hit once it launches. But by following the strategies outlined above, it certainly stands a better chance!