10Things you must do before product launch

  1. Determine the goals of the product launch, plan a post-launch follow-up
  2. Check the seed words, branding, positioning and taglines
  3. Think big, present something really special – how will your product change the world?
  4. Get great speakers, your evangelists?
  5. Plan an integrated marketing programme around the product launch
  6. Get trusted customers and opinion leaders to read marketing material well in advance of the launch and get their feedback
  7. Competitive analysis for the product and website
  8. Get your website audited with the new product or service included
  9. Prepare an FAQ
  10. Dress rehearse the big day, plan for failure

1. Determine the goals of the launch, plan a post-launch follow-up

A product launch can be an expensive affair especially if you are going for a high profile event, hiring a venue and inviting key speakers followed by refreshments. With all the cost and time this takes you will want to get the best bang for your buck and this will only happen if you know what the launch goals are.

For me my top goal is usually to get those first customers to buy at the launch. Not only will this give you revenue but it will generate a nice piece of publicity for post-launch follow up.

So your launch goals could be:

  1. Early sales, perhaps supported by a launch discount
  2. To get your product in front of industry luminaries
  3. Industry credibility: Use your pilot customers as evangelists to speak to your audience
  4. Getting wide press coverage, digital and paper

Your goals will determine your pre and post-launch “TO DO” tasks and your list of invitees. Consider what would make your ideal set of invitees really want to attend your launch.

That could be a luminary speaking about your products and services, or even a special venue people rarely get access to.

HINT: How can you plan a product/service launch that customers will remember years into the future, positively! J

  1. Check your seed words, branding, positioning and taglines

So important to do this. Choose a set of seed words that will be used when referring to your product or service and make sure everybody sticks to them, presenting, on the website, in marketing material, everywhere. This will develop into tight messaging.

I have often heard different executives at a launch event using different terminology to refer to the same product or service. This leaves the audience confused, wondering what the product is and really does.

Craft your Positioning Statement carefully and check it with customers.

Positioning is the one message that pops into the mind of a prospect or customer when they hear your company, product or brand name. All marketing activities should shore up your Positioning. If your Positioning is negative “old”, “too expensive”, “cheap”, “not easy to use”, “not as good as X”, prospects will not buy your products or services.

Positioning is one of the most powerful marketing concepts, still widely misunderstood, especially outside of the USA.

HINT:  If you are hearing the term “Positioning” for the first time read “Positioning the Battle for your Mind”, by Al Ries and Jack Trout, first published in 1981 yet still a must read marketing classic.

  1. Think big, present something really special – how will your product change the world?

People who are giving presentations at the launch need to have a well-rehearsed, slick, powerful, presentation.

Think big. Be expansive. Make it clear HOW the new product or service will help, change, revolutionise or make simple the lives of those who purchase it.

If you intend to talk about features, make sure you include “WHICH MEANS THAT” so that listeners understand how it will fit into their lives and make it better. Presenters with technical backgrounds frequently forget to do this

HINT: take a look at Steve Jobs launching the iPhone on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4S6cHZD3x4

  1. Get great speakers, your evangelists?

You want an event with the room packed full, right? So plan to invite speakers that will have pull for your target audience.

When I was working in the USA in the AI market sector in the late 80’s I was responsible for the launch of a new AI computer. I chose a major AI conference in Seattle as the launch venue. The brief from my CEO, Brain Sear, was “Steal the Show”.  I planned a debate on the “Future of AI” to be held in a music theatre venue in Seattle.

The panellists were legends in the AI community: Marvin Minsky (who founded the AI Lab at MIT in 1970), John McCarthy (who coined the term “Artificial Intelligence”) and Doug Lenat, the renowned computer scientist who is the founder and President of CYCORP responsible for building the world’s largest knowledge base. To moderate this debate (which was always going to be a challenge!) we chose legendary broadcast journalist Bernard Kalb, who was also ex-Secretary of State for Public Affairs in the Regan administration.

The theatre was packed with people standing in every available spot they could squeeze into, and covered by numerous TV channels from across the globe. The next day the press coverage was stupendous.

Yes. We stole the show!

HINT: Who would your target audience move heaven and earth to meet and listen to?

  1. Plan an integrated marketing campaign

Marketers have double the marketing channels at their disposal than we did ten years ago. You may wish to draft a press release, suitable for the printed press to include the names of early customers then modify it for digital marketing platforms.  It’s easiest to create a data flow diagram showing the flow of information between channels which might include:

  • Print – industrial publications relevant to your product/service
  • E-magazines – an article or advertorial
  • LinkedIn and Facebook– on the company site, and message out
  • A blog on the launch from your CEO’s personal LinkedIn account
  • Twitter
  • A MailChimp campaign, offering an early bird discount
  • A YouTube video on the new product or service
  • News on the company website
  • A Google AdWords campaign

I am sure you can think of many other channels. The key is to be consistent sticking to your chosen set of seed words and the Positioning statement.

HINT: Unless you have in-house talent who are way up to speed on digital PR and marketing consider outsourcing this task or getting outside assistance.

  1. Get trusted prospects and opinion leaders to read marketing material well in advance before launch and get their feedback

If you are about to launch a new product/service you should have written the marketing material months, maybe years ago, BEFORE any work started on product development. Why? Because the datasheet or product brochure is the document that should set out the goals for the product to include:

  • What the product does
  • It’s features
  • What benefit it brings to people who buy it
  • Who should buy it (so the prospect can identify themselves)

With this document, you should be able to ask a prospect, “If we built this product, with these features and benefits and it was available for you to buy on (this date), at (this price) would you buy it?

If they say “Yes”, ask for a PO! If they said “No” then you have the opportunity to mine their reasons for not to purchase and change the proposition until they say they will buy.

If the prospect reads your material and says “I don’t understand this”, change it.

If the prospect/opinion leader says “I don’t believe you can do this”, this is an early indication that customer trials and endorsements are a must BEFORE you can have a successful launch.

Getting grounded feedback on marketing material will help to avoid writing material that fails to carry your key message. Even worse, it fails to explain HOW this product/service will benefit them. Challenge marketing material with “WHICH MEANS THAT”.

HINT: undertake this exercise early in the product development lifecycle and again before the launch to validate that you have built the  MVP (minimal viable product), else no-one will buy.

  1. Competitive analysis: Product and Website

You can count on someone asking you how your product is different from something that’s already on the market, or perceived to be like yours. So you need to have the top 5 reasons your product is different (and hopefully better) at your fingertips. The best way to do this is to fill in a grid competitive analysis, as shown in the example below.

Features Comp 1 Comp 2 Comp 3 Comp 4 YOU
YOU F1 N N N N Y
YOU F2 N N N N Y
YOU F3 N N N N Y
Comp 1 F1 Y Y Y Y Y
Comp 1 F2 Y Y Y Y Y
Comp 1 F3 Y Y Y Y Y
Comp 2 F1 N Y Y N Y
Comp 3 F1 N N Y Y Y
Comp 4 F1 N N N Y Y

 

The “Features” column should contain the combined features of your product and all of your competitor’s products, it’s a master feature list. In the final version above the matrix has been sorted so that your USPs (unique selling propositions) are at the top. It’s worth mentioning that where there is a Y in every row these features might be requirements for success, without them the product might fail.

 

Once you have completed this exercise for your product/service, then look at the competition’s websites and outward facing material and complete a new matrix comparing the website, distribution channel, business model, pricing and so forth. Run a session with colleagues to go through this material so everyone is on the same page ready for the launch.

 

HINT: Slick responses to questions about the competition will tell the audience that you know your market space and understand the needs of your customers.

 

  1. Get your website audited with the new product or service included

No doubt your website will require updating before product launch, with new product descriptions, videos, purchase options, testimonials and more. Once you have a draft you are fairly comfortable with, get the website audited by a professional company such as www.exposureninja.com who will do this free of charge, making recommendations on how you can improve the site so it’s acting as a lead generation machine for your new product.

If you have decided to have a major overhaul to your website ready for the new product, make sure that it’s Google friendly and your product pops up at the top of the search on page one. Resist the temptation to have lots of graphics with little text, particularly on your homepage, as whilst this might look beautiful Google and other search engines won’t be able to index it properly, thus it will be invisible on the web. Again stick to your seed words and ensure that these include phrases that potential customers will be typing into Google to find you.

HINT: Unless you have in-house talent that’s way up to speed on SEO and digital marketing outsource this task. It costs the same to build a lousy website as it does a brilliant one!

  1. Prepare an FAQ

Prepare a product FAQ and share with colleagues prior to launch so you all answer the same question with an agreed response. Stick to seed words. This FAQ should also go on your website, it will help with your Google ranking and clearly position you against the competition, (and this is different from “Positioning”.

On launch day it’s key that everyone answers the same question with the same answer, and different members of the launch team are not contradicting each other. I recently went to a product launch where different members of the team referred to the new product as an APP, an application and an API, which in software terms are three different things, leaving the audience confused about exactly what the product was.

Brainstorm the FAQ to prepare for a wide variety of questions about the product, the company, future plans and so forth.

HINT: Be ready for all types of questions, even nasty ones!

  1. Dress rehearse the big day, plan for failures

At least a month before the launch day, pull the entire team and plan together with all materials to include all presentations, press releases, plans for launch day and have a dress rehearsal. Assign roles you want people to play.

Check all presentations are harmonious and use the seed words properly.

Events have a natural beginning and end and you don’t want to lose control of the day with colleagues going off-piste at a whim.

If you are showing software or hardware make sure you have someone on the launch team who is so intimate with the product they can recover from a system failure in such a way that no-one will notice. Software has a nasty habit of crashing when it’s most inconvenient.

Make a list of tasks and deliverables each team member is responsible for at the post-launch wash-up.

If you have special speakers or luminaries attending your event make sure each one has a host or hostess to look after them.

HINT: Finally on the big day, have fun!