A study by Statista reveals an increasing number of new businesses launching over the past twelve years. Why is this an important metric in our conversation? Mainly Because businesses launch to deliver new products into the market.
Business Launch vs Product Launch
Before we proceed, allow me to clarify that a business launch is different from a product launch. They are not the same thing.
A business launch refers to the birth of a new venture. A business is the platform/entity that creates and supports the existence of the product/Solution which the market interacts with. A product launch happens when a business introduces its solution/product to the market.
A product launch is one of the phases of a product’s lifecycle. We will be discussing key aspects to this early stage of your product’s life cycle- the stage where your product is introduced to the market.
To do that efficiently, let’s ask an important question : Where do products come from? 🤔
Most products are born from someone identifying a problem and creating a solution for it. These problems can be existing problems we all encounter during the course of our day to day lives or they can be a proposal to interrupt/improve the way we do the things we already do, but better. Some of these problems are obvious to us all (think malaria and the introduction of anti malaria medication) and some of them are far fetched (think hot air balloons).
As I often say, “one man’s problem is another man’s project”.
Why Product Launches Fail & what you can do to increase your chances of success
Why do Product launches fail?
Having touched upon where products come from, I’ll quickly touch upon five of the many reasons their introduction to the market fails.
1- No need for the product : A good number of products are created from the fancy of the creator and nothing more. In rare cases, one can find a market for a product they personally had a fancy for but in most cases, the product finds low or no resonance at all when presented to the market. Poor product-market fit occurs for different reasons. Some include:
a- due to the maker’s bias : i.e making products you like and hoping other people like it.
b- poor market assessment: this happens when a product is developed from a market need but the maker doesn’t engage the intended users in the process of building said product. This means the product will not end up addressing the user’s real need.
2- Poor product development: Say you’ve done your homework and found a good market fit but then go on to float the development stage with poor quality production materials, or make a great product with poor packaging. Production mistakes really impact market perception greatly.
3- A weak marketing/communication plan: Say you have done the hard work of finding market fit for your great product, introducing it to the market requires a clear communication plan delivered in phases. Failure to successfully connect with the people who need your product can be a huge deterrent to product launch success.
4- Poor Timing : There’s such a thing as a great product released at the wrong time. Some products are ultimately great and fit for a problem but the time mismatch comes into the picture when the top adopters of a product do not find the product useful or do not influence the other tiers of adopters as quickly as is needed to ensure product penetration into the market.
5- The unwillingness to try again : When product launches fail, it is hardly every the end of the road for that product. It’s a key part of the feedback loop which tells what needs redress or improvement. Armed with proper feedback, a product that had failed at some point can become a market success if feedback is properly implemented. Do not underestimate the power of a proper relaunch. Seasoned product managers and marketers have brought back otherwise dead products and made them “se*y” again. I hope it comforts you to know that no one is immune to product launch failure. The best and the biggest companies still fail at product launches.
How To Increase The Likelihood Of Success:
The first thing about improving chances of a product launch success is that you require a system to ensure success.
Begin with pre-planning: product launches require a lot of fore-thought. Building a checklist enables one to ensure follow through. What should your checklist have? Here are some considerations which Plan & Implement Your product launch to have both internal and external phases to it:
In no particular order, here are some thoughts I hope get the wheels spinning when it comes to getting things in place for a proper product launch. I hope this helps you get a hold of your task:
Perform market research: While Building your product, you worked with the users, assessed the competition and the product landscape for that product. Now it is time to do that again but this time with a communication objective.
What words do the users use? What is the competition’s communication strength? How best do we segment the audience? What can you learn about the communities relevant for market penetration? How best can you work with these communities long term?
Create your positioning statement: A positioning statement is built from proper market research, knowledge of the product and also comes from the product’s unique value proposition. Your product’s positioning statement speaks to the top priority problems or needs of the market you aim to capture. Sometimes it is your value proposition put out there in literal terms or implied using substituted words e.g “We are a fintech reducing the cost of transactions for users” can be stated literally (if you are the first mover in that direction) or can be implied as “freedom to pay” or something close. Get the drift? You will know you have the right positioning statement if it makes the user feel and think what you want them to feel and think about your product.
Set a goal for your launch: all of this work with planning and execution is for the sole intent of ensuring the product succeeds in the market. Correct? Well put a number to it. How many orders will you like to rack up on launch day? What other success metrics are you looking at? These help you really begin thinking how best to accomplish them. It also help all internal players know how much work will be required of them. Pro tip: it is always better to set audacious goals and fail forward than to set average goals that are easily attainable.
Plan With All stakeholders: You did not build the product alone (and if you did, I do not advise you launch it alone) – there is such a thing as the creator bias which inevitably messes up the communication side to a successful product launch. This is where you work with other people to ensure the acceptance of the product by the market. Building a proper launch involves seeking the advice of key participants in the process to ensure their investment in the process. When you pull this together, you have a big plan. Now it’s time to show everyone the big picture so that they know what they are a part of.
Develop a go-to-market strategy: sounds complicated but it really is a series of actions calculated to ensure you communicate a clear message to a specific audience per time. A go-to-market strategy basically ensures you capture a particular audience per time and build that relationship upwards from there.
A media plan is a good part of your go-to-market strategy. It really is a combination of a clear message you aim to put out about what you want the world to know about your product and the different channels (online and offline platforms) which will ensure you reach this audience and get them to take action.
Create a launch offer: Include bonuses, discounts, one-time, limited time offers and other forms of incentives that sweeten the deal and heighten the buying experience for the intended market. This one step increases your chances of success remarkably and is often missing in otherwise good product launches.
Choose a day for the launch: Without deadlines, everyone is easily worn out from continuous and seemingly needless work, there is no cohesion and nothing for the team and the market to look forward to. When you set a launch day, you give everyone something to anticipate. Even if you have to postpone, it is better to have a well thought out product launch day for everyone to anticipate.
Communicate launch details to stakeholders: this reads like “present to stakeholders” yes? Well, when you started, you did not have a few things figured out you have taken a few steps forward and that’s a good thing. You have a launch date and more clarity in general. Let everyone internally and externally know what to anticipate. Communicate your well thought out plan to all internal stakeholders to also ensure alignment. Equally important is that you assign roles for team members. The development team has to ensure your product can withstand the stress of a surge of traffic. The fulfillment system has to be ready for mass intake and also ready to scale exponentially in the event that the product goes viral. Communication materials have to be ready etc ensure reliable people are put to handle these things and you are clear what is expected of them.
Perform internal pre-launch product testing as many times as possible: Your promotional material really is a promise to the world about what your product can deliver for them. It is important to check, test and retest for as many scenarios as possible to ensure vulnerabilities are minimized. It is important to avoid failure on the launch day proper as the market does not easily forgive a failed first impression. (while it is best to avoid a launch day flop. A failed first impression is not the death of your product. In fact it can be the rebirth your product needs and if well handled, can be the very thing you need to build mass appeal – but that’s for another article so let’s get on with this).
Launch internally: an internal launch is a very serious affair. Sometimes even more serious than launch day itself. It is different from product testing because product testing is focused on the product while the internal launch tests all aspects of the launch strategy across all departments. If your internal launch is strong enough, all you have to do is scale it as you put it out externally.
Communicate externally: This refers to you deploying the different phases of your external communication efforts: Pre-launch, launch and post-launch.
When you have achieved a high enough level of satisfaction about launch day proper, it is time to put out your communication materials and build a lot of anticipation prior to the release, it is important to build up a lot of anticipation about the product release and launch day as this is what grows attention about the product, consequently driving demand. Also ensure to create Key promotional material: banners, design, press releases, ad copy, etc ensure they carry the key information and are distributed using channels that reach your target audience.
Establish tracking & measurement systems : To ensure your launch efforts are properly invested, it is important to ensure measurement is properly done. This helps you evaluate your efforts properly. This enables you determine what is working so you can do more of it and to determine
Prepare to fulfill orders: fulfillment is key to trust and reliability. Many product launches fail because they sometimes either do not consider the extreme possibility of stress on fulfillment systems on launch day/week or do not plan to manage those properly. Sometimes, unforeseen stress on fulfillment will require post-launch communication to manage the situation properly
Launch your product: with all things ready, it is important to throw in as much enjoyment into the launch day activities as possible to reward everyone involved. This makes for a great experience for your event guests (if you have an event)
Post launch : The market has met your product. Whether launch day went as planned or not, it’s time to reward yourself and your team. Product launches take a lot of heart. Lots of work as well. After the dust from launch day has settled, it’s time to count the eggs.
In conclusion, knowing the key things to focus on before launching a product can increase your chances of success. I hope the information provided in this article helps you identify major deterrents while also arming you with meaningful tips to ensure a successful launch.
Adegoke Tolulope Adedayo is a Fintech marketing and communications expert, digital strategist, and UX writer. She has led marketing and communications for notable Fintech companies including Fincra, a payment infrastructure on a mission to make sending and receiving money across the globe as simple as sending a text message where she currently heads the marketing department. You can connect with her on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jemimaadedayo for marketing communications tips.