Product launch is an intense, stressful time, but careful planning can help reduce your stress and give your team a solid plan to help manage the intensity. If you cover these four issues early in the planning process, your launch will be easier to manage and less frustrating overall. It will also have better odds of success, leading to a better company position over time.
1. Know Your Audience
When you think of the audience for your product, how specific is it? Do you have a very general idea of who your customer base is -- women, for example, or small business owners -- or have you drilled down deep into your customer profile?
The most successful products are carefully targeted in very specific ways at very specific customers. Take the example of cell phones. While nearly everyone in the world has a cellphone, these mobile phones were initially a very niche product, marketed towards traveling businesspeople who needed a way to contact the office from the road.
Part of building your launch is figuring out exactly who your audience is. You should know demographic details about your customer profile (age, gender, marital status, occupation, hobbies), as well as habitual information (where do they get their news, what is their favorite publication, how do they spend their free time). Knowing these details will help you understand where to find your customer and how to connect with them.
2. Solve the Right Problem
Every product on the market needs to solve a problem. The easiest products to market exist where customers know they have a problem and are seeking a solution. Some products need to convince customers they have a problem, and that the product is a solution; these products have an uphill climb towards success.
The better you know your audience, the easier it will be to identify their problems in a language they understand. For example, targeting a baby product that entertains a very young baby and gives parents a chance to set them down will not be as useful to a parent who intensely values baby wearing and intensive skin-to-skin time. There are other parents, however, who will be extremely appreciative of your product; the key is knowing where to find them.
Identify exactly what problem you are solving, and make sure that your audience agrees that the problem exists before you get too far into your launch.
3. Careful Positioning Against Your Competition
Every product has competition. Even industries that are being disrupted are competing against the status quo. To successfully launch a product, you need to know what your business is working against. If your customers were not using your products or services, whose would they be using?
Sometimes the answer is another company offering the same services; in this case, your position points might revolve around pricing, value adds, and service capabilities. Sometimes the answer is another product in the same class. For example, each movie that comes out competes not just against other movies, but against all the other things people do with their free time. To convince people to go see the newest blockbuster thriller, studios must convince their potential audience that the movie is worth their time.
When you know your audience, and you understand what problem you are solving, positioning your product will be easier and more accurate. You will better understand where to place ads, what content will be helpful in marketing, and how to connect with your audience. If you find yourself unsure of how to accomplish these tasks, returning to the basic ideas of audience and problem will often narrow your position.
One of the most key elements of a product launch is getting feedback from your customers. You can do all of the theoretical assessments on your audience before launch, but nothing will compare to real feedback from your actual customers. While not every piece of feedback you receive needs to be acted upon immediately, watching customer feedback for trends and patterns will help you identify the next stage of your product evolution.
During the actual launch, it's important to course correct as necessary, but not to try and implement new features or perfect the product prior to launch. Seth Godin always talks about the importance of shipping, and how our fear of shipping gets in the way of actually getting a business off the ground.
If customers are providing feedback about the service they're receiving or the actual functionality of your product or service, you will probably need to fix this as soon as possible. If customers are asking for more functionality, additional benefits, or more perks, you will probably have more success tracking these requests for later implementation.
Product launch is a stressful time for a business owner or entrepreneur, but it is not the end point of the business structure. By planning for a product launch, you can make sure that your launch is as successful as possible, and modify the plan as necessary to continue into the next phase of development.
What advice would you offer to a company planning its first product launch?