Having a recognizable brand name is no guarantee that a product launch will be a success.
Many have failed. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 product launch literally went up in flames while the Amazon Fire Phone fizzled.
Yet other well-known brands have been a raving success with product launches, including Apple, Google, and Under Armour. These brands prove they know how to close a sale and optimize their marketing channels based on proven sales techniques.
Then there are the brands that no one ever heard of but are now household names thanks to successful product launches: FiberOne, Magnum Ice Cream, and Skinny Cow just to name a few.
This guide will help you develop the best approach for launching a product.
Here are the steps to get you to your final product launch:
- Step 1: Develop your buyer persona.
- Step 2: Develop a competitive price point.
- Step 3: Select a launch type.
- Step 4: Create a marketing plan.
- Step 5: Craft persuasive messaging.
- Step 6: Involve the customer as the influencer.
Things to consider during the pre-product launch
Before jumping into the steps listed below for the perfect product launch, there are some things to consider. Once you have made these key decisions during the pre-product launch, it’s all systems go to follow the recommended actions in this guide.
1. Who is your audience, and what are their pain points?
Before undertaking a product launch, it’s important to know that you are presenting your product as a solution to the right segments. Part of identifying your target audience is understanding their pain points and giving them a product that alleviates those.
If you don’t know who you should sell to before launching a product or how you can help them, then your product launch will fail.
2. What resources do you need for the product launch?
Before a product launch, it’s critical to have enough of the right resources in place to carry you through the product launch and beyond. The type and amount of resources vary by product type and the overall launch strategy.
For example, consider factors like if the new product can be tied to an existing product line. In this case, you may be able to use fewer resources than you would for a new product launch for a company that has no existing brand awareness.
Other factors include assessing if you have enough talent within the company to do the launch or if you will have to use external resources.
In terms of tools, you may find it worthwhile to invest in technology that automates part of the process. For example, email marketing software handles the time-intensive task of reaching out to your entire email list, which frees up the team to focus on other responsibilities. Some of our favorites include Mailchimp, AWeber, and Mailerlite.
Knowing what you need in terms of time, money, and talent in advance can help ensure you have a sustainable amount of resources.
3. What is your follow-up, or post-launch strategy?
Although you have a plan for launch, it’s also important to be prepared for what follows.
Once your product launches, you want to keep the momentum going by having a long-term marketing and sales strategy that fuels the buzz.
While products can go viral thanks to an audience’s help, there is a lot of work behind the scenes to reach that tipping point. Your post-launch strategy needs to have thorough social media, content marketing, and influencer marketing tactics, as well as plans to address any potential product complaints.
How to launch a product
Step 1: Develop your buyer persona
Beyond identifying your target audience, you have to put a face to those potential customers by creating a buyer persona that describes the audience’s goals, needs, challenges, pain points, and motivations.
Later on, this in-depth description will help direct other steps in your product launch process, including your marketing and sales efforts.
To create your buyer persona, you can interview people who fit into your target audience, as well as collect secondary research about these segments.
Step 2: Decide on a competitive price point
Balance your price between being competitive and value-focused with the need to turn a profit. Your price should reflect how you plan to market your product.
For example, your product could be at a luxury level and demand a premium price point or it could be a budget product and fits a keystone pricing structure (the cost to produce the product multiplied by two).
Your product launch could also have an introductory price point for those who pre-order.
Step 3: Select a launch type
There are two primary product launch types: hard launch and soft launch.
A hard product launch puts your product out to your entire target market right away, while a soft launch introduces it in waves.
A hard launch is effective if you feel competitive pressure and want to start getting traction quickly. In contrast, a soft launch helps you generate buzz and build suspense over a period of time. The soft launch approach also provides a way to create viral interest through positive reviews and influencers.
Step 4: Create a marketing plan
Look at your product launch as a formal action rather than a "wing it" situation. It’s your marketing strategy that determines product reception.
Therefore, everything about marketing must be planned, addressed, detailed, and measured. To design an effective marketing plan just for the product launch, have set marketing goals, channels, tactics, and product messaging.
Specify how you will engage with the target audience and buyer personas.
Step 5: Craft persuasive messaging
In knowing the pain points and how you can solve them, your pitch should focus on showing your audience that you can help them.
Even if there are similar products already on the market, you can highlight the value of how your solution may alleviate the pain points more quickly than the competition or over a longer period of time.
Step 6: Involve the customer as the tester and the influencer
Make your target audience members brand and product advocates by letting them try the product before it’s launched.
This approach could involve samples, advanced use, or a trial period with a follow-up review. Not only will this get your audience excited about what you offer, but they also can then generate buzz on your behalf as influencers.
You can find these testers and influencers through research or assistance from influencer agencies. Working with online influencers provides access to an even larger part of your target audience with much of the product launch effort being done on your behalf.
You can use a CRM software, like HubSpot CRM, Agile CRM, or Insightly, to track these users, influencers, and prospects so you can refine your product launch and deepen these relationships during the post-launch period.
Tips for executing a successful product launch
To make these product launch steps easier to execute, here are some tips that reflect some of the best practices from other successful product launches.
Tip 1: Leverage suspense to generate excitement and interest
In a world of customers seeking instant gratification, it helps to adopt a product launch strategy that leverages suspense and mystery to pique interest and thrill audiences.
This approach focuses on releasing minimal information at a time, such as a few words or just part of the product. The secrecy can build buzz and excitement if done right.
Prime examples include Apple’s approach to introducing new products. Since the company’s reinvention and launch of the iPhone, the company has used anticipation and surprise as a key success factor for product launches.
Even Taco Bell tried this approach when it said there would be a new menu item revealed during their 2016 Super Bowl ad.
Recently, Chevrolet has stirred up a frenzy among consumers about its 2020 Chevrolet Stingray C8 Corvette, revealing glimpses as part of brief social media videos before showing up in unexpected places with the vehicle.
The result was record numbers of pre-orders.
Tip 2: Adapt your product launch strategy to your target markets
If you are launching in multiple geographic markets or focused on expanding your products into a new country, then you need to adapt your product launch strategy to address local cultural and social preferences.
Google’s launch of its Chrome browser into Thailand offers a good benchmark for how to approach a localized product launch strategy.
In first conducting research to understand the Thai market, consumer interest, and cultural preferences, Google decided to approach the launch by using the widely known cultural story of Ramakien.
The story served as a framework for visually explaining how Chrome worked. Google also employed gamification techniques to add further interest. The local approach worked for Google: The new product campaign achieved a growth rate of 53 percent, and Chrome became Thailand’s favorite web browser.
Tip 3: Focus on a relatable, authentic purpose
Your brand, product, and product launch campaign must be something your audience can relate to that feels real to them and represents a purpose they can support.
Under Armour’s product launch campaign centered on a video series about unique female athletes like a ballerina, stunt woman, and tae kwon do black belt.
The purpose was to illustrate how Under Armour and its products support those women who carve their own paths and make history.
The videos were shared on Under Armour’s social media sites with the hashtag, #UnlikeAny to further the purpose of celebrating and serving unique women. The product launch won rave reviews.
Getting ready for launch
With your pre-launch, product launch, and post-product launch clearly defined, along with your target audience, buyer personas, marketing plan, and launch type, you will be ready to excite the market with a product that alleviates specific pain points.
The more time you spend researching, planning, and forecasting, the better chance you have at perfecting your product launch.
Be open and flexible to making changes along the way based on the input of your team, prospects, and influencers. Also, study as many successful and failed product launches as possible to understand the reason for their results.
No product launch will be exactly the same, but the best practices and lessons learned can direct your overall approach to product launches.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. John Rampton has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, Apple, HubSpot, Salesforce.com, and Under Armour (A Shares) and recommends the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.