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What is a product launch?

Last updated

27 April 2023

Reviewed by

Jen Lee

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A product launch is the result of a team executing a set of steps to introduce their new platform and winning solution to the marketplace to meet customer demand. 

This process involves various stakeholders, including customers who provided input on the minimum viable product and participated in focus groups, as well as the company's advisory board, which is responsible for creating and introducing the new platform. For all these stakeholders, the product launch is a significant achievement and a source of satisfaction.

Launching a product isn’t easy, though. The process is complex and often requires much effort, coordination between multiple departments, and detailed planning. Because of this, companies can take the approach of having a soft or hard launch.

A soft launch can involve releasing a product with only some of its features or to a limited audience. In contrast, a hard launch aims to release the product to the entire audience and achieve impressive results in terms of revenue and new users.

Since hard launches are more challenging to execute successfully, this article will provide resources for a hard launch.

To effectively drum up interest and demand to launch a product successfully, there are steps you can follow. Accomplishing these will ensure your team is prepared and that they’re introducing a product that will fulfill a market need.

How to launch in three key steps

There are three broad aspects of a product launch, and each one is equally important. These are planning, execution, and analysis.

Planning

Sufficient planning can be the difference between a product launching successfully or not. This stage involves ensuring there’s a generous lead time to prepare and develop content, set up automation, and complete testing. This will clearly identify the user touchpoints that need to be set up and the go-to-market strategy that will make the event run smoothly.

Before launching a product, a team should validate its idea by conducting extensive research and data analysis to confirm that it solves a problem for a sizable market with a sustainable revenue model.

Execution

Timing, targeting, and a coordinated team are vital in effectively executing a product launch plan. Precision and accuracy are important as you must ensure your audience is targeted effectively and you’ve tested the marketing campaigns convert and perform well. 

During the implementation of the outbound processes, the team should be informed about their roles and any additional tasks that may arise due to the sensitivity of the timing event. These tasks may include providing increased customer service support, addressing any bugs that may surface, and being prepared for larger or demanding clients who require assistance during the launch.

Analysis

To prepare for the main event, consider conducting a micro product launch and testing the experience. This will help your team identify any unforeseen events and develop lessons that can be shared across the organization.

Your team can evaluate what went well, what was unexpected, and any gaps in the launch that need improvement. Your team can use this feedback to perfect the main event and make changes for the next practice round.

What’s the right timing for a product launch?

Determining the ideal timing for a product launch, including the best window and timeframe, can be tricky. In general, launch too early, and your product may be half-baked and not impress a large segment of your customers. But launch too late, and you may miss the optimum time to be first in the marketplace.

Timing shouldn’t be overlooked, as it can be an integral reason why a business fails. In fact, 10% of startup failures are due to launch mistiming.

To get the ideal timing, weigh marketplace readiness alongside the project roadmap, which considers market research, prototyping, user testing, and marketing activities.

Product launches sound rewarding but keep in mind it may take a year or more to bring a product to life from inception. This ought to be taken into account when setting a date. Additionally, it might be more realistic to set milestones and their timeframe to validate an idea instead of fastening a fixed date to do a hard launch.

What are the three types of product launch events?

Events are a common way to bring attention to a product launch and stir attention to your platform within your industry, region, or city.

The three main types of launch events include:

Consumer events

These involve running an event to reach your target market. This could be a conference, an exhibition, or your own pop-up event. 

Trade events

These are typically trade shows focused on building relationships and networking business-to-business. 

Media events

This is where you focus on inviting key people, such as journalists and influencers. Through these events, they can learn about your product and ideally promote it for you in the media and social channel outlets online.

How much does it cost to launch a product?

Launching a product can be an expensive endeavor. The precise cost will vary significantly depending on the type of product, such as whether it is physical or digital, how effectively it competes with similar products, and how much budget is allocated to advertising to increase website traffic and conversions.

A new product launch could cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars for new startups to millions of dollars with established companies' hefty marketing budgets.

How to launch a product and gain traction

Developing a product can be a challenging but rewarding process. Your team is likely very excited about what they’re bringing to the marketplace; chances are, you want your customers to be just as excited.

Follow the steps below to get the launch right and build hype to accelerate the platform's traction.

Set a launch date and goal

Setting a launch date helps to coordinate all team members toward a common goal. It ensures that progress is continually made with buffer time to practice the launch internally and exercise processes so they are performing to perfection.

Communicating the launch also increases the users’ anticipation and gets them excited about the new release and tell their friends.

It’s important, though, that when you publicly announce a launch date, you’re able to stick to it. There’s nothing worse than communicating a launch to customers only to disappoint them down the line and deteriorate the team's morale.

A date, then, can only be set once the team is clear that they have a product that’s market ready.

Setting key performance indicators

To ensure a successful product launch, it's important to establish measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your marketing campaign. These KPIs will help you identify areas that need improvement and address any issues that may be hindering the growth of your product.

With ongoing traffic generated from your marketing efforts and referrals, having clear KPIs will allow your team to track progress and optimize your campaign for maximum growth.

Write a positioning statement

 A positioning statement describes your product, how it fits into the market, and what problem it solves. This statement guides all communications about your product and ensures consistency across all materials internally for the team and externally for potential business partners or venture capital funders.

Create a go-to-market strategy

When taking a product to the market, you must have a strong market strategy in place. Products don’t accidentally become popular. Instead, a dedicated and planned market strategy ensures that they succeed.

As you develop a strategy, some questions to ask include:

  • Which touchpoints will the campaign include? These can include social media, print, influencer marketing, TV commercials, billboards, or public relations.

  • Will the product be launched in a beta version first or all at once?

  • What are the key aspects of our marketing strategy?

  • Are we aligning the marketing collateral with the positioning statement?

  • How are we differentiating ourselves in the marketplace?

  • What will success look like?

  • How will we measure success?

Drum up excitement

To encourage interest and excitement before a product launch, providing teasers to your target market is helpful. These can gradually build up to the launch date to keep customers keen. 

There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Creating a hashtag

  • Telling your product story 

  • Creating a promotion 

  • Providing a sneak peek of the upcoming platform 

  • Showing behind-the-scenes work

  • Sharing short-form content teasers

  • Offering pre-sign-ups or pre-downloads

Remember, all messaging must relate back to the value propositions focused around the positioning statement to ensure all promotional content is consistent.

Launch the product

Once everything is in place and after thorough internal team testing, it’s time to launch the product. The launch can occur through different methods, such as a physical event, a gradual release, or a live online event.

During the launch, it’s essential to monitor all channels to resolve any issues that arise. All departments should be vigilant and draw upon their experiences from testing the product to ensure it performs as expected. Additionally, it's important to remain engaged in the conversation.

Complete an analysis

Once the product is launched, the hard work isn’t over. It’s important to learn from the process, resolve any issues that arise, and optimize the product through feedback from customers as quickly as possible.

To complete a thorough analysis, track and review the results from the campaign and platform's performance. Compare those to your KPI goals to assess what went well and what didn’t.

Conducting a retrospective meeting involving all departments can be beneficial in leveraging the lessons learned from the previous product launch to improve future launches.

Checklist for product launch

Having a checklist before launching is beneficial as it helps keep your team on track and ensures that all aspects are considered. This increases the chances of success for your product in the marketplace.

  • Have a goal Your key goal will be born out of the problem you are solving for customers. 

  • Write KPIs — Without KPIs, it’s challenging to identify and measure your success.

  • Deeply understand your customer — Make sure to verify the demand in the intended market by gathering data on the specific problems or complaints that potential customers have expressed. This information should then be used to shape your platform.

  • Write a positioning statement Writing this statement will help you maintain consistency across all channels.

  • Explain positioning to stakeholders — To ensure key stakeholders are on board, it’s important to explain why this product is necessary and how it will help the company's overall goals and vision.

  • Align with the business — The product should align with the overall business strategy and make sense within the organization.

  • Set a date — This keeps your team on track while drumming up customer excitement. 

  • Practice the launch — Before the launch date, it's important for the team to practice onboarding and to test the website's user experience. This includes thoroughly testing all functions and scenarios users may encounter when they visit the site multiple times to ensure they work properly.

  • Create a strong marketing campaign — The campaign should be designed to generate excitement among your customers at its launch. It should also be tested thoroughly to ensure that all aspects, including design, copy, and performance, are optimized to achieve the KPI goals that have been set.

  • Align departments — All relevant teams, including sales, marketing, technical engineers, and customer service, should be clear on the product offering, launch timing, and the unexpected tasks that may arise during the launch period.

Measuring success

An analysis is a key aspect of the launch, but there must be a defined and accurate way to measure success. 

Several entrepreneurs may feel they have succeeded because they gained great feedback about their product. Unless that feedback is backed by real results though, it may not represent the true success of the campaign.

To accurately measure product success, do the following:

  • Define KPIs — KPIs relevant to your platform and launch must be set early on. This will ensure you have a true marker of success to continue monitoring and measuring from.

  • Track and analyze data — Guessing, making assumptions, and doing manual processes lead to a great deal of ambiguity. To lean into precision, use accurate data and digital tools when tracking the success of your campaigns.

  • Gather feedback — Gain feedback from multiple sources. This could be through surveys, reviews, or call center data to get a good idea of how your customers respond to your product.

Examples of successful product launches

While there are countless examples of successful product launches, the following strategies stand out and serve as inspiration for future campaigns.

Benefits of waitlists

Take investing app Robinhood, for example, which gained one million users before the app even launched.

By promoting zero-commission trading through a range of platforms, they were able to drum up interest from users. To do this, the platform offered a very simple sign-up process. This removed as much friction as possible, helping them gain several users.

Robinhood also used incentives to encourage users to refer their friends to sign up as well, thus increasing growth.

Viral signups

By leaning into referral programs, the payment platform PayPal grew exponentially. The platform gained 10% daily growth and its first 100 million users through referrals alone.

The referral program, which rewarded users for recommending the platform, went viral. By offering a large incentive, they were able to bring millions to their platform.

Final thoughts

Even though a platform event takes time, with careful planning and precise execution, it can be rewarding. Part of the reward is by helping people with a winning solution that they cannot get anywhere else. Users tend to shop for their needs online and in stores before deciding to make sure they will be happy with it afterward and that it suits their needs. 

To be competitive in the market, a company must first identify the needs of its users and maintain ongoing communication with them even after launching the product. This requires continuous user research to understand what features the customers want and ensure that the company keeps delivering those features,

FAQs

What are the stages of a product launch?

While organizations will vary on the number of stages of a product launch, there are five main stages. These are ideation, concept development, market testing, and finally, launch. 

What is a launch strategy?

A product launch strategy is a plan with the objective of successfully introducing a new product to the market. This plan encompasses all of the essential stages leading up to the end goal.

Who leads a product launch?

Typically, a product manager will lead the process from ideation to the final product launch. Some organizations, however, may use a product marketing manager or project manager to oversee this process. With several key decisions being made, stakeholders will often be part of the decision-making process. This can range from daily operations to advisors or investors.

Who to invite to a product launch?

If you plan to organize a launch event, inviting individuals who are highly likely to speak, use, and promote your product enthusiastically wherever they go is important. These people genuinely believe in your product and want to see your company succeed.

Key people to invite include representatives from your target market, journalists, influencers, and bloggers. Inviting your team, especially those who can explain product features and answer questions at the event or help support speeches, is also important.

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