Product launches are like rocket launches — there’s a lot of prep involved, and you never quite know what’s going to happen when you hit that big red button. Stressful? Yes. Risky? Also yes. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you navigate the launch process and make sure your product lands with a bang (in a good way).
From crafting the perfect marketing campaign to nailing down your target audience, there are plenty of things to consider when getting ready for liftoff. So, buckle up, and let’s get started… it’s time to take your product to new heights.
What is a product launch?
Whether you’re releasing something new or updating an existing line, you’ll need to make some noise about your Next Big Thing. How else will people know it exists?
This is where the product launch comes in.
At its core, a product launch is simply the introduction of a new product to the market. But it’s so much more than that.
A product launch is like a big, flashy party for your product. It’s a chance to showcase all the hard work that went into creating it and to get people excited about what you’re offering (as well as give them a way to buy it). It’s a way to grab people’s attention and make a splash in the marketplace.
And while a launch can be a one-time event, it’s really just the beginning of your product’s journey. A successful launch sets the stage for the big day, as well as for ongoing sales and growth post-launch. It also helps you gather valuable feedback from early users, which will inform future iterations.
Types of product launches
There are several strategies to choose from when it comes to launching a new product:
MVP product launch
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It involves launching a product with only its core features and functionality, so you can gather feedback from early adopters. You’ll apply their feedback and gradually add features, releasing and testing as you go. While it sounds time-consuming, MVP launches actually allow companies to get their product to market quickly and start generating revenue while also refining and improving it based on user feedback. This improves their chances of success when it comes to the main launch.
Soft product launch
A soft launch, aka a ‘beta launch,’ is when you release your product to a limited audience or geographic area before a wider release. Soft launches are often used for tech products, apps, and other digital offerings. It’s similar to an MVP launch, except it’s done later in development and typically involves a larger audience or user base. Products launched in beta will have most or all of their features completed.
Direct product launch
This is a full-scale launch, where you release your product to the market with all features and functionality. It’s often used for physical products, like consumer goods or appliances.
A re-launch is when an already released product undergoes a significant update or change and is re-introduced to the market. This type of launch can help breathe new life into an existing product and generate renewed interest from customers.
Examples of successful product launches
When Apple first launched the iPhone in 2007, it completely revolutionized the smartphone market. With its sleek design, intuitive interface, and groundbreaking features like multi-touch technology, the iPhone quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The launch was preceded by months of anticipation and speculation in the tech world, with Apple generating buzz through a series of teaser ads and press events. Every phone launch after that went much the same way, with months of build-up, followed by a launch that often involved people camping outside stores overnight. Hype doesn’t get bigger than that.
Tesla Model S
When Tesla launched the Model S in 2012, it represented a major breakthrough for the electric car market. Tesla’s launch strategy included a series of high-profile test drives for journalists and celebrities, as well as an aggressive social media campaign that helped to garner attention and build excitement around the launch. Today, the Model S remains one of Tesla’s most popular and successful products and has helped to establish the company as a leader in the automotive industry.
What is a product launch checklist?
Although a product launch is exciting, it can also be daunting. There’s a lot that goes into planning and execution, from crafting the perfect marketing message to building relationships with influencers and tastemakers in your industry. With so many moving parts, a product launch checklist is essential.
So what exactly is a product launch checklist? Think of it like your trusty co-pilot on the journey to launch day. It’s a list of all the things you need to do before you can hit that red button and send your product out into the world.
A well-designed checklist can help you stay ahead of the game, avoid common pitfalls, and ensure that you’re hitting all the right notes leading up to launch day. Think of it as a roadmap that helps you stay organized, focused, and on track throughout your launch journey.
During what can be a chaotic and stressful time, an effective product launch checklist can also provide a sense of structure and clarity. From developing messaging to building a social media campaign, a good checklist will cover all your bases, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.
While it’s certainly possible to launch a product without a checklist, it’s kind of like trying to fly a plane without coordinates — not recommended!
When should you launch a product?
Launching too early could mean releasing an unfinished or flawed product. Launching a product too late, however, could mean missing out on valuable market opportunities. So when should you plan to lift off?
The answer will depend on a variety of factors, including the nature of the product, the competitive landscape, and the target audience. It also depends on what kind of launch you’re doing.
Soft launches, for example, will happen earlier on to give product teams time to collect feedback, apply it, and then launch again (either as a second soft launch or a direct launch).
If you’re going for a direct launch, however, it’s important to ensure your product is fully developed and tested before launching. This typically includes conducting thorough quality assurance testing and getting feedback from beta testers or early adopters. You’ll want to make sure that your product is as polished and bug-free as possible before releasing it to the wider market.
It’s also important to consider the timing of your launch in relation to your competitors. Avoid launching your product at the same time as a similar product, as this could dilute your market impact and make it harder to stand out. Instead, consider launching when you can keep the spotlight on yourself.
You’ll also want to consider external factors that may impact your launch. This includes holidays, major events, and even the weather. For example, launching a new line of swimwear in the middle of winter might not be a great idea.
An overview of the product launch process
A product launch is a complex process that involves many moving parts. The key components vary depending on the product and the company, but here are some common stages which will form the basis of your launch checklist.
Every organization is different, but here are some essentials to tick off before your launch.
1. Identify your target market (and learn about them)
Your target market is the group of people who are most likely to benefit from and purchase your product.
Start by considering the problem your product solves and who would be most affected by it.
Think about their demographics, interests, and pain points. If you’re launching a new skincare product, for example, you might target women aged 25-40 who are interested in natural beauty products and struggle with dry skin.
Next, consider the size of your target market and their willingness to pay for your product. It’s important to ensure that there’s a large enough market to support your product and that your pricing aligns with your target market’s budget. Once you’ve identified your target market, use this information to refine your offering.
2. Write a positioning statement
Essentially, this is a brief statement that summarizes how your product fits into the market and what sets it apart from competitors.
Creating a clear and concise product positioning statement helps you define your product’s value, making it easier to sell. Start by identifying your target market and the problem your product solves for them. Then, focus on the unique benefits and features of your product that address their needs.
Keep your statement concise and to the point, aiming for just a few sentences that effectively communicate your product’s value. Note: this stage is interchangeable with step 1 (and you can also work on them simultaneously).
3. Pitch your product to stakeholders
This next step is critical to gain support and resources for your product launch. Stakeholders might include investors, team members, and other key decision-makers who will be instrumental in the success of your product launch. Here are some tips:
Start with a strong hook
Capture your stakeholders’ attention right from the start with a compelling hook that highlights the benefits of your product. This could be a statistic, a customer testimonial, or a key feature that sets you apart from competitors.
Articulate your product’s value
Explain what makes your product unique and how it addresses a key pain point for your target market.
Address potential problems
Anticipate any objections or questions your stakeholders might have and address them head-on. This can help to build trust and credibility.
Provide supporting data
Back up your claims with data and evidence that demonstrate the potential success of your product. This could include market research, customer feedback, or sales projections.
End with a strong call-to-action
Finish your pitch with a clear call-to-action that outlines the next steps for moving forward with your product launch. This could be a request for funding, support from team members, or a timeline for key milestones.
4. Create a marketing strategy
Your marketing plan outlines how you will promote your product, who you will target, and the channels you’ll use to reach them.
Define your goals
First, start by identifying your marketing objectives. What do you want to achieve? Are you aiming to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive sales? Once you have a clear understanding of your goals, you can create an action plan for achieving them.
Assess your audience
Next, think about your target audience, which you should have already defined in stage 2. Consider their demographics, interests, and pain points. This will help you to tailor your messaging and choose the marketing channels that are most likely to reach them.
Start your strategy
Once you’ve pinned these down, you can start to develop your marketing mix. This includes the various tactics you’ll use to promote your product, like social media marketing, email marketing, press releases, influencer collaborations, and paid advertising.
Be realistic about your budget
Don’t forget to determine how much you can afford to spend on marketing, what your timeline is, and what resources you have available. Consider how long each marketing tactic will take to implement and prioritize your efforts accordingly.
5. Develop and test your product
Testing, aka discovery research, helps you spot bugs and identify areas for improvement. Once these are on your radar, you can make the necessary adjustments and look forward to a smooth launch.
User testing involves recruiting individuals who represent your target audience and having them use your product in a real-world setting — either a finished version or a series of prototypes and/or MVPs. This helps you spot usability issues from an outsider’s perspective, as well as identify areas where it’s not quite resonating with your target audience.
You can also conduct surveys and/or (the more, the better!) focus groups to gather feedback. This helps you better understand their pain points and preferences, which in turn guides your decision-making.
6. Set up your sales and distribution channels
Establishing a sales and distribution channel is a daunting yet crucial step in the product launch process. Here are some tips.
- First, think about your target audience and where they like to shop. Do they prefer to shop online, in-store, or both? This will help you decide which channels to use. There’s no point in spending money targeting all locations/platforms when most of your target market use, for example, Instagram. As you grow, you might want to expand your reach — but for now, start small.
- You’ll also need to consider your pricing strategy and profit margins. This will impact which distribution channels are the most feasible for your business. Look at your competition to work out where you fit in.
- Choose your distribution channels. You can sell directly to customers through your own website or physical store, or you can work with third-party retailers, wholesalers, or distributors. Each option has its pros and cons. Selling directly to customers gives you more control over your brand and the customer experience, but it also requires more investment in marketing and eCommerce infrastructure. Alternatively, working with third-party retailers can give you access to established customer bases and wider distribution but may result in lower profit margins and less control over the customer experience.
- Lastly, make sure you have a solid plan in place for order fulfillment and inventory management. This includes figuring out the logistics of shipping and handling, returns, and order tracking. It’s not glamorous, but then neither are angry customers.
7. Train your support and sales teams
When you love a new product, you can’t help but talk about it with your friends. That kind of energy is infectious — and it’s what you want to nurture in your sales team. Your team should know not just know how to use the product but why people should love it, too.
Sales teams are often the first point of contact for customers, so it’s crucial they have a deep understanding of your product. Start by creating a training plan that covers all the essentials, including features, benefits, and use cases. You’ll also want to provide detailed scripts, templates, and cheat sheets.
As you’re developing your training plan, be sure to incorporate hands-on training sessions that allow your teams to practice using the product and handling different types of customer interactions. Learning the theory of how a product works is important, but it’s not the same as using it in real life. And the great thing about hands-on product use is each user will find their own way of using it, which they can bring to every customer meeting.
8. Prepare for media coverage
Media coverage offers a big boost for your launch, so it’s important to prepare ahead of time to ensure you’re presenting your product in the best possible light to journalists and media outlets.
First things first: identify the media outlets that are most likely to be interested in your product. This might include industry publications, bloggers, or mainstream media outlets. Reach out to them and let them know about your launch. You can send out a press release, offer to do an interview, or invite them to a demo.
Practice your pitch so you can communicate this information clearly and succinctly. You should also have high-quality images and video available for the media to use, ideally on your website. This will help them create compelling visuals to accompany their coverage of your product.
Finally, prepare for both positive and negative feedback. Not everyone will love your product, and that’s okay. Make sure that you have a plan in place for how to handle negative feedback and turn it into a positive learning experience.
9. Product launch day activities
The big day has arrived! Here are some tips to make sure it goes off without a hitch:
- Decide on the timing of your launch. Consider the time zone of your target audience, as well as other industry events. You don’t want to find yourself drowned out by the buzz surrounding a competitor’s product.
- Plan out your launch day activities. This might include a launch party, social media promotions, or even a live stream.
- Make sure that your website and social media channels are ready for launch day with all the important info, including pricing, features, and purchasing options.
- Consider offering special promos on the launch day to incentivize people to make a purchase.
- Finally, make sure you have a plan in place for customer support on launch day. You want to be prepared to handle any questions or concerns.
10. Monitor performance
Launching a product isn’t a one-time event – it’s an ongoing process. That’s why it’s important to monitor your product’s performance after launch day.
Metrics to keep an eye on might include sales figures, website traffic, and customer feedback. By monitoring these metrics, you can see how well your product is performing in key areas.
If you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for, don’t panic, though. It can take time for a product to gain traction in the market. Use the data you collect to identify areas where you can make improvements, whether that’s in your marketing strategy, product design, or customer support.
It’s also important to stay up-to-date with industry trends and competitor activity. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and identify ways that you can differentiate your product. Look for opportunities to improve your product and stay ahead of the curve.
Finally, remember that launching a product is a learning process. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. By continually monitoring your product’s performance and making adjustments as needed, you can help ensure its success over the long term.
11. Follow up with customers
Following up with customers shows you value their feedback. Here are a few options to reach out and connect:
- Send out a survey to gather feedback
- Send out personalized thank-you notes or emails to customers who made a purchase.
- Offer ongoing support and resources
- Offer promos or discounts to customers who made a purchase.
Pre-product launch checklist
With so much to organize, it’s easy to miss a step along the way. Use this checklist to ensure you have everything crossed off before the big day.
- Has everyone hit their deadlines and milestones?
- Have you tested the product with the target audience in a controlled setting (and recorded their feedback)?
- Have you decided on the launch type? Do you have dates?
- Have you trained teams?
- Does everyone know the launch date(s), itinerary, and timelines?
- Is the marketing collateral all in order?
- Have you mapped out customer touchpoints?
- Have you decided which metrics you’ll measure? And do you know how you’ll record performance?
- Do you have enough people and resources to analyze performance?
- Have you set aside resources to carry out the analysis of product metrics results for actionable intelligence?
- Do you have a communication plan in place?
When should you delay a product launch?
Knowing when not to launch is as important as knowing when to put your product out there.
Delaying a product launch can be a difficult decision, but sometimes it’s necessary to ensure the success of your product. Here are a few scenarios in which you might want to consider delaying your product launch:
If you discover any quality issues with your product during testing or manufacturing, it’s important to address these before launching. Launching a flawed product can damage your reputation (and result in costly returns or recalls).
If you notice major changes in the market or competitive landscape, it may be worth delaying your launch to make adjustments to your product or marketing strategy. For example, if a new competitor enters the market with a similar product, you may need to differentiate your offering before launching.
If you’re struggling to meet your launch deadlines due to resource constraints or unexpected delays, it may be worth delaying to ensure you’re able to deliver a high-quality product.
If you’re launching a product that requires regulatory approval, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary certifications and approvals in place before launching. If you encounter any delays or issues with the approval process, you may need to delay your launch to avoid legal or financial risks.
5 tips for product launch success
Have regular check-ins with stakeholders
Keeping stakeholders involved and informed throughout the product development process helps ensure your product aligns with their expectations.
Make sure your product reflects current trends
Keeping up with industry trends and incorporating them into your product can help you stay relevant.
Build a community
Engage with your target audience and build a community around your product before launching. This will help you generate buzz, gather feedback, and create a loyal customer base.
Analyze customer feedback
Continuously gathering customer feedback through surveys, user testing, and social media can help you identify opportunities for improvement and make data-driven decisions for future product iterations.
Use project management tools
Using project management tools can help you stay organized, track progress, and manage deadlines more efficiently. Set off on your product launch journey on the right foot!
Product launches are a critical aspect of any business’s growth and success. A well-executed product launch can generate excitement and anticipation among customers, increase brand awareness, and drive sales. The process is not without its challenges, though.
From market research to product design, promotion, and distribution, every aspect of a product launch requires careful consideration and planning. By investing time and resources into a well-planned launch, you can set your product up for success and pave the way for future growth.