One of the great things about being a software development company is that we get to participate in and celebrate product launches.
Launches always come with excitement. And usually, we see huge success. Of course, this success is measured in various ways, depending on ROI goals—higher revenue, less downtime, improved customer engagement, employee efficiency, more powerful reporting and analytics, or something else.
Although many product launches go off like a song, sometimes there are bumps in the road. These issues usually have little to do with the product or the idea behind it. Instead, the launch process itself introduces challenges.
Plenty of terrific products have struggled and died right out of the gate due to inefficient preparation. According to the Harvard Business Review, most products, no matter how “revolutionary” fail once they hit the market.
The reason? HBR diagnoses the leading cause of product launch failure in this way:
Companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game.
The idea? Great solution.
The product? No problem.
Product launch? Might be a problem.
Why? Lack of preparation.
Since we’ve been able to witness so many great product launches, we put together this guide to help you understand some of the things that make for a successful one. Whether you’re releasing a new app or selling a physical item, this checklist will help to ensure that your product launch is as successful as possible.
A product launch can be a complex masterpiece, but not all the work is done at launch. The majority of your team’s effort is in building up to that launch point.
1. Revisit Your Audience
You should have a solid idea of who your audience is before you even start designing and creating your product. You should review this information and try to get user feedback as you develop the product to ensure it meets what the market actually wants and needs.
Even after doing all this work, take time during your product launch preparation to revisit your audience and define who your ideal customer is.
Even your ideal customer could be broken down into two or more segments depending on how your product might be used. Because you’ll be creating content around the campaign launch, it’s a good idea to think deeply about each key type of customer you will try to get to use your product.
Look at at the challenges they have, with your product as a solution, and also take time to try to understand their other needs. If time allows, start talking to your customers who fit the profile and get info from the source.
Many companies will turn this research into user personas. We’ve found this to be a helpful exercise for our company, and for many of our clients as well.
2. Define Your Message
It pays to spend time getting your message right as early as possible. While it’s not chiseled in stone and will likely change leading up to launch, doing it early helps to get all of your teams on the same page.
Think of your message like a style guide. It’s not easy to get this nailed down, because you have to focus your story and the messaging on the most valuable aspects of your product. Doing this early on gets your USP (unique selling proposition) ready so it can be carefully refined and to have the most impact come launch.
This helps your teams, especially sales and marketing, avoid getting caught up in focusing on features and instead sell by addressing problems and solutions that will actually motivate adoption and purchases.
3. Set Your Timeline and Launch Goals
There’s a lot going on with any product launch, and with all the departments involved you need to make sure everyone is on point and executing what they need to execute.
Create a calendar that defines every task leading up to launch, and after. This is your rolling list of action items and deadlines. While task lists and to-do platforms are helpful, a calendar view of the entire launch shows everyone that is involved, what they’re accountable for, and all the forward projects that rely on each person completing their duties.
If your launch involves custom software, you will also want a checklist that covers standard things all launches need. Our team has a standard launch process with dozens of items, to make sure launches for our clients go off without a hitch.
The lesson here is to write it down, instead of counting on your memory (or someone else’s). There’s a lot going on at launch, and things will get lost in the frenzy if you haven’t documented them beforehand.
4. Build Your Creative Assets
Just about everything you do to promote a product launch is going to rely on creative assets, such as logos, artwork, photography, and product shots.
Schedule the creation of these creative assets scheduled as early as possible. The longer you delay on this, the tighter the turnaround will be for any other marketing materials you have to create. Starting sooner rather than later will remove stress as you get closer to launch—when there’s going to be too much to do anyway.
The best way to collect creative assets is to think about a basic marketing framework and the buyer’s journey. What does that look like? What’s the most likely way you will market the product? While you’re not creating a final marketing strategy at this point, you at least have some idea of the direction you’ll go with graphics and templates. These could include items like:
- Social images and templates for text captions later
- Product-centric social images
- Social media banners and icons sized for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other key platforms
- Images for emails
- Promotional images for website sliders and banners
- Video stills and intros
- Call-to-action images
- Landing page layouts
- Copy and images for ads
- Email copy
- PR content
5. Prep the Market and Build Buzz
Once you have some initial creative assets, you can start building marketing buzz by teasing the release through your chosen marketing channels. Find ways to generate rolling buzz and use your existing timeline to ramp up toward launch.
This is a good time to pair up with influencers for pre-launch reviews and reveals, such as with influential blogger unboxings — like the ones Oculus did leading up to its launch.
These types of events can lead to additional creative assets in the form of images and videos that help with both pre- and post-launch marketing, and can also provide helpful user-generated content.
6. Define Your Launch Strategy
Your launch strategy is largely a definition of how you’re going to roll out your product just before and on through launch. As importantly, it should also define the role each of your teams will play through the launch of the new product.
At and even before your product’s launch, you’ll need to start thinking about retention right away. Customer churn is going to be an issue from day 1, so it’s important to have sales and customer service on point starting on launch day.
No matter what your business model is, customer delight should be a top priority. Make sure your teams know they’re an integral part of a successful launch.
You’ll also want to define any tools you’ll need to ensure a successful launch. This could include:
- Setting up team communication tools, such as Slack.
- Creating approval workflows to make sure every scheduled item is deployed and no marketing task is missed. Try a tool like TallyFy.
- Ensuring content distribution and promotional tools are ready to go. Buffer and Quuu are ideal to build momentum around your content.
- Ready email marketing and list building for launch, using a tool as MailChimp.
- Get your landing pages in order with Unbounce.
- Set up Google Analytics and Kissmetrics to monitor your success metrics.
- Get retargeting pixels in place with Facebook and other services (we use AdRoll).
- Utilize UTM codes to tag your campaigns.
- Set up YOTPO to leverage user generated content right away after launch.
The work you do pre-launch is more important than the actual launch itself.
If you were to review some of the most successful product launches in history, you will notice a pattern—thorough preparation.
You’ve still got a lot to do once your product launches. Here’s a list to help you once you’ve hit the market.
7. Deploy Your Strategy
Use your timeline and calendar to make sure your deployment strategy is executed on time. A lot of the content and creative assets you’ve generated can be scheduled beforehand to start dropping automatically on and after launch day.
This is a good time to make use of tools like Tallyfy for tracking processes and making sure individual campaigns are being deployed effectively.
8. Activate Your Teams
You’ll have a lot to juggle between launch events and monitoring leads to keep the sales team on top of the leads most likely to close. You also need to monitor your customer service and social media teams to collect launch feedback and issues from your customers.
Your marketing team should be on top of campaign metrics, providing timely reports on the effectiveness of any organic and paid campaigns. You or your team will need to make quick decisions about which campaigns to shut down and which to continue testing.
9. Maintain Momentum
Based on the data you gather from your teams, as well as the performance of the product when it goes to market, you’ll need to be ready to adjust your marketing and launch strategy. This is critical if you want to maintain momentum.
It’s rare for a successful company to keep the exact same strategy utilized at launch for the long term. Expect campaigns to drop off, new ones to arise, new channels and user groups to cycle in, and feedback to come in from all angles.
Be sure to provide constant feedback to your teams. Let them see how their hard work is playing out. This can be the one things that keeps them driving forward after an intense product launch.
Above all else, be ready to pivot once you launch a product. All the research, planning, and strategy in the world can’t fully prepare you for how the market will react once your product goes live. Customers and prospects will come up with genius (and sometimes ridiculous) uses, questions, and comments.
The good news is that, iIf you need to pivot, all of your preparation will make it easy to do so—all you have to do is decide what to keep, what to toss, what to create anew, and then start moving in the new direction.