How to Launch Virtually “Anything” Successfully
You have a great solution that you think will solve your customer’s (and potential customer’s) problem(s) and you’re ready to share this new (or overhauled) company, brand, product, service, or process with the world. What next?
First, it might require retooling how you think about launches. One of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve come across as I’ve helped launch more than 300 “things” over the past 25 years—launches aren’t one-time, one-day spectacular events.
In fact, in my experience, successful launches typically take place over a 12- to 24-month period. They require a great deal of planning and investment to lay the groundwork. Once your solution is officially launched, it requires tweaking and adapting to ensure you are reaching the
right people, with the right message, at the right time.
It’s important to get the launch right because it’s more than just introducing something new to customers and prospects. It can build brand recognition, grow your customer base, help you compete more effectively. and give your sales a big boost.
So, how do you get it right? It’s so much more than trendy tactics and flashy promotions. It starts with a solid foundation.
Here’s some tips I’ve learned along the way:
Understand your audience
It’s shocking to see how many well-meaning organizations develop or revamp an amazing product or service without defining who it’s for—and without understanding if that customer will actually purchase it.
They believe so much in the idea that they’re convinced someone will want it, but they don’t think through who that customer will be. It’s a big mistake, and it’s why at Gray Matter, we spend so much time helping our clients define their target customer and understand buyer personas.
From the very beginning, you need to outline who will want whatever you are launching and why. Define the customer’s challenge or problem, and how your company, product, or service specifically solves their problem better than anyone else. Once you’ve done that, determine the best way to reach that audience. It’s not the same for everyone. For some market segments, social media is a gold mine, others, not so much. It’s important to tailor your strategy to your specific audience.
Early on, develop a thorough market and competitive analysis, perhaps as part of a business plan. But—and I cannot emphasize this enough—draft some initial messaging points and marketing promises that will speak to your target customer. Throughout the development phase
of your offering, revalidate this information with sales personnel and other stakeholders to ensure that your messaging describes how your product solves the challenges in a different (and better) way than your competitor’s
This level of preparation early on can keep everyone on the same page and help ensure that when you are ready to launch, your product fulfills your marketing promises and meets the needs of customers. It’s ok if your message and campaign tactics change several times before you launch as you learn more from customers. For example, you may find that your solution offers additional benefits that you were unaware of when you first created it. Of you may learn that your solution is designed for a different audience than you first anticipated.
Work with marketing experts
Engage a marketing team early in the development process, whether you choose an existing team, build a new one, or hire a consultant. Marketing experts can bring a different perspective to the discussion. Some may have worked on other projects with the same buyers meaning some of the research has been completed.
Marketing experts can be instrumental in developing—and sticking to—a marketing plan with objectives, goals, and a budget. But they can also offer valuable insight that can be helpful such as features the audience wants or the challenges they face. They can identify issues that may make the new product, service, or idea hard to market, giving everyone time to develop counter points.
Additionally, marketing experts can secure market data, coordinate customer interviews, and perform product testing. They can uncover opportunities, such as sponsorship, advertising, public relations and more to market the launch—even up to the last minute.
Prepare to market
If you wait until after you are ready to share the product or service with the world, it will likely be too late. Make sure you have the proper channels in place to effectively market to your audience, whether that is via direct mail, email social media, or a combination of them all.
Start developing a marketing plan and deliverables a minimum of six months before you are ready to launch. Give customers a hint of what is coming and build anticipation and excitement. If you are a brand-new company or you haven’t done much marketing in the past, increase your
exposure by building your email list and social media followers. This latter part can take months, so don’t put it off until the last minute.
When you create your marketing plan, think about different ways you can reach your buyer personas—that could mean creating/updating your website, content assets (case histories, multimedia, white papers, etc.), and a publishing calendar to support the launch. Include dates to ensure everything is finished, printed, and shipped if necessary, in time for the launch.
Communicate thoroughly with internal audiences
A “wow” event and tons of advertising is awesome if you can afford it, but what’s more important is that every stakeholder in your organization is prepared to support the launch. Prior to the launch, give clear guidance to sales and other customer-facing personnel on what can be communicated externally so you’re not “leaking” too much information and losing your launch momentum or alerting your competitors to what you’re doing.
Additionally, arm your sales team with a playbook that contains information they need to overcome objectives and sell against the competition. Provide your service teams with the detail they need to support your brand promises. Include employees in other locations, even if you won’t be launching there right away to keep everyone in the loop.
Offer frequent updates and ongoing communication about developments and successes to maintain excitement over the launch.
Ensure you can handle the best-case scenario
Most people spend time planning for the worst-case scenario but neglect to think about what happens if the launch is a massive success. What if you blow past sales targets? What if you experience a spike in demand and have more leads than you can process? It’s critical that you have the infrastructure in place to handle orders, manage shipping, produce more inventory, and address customer service issues. While you want to be conservative, you need to ensure that you can keep up with supply and demand if things go well.
Spend some time thinking about the situation you will be in and the outcomes of a best-case scenario and plan accordingly.
At Gray Matter Marketing, we’ve executed more than 300 successful launches—and we’re ready to support your next launch. Contact us to schedule a consultation