A Product Launch is a process that has a lifecycle.
Thinking of a product launch as a process may change your entire perspective about launching products. Many people think of a product launch as an event, something that happens with a big bang. There may very well be a launch event as part of a launch process, but it may be just one of the things that are part of a winning launch.
The purpose of a Product Launch is to build sales momentum.
So why take the time to plan and execute a product launch? It’s to build sales momentum. Sales momentum enables your company to grow and prosper. You will add more customers, expand your influence, hire more people and grow even more momentum.
A small team of former product marketing managers met to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly of launching products. One by one the products they had launched were written on a whiteboard. Then for each launch the good characteristics as well as “the learning” characteristics were written down. Finally the good characteristics were clustered to see if there were any commonalities. The result was six recurring themes now captured as The 6 Secrets of a Winning Product Launch.
A winning product launch delivers sales momentum for your company. It’s one of the few opportunities to go from incremental to exponential sales. So why do so few companies get it right? It’s not because they’re lucky. It’s because they understand the 6 secrets of a winning product launch:
Let's take a look at the 6 Secrets in more detail.
A winning product launch starts with matching the capabilities of your product (or service) to the needs of your target market. This is often domain of a product manager. However, even if you don’t have a product manager position in the organization someone needs to fill the role of a product manager. If you are delivering a new product or service into the market you would be well served by getting out and talking to the potential buyers that your product addresses. Chances are you learn something new and possibly so enlightening that it could be the turning point in your business.
You have to know that your product is solving
a real problem that buyers are willing
to pay you to solve. You can’t just believe there is a
problem that needs to be solved.
A winning product launch can’t happen if the market wants one thing and you are delivering another. Products are often born out of an individual’s frustration. They experience a particular business problem that is acute to them personally. So they embark on developing a solution that addresses that problem. They rationalize that since they are experiencing the problem then it must be true that everyone that performs that same job function must be having the same problem. And, naturally they would want to buy the solution. The entrepreneur doesn’t feel compelled to conduct market research because, after all, they’ve lived it and understand it better than anyone else.
An example of this is a situation I personally experienced that resulted in disaster. The company and product will remain anonymous but I will summarize the situation. A growing, vibrant software company (“Company Z”) had the opportunity to acquire a software product (“Widget”) from a very large, global financial services firm.
The global financial services company that developed Widget was using it on almost every PC in the company (tens of thousands of users). As part of the deal, the person who was the inspiration behind the design and development of Widget would come on board to help with continued development and support. At the time this was occurring, more and more companies were becoming increasingly interested in web-based applications and legacy architectures. The product was amazing, but it was only proven in one company, albeit a very large and well known one. Some people in Company Z recommended a cautious approach to Widget and suggested a survey of the market to validate a need in the market. It never happened.
Company Z had other product lines that were generating in excess of $50M in revenue per year that were systematically sold off to underwrite the additional development that the visionary felt was needed, and to provide working capital to sustain the company until sales of Widget took off. The first year’s sales were less than $500K and had no hope of trending in the right direction. Company Z never recovered and is a mere shadow of its former self. The companies that bought the profitable product lines from Company Z are thriving.
What happened? How was it that a product that was used by one of the biggest global financial services companies on the planet was not a success in the market? Maybe because it uniquely addressed the way things were done at the global financial service company. It was an internally developed, corporate solution and maybe it didn’t have general market viability. A little leg work would have figured that out, and probably saved the company.