A successful launch begins with great timing. You might feel a sense of urgency to introduce your service, but rushing could spell disaster. When necessary, temporarily postponing your launch can mean the difference between failure and glowing reviews.
Many entrepreneurs launch their products too early to appease stringent timelines, beat out a competitor or coordinate with a holiday. When my company was young, I asked myself two questions that can help you develop an appropriate launch timeline.
“Does my product do what it’s meant to do?” Assess whether your product fills the need you’re attempting to address. If your product falls short, it may be wise to invest more time in development.
Second, “Do I have a well-equipped team in place?” Evaluate the support mechanism behind your product. Ask, “Do I have my marketing materials, packaging and back-end systems in order?” and “Have I developed a plan for gathering metrics and feedback?”
If you answer “no” to any of those questions, it’s OK to delay your launch. Releasing product teasers periodically can be an effective way to build anticipation. Avoid publicly tying yourself to a specific date unless you’re certain you can hit it.
Once you identify your timeline, follow these six steps to successfully launch your new product:
1. Test thoroughly before your launch.
Testing can help you verify that your product, company and audience are ready for your launch. Gary Erickson, owner and co-chief visionary officer of Clif Bar & Company, tested recipes for months before he settled on the first flavors for his energy bars. Remember, though, that perfect is the enemy of good. An early launch of a minimum viable product can help you get better data on what your customers actually want.
2. Invigorate your team.
As you move toward the release of your product, your staff will have to adjust to new processes, which can be difficult. Maintain momentum throughout product development, and give your team members the time and resources they need to familiarize themselves with the new product and its customer support protocols. Set attainable goals so your staff can experience small wins that build motivation.
3. Prepare for an increase in sales.
A new service can bring a sudden spike in sales. To avoid failure, you must ensure that your team is prepared for the increase in volume and complexity of work. Make sure you fill all necessary positions and educate team members on the vocabulary, processes and features of the new product.
4. Remember your core business.
Shifting your gaze to an exciting new product is only natural, but remember not to neglect your existing business. Strike a balance between giving the new product life and sustaining your established enterprise.
5. Establish metrics as you go.
Set relevant goals, and regularly measure how well your service meets those goals. In extreme cases, don’t be afraid to scrap your product if it isn’t performing. Remember the principle of sunk costs: Just because you’ve already invested time and resources into developing a product doesn’t mean you should keep trying to sell it. If profitability becomes uncertain, it’s hindering your company’s growth.
6. Gather feedback after your launch.
Analyze customer feedback, then determine what changes you need to make to enhance your product. The University of Oregon, for example, conducted studies to improve the in-stadium experience. One improvement was the addition of 150 flat-screen HD monitors along the stadium concourse. Fans can now watch the game when they’re away from their seats.
While there’s never a guarantee that a new product will be successful in the marketplace, properly preparing for and timing your launch can make your debut -- and your product -- more memorable.