There was a time when launching a new product was a fairly straightforward affair. You made your product, prepared a press release, and bought advertising space in a publication or on television. If you were working with more of a budget, you might announce your product at a fancy launch party. From there, you’d sit back with a martini and wait for the press do what they do best — write stuff about your product and hit the big red publish button (or however that whole printing thing worked).
OK, that might be a bit simplistic, but that’s only to drive home a larger point: It’s a lot harder to launch products than it used to be. Take it from us: We’ve launched more than a few products in our 11 years on the market and have learned from our mistakes along the way.
With the advent of the internet, print publications and even cable TV are losing market share, and traditional advertising is taking a bit hit. Facebook and Google have replaced newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV as the preferred ways to spend advertising dollars. When you mix newer tactics like online advertising, social media, and SEO with traditional advertising, PR, and direct mail, you’ve got a whole lot of options to consider when launching a new product.
In this fragmented media landscape, it can be hard to know where to start. And a funny little paradox runs beneath it all. Thanks to advances in technology, it’s never been easier to reach the right audience, but it’s also never been harder to make them pay attention.
The bottom line: Launching a new product is hard. You’ve got a lot of Ts to cross and Is to dot. In the spirit of simplifying what’s otherwise a consuming and resource intensive task, here are seven tips to keep you on the right track:
1. Stock up on educational and marketing collateral
From press releases to blogs to social media posts to videos to the age-old white paper, you need to have materials that talk about what your product is, what it does, why someone might want it, and where to buy it. How much content you produce depends on your resources, but as a general rule, you want content for each phase of the sales funnel and as many channels (social, web, print) as you think you might use over the first six months following launch.
This is table stakes stuff. At every stage of the buying process, people have to be able to understand what you’re selling and why it’s better than something similar they could get elsewhere. This goes for your customers; but it’s equally important for your employees. Don’t forget about what resources they might need to get a new product out the door and in to the market.
2. Prepare your internal teams
A product launch is truly a team effort. From engineering and product to sales, marketing, and customer service, everyone needs to be on the same page about timeline, messaging, and process. This is where some of your educational materials come in to play.
If the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, it’s a lot harder to get things done. The same is true for sales and marketing — each plays an important role and each lifts up the other. Whether you make use of department-level meetings, company-wide announcements, or educational briefings and hands-on training sessions, everyone needs to be speaking the same language and working towards the same goal.
3. Get customer feedback on your product
It may seem strange to do this step before your product launches, but involving customers from the beginning can pay off in a big way. Once your product or service is ready to launch, seed it out to customers — invite them to test it out in exchange for their feedback and product review.
Whether through a focus group or a product sampling community, the advantage of collecting customer feedback is three-fold.
- You foster brand loyalty and a stronger connection with your customers by inviting them to participate in an exclusive product event.
- You receive critical feedback about your product before it launches to a broader audience.
- You collect influential product reviews, which can be displayed on retailer sites. We’ve found that shoppers who read reviews are 104% more likely to buy a product.
Your customers get to be the first to try new products, and you get feedback and consumer-generated content (CGC) in the form of reviews. You can also ask your best customers to be case studies or to speak to the press.
4. Make waves before the launch
There are three primary groups to focus on when you want to create a buzz before your product launch: analysts, members of the press, and influencers. The more people you have talking about your product and brand, the more awareness is going to spread.
- Analysts — If it makes sense for your product or service, identify the important analysts for your industry. Schedule quick calls to tell them about your product, what it does, who it’s meant for, and where it fits into the market at large. Keep in mind that while marketing terms have a place and use case in the market at large, analysts are going to focus on the meat and potatoes of what your new product actually does — so give them what they want and what they need. Remember, these are the guys who get in the weeds and go into detail. If you play it right, they can be a great way to get deep coverage and exploration of your product.
- The Press — Start by identifying the publications that your target audience reads, including top tier, lower tier, and trade. Weeks or even months in advance of your launch, send embargoed collateral to the reporters at those publications. Even in a fractured media environment, the media still matters. Positive press can get you the attention you need at — and even after — your launch.
- Influencers — Social media plays a critical role with today’s shoppers, and it cannot be ignored in your launch plan. In a recent study, we found that 57% of respondents said that they had bought a product they first heard about on social media, and 66% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product if the website has social media posts with pictures and videos from real customers. Depending on your audience, it may make sense to pay influencers to promote your product. Whether enthusiastic customers turned brand advocates, bloggers, or celebrities, influencers have broader reach, engaged audiences, and more trusted content.
Do some research, follow relevant hashtags, and look at your current customer base on social media to find the people who are already talking about your brand or your industry.
5. Do something to stand out
There’s a lot happening in today’s world, and it’s just about harder than ever to get people’s attention. You need a good hook to catch someone’s attention. Here’s where launch events have a place, but you don’t need to throw a party to stand out.
You could create a funny video series, design an eye-catching infographic, hold contests, or host local community activities or a Reddit AMA. The opportunities are endless. Whatever you do, make sure it connects back to your brand and shows an authentic connection to your product.
6. Bring in outside help
Vendors, retailers, and marketing partners have skin in the game, so you should be talking with them about your product launch and how you could work together for mutual success. What’s good for you is good for them.
Think about the last time you saw a smartphone that wasn’t being advertised by its manufacturer and at least one phone carrier. Exactly. The trick here is to make sure the messaging around the new product remains consistent across different channels. Again, this is where having excellent educational and marketing collateral is important.
7. Keep momentum
It often takes time, and several touchpoints, for customers to consider a new product. This step is steps 1-6 on repeat. Evaluate results after launch, and then continue to create new content, work with influencers, the press, and new partners, and, most importantly, engage with your customers. Whether it’s through social media or writing a review, your customers want to build a relationship with your brand and your products.
Are you gearing up for a product launch? We can help with that. Learn more about Bazaarvoice Brand Edge and how a product sampling campaign can help you collect influential ratings and reviews from real customers in advance of launch day.