The work that goes into the successful launch of a new product can be daunting, to say the least. It’s a seemingly never-ending process of research, development, testing, manufacturing, distribution preparation, and much more.
And when all that work is done, and the product has been taxied to the launch pad, that’s when the importance of marketing moves into focus. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing every resource on product development and to save the marketing for last, but if the marketing stage of the rocket isn’t in place and in perfect working order before the final countdown, you’re never going to make it into orbit.
That’s a lot of astrophysical imagery, but the message is vitally important: Product launch marketing may not be rocket science, but it’s close enough. And it requires your full attention.
Here are some of the basic laws of product launch marketing physics.
Don’t just identify your target audience. Learn everything you can about them.
Who are they? Where are they? How do they buy? Why do they buy? Is your target audience only motivated by quality and utility, or do they need a product that appeals to a particular set of values or beliefs? Is price the most important factor in their decision process?
You have to know who, what, when, where, and why they buy before you can tell them why your product is the one they should lay down their hard-earned money for.
Why are you so special? What makes you better than everyone else telling me I should buy from them? What are your competitors doing wrong, and how does your product do it better? You need to know all of the reasons why your customers are better off with you than they are with the other guy. If you don’t, you’ll have a very hard time convincing them that you’re the gold standard.
The press release
You’ll need a press release. Make sure it’s a good one.
Journalists’ desks are littered with boring, generic press releases with nothing but dry facts and contact info and a bland quote that might have come from anyone. If you don’t do better, you won’t get a second look.
This is your chance to tell your story, and if it led you here, then it’s a story worth hearing.
Talk about the reason for your product’s genesis. Make your message unique. Most importantly, tell them how your product solves a real problem for your target audience, not just why you think it’s pretty cool.
If you don’t catch their attention, they won’t care about what you have to say.
Meet the press
Don’t wait for the journalists to come to you.
Go find them.
Find out which journalists cover products in your industry, whether they write for major publications or smaller, niche websites.
This is where it can pay to work with a seasoned digital PR agency—since an agency will have press contacts that they work with regularly, and will be much more able to get your product wide coverage you want.
Ah—the notorious elevator pitch. If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank, you know pretty well what an elevator pitch should be.
If you’re unclear, if you miss an important point, or if you stumble you’ve missed your opportunity. And when your audience pays for their latte or gets distracted by someone else, or that elevator door opens, you’ve either won or lost an investor or a partner or, dare I say, a customer.
Plan it. Practice it. Memorize it. Write it down. Know it, learn it, live it. You never know when you’ll need it and when you do, it needs to be right there in your back pocket (along with your business card, of course!)
Word of mouth
When we think of marketing, we think of things that cost money. Media plans, ad buys, influencer campaigns—and while those things are vital, you shouldn’t overlook the power of simple and economically priced word of mouth.
Get people talking.
You, your partners, your employees, your family, everybody should be sharing the magic of your product with everyone they know. They should encourage everybody they know to tell everybody they know.
Whether through simple social media posts, fliers at the local coffee shop, or just chatting up your neighbor, word of mouth is too often overlooked as a powerful driver of awareness and sales.
Speaking of Social
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok—while you don’t need to be on every platform, as that can stretch your resources too thin and result in lackluster marketing, you should pick at least one or two platforms and develop robust profiles.
Then it’s important to actively engage with your followers. Contests, giveaways, calls to action, images of people happily using, and benefitting from, your product. But you can’t just use social media as an info dump and hope to reap the benefits. Engagement is key. You can’t harness social media without being, well… social.
People aren’t satisfied anymore with the one-way communication of traditional marketing. They want a relationship with their favorite brands. You’ve got to engage with them. You’ve got to post things that make them want to comment (and share!). You’ve got to follow those comments and respond to customers’ reviews.
Whatever the technique, the goal of social media marketing is engagement. Ultimately it all comes down to reaching out to your audience, taking their hand, and inviting them to share an experience.
And sharing is a two-way street.
Benefits, not features and specs
You’ve spent a lot of time on all those amazing features, and that’s great. But when you’re crafting your message, don’t just talk about those great features. Talk about the benefits that those features provide. Don’t just talk about those cutting-edge specs. Talk about how and why those specs are going to make your customers’ lives easier.
All the features in the world mean nothing if you can’t articulate what they mean for your users.
Customer feedback, whether positive or negative, can be a powerful way to figure out what your audience likes, doesn’t like, and wants more of. Make sure you’ve provided multiple channels for customer feedback, and make it someone’s job to read it, respond to it, and make things right. That’s how you reinforce a positive experience, and turn around a negative experience. That’s how you keep customers that you otherwise might have lost.
Documentation and support
So, you’ve released the product. You’ve gotten the word out. You’re all over social, and you’re hitting everyone you see with that elevator pitch. It’s not enough, however, just to get the product into users’ hands. You also need to make sure they know how to use it. And you need a product support team to answer questions and deal with problems.
You might even want to personally join your support team on the front lines. Give your first customers some personal attention. Taking a hands-on approach and finding the time to talk to actual users and dealing with their difficulties or frustrations can not only help build good will among early adopters, it might also teach you a thing or two.
Product launches can be difficult to navigate, but following these guidelines will help you formulate and execute a solid plan that earns you both leads and customers, while setting the stage for long-term success.