Launching a product sometimes feels a little bit like releasing a poor, defenseless creature into the wild—you've toiled away at making it the best it can be, and now it's up for scrutiny in the marketplace of ideas. But setting your product rollout up for success is as easy as a well-crafted launch plan.
Here are eight elements that should most certainly be present on your product launch plan.
Research & Development
Let's tackle things in the order of operations. If you've put in the time to develop a product, it should ideally be perfect and ready to consume. But make sure you've put in the proper levels of R&D before you release it to the masses. Get your product, no matter how much of an easy sell it may seem, in front of your target audience. Polls and surveys are great for early-stage development, and focus groups are essential for a B2B product launch. Just remember—there are always going to be ways to improve your product, so set yourself a hard end date for this process. The important thing is to have post-manufacturing R&D accounted for in your start-to-finish rollout strategy.
It's a tough sell for leadership, often, but realistic scheduling is key to not eliciting the proverbial eye-roll from your audience. Sloppiness will not be your friend—set realistic rollout dates and benchmarks early, and stick to them. Not only that, make sure you're giving yourself a healthy cushion in the very likely event a delay of some kind keeps you from meeting your original set of dates. This includes avoiding seasonality and off-times—plan ahead to ensure you're not pressured to launch during a traditionally low-sale period.
Your team is crucial to a successful product launch. Make sure you've identified key stakeholders early on, and keep them in the loop throughout the process. Not only that, arm yourself with subject-matter experts. Do you have a team of people who live and breathe (and most importantly, believe in) the product? Are they prepared to field questions from both the public and from your leadership? You need these advocates to take your product launch to the finish line, so identify your squad before you even take step one.
Detailed and attractive product photography is incredibly important for drumming up interest in your launch. Make sure you have this high-res imagery available for press outlets well in advance of sending out your first press release. Depending on your audience, this "product on its own" might not resonate as much in your marketing materials, however. Ensure you have your product in context as well—make your visuals relatable, and save time and money by tackling both styles of photography in one shoot.
Don't be afraid to be the source of details leaking. These days, getting buy-in pre-launch is just as important as the launch itself. Identify key social influencers and industry voices who will spread the word and act as your teaser campaign. Get your product in the hands of these influencers, who can plug and review your product in advance of its availability to the marketplace. It endears you to the people with the loudest voices in the room, and it delivers an air of exclusivity to the product before it's tangible to consumers—it's a part of preorder culture.
Depending on its complexity, your product may be well-positioned in video demos that show off its versatility and ease of use. It also helps avoid negative or underwhelming unboxing video content from your customers, as they'll have a glimpse into what they're getting ahead of time. Digital video in general is essential to your strategy—motion is proven to be the most effective way to capture attentions of digital consumers, and video has cross-platform ability unlike almost any other medium.
Social & Paid Media
An editorial calendar will serve you well in plotting out your rollout on social media. Make clear distinctions between engaging, organic content that will promote itself and content with paid budget behind it. Secure your placements on platforms that truly resonate with your end consumer, and invest your time into just the ones that will offer you the most conversions. If your audience is primarily 40+, put more of your effort into Facebook and less into Snapchat. If your audience is solidly 20-25, make your Instagram presence particularly exciting. Play the odds effectively for the most bang for your buck.
A product launch is nothing without lessons learned. Plot out your after-launch plan in your initial strategy to hold yourself to taking away key learnings. What worked, and what didn't? How does this inform your R&D team? And what efforts need to be made post-launch to better resonate with your audience or continue to tell your product's story in the long-term? Too often companies are exhausted from the initial launch that a product gets forgotten a few weeks later—have a six-month post-launch plan in order to keep the excitement going as long as possible.