Approximately 80% of new products fail.
That’s a worrying statistic for anyone in the process of designing and developing one.
Needless to say, there are many factors that contribute to a product’s success or failure: the financial security of the company backing the product, how well it’s marketed, and whether it’s something consumers actually want.
The element that’s often given less attention than it deserves, however, is a product’s initial introduction to the market. Getting the product launch right is essential. Get it wrong, and the odds of your product becoming part of the 20% that succeed fall significantly.
Here are 5 fundamental best practices to follow for a successful new product introduction.
1. Determine Your USP
Successful products almost always have one thing in common: they have an attractive unique selling proposition. There’s something about it that makes it stand out from the competition and compels consumers to choose it over something similar.
Figuring out what makes a product special ahead of its launch is essential. You need to know why someone would want to buy your product instead of a competitor’s.
Is it simpler to use?
Is it a better value?
Does it offer a feature (or features) that similar products don’t?
If you can’t pinpoint a USP, odds are your product’s not ready for launch. Something has to change to give your product a unique edge, and your target audience a reason to buy.
Take Amazon’s Fire Phone.
It entered a saturated market with a clunky design and an unnecessary USP – a 3D display. (It also frustrated consumers with its many flaws.)
Don’t make the same mistake. Ensure your product not only has a unique selling proposition, but a useful selling proposition, too.
Once you know what this is, your next job is deciding how you’re going to articulate it to your target audience. Typically, your USP forms a core part of your marketing materials and strategy. You use it to help inform your brand messages, when writing taglines, and in advertisements (whether on or offline).
In short, make sure that whenever and wherever you’re talking about your product, you’re emphasizing its USP.
2. Define Your Target Audience
Before launching a product, you not only need to know why someone would buy it, but who would buy it, as well.
Make a point of describing your target customer (or customers) in as much detail as possible.
This might include (but is not limited to):
- Job role
- Disposable income
- Likely pain points
- Likely hobbies
- Family life
- Websites they visit
- Social media sites they use
Unfortunately, while there are plenty of tools to help you understand a company’s existing customer base, painting a picture of an audience that exists only in theory is much more difficult.
Your best bet is to discover what you can about who’s buying your competitors’ products.
YouGov Profiles also features some pretty useful data – not just on brands, but on people and things, too. Limited information is available for free, but you’ll have to fork out for a paid account if you want to access everything.
Another way to gather demographic data pre-launch is to ask these questions as part of your market research. Whether it’s via a survey or a focus group, make sure you’re quizzing participants who express an interest in buying your product about their lifestyle, interests, and what makes them tick.
You can use creative license to fill in any gaps in the picture.
Who do you think will be a likely buyer for your product? This is a best-guess scenario, which isn’t ideal, but is a necessary evil when you don’t have any actual customer data to draw from. You can (and should) revisit this later down the line.
3. Get Your Whole Team’s Buy-In
The people behind a product play a crucial part in its launch. It’s essential that everyone involved in the product believes in it, and that you create a product-driven culture.
Are you unable to get the buy-in of everyone on your team? Then you have to ask yourself why. If it’s just one or two individuals that aren’t totally on board, it may just be that they’re a poor fit for the company. If a feeling of no confidence is widespread, the question of why remains. Is there a problem with the product? Or have you just failed to effectively articulate its advantages to your team?
Assuming your product isn’t the problem, you need to take steps to get the buy-in of those who aren’t 100% on board. Here are a few ideas.
Let your own enthusiasm show. Excitement is contagious. If you’re not outwardly expressing your own belief in your product, how can you expect your team to share it?
Get your team using your product. Depending on the product, this isn’t always possible, but if you’ve created something your team can use or consume, give them the means to do this, and encourage them to take advantage of it as much as possible.
Coach your team. Provide motivational training sessions that teach your team everything there is to know about the product. These sessions should be executed in a manner that gets the team fired up not only about the product, but also about the part they’ve played in developing it or will be playing in promoting it.
Provide shares in the company. In the UK, every employee of retail outlets John Lewis and Waitrose own a share in the company. The result is happier staff that works harder. You can boost buy-in and employee investment in your product and brand by adopting a similar profit-sharing model.
4. Time Your Launch Right
So your product is ready for launch … should you bite the bullet and introduce it to the market right away?
While every product and case is different, probably not.
Timing can make the difference between success and failure when it comes to introducing a new product.
Is the product seasonal? Launch when interest will be at its highest.
What’s your promotional budget like? Is there enough cash in the bank to sufficiently support the launch and get the product off the ground?
If you’ve overspent at the development stage and are consequently short on cash, consider raising funds before going to market. There’s very little point in launching if you lack the budget to promote your product properly.
And last but not least, are you in a position to meet demand should it be higher than expected? Failure to fulfill orders is far from the most common reason a new product falls flat, but it can and does happen.
Don’t make the mistake Mosquito Magnet made by failing to plan for demand. The company was forced to make a move to a mass-production plant in China, which was followed by a drop in quality. As a result, the company, which was previously generating $70 million in revenue a year, was sold for just $6 million. The product is still making money today, but not for the people who founded it.
Before launching, create a contingency plan that will allow you to meet demand should you find yourself in the could-be-a-disaster-but-doesn’t-have-to-be scenario of interest in your product far exceeding expectations.
5. Diversify Your Marketing Strategy
The second your product hits the market, you need to be getting in front of as much of your target audience as you can. This means devising a strategy that ensures your product is seen in as many (relevant) places as possible.
This will probably mean posting to Product Hunt.
It might mean working with an influencer who shares your target audience.
It could entail sponsoring or securing a booth at an industry event.
It will almost definitely mean investing in digital advertising, whether that’s on Google, social media, or even a lesser-used search engine like Bing.
Depending on the product, you might even want to hit the streets and hand out flyers or free samples.
However you decide to get your product in front of the people who will potentially buy it, planning properly is key. You need to decide exactly what you’re going to do and when, and work out all your costs, before you launch.
Do you know of any other best practices that you’d suggest following when introducing a new product to market? It’d be great if you could share them in the comments below: