1. Remember, it’s a process.
The launch event is important, but how you get there is crucial. Allow yourself plenty of time to prepare. There is an important education component in a launch: employees, distribution channels, media, etc., all require time to prepare the constituencies they serve.
2. Timing is crucial.
Set a date that makes sense: one that ensures products/services will be in first class shape with good supply; one that suits the competitive situation and the key issues of your business category [seasonality, etc]. Once you set a date, make the launch elements fit the launch date, not vice versa.
3. Invest in the right positioning.
Don’t shirk on analysis and investigation to identify your best prospects, influencers and media well before you invest in a launch. Establish the exact message you want to convey – one that’s proven to be compelling to the target audience and one that will accurately position the product or service over time.
4. Set objectives up front.
If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Have success measures clearly stated up front; gather and study market data and assess your situation to determine what impact you expect the launch to have with current customers, prospects, competition, your distributors/partners, the media. Make certain all stakeholders participate and agree on the plan – they must be emotionally invested in the outcomes.
5. Approach the launch in phases.
To ensure you’ve covered all the key segments and allowed time for each activity, consider organizing the activity around three distinctly different periods:
The focus is on developing a clear positioning, identifying primary and secondary targets, setting budgets, informing and educating your organization, getting the media briefed and engaged. You might choose to allocate some resources to a pre-launch “It’s coming” campaign to sensitize the market. This is where targeted online/offline PR and viral buzz are important tools.
The actual debut of the product/service. This is the launch ‘event’ when consumers can actually experience the new product/service.
A continued renewal of launch strategy, adjusted for near term experience. This might extend the launch, albeit at reduced noise levels, for an additional 2-3 months. While some of the launch fever will have cooled, analyses of launch data may suggest some fine tuning or a whole new direction. The launch is evolutionary and this aspect helps establish the profile of the product or service over the rest of its life cycle.
Remember, when you’re launching a new product or service, it’s really the only time in the product life cycle when it represents genuine news. A future product freshening, extension, or refinement is a means for generating some additional news, but a true launch is the one moment when you can generate a lot of unpaid buzz and genuine media coverage. The challenge is to ensure the first experiences with the product or service are outstanding; that the launch media consistently presents the product in the way you want it presented; and, that you create the means of keeping the launch buzz alive for as long as possible.
Would you like to learn more about how to craft and execute a successful launch plan? The Miller Group’s experience includes 20 years of successful launches in categories as diverse as retail appliances and medical devices to non-profits. Please contact Bill Williams or Renee Miller to learn more.