Planning a Successful Product Launch

Now that your company has a finished product ready to hit the market, a gargantuan, dreaded task remains – the product launch. For some successful companies it appears lightweight and effortless; for others, it is clunky, ill-timed and dead on arrival at huge costs. How can you make sure your product hits the ground running and captures the intended target audience? Look Before You Leap Here are some major issues to consider before launching your newly finished product: Has the market demand changed since the initial development of your product? This is always a major concern to technology companies, where fast shifting currents can change a company’s fortune on a dime. Market research is absolutely necessary at this stage. Is your product ready and thoroughly tested? Often times a product may sell like hot cakes at first but crash due to poor reviews on the web and print media. Be aware that the Internet can be your best friend or worst enemy in this regard. Are your margins from your established price range high enough to be profitable? Is your product a high-margin, low-volume product, or a low-margin, high-volume product? Companies like Apple, Microsoft and Intel have built fortunes on the lucrative high-margin, high-volume market. Have the costs of the products’ components changed since your initial planning phase? Will there be any problem procuring the necessary amount of components? How does the new product impact your current line of products? Will your new product cannibalize a stable, profitable product? Cannibalization can also occur when a company launches a product that directly competes with its own partnered products, as Google did with its Nexus One phone, which was positioned directly, in self-defeating manner, against other Android phones. Has your company mapped out the proper PR and advertising road map for your new product? Nothing botches a product launch more than a confused lack of focus. Everyone remembers Microsoft’s embarrassing launch and subsequent failure of its Kin mobile devices as a prime example. Have you thoroughly researched your competitors’ similar products and their release schedules? The timing of a product launch is crucial to success. This is highly visible in the launch cycle of video game consoles, where major players such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo continually attempt to outpace their peers by predicting the end of a generation’s cycle. Does your company have a stop loss and exit strategy if the product launch fails? As with the cited examples of the Google Nexus and Microsoft Kin, both companies pulled the plug on their losing bets before their losses became too steep. For a small company, placing all their eggs in one basket can be fatal. Advertising, Buzz and Hype Now that your product is ready to be thrown into the open market, you need to build up anticipation through proper advertising and promotion. Here are some strategies your company can take to increase the buzz and hype surrounding your product. For most small companies, the tried and true route of trade shows is still the most direct route to promote a new product. The hands-on demo approach and the direct, face-to-face interactions help build and solidify a loyal client base. Decide your company’s advertising budget. You can go as high as professional television advertisements or as low as simple Internet click-thru ads, or anything in between. Your advertising team should have a good grasp of the target audience and the most appropriate approach. Rely on the free advertising of viral media and social networks. Simple viral ads on Youtube or Twitter regarding a new product can increase your following exponentially if timed properly. Make sure your website has been properly updated to promote the new product, and clearly visible on your front page. If you are promoting a product that can be reviewed on websites and blogs, send out product samples to gain free publicity. However, take note that if your product compares poorly to its peers, this can backfire. Well-advised publicity stunts can attract media attention and gain loads of free press. However, there are many accounts of publicity stunts gone wrong, due to poor taste, a controversial approach, or police involvement. Be smart and gauge the appropriateness and safety of such stunts. Readying the Launch Pad Now that all the messy stuff is out of the way, you have to make sure your staff is ready to field the product launch. Make sure your staff has been properly trained in the new products’ information, and ready to field any questions. Is your company ready to fill the amount of expected orders in a timely manner? Are your production facilities up to the task? Will last minute, market-wide fluctuations change your projected earnings? Commodity prices can have a ripple effect through all major sectors. Are all your distribution channels clear and ready? Once these last preparations have been made, cross your fingers and introduce your product to the public, keeping a finger on the pulse of your sales. Be prepared to cut your losses if your product fails, or to renovate and expand your product line if it is successful. Always map out your future product tree several generations in advance. After all, business, like chess, is a game where the winner plans the most moves ahead.

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