Launching the product is just as important as developing it
It’s important that your Go to Market Strategy be aligned with your development plans.
Customers and partners needs to be engaged early and often for a successful launch
Managing the launch and support provides valuable customer feedback
The Product Lifecycle is important to understand since it can dictate your development schedules.
Knowing when to kill a product is just as important as launching it
Too often, people focus on getting the product done and little time on how to launch it into the marketplace. This oversight delays many a good idea from realizing its full potential. Product launch is just as important as developing the product itself. The logistics required are immense. Sales needs to be trained, marketing needs to get materials together, manufacturing has to figure out how to build it and development needs to wrap up those last features and functions. To do a product launch right, you need to have a plan.
Go To Market Strategy
Hopefully, that new gizmo you are working on had some thought put into who will actually buy it. If not, your efforts will be for not. Your go to market strategy is critical to your products success. Without it, your product will languish. To better understand how integral this strategy is, lets take a look at the components of a solid go to market strategy.
Market Analysis: Redo your market analysis to make sure your target market is still valid. As a general rule, you should be monitoring your market during product development so you can react to changing needs.
Competitor Offerings: Scan the competitive landscape to see if anyone has released something similar to your product. If they did, then figure out how well it launched and where they failed. This kind of intelligent will make your launch more successful.
Target Customers: Always be cultivating your target customers and make sure your pilot or beta customers are actively engaged. It’s also good to validate your target.
Unique Value Position: Before launch, you should have a pretty good idea of your unique value position and should be refining your message to hammer it home. Again, this is a continuous task that should be done throughout the product development process and validated at launch.
Pilot or Beta Customers: Your first few customers will be critical to your success. Make sure that their experience is the best it can be. These customers will be who you will ask to vouch for you.
Collateral Plan: There is a lot of collateral that needs to be generated to launch a product. Make a checklist of everything you will need and ensure that plenty of stock is on hand when you, hopefully, get flooded with inquires.
Measurable Success Metrics: Each product launches differently. Make sure you have several measurable metrics that track your progress. Be realistic and check them often. Some metrics to consider include: customer inquires, quotes, sales, returns, support calls or customer feedback.
Field and Support Training: If your product is complex and requires extensive support, then make sure it’s in place before your product hits the market. I know this sounds obvious but there are plenty of companies who fail at this. The failure usually stems from lack of training or buy in from the support staff. This means you need to get buy in early and often.
Press Plan: Coordinating the press will assist in your overall launch and promotion efforts. A proper press plan will garner a ton of great free publicity if you cultivate those relationships.
Manufacturing Ramp Plan: Your operations and manufacturing people need to be prepared to actually make your product. Don’t just assume that when you throw it over the fence, they will catch it. Manufacturing lines and procedures take time to develop and debug. The early and often mantra also applies here. The sooner you are engaged with your manufacturing and operations group, the smoother your launch will go.
As you can see, launching a product takes more than just getting the thing done. There are several critical logistical and collateral plans that need to be executed along with your product development. Integrating the two is a great way to check and balance the other. This means that marketing have to be actively involved in both defining, planing and executing the product.
Managing your product or line of products requires a keen understanding of how your customers use your products and how your competitors complete against you. Naturally, this is a process that goes through many stages. These stages include: Introduction, Growth, Mature and Decline. Part of the product lifecycle is knowing when your product offerings are maturing and you need to develop new and better products. Most companies define their product lifecycle around some industry metrics or trade shows. For example, the semiconductor industry uses Moore’s Law to drive the development and launch of new technologies, toy companies focus on the christmas sales season, while consumer electronics are pretty much defined at the Consumers Electronics Show (CES). All of these product categories have a well defined product lifecycle that all companies need to manage.
Pruning the Product Tree
Since technology evolves so rapidly, it’s natural that some products will become obsolete. Well, obsolete is a strong word since some of your customers will be happy to use your old products forever. Knowing when to prune your product tree also has the benefit of moving your customers on to your latest and greatest offerings. Some customers will clearly be annoyed by this because your old products might work just fine for them. This is a tough judgement call since you want to please your customers but you also want to move on to selling and supporting new products. It’s best to have an up front policy as to when you refresh your product lines or when product support for your aging product lines will stop.
Things To Ponder
Recall a product launch that was wildly successful. Write a paragraph or two about why it was so successful.
Think of a product launch that flopped. Write a paragraph or two about the flop. Compare the two launches. What were the differences.
Research a product that had a strong launch but then fell flat. What product management mistakes did the company make? How would you have salvaged the produce.
Make up a product to launch. Answer the go to market strategy questions above to craft your launch plan.
Look up a favorite companies product line. Which one should the purge or cut? Write a paragraph as to why you would cut it.
Product Launch Checklist
An informative blog on Product Management
Product Launch Blog
Product Development and Management Association site
Product Life Cycle post