Keys to a Successful Product Launch

There are some products that take a long time to gain traction in the marketplace. Those are the exceptions for two reasons:

1)      There are few companies that can afford to sustain a new product that does not gain immediate traction

2)      Newer products will often improve upon prior iterations by the same company or competitors and so will crowd out older products with little market share

And so we can determine that most successful products are successful early in the post-launch phase of their life.

Product Lifecycle

A typical product lifecycle has four distinct stages:

1)      Launch

2)      Growth

3)      Maturity

4)      Renewal or Decline

These are the same, more or less, as the lifecycle for a business. And each phase involves a number of key decisions that a company must make to succeed.

In order to effectively get to the growth stage, first you have to have a successful product launch. If you are responsible for getting your product out the door and into the marketplace most effectively, here is a checklist you can use to improve the likelihood of a successful launch.

Product Launch Checklist

  • Has the product been fully tested and come through without any bugs?

  • Have you tested your product with customers to ensure it solves a real need in the market?

  • Do you have buy-in from senior leadership throughout the company?

  • Do you have sales and revenue targets for the first 30, 60, 90 days after launch? Do you know what to do if you fall short of those targets?

  • Has the advertising budget been approved that you need to meet your sales expectations?

  • Have you communicated with all departments so that they know everything they need to know to better serve the launch? Marketing, sales, customer support, finance, analysts?

  • Have you given the marketing team enough lead time to have all of their campaigns built and ready to deploy on day one?

  • Have you done press outreach to gain publicity around the launch?

  • Is the messaging on your website ready to go live?

  • Do you have a plan? Is there a document that people across your organization can refer to if they have questions?

So much of the success of any product is in the launch. The more planning you do in advance, the more you can ensure that both the product and the marketing are ready to go, the better your odds of a successful launch.

Best of luck!

How the Product Manager Can Drive Growth

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In most successful businesses you will find the same dilemma. It occurs at a specific time in the company’s lifecycle. The story usually goes something like this:

A successful product hits the market. People love it. Initial growth attracts new investment. A brand develops on the back of the popularity of the initial product. And to improve the long term prospects of the company and capitalize on the existing customer base, the decision is made to invest in a new product or product line. The product development team does the research, commits the time, and creates something the entire company is excited about.

The new product launches, and…nothing happens. Sales are sluggish. This leads to some in-fighting and finger-pointing. Is it the fault of the product developers for creating a bad product? Is it the fault of the salespeople for their lack of enthusiasm? Is it the fault of the existing product line for hogging all the resources?

The Role of Product Managers

This is why we have product managers. Because it is inherently difficult to launch new products. And this is even more true when companies already have successful products in the marketplace.

It runs counter to what might seem like an obvious advantage. People will say that it’s easier to launch a new product within an existing brand because the brand already has credibility.

The problem is, a brand can fall victim to its own success. What worked with the first product might not work with the new. The same marketing strategy, pricing strategy, sales strategy – it might not work this time around. But companies, like people, can be set in their ways.

And so a product manager is needed to introduce a product to the company as much as they are introducing it to the marketplace.

What Does a Product Manager Do?

Product managers are like individual entrepreneurs running their own small business within a larger organization. They are responsible for the success of their product.

A good product manager develops the necessary relationships in every department in order to see that his or her product is successful. They work with the marketing team to make sure that the right customers are being served the right messaging. They work with the technology team to perfect the website and conversion processes. They work with the sales team to ensure they have the right resources and the right script.

It is natural for a company to favor those products that have historically been most successful. But that tendency limits the potential for growth by putting more faith in the past than in the future.

Product managers fight for resources and ensure that new launches get their due.

Using Product Managers for Growth

One affective strategy for growth is to assign product managers to set success metrics for their products and empower them to meet those goals. Incentivize them based on their product or product line, and organize all the departments within the company to support their efforts.

In this way, your company becomes the umbrella under which all of these smaller companies can grow and thrive.

Teams and individuals will still pick favorites, because it is in our nature to do so. But the more you can align departments in support of each and every product manager, the more you can keep that bias from acting as an obstacle to growth.

How to Improve Customer Churn

Customer churn, as we reviewed in a post last week, is an important metric to watch. As marketers, it is in our power to improve customer churn, to keep more customers engaged and satisfied so that we don’t have to spend so much time and effort recruiting new customers.

To address customer churn, we first must understand the different things that can go wrong. Here is a list of several common reasons why your churn rate might be higher than normal:

  1. Your product does not meet their needs or solve their problem
  2. They had a bad shopping, sales, or service experience
  3. Your competitor poaches them with a special offer

The first step in fixing your churn rate problem is figuring out which of these factors is causing them to leave in the first place. It may be one or more of these reasons, or it may be something else entirely. Until you know what it is, there is little you can do to fix it.

Surveys and focus groups are the best way to diagnose the problem. You can look at data and analytics at your disposal and make educated guesses based on what you see in the marketplace, but nothing is as effective as going straight to the source.

Your frontline staff can also help here, since they are the ones closest to your customers. They might be able to share the things they hear from people who don’t become regular customers.

Now, let’s get to the answer. Below are several things you can do to improve customer churn for each of the potential issues mentioned above.

Your product does not meet their needs or solve their problem:

  1. Iterate – talk to customers and adjust your offering according to their needs
  2. Make sure you are targeting the right customers with your marketing
  3. Make sure you are not lying in your marketing copy, adjust the language and highlight the correct benefits

They had a bad shopping, sales, or service experience:

  1. Rethink service – processes, people, and technology
  2. Put customer relationships first and foremost in any new strategy
  3. Try a softer sales approach and a more hands-on, educational strategy

Your competitor poaches them with a special offer:

  1. Use marketing to highlight your unique value proposition to make it clearer why your price is what it is
  2. Offer discounts for loyal customers
  3. Continue to market to existing customers to make sure they feel the love