You’ve been working hard on conceiving, developing and testing the product and now you want the entire industry to be aware. Or not. Perhaps you want to gradually introduce the new product to the market and this, to a limited number of people. Perhaps, you provide just a simple upgrade to your existing software and don’t want to draw a lot of attention to it.
A well-executed launch can mean the difference in failure or success for the product. And one of the errors companies often make, is when the companies’ goals require a Full-Scale launch however their plans end up to be more a soft or minimal launch and vice-versa.
Thus, determining what the goals are, must be the starting point of any excellent product launch strategy and planning.
In fact, determining the goals will determine:
- The kind of product launch, tactics and programs to use
- The budget
- The time and effort to spend
- The people involved
There are different benefits (and downsizes) associated with Soft, Minimal and Full-scale launches. The main differences between these methods is in how you achieve your desired goals.
Here are some key questions to determine which launch best fits your goals, thus avoiding creating a marketing disaster.
- Is/Are your goal(s) to:
- Maximize awareness?
- Generate as many leads and sales as possible?
- Create major excitement and buzz around the product?
- Gain competitive advantage?
- Incentivize customers and prospects?
- Do you have the budget, manpower or resources to properly execute a Launch?
- Is there enough time to prepare the launch and train staff?
- Do you have unrealistic expectations with the assumption that the product will sell itself?
- Has the product already achieved market acceptance and feedback?
If the answer to these questions is YES, a Full Scale Launch will give the product the best chances of success. Yes, a Full Scale Launch will be expensive and most companies are afraid to spend money to execute one. However, know that even if you’re going to have a larger total cost you’re also going to have benefits of scale as the marketing programs build on each other and provide positive synergy.
If the answer is NO, then the Launch strategy will be rather orientated towards a Soft or a Minimal Launch.
When to execute a Soft Launch?
- When the Marketing budget and resources don’t allow for more
- When you want to gather feedback before a full-scale launch and make final adjustments (a better hard launch means a better ROI).
- When you want to test the product and identify bugs, missing features or features improvement without requiring much communication or publicity.
- When you look for market acceptance (especially if this is the first time your target customers are actually going to get to use your product) and determine if your product is even worth launching to the world.
- When your company has a long sales cycle but you want to make customers aware of the product.
- When you want to gives partners plenty of time to react if there are changes in the company’s direction.
- When you want geographic control. Soft launch means that you can choose the places where you start to sell first.
- If you’re relaunching a complete product line, then you might want to pick which you release first (e.g. the most basic version first and the more sophisticated versions later). This would give you greatest market penetration fast.
- When you want your best customers to beta-test the product and therefore, understand good and bad points in a relatively controlled environment.
- For legal reasons (e.g. the cost of making products compliant with market rules)
- When you want to minimise the risk of negative or poor publicity or PR
- When you want to clarify the strategy for a later marketing launch
- Most often they generate little or no revenue
- Generate little interest for the product with possible missed revenues target
- There is a risk of losing the ability to create excitement and not be able to recover
- It will create little or no press coverage and once the product is launched, the press in reviewing the product because is old news
- The company may end spending more on marketing later to recover
Some exceptions: the products with incredibly viral capabilities.
When to choose a Minimal Launch?
- When the funding and resources are limited
- For products that are not so important for your company’s strategy and overall success
- When you’re coming up with a minor revision and only wish your customers to be aware so that they upgrade
- When you fail to plan early enough… and you run out of time
- When you’re targeting a specific vertical in the industry instead of trying to do a horizontal launch to make the entire industry aware of the product
Same as Soft Launches. Once the product is launched they may not be able to recover or they may have to spend an extraordinary amount of money to build the revenue momentum they need.
Therefore, no matter which type of launch you choose, the most important thing about product launches has to do with product goals. And the most important thing about goals…is having one.