So you’ve got a brilliant product idea, maybe even a brilliant product, but how do you turn that into a real-world success? You need to create a product roadmap that strategically outlines how you’ll take your product to market… with as much fanfare as possible.
While there’s not a hard and fast product launch formula, there are some pretty tried and true rules for launching your new product or new business. We believe that an informed entrepreneur is an empowered entrepreneur, so we’ve collected everything you need to launch a successful product into a single guide. Let’s get started.
What Is a Product Launch?
A product launch is a strategic rollout, introducing a new product to the market. The goal of a successful product launch is to ensure that everyone in your organization, your target audience, and your partners are 1.) aware of your product launch and 2.) excited about your product/invested in its success.
A product launch is much more than the date a new product is introduced to the market. A successful product launch includes a launch plan that’s been designed to appeal to your target audience and several steps to take you from product development to revenue-generating success.
What Are the 3 Types of Product Launch?
There are 3 primary product launch types:
- New product creation: A novel product, feature, or capability that directly adds value to the end customer.
- Existing product maintenance or support: To maintain perceived and actual value to your customers, your products will likely require continued maintenance. As much as every entrepreneur would love a “set it and forget it” revenue stream, product managers often have to continue to adjust and update products to stay competitive in the marketplace. This is especially true in constantly evolving markets like ecommerce and tech.
- Internal product updates: Internal product releases support the day-to-day operations of your product and are only visible within the organization. These updates are just as essential as the first 2 product launch types because they keep key stakeholders invested and support organizational needs/challenges in product maintenance.
How Do You Launch a Successful Product?
You need to develop a launch plan with a clear strategy. Successful product launches are driven by a roadmap that will take you from pre-launch through launch day. Product roadmaps commonly include social media pushes, email marketing, and a launch event. Everything you plan should be geared toward the product’s target audience.
Your strategy should be based on market conditions, your audience’s needs, and how your product can fix their problem. Before you create your launch strategy, you want to determine when your launch will happen (launch date), allowing time for a soft launch and robust product launch marketing.
Step-by-Step Product Launch Plan
Follow these 11 steps and your launch campaign will be a smashing success.
1. Conduct Market Research and Learn About Your Target Market
Market research is the groundwork for any successful launch. You want to perform market research to inform you of market challenges and opportunities. In addition to identifying your competitors, market research will help you identify your target audience. It’s essential to know who your ideal customer is because that person is most likely to become an early adopter, crucial to the success of your new product launch. If you don’t have them already, you may want to create buyer personas. If you do have them, you’ll want to make sure to keep them front and center as you create your launch strategy.
2. Draft a Product Positioning Statement
Next, you need to draft a positioning statement. A positioning statement describes your product, target audience, and explains how the product will fill the market need. A solid positioning statement includes a compelling value proposition.
Answer questions like:
- Who is your target audience?
- Who is this product for?
- What does the product do?
- How is it different from what’s already on the market?
- Which buyer persona is most likely to purchase your product?
3. Run Your Positioning by Key Stakeholders
Before you go any further, you want to pitch your positioning statement to key internal stakeholders, including the product team and marketing team. You’ll want to include any potential stakeholders into this round. For ecommerce, this may include looping in your customer experience (CX) team because they have more first-hand experience engaging with your customer base. This step will be easier for small teams because you’re dealing with a smaller group of individuals.
If you’re a solopreneur, you can also solicit feedback from a group of trusted advisors—mentors, colleagues, and close friends and family. Just remember to consider if the person has direct experience in the industry or fits in your target audience as you determine how much weight to give their input. You can also survey your customers and test messaging similar to your positioning statement on social media to see what kind of traction it gets.
4. Make Product Adjustments Based on Feedback
It’s likely that you’ll discover some holes and opportunities in step 3. The next step for a successful product release is to make changes and adjustments based on stakeholder feedback. That may mean adjusting the launch date based on market trends, emphasizing (or deemphasizing) certain aspects of your digital marketing strategy, etc. In some cases, you may uncover issues with the product itself. In this case, the product manager will want to work with the development team to make the necessary product changes…. And if you’re a one-person-shop, that may mean putting on your product manager and product developer hats (or working with consultants) to get the job done.
5. Set a Go-to-Market Strategy
Your go-to-market strategy is the plan you’ll use to launch and promote your product. There are 2 primary approaches: the funnel strategy and the flywheel strategy.
- Funnel growth model: The funnel approach focuses on creating sales prospects and converting them into customers. It’s the more traditional sales model.
- Flywheel growth model: A flywheel growth strategy also accounts for ways that your customers can help you grow your business (think referrals, social media, word of mouth, reviews, etc).
Going to market is a complicated process, so it can be helpful to use a checklist like the one included in this guide to ensure that you don’t miss any crucial steps when launching your product.
6. Set a Launch Date
Next you want to set your launch date. When setting a launch date, you want to consider how much time you need to finish product development and roll out a robust marketing campaign. You’ll also want to consider whether or not you want to do a soft launch.
A soft launch refers to the strategy of launching a product before its “official” launch with little to no marketing. Soft launches are popular because they allow you get a sense of how potential customers will react to your product. A soft launch also gives you an opportunity to beta test your product to gain feedback from customers (and make any more required changes/updates) before the official launch.
7. Plan Your Product Launch Marketing
Product marketing is a crucial step in launching a new process. You want to plan the cadence of your marketing efforts to ensure you get a maximum return without exhausting your customers. Utilize multi-channel marketing to get the biggest bang for your buck. When planning your marketing efforts, you might want to consider:
- Influencer marketing: Which influencers and tastemakers might be a good fit to generate buzz for your product?
- Content marketing: What blog posts, guides, videos, podcasts, and other content can you leverage?
- Paid-per-click (PPC) advertising: In some cases, like ecommerce, a PPC campaign can be one of the most successful routes for generating revenue. PPC ads tend to be among companies’ top lead generation sources, but they are also expensive. Set a budget. Put together a strategy. If you don’t know what you’re doing with PPC campaigns, you might want to consider hiring a consultant.
- Launch event: What kind of product launch event can you host to generate momentum? This can be a physical event like a launch party, in-store event, or cross-promotional event with another brand. It can also be a digital event.
8. Create Promotional Content
Next, you want to create the marketing assets that you’ll need. If you don’t have a full marketing team this is the time to put on your product marketer hat. You’ll want to put together:
- Email marketing: You’ll want to draft an email campaign that introduces the product, highlights key product features, and promotes any launch-related special events.
- Social media campaign/posts: Don’t forget to leverage social media. Create a social media campaign and schedule your posts.
- Landing page: Create a landing page so you have somewhere specific to send your potential customers from email, social media, affiliate links, etc.
- Product page: You’ll want to create a page on your website that gives the full rundown of your new product.
- Content marketing: Write blogs and guides that can support email efforts and media coverage.
- PPC campaigns: Create paid advertising campaigns in Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or wherever else your potential customers are hanging out online.
- Press release: Draft a press release announcing your new product and anything special you’re doing for launch. If you’re a smaller company, you might want to consider working with a PR (public relations) consultant who has established media relationships.
- Launch event: Whether it’s digital or in-person, you want to plan your launch event for maximum impact.
9. Prepare Your Team
You want to ensure that your team is prepared for launch. You can incentivize your sales team and other key stakeholders so that they push the product. If they win when you win, they’ll be more committed to the product launch. You also want to set clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) … and make sure everyone knows what they are. People don’t feel like they’re winning unless they know what winning looks like. Make sure you show them.
Finally, make sure your support team has the necessary information, tools, and resources. For larger product launches, you may need additional support team members. Hire them or ask employees from other departments to cover during launch. Make sure your support team knows all the ins and outs of the product, so they can answer any customer questions.
10. Launch and Measure Your Success
You’ve done the hard work. Now it’s time to launch the dang thing and see how it does. When you do so, be sure to track your KPIs. You always want to track your wins so you know what worked and how to replicate it in the future. Even if your launch falls short of expectations, you want to be able to track where it went wrong so you can correct mistakes in the future. All information is useful. Never shy away from feedback.
How Do You Measure the Success of a Product Launch?
You don’t know if a launch was successful without quantifiable metrics. While every business will have different KPIs, these metrics are some of the most common metrics that will give you a sense of whether or not your product launch was a success.
- Revenue: You’ll know your product launch was a winner if it generated revenue, especially if it generated a lot of it. If you’ve created a new online course, released a new clothing collection, or launched a new premium level for your project management software, you’ll be able to track the success of your launch via the revenue it generated.
- Market share: Another measurement is how well your product performs against competitors. If your product launch inspires customers to choose your brand over competitors, it’s a win.
- User retention: If you’re launching a new feature or capability, you may measure the success of the launch by whether or not it increases your customer retention rate. Any seasoned business owner will tell you that it’s cheaper to keep existing customers than to attract new ones. So anything you can do to keep customers happy, and therefore keep their business, benefits the bottom line and is well worth your time and effort.
- Product trials: If you’re offering trials for a new product, trial sign-ups can indicate the interest in your product and how much traction your launch marketing had.
- Product usage: For subscription-based products, customer usage is an even stronger indicator of success than product trials. This is because while trial sign-ups are a good sign, they don’t mean anything if the customers never use the product. Product usage, on the other hand, tells you that not only did your product marketing appeal to the customer, the product is also meeting their needs.
- Leads generated: Generating leads is the first step towards generating revenue. You may not close every sale or convert every customer on the first contact, making leads a worthwhile KPI for many new product launches.
- Marketing channel metrics: Open rates on emails, click-through rates, and social media engagement can all indicate how well the messaging is working.
- Web traffic: You’ll want to measure how your website traffic changes (and hopefully increases) as a result of your product launch efforts. You’ll want to measure traffic to new product pages and any content related to the launch.
- Media coverage: If you have a major launch and you’re trying to get PR coverage, you’ll also want to include media mentions in your product launch KPIs. Media coverage can create awareness that’s ongoing (especially if your product is named in web content that itself has high search value and so makes it more likely that customers will continue to encounter it as time passes). If the mention also includes a link to your site, this can provide 2 additional benefits. It can directly convert to sales, and it also can contribute to your domain authority. Essentially, when Google sees other credible websites linking to your website, they consider your site to have more value, making it easier for you to rank in the search engine.
- Internal and external feedback: Feedback is the most nebulous of the metrics because it’s not as clearly quantifiable, but it’s nevertheless important. Pay close attention to feedback and where the trends are. Whether positive or negative, feedback from customers and employees can help you determine whether or not you’ve achieved your launch goal.
The Complete Product Launch Checklist
Use this checklist to create your own product launch roadmap.
- Conduct market research
- Create your product positioning statement
- Create a go-to-market strategy
- Solicit stakeholder feedback
- Make necessary product adjustments
- Set dates for the soft launch and product launch
- Plan product launch marketing
- Develop a media plan
- Determine employee/stakeholder incentives
- Set clear goals and KPIs for your product launch
- Ensure your support team has the necessary information for success
- Promotional content
- Email marketing
- Social media campaign/posts
- Landing page
- Product web page
- Content marketing
- Paid-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign
- Press release
- Launch event
Successful Product Launch Example
We’ve learned dozens of invaluable lessons on how to launch a product with our courses. Since our mission is to offer accessible information to our audience, we decided to go ahead and document our product launch information for the Foundr community. Here’s our step-by-step product launch for our Instagram Domination course.
1. Market Research and Positioning Statement
Through listening to our students and seeing the trends in the entrepreneurship space, we knew a course on Instagram had the potential to be successful. Using our own experience as a brand we were able to create a positioning statement focusing on three opportunities:
- Instagram was an incredibly popular platform with demographics our customers were looking to reach.
- However, learning how to master Instagram was time-consuming and vague.
- We knew through our experience that we could offer the fundamentals of the platform to allow our audience to scale quickly.
By creating a personal positioning statement we could “show not tell” our audience how to utilize Instagram for their businesses.
2. Go-to-Market Strategy
One thing that became very apparent to us when we began our product launch was that it was going to take a lot of work. Firing off a couple of emails, launching the product page, and then waiting wasn’t going to cut it. We began with Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula and brought on Ed Dale as a consultant to help guide us through the launch process.
From outlining our video topics to building an email list, it soon became apparent that it was going to take months of preparation. A key feature of the Jeff Walker approach is the concept of constantly providing valuable information and content to your audience at all times, something that matches very well with Foundr’s own ethos.
3. Stakeholder Feedback and Product Adjustments
When your go-to-market strategy is clearly outlined using a project management tool, it gives everyone more transparency into the process and allows you to easily loop in key stakeholders. We were able to tag different stakeholders during various projects to solicit feedback before we moved on. When something went awry (which it always does at least once) we were, again, able to quickly tag any relevant stakeholders and team members who would be able to help us come up with a quick solution.
4. Planning the Launch
During a product launch, there are so many steps that need to happen efficiently, in the right order, and with precision. Our process has always been clear and simple: record the process for every project, assign it to the right person and right status update, and communicate with the team at every step of the way.
When we launched this Instagram course, we used Trello to manage the product. We used the standard 3-column approach of backlog, in progress, and done. We created a card for each specific task that needed to be completed for launch and then assigned to the appropriate people, like assigning email campaigns to the marketing team. We were most successful when our cards were as specific as possible.
For us, regular meetings helped us stay on track to hit the product launch dates we’d set, maintain accountability, and collaborate. At the beginning of every week, we’d discuss everything to do with the project. It was mandatory that everyone attended these launches, no matter what.
These daily meetings were often quick, lasting no more than 15 minutes. Each team member would be given a couple of minutes to run through these three questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you working on today?
- Is anything holding you back?
By answering this simple set of questions, everyone knew what was going on. It served the dual purposes of keeping each person accountable for their own tasks at all times and keeping everyone as focused as possible on delivering results.
5. Our Media Plan
For most people, this is the trickiest part of a product launch. You can spend months developing a fantastic product and planning an amazing launch, but it won’t matter much if no one hears about it.
For the launch of Instagram Domination, we incorporated a number of ideas from Apple product launches and reworked them to fit our brand. The first thing we had to do was figure out the pain points our target customers were experiencing with Instagram and the biggest benefits our course offered. We didn’t want to craft a marketing message around every single pain point that people were experiencing, otherwise, the message would come off as cluttered. The key was to take those handfuls of pain points and benefits and keep referencing back to them as much as possible.
For example, we wanted to hammer home the idea of how difficult it was to generate new leads for a business, and how most entrepreneurs don’t have time to devote to social media marketing. We weaved that into a part of our story and highlighted how easy it was to learn how to use Instagram and how our course would teach you everything you’d need to know.
6. Incentives and KPIs
The goal of the product launch isn’t necessarily to make sales but to develop a long-lasting relationship with the customer. Knowing that gave us an early indication of what one of our primary KPIs might be.
In addition to course sales, we’d be looking at email signups and engagement metrics for potential customers. And if we were valuing a long-term relationship with customers, then we would also benefit from measuring engagement to ensure that the course was meeting student needs.
7. Promotional Content
To further drive home the idea of how beneficial Instagram could be to anyone’s business, we significantly ramped up the level of content we produced that was centered around Instagram. We used every media channel we had to drive up interest in Instagram as much as we could among our audience, essentially making the case for buying the course before the launch.
The content we released was never purely promotional. We always created content that was educational and could empower our audience, whether they ended up purchasing our course or not. We were determined to continuously create content that, while focused on a singular topic, would still be valuable enough that our audience just couldn’t wait to see what we had to offer next.
We started a campaign to grow our mailing list as much as possible ahead of time in order to generate as many warm leads as possible for the launch itself. In one month, we managed to grow our email list by more than 56,000 new subscribers before kicking off the launch of Instagram Domination 2.0.
Product Launch Email Cadence
The sequence we used consisted of 16 emails spread out over 14 days—10 going out in the 7 days before the launch date, and 6 going out during the launch period. We set up that email sequence to sync with our launch sequence we developed upfront.
We published content about Instagram on our own blog and guest posts, everything from a piece about how we generated half a million real Instagram followers in one year, to submitting articles to Huffington Post about how to create killer Instagram posts. We even published an article featuring the winners of an Instagram challenge we ran among our students to coincide with the launch date.
We featured 3 Instagram-focused episodes, including interviews with two of our most prominent Instagram Domination students—Deonna Monique, who went on to make a million dollars in sales selling beauty products, and Ramy Georgy, a local dentist who turned his business into a household name.
We put together a list of 10 core affiliates to work with, making sure that they possessed an audience similar to ours and that they were familiar with our brand. We asked them to promote the launch through their email lists.
A significant percentage of our conversions were actually generated through our efforts on Facebook. We were able to generate a conversion rate as high as 60% and we even managed to keep costs well under $2 per lead.
We created 4 launch videos focusing on generating course interest, demonstrating the power of Instagram, Instagram FAQs, and a video sales letter (VSL) with a strong CTA with an incentive.