How to Plan a Successful Digital Product Launch
A product launch is an event … like an art exhibit or big “open house” that makes a statement: “Hello world, here I am. Come visit and learn what I’m all about.” A launch is an opportunity to “wow” your audience.
For your audience, it’s a process of discovery. Does this product do something that pleases me, solve a problem, perform better than a similar product I already have? The debut of your product into the market is the time at which you open your doors to see how well you meet your customers’ likes and expectations.
Because a digital product isn’t a physical product – it doesn’t take up space in the physical world at least – what should the introduction of your product look like, how do you plan one, how do you reach people, and how do you make all your hard work pay off?
Set Launch Goals
A product launch is a time to test your goals and measure your success at achieving them. Do you have a number in mind for the sales you want to generate over a certain period of time? Are you more concerned with finding out about who your buyers are and their purchasing habits? What sort of habits do your buyers have? Where do they live? How will they relate to your product?
Make sure you have the tools and procedures in place to capture everything you chose to measure. If your objective is to get 10,000 downloads in the first 30 days after the launch event, will you have the mechanisms in place to capture the download count? Can you easily pull data on where they come from geographically? Are you prepared to capture their feedback?
Use Timing Strategically
The timing of a product’s introduction into the marketplace is an important marketing strategy. Identify the times of the year and the locations that are going to maximize exposure and leverage:
- Stay away from dates people all over the world typically go on vacation. These are usually the summer months of July and August, and public holidays such as Christmas, New Years, Good Friday, Easter, Thanksgiving, Labour Day, Bastille Day, Yom Kipper, Boxing Day, and so on.
- Ride the coattails of a major trade show in your industry or some other major event such as a conference or the announcement of a new product release or new technology that dovetails with yours. Examples: a large seminar or workshop that trains people to use technology who would likely be users of your product or the release of a new app or operating system that supports your product or enhances some aspect of its usage.
- Avoid launches that you might be aware of that take place after your competitors’ launches. You want to be ahead of your competition, not behind them or you may find potential customers have lost interest. Be first out of the gate, if possible.
- Avoid delays in your announced launch. Your competitors may take that opportunity to jump in early or worse, stir up negative talk. You want to be ready, have buyers anticipating the availability of your product, and the media poised to check out the reaction and write about it.
Create a Launch Checklist
A product launch involves a lot of planning, tasks, pre-announcements, post-announcements, and follow-ups. Make sure your customers can access the product, understand how to use it, and are happy with their purchase. There’s not always an order to this, but you do want to make sure you perform them when they seem logically appropriate. You want to be on top of the ones that are time sensitive and take advantage of the ones that are flexible. And you don’t want to overlook the important ones. Use a checklist.
Make the Big Announcement
Define and execute as many activities as possible to build excitement and create demand for your product before it’s available to buyers. This can be done with large or small budgets and for any size company. Start by selecting and informing partners. Include them early so they can educate their customers. Sales executives can be your biggest evangelists. Use LinkedIn connections and all other contacts and networking groups to reach them.
Send a press release to bloggers and journalists ahead of time to give them a sneak peek (like a pre-screening of a new movie to a select audience). Make sure they know they’ve been selected for this privileged viewing. This goes way beyond courtesy. It has the potential to drive traffic to your selling sites like a cowboy driving cattle to pasture.
Industry analysts can also generate buzz. You can reach them on business networks like LinkedIn, your trade networks and in social media groups on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brief them, get their feedback and keep them up-to-date on developments.
Sometimes teasing or creating an aura of secrecy before a launch can generate curiosity and excitement. Give a select few the lowdown. It can help feed a frenzy, get buyers excited, and build urgency and anticipation among potential customers. Publish the launch date in advance and tell your audience something big is coming.
Alert the Press En Masse
Expose your product to appropriate media who may be intrigued, excited enough to want to blog about it. Invest in a membership with a news release service. A few that are best designed for small businesses are: E-Releases, PRWeb and PR Newswire are a few top-rated services. Mid-tier pricing for these three is between $250 and $300. PRWeb, for instance, will help you create your message, distribute it to every major news and search engine (30,000 journalists and bloggers and over 250,000 PRWeb news subscribers) and track it (detailed analytics tell you how many people read the release, where it was picked up and how many times it was shared).
Will a press release build website traffic and SEO? Website traffic, undoubtedly; but a press release’s ability to increase SEO has changed over the past several years due to changes in Google’s algorithms. Your press release is more likely to appear in results if users were to type in certain keywords in the press release, but it’s unknown how much more likely.
Build and Leverage Your Emails
Mailing lists are like gold. You’re not only communicating about your new product, these are your potential customers, where the dollars are coming from. You want to cultivate them like precious gems to yield sales on into the future. Those emails will grow as customers share your communications. You’re establishing a relationship with them. Keep them happy and they will be your boosters. You want them to become repeat visitors to your site and purchasers of your product, fans who will transport your message and make it grow exponentially via social media.
Are you’re starting a product launch from scratch? Chances are you don’t have a mailing list. Or, you may have one from a previous product you’ve marketed. In either case, you want to encourage visitors to your site to opt-in on emails from you. The earlier you start the process, the larger your email list. Establish rewards and incentives. Your customers will probably need some motivation to try your product.
If you are starting out with very few emails, use social media to building them up. Boost posts on Facebook. Add friends. Follow people and businesses on Twitter. Tweet and retweet items of interest. Build followers on Instagram and Pinterest with your product’s images, blogs, screenshots, pitch decks and how-tos. Ask people to fill out a short survey. Here’s one that’s been hitting email boxes:
Use your website, sales platform, and social media to attract visitors and followers and then encourage them to sign up for your email list. This gives you the opportunity to contact your prospects at any point in the future, with any kind of messaging you want; and you’re not bound by search engine rankings or social media algorithms.
As early as possible start generating names for a mailing list by using your website. Ask visitors to leave their email so they can be first to get updates. Give them a free sample download of the first chapter (like Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature), or a PDF with helpful advice or information. Create and communicate incentives like giveaways, bonuses, and discounts for early buyers.
Sign up with an email service provider (ESP), especially if you’re starting from ground zero. Here are a few providers that are highly rated that range from free to $15 per month: Campaign Monitor, iContact, MailChimp, and Constant Contact. An ESP will provide you with all the tools, templates and services you need to get subscribers, test your campaigns, manage the day-to-day requirements of your emails, and generate analytics.
Be Ready to Provide Help
Be ready to provide fast and expert support, particularly with a new product launch. Troubleshooting guides and user manuals can help when you or your support staff are not there to walk customers through glitches or answer questions about usage.
Offer online chat, phone support and/or email support if you are able to. Sometimes phone support works better with technical questions on software. If it’s about a lost password, credit card problems or non-receipt of the product, online chat or an email may suffice.
Have Customer Relations Management (CRM) in place. Don’t try to handle the support yourself. It will suck up hours of your time and keep you away from doing the work of an entrepreneur – developing, producing and generating sales and new and improved products.
Search online for virtual assistants or others looking for part-time work they can do remotely from home. Or go the digital route with a software provider that acts as your online help desk and/or online chat provider.
Missteps Breed Success
After the launch, learn as your product reaches out to your global audience. Continue testing, tweaking, and making modifications, if needed. If your sales and responses didn’t hit your launch goals, remember, it’s only chapter one of the story. Don’t be afraid of mistakes or shortcomings. You’ll learn more from them than from your victories. Doing so lets you to turn a good product into a highly successful one.