5 steps to take before a new product launch

Blast off

As Willy Wonka said, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Since I first watched that magical movie as a little kid and learned the importance of imagination, I started building a journal overflowing with new product ideas — pages upon pages of the next big thing that was going to land me in my very own mega-factory with a team of Oompa Loompas to help grow my empire. From dog lover apparel to self-waking pillows, my pencil couldn’t fill the pages fast enough. In retrospect, that book of ideas was nothing more than a dream journal because not one page outlined a strategy for a new product launch.

Reflecting on my product journal, I realize that many of these ideas have made it to market with huge success, and it’s a very deflating feeling. If you’ve ever watched ABC’s Shark Tank and found yourself yelling at the screen, “That was my idea!” then you know exactly what I mean.

5 steps to take before a new product launch

Thinking back to Willy Wonka’s quote, the difference between dreaming and making sweet music in this wonderful world of business is to have a solid new product launch strategy, so below I’ve outlined five steps to take before a new product launch.

  1. Do your research.

  2. Create a buyer persona.

  3. Establish your digital foothold.

  4. Create your product messaging.

  5. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Ready to make your dream journal a reality? Take a closer look at each of these steps to get your product out of the pages and into the market.

1. Do your research

New Product Launch Research
Photo by haynie.thomas36 on TrendHype / CC BY

Remember when you yelled at that Shark Tank episode because that was “your idea?” Well, there are billions of people in the world, so chances are, it’s already been conceived. It’s just a race to see who can design and implement that new product launch.

The first step in your product launch strategy is to research the competitive space by finding answers to these questions:

  • What, if any, competitive products exist?
  • What is the value prop or messaging around existing products?
  • How do consumers feel about the products (as shown in their product reviews?)
  • Is the product brand new to the market, growing in popularity, or has it been around for awhile and getting disrupted?
  • What is the pricing strategy for this product?
  • How are competitors advertising and promoting the product?
  • With all those questions answered, how is your product different and worthy of consumer wallet share?

Pro tip: Consider using tools like Google Trends, Google Alerts and social media accounts to learn more about competitors, their products and consumer sentiment, which will ultimately help your new product launch succeed.

2. Create a buyer persona

When I present to small business owners around the country, I always ask them to close their eyes and envision their “perfect customer.” I ask a series of questions to begin molding demographics, geographics, and psychographics into a buyer persona “statue.”

A well-developed buyer persona is your best friend when it comes to developing your new product launch, and the more questions you ask about your “perfect customer” the more defined your buyer persona comes.

Here’s a small set of questions from a blog post I recently wrote to help our clients build a buyer persona:

  • Do they live in the city, suburbs or rural area?
  • Do they own or rent?
  • How old are they?
  • What is their education level?
  • What is their marital status?
  • Do they have children? Grandchildren?
  • Where do they work?
  • What is their annual household income?
  • Do they prefer to shop online or in-store?
  • Where do they look for product and service recommendations?
  • What drives them to buy: quality or value?

By defining your buyer persona, you’ll ultimately understand your consumers’ needs and goals, and can adapt your product to satisfy them.

3. Establish your digital foothold

First and foremost, you want to ensure that an easy-to-remember domain name is available. I recommend using .com, as it is the industry standard.

Editor’s note: While .com is the grandfather of domain extensions, there are plenty of new options available that you can take advantage of to keep your domain short, sweet and memorable.

Whenever our marketing agency is building a website for a new client, we use GoDaddy’s bulk domain lookup tool. In fact, we just had a new product launch for an online reviews engine product to help business owners proactively solicit reviews, promote four- and five-star reviews, and resolve negative reviews before they make it to sites like Google My Business or Yelp.

As an exercise, we wrote down all of the “non-branded” keywords that related to our product:

  • Reviews
  • Reputation
  • Online reviews
  • Etc.

Then, we created a list of complimentary words that conveyed what the product actually did:

  • Engine
  • Manager
  • Management
  • Dashboard
  • Etc.

We combined the two lists into compound keywords and came up with the following ideas:

  • Reviewsengine.com
  • Reputationmanager.com
  • Onlinereviewsengine.com
  • Reviewdashboard.com
  • Reviewsmanagement.com

Unfortunately, none of these domain names were available, so we had to get creative.

New Product Launch Names

Pro tip: We’ve found that adding a possessive adjective (i.e., “my” or “your”) in front of a desired domain name increases your chances of landing a great URL and staying true to your brand identity. With that, we performed a second search and purchased MyReviewDashboard.com through GoDaddy, which leads to our new website all about growing online reviews.

In addition to a domain name, you also want to see if social media handles are available. Use a tool like Namechk to find availability of both domain names and social media handles in one place.

New Product Launch Namechk

Once you have the domain and social media handles claimed, you can use answers to the questions above to create your product messaging.

4. Create your product messaging

Product messaging and positioning are not easy. I’ve encountered clients who have invested endless hours and thousands of dollars into a new product launch, but they missed the mark when it came to building their messaging. If you follow the steps above, then you’ll be in a much better position to tell the story of how your product came to be and why end-users need to buy.

Treat your new product launch messaging like an elevator pitch — it needs to be succinct, simple and persuasive. Your product messaging should include:

  • A thoughtful tagline
  • The pain points solved by your product
  • A list of your core features and functionality
  • The overall value proposition
  • A call-to-action for consumers to purchase

The beauty of this digital age is that you can revisit and revise your product messaging at any time, so don’t think it’s set in stone. In fact, once you’ve created your product messaging, share it with a trusted group of friends, customers and business advisors. Solicit their raw, unfiltered and constructive feedback to see what you can improve before pushing the messaging live.

5. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

 New Product Launch SMART Goals

You’ve heard it before: “If you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing.” It’s imperative that you set goals in order to measure the success of your new product launch. When I recently presented for Google, I told the audience of five elements that make a winning goal:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Based

Perhaps you’ve heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals. I’ll give you an example based on my earlier mention of MyReviewDashboard.com:

  • Specific — We want to demo the software to business owners
  • Measurable — We want to demo the software to 100 business owners
  • Attainable — We want to demo the software to 100 business owners via webinar and video replay
  • Relevant — We want to increase lead generation by demoing the software to 100 business owners via webinar and video replay
  • Time-based — We want to increase lead generation by demoing the software to 100 business owners via webinar and video replay within the first month of launch

You can see that as I progressed through each element of the S.M.A.R.T. process, my goal evolved into something more meaningful and measurable. Believe it or not, we blew past our goal after only one week because we had a powerful new product marketing strategy in place, so we revisited and revamped our goal to the following:

We want to increase lead generation by demoing the software to 1,000 business owners via webinar and video replay within the first six weeks of launch.

Pro tip: Print out your goals and tape them to your wall where you can continuously look at them throughout the day. Taking a minute to revisit your goals can keep you on track and ensure that everything you do contributes to your new product launch.

Once you’ve solidified your initial product messaging and established your S.M.A.R.T. goals, begin creating creative assets like email marketing campaigns, social media posts, blog posts, videos and, of course, your new website.

Execute your new product launch

Equipped with tons of juicy, valuable information and a queue of creative assets, you can now pull the trigger on your new product launch. This step can be as short as a day or as long as a week, depending on how you plan to roll out the product. For some high level ideas, check out how fellow Garage contributor Michelle Ward launched her digital product.

Post-launch promotion

It goes without saying that once you’ve finished your new product launch, you’ve only just started making that sweet music. Now you have to:

  • Continue generating new customer leads
  • Follow up with those who are interested, but have not purchased
  • Create a customer support team or knowledge base for product issues
  • Develop a reverse logistics system for possible returns or refunds
    Continue creating content to help users get the most out of your product

As Willy Wonka says, “So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.” So what are you waiting for? Choose the right marketing channels, connect and engage with your prospects, and start selling that amazing new product you’ve only dreamt of until now.

Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital marketing. A national speaker for Google's Get Your Business Online program and award-winning CEO of BJC BrandingBryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics to help small businesses grow and succeed. Bryan has provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010 and is a guest lecturer at Suffolk University School of Business. He is also a contributing columnist to several publications including GoDaddy, Constant Contact, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal.