Missing Ingredients: Why Product Launches Sputter
“We have an amazing new product. It’s revolutionary, transformational, disruptive! This launch is going to create crazy buzz when we put our press release on the wire. Get ready for the orders to start flooding in!”
Certainly, there’s a whole product management and marketing discipline dealing with getting technology ready for prime time – and the philosophies run the gamut from MVP (Minimally Viable Product) to Perfected vX.0. Let’s leave that for another time and focus instead on the marketing communications ingredients necessary for a proper launch mix. If you are missing any of the following, you probably aren’t ready to launch.
Messaging Doc – Have you clearly codified and documented the KSP (Key Selling Points) that create the real differentiation of your product? Do you have the 3-5 talking points that will form “home base” for all your media inquiries, collateral, and copy? Do you have a coherent and comprehensive narrative that is easy to remember and repeat? Have you thought through likely Q&A – from the press, customers, prospects, partners and even competitors and developed a formal FAQ for reference? Having a Master Messaging Document with everything included in one place makes it easy to keep everything consistent and aligned.
Demo - Do you have a workable demo? It doesn’t necessarily have to be fully functioning (though it helps), but you need something to make the product real. Nobody gets excited about reading about the product alone – they want to see it in some workable form. Otherwise, your product may quickly be labeled as slideware (if you just show screen shots) or vaporware (if you show nothing at all).
Customer Quotes – Did you do a beta or pre-release to customers, prospects and/or influencers? Are there true believers and are they willing to provide a quote or be a reference based on their impressions of the product? What they say about your product is much more important that what you say.
Data Points – Do you have verifiable (and interesting) stats relating to performance (speeds and feeds), projected business impact (savings, efficiencies, etc.) and/or new capabilities enabled by your product?
Analyst Reference – Did you do a preview briefing with a major (or at least credible) analyst and will that person be a reference to the press to help provide industry context to your solutions and address your claims (or at least reinforce the importance of the problem your product seeks to solve)?
Embargoed Reporter – Were you able to secure an exclusive launch article with a major reporter under embargo with agreement to time the release of the story to be the opening salvo of your product release? Not “Joe’s Tech Blog” but a credible and influential outlet. Have you arranged the interview and included your demo? Do you have the analyst and customer references/quotes ready to go to bolster the story and make the reporter’s life easier?
Reality – Is there really any “there” there with your new product/release? No honestly – does the solution truly solve an important problem in a new way that will matter to your target audience? Or when you strip it down to the naked truth, are you actually suffering from the really-oughtta-wanna syndrome (“buyers really out to want to buy this product because we think they should”)?
Just as you need flour, yeast, water and salt at a minimum to make a decent loaf of bread, these are the basic ingredients you need to create a meaningful B2B tech product launch. If you are missing any one or are staring at multiple gaps, you may just be creating meaningless noise and conducting an exercise in futile activity.
Often times there is a ton of pressure within an organization to “release something.” And all too often, what that really means is the need create an inflection point that generates press and bumps up share of voice. So if you realize a product launch isn’t ready for prime-time and want to avoid outright failure, consider some other ways to generate the press you need:
Momentum Release/Story – Leverage tidbits regarding new customer milestones, impact on their business, sales results, new logos, up-sell stories, important new hires, new category/new market penetration. Bundle these “news nuggets” into a macro release that conveys that yours is a company on the move and worthy of attention.
Sponsored Research/Study – Either independently or in conjunction with academia, an analyst firm or a credible third-party research organization, conduct a study that creates news that is timely and insightful for your target audience. “Chunkify” the findings into an easily digestible Executive Summary with lots of factoids and data learned from the study to make them quotable. Leverage with your target media list, use for marketing materials/web/social/drip, etc. Done properly, a good study can provide months’ worth of usable material and further establish you as a thought leader – so that when your product launch is ready, people are more likely to pay attention.
The Product Launch ingredient list outlined above is not meant to be an exhaustive list – live events, videos, press conferences, road shows, investor calls, viral activities and promotional stunts can all be layered on top. But from a marketing communications perspective, it represents a bare minimum checklist to know whether your launch will be substantive and successful. Make sure you get your basic mix right first.