Product Launch or Product Lurch?
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Have you ever set out to plan a successful new product launch, but it ended up being a product lurch instead? Here’s the difference:
Why do some companies lurch instead of launch?
Of course, there’s some exaggeration in the Product Lurch column – but those exaggerations are often not far from reality. The key difference between the two is that a successful product launch is carefully thought out and planned with specific goals and objectives, while in a product lurch, much of the planning is rushed, fragmented, and disconnected from actual customer needs and insights.
Product marketers have a ton of responsibilities, and new product launches are among the most critical. They require cross-team collaboration and leadership, detailed planning, and the ability to quickly maneuver through unforeseen obstacles. All while meeting deadlines and multiple stakeholder expectations.
Here are some common reasons why product launches turn into lurches:
Speed is a cultural credo in the organization: “Speed,” in some companies, has become synonymous with success. The faster you go, the faster you'll get to your goal. But when you drill into the details, moving fast doesn’t always produce the best results. Careful planning doesn’t have to move slowly. Deliberate and thoughtful launch planning up front most often speeds up the execution of that plan.
A lack of product launch objectives: What are you trying to accomplish? How will you measure success? These are critical product strategy questions and need to be answered and communicated well in advance of every product launch plan. Goals can include things like:
- Creating a new product category
- Establishing a new revenue stream
- Up-selling or cross-selling existing customers
When you establish objectives, you can better structure your product launch and all of the critical elements that go into making it successful. You’ll be better at crafting the right positioning and messaging, building the best sales enablement tools, and designing more targeted demand generation campaigns.
More focus on competitors than customers: How many times have product and marketing teams heard from their leaders “Our competitor launched X! We need to launch something similar or we’ll lose market share!” Be careful! Unless you have data to prove that you are, in fact, losing customers and prospects to competitors because they launched a new product or product features, take a pause. Then take the time to speak with customers about how such a product or new feature would add value to their process or organization. Have conversations with prospects who chose competitors' solutions to understand why you lost the deal. Keep your eye on competitors but your focus on customers, and how you can deliver value. You’ll spend less time launching the wrong products and features.
Too many initiatives that don’t align with company goals (or resources): We’re all doing more these days – with fewer resources in most instances. The challenge is, we are often tasked with doing activities that don’t significantly contribute to company goals. If new products and services are critical to your organization’s growth, that’s where your focus should be. Connect your initiatives to company goals, and it becomes easier to back-burner less important activities – which gives you more time to focus on planning and managing that successful launch.
Here are some tips to make your next product launch less of a lurch
Spend less time focused on your product, and more time focused on your buyer. All too often, products and features are built based on ideas, assumptions, and perceived competitive threats. Successful products are built from market and customer insights. Gain a clear understanding of buyer and user pain points and what they are looking to achieve from a solution like yours. Armed with this information, you will do a better job of positioning your product, crafting compelling messaging, setting the sales team up for success, and launching targeted campaigns.
Determine your objectives, and make sure they're aligned to your target buyers' objectives. If you know what you're trying to achieve, and what your customers are trying to achieve, you'll avoid unnecessary scope creep and possible descoping of important features, and you'll keep your team and activities aligned to objectives. You won't get sidetracked with non-essential tasks that won't get you to your goal.
Start early. Move the urgent-but-not-important off of your plate. The time to start planning your launch is when you decide to start building your product. Starting early will help you not only meet your launch timeline, but also more effectively address the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks along the way.
Create a detailed action plan and timeline. Tedious? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely! Product launches have many moving parts, include multiple stakeholders, and typically face unforeseen challenges. An action plan and timeline will help you manage the activities of each team member and hold them accountable for deliverables and deadlines. No guessing, no scrambling, and fewer things falling through the cracks (yes, there will always be a few).
Your launch is just the beginning. How are you tracking success metrics? Is it product usage, trials, up-sells? How are you gathering customer and prospect feedback and other data to improve your marketing and plot out your roadmap?
Great products are anchored in customer and market insights, launched with focused execution, and nurtured with ongoing user feedback and tracking.