Start with a Great Product
No duh, right? (I love saying that) (forgive me). Seems elementary I know, but it really all starts there. Your product has to be something that people want and need (or something you convince them to want and need). If it solves a problem for them or makes life easier, even better! And before you launch it, it has to be finished. You’ve got to have a great product (or service) before you launch the doggone thing—or at a minimum, the first generation of the product has to deliver something of real value. If it’s half-baked or if someone can shoot holes in it before they get to the benefits, Houston, you’ve got yourself a problem.
Get Your Brand Story Straight
Of course I focus on this part, because, well, it’s what we do. But really, if you can’t yet tell your story in a sentence or two, you’re not ready to launch it. Also, if you don’t really have a grasp on the target audience for this product and when asked about that your answer is “This product is for everyone,” well, that’s a problem, too. Rarely are all products suited for all consumers. And the more narrowly you can focus and target your audience, the better chance of success you’ll have. And as an aside, working with a marketing agency or a PR team who can help you get that brand story nailed down–worth its weight in gold.
Build Your Networks Before You Need Them
This is where so many entrepreneurs and start-ups fall down. They focus so much on building their product that they don’t pay any attention to building networks, making friends and laying the groundwork to create buzz about their product or service. They wait until they have a finished product, one that they’ve often created without any user involvement or feedback, then they start thinking about blogger outreach, social media marketing, etc. Our advice is always very simple: build your networks before you need them. Or be prepared to cool your heels impatiently after your product launches while you backpedal and start your network building. Oh, and be prepared to spend even more money if you wait until the last minute. I can’t say this often or loudly enough: allocate budget money, immediately, to marketing, including social, blogger outreach and advertising. Do not expect that just because you build it they will come. This only happens in Kevin Costner movies.
When you focus on building great networks and establishing relationships, that’s when you can most effectively leverage them to create buzz about your product launch. Apple is genius about this and if you’d like to dive more fully into that, Gini Dietrich wrote a great post over on Spin Sucks about this. You can create buzz by reaching out to bloggers and reviewers, especially those that you’ve already made friends with. Give them complete information about the product, invite them to try it before anyone else gets a shot, give them scoops and advance information and even exclusives where possible, so that they can help you create excitement about your product before it launches. People don’t care so much about advertising these days–they care about what their friends think and say. Utilizing the power of friendships, blogger outreach and friends in the social media space to share the word about your product is one of the very best ways to ensure its success.
Remember to Be Human
The most successful product launches are the ones that really connect with people. And in order to do that, you have to make your product speak to them in a human way. When we’re working on brand strategy and developing a brand story for our clients, we often ask clients: “Is this good for people? How so?” and let our messaging flow from there. No matter what you might think, every product isn’t perfect for every consumer. So when you can narrow your audience focus, then let your messaging tell them, succinctly and clearly, how your product benefits them in simple, engaging, down-to-earth terms, chances are good you’ll be successful.
Apple isn’t the only brand that’s good at this, but all of these lessons articulated above are things that Apple has done, very successfully, for many years. And that’s probably one of the reasons that their brand advocates are so loyal — and there are so many people lining up to grab every single new product that they release. They do all this stuff, and they do it well, albeit with a larger budget. But the principles and best practices for success remain the same, whether your business, your product, your announcement, etc. is large or small. Think about this the next time you’re launching a product or making an announcement — put these ideas to the test.
What did I miss?
Image by S Baker via Creative Commons