Like a tree falling in the woods, if you launch a product without spreading the word — will anyone use it? Will anyone even want it?
Probably not. Whether you’re launching something huge, something small, or you’re updating a current offering, you’ll want to start your preparation well in advance of the launch date.
This includes nailing down your positioning and messaging, sharing that with key teams and stakeholders, listing out all the launch activities, creating assets and content, prepping everyone involved in the launch, and so on.
Because there are so many moving parts in this process, bringing your product to market can be intimidating and tricky.
To help you, we’ve come up with a step-by-step checklist for a successful product launch and gathered the best product launch tips from a HubSpot Product Marketer.
Plus, we’ll review how to know when to delay a product launch.
1. Learn about your customer.
Whether you call it “market research,” or “customer development” it’s key to learn about what drives your customer. Identifying their goals, motivations, and pain points could lead you to developing and marketing a valuable solution.
You don’t need to perform years of intense research to learn about your customer. In fact, we suggest just talking to 12 to 15 current or prospective customers.
When speaking to them, pay extra attention when they start sentences with “I wish a product did this function…” or “Why can’t products do this?” When they give these statements, respond with questions that go deeper, like “Can you get more specific about that?” If they don’t bring up any pain points, ask them a few specific questions that will encourage them to give deeper answers.
These conversations will give you a solid idea of what their biggest pain points are and how you can market a solution to them. Once you learn these key details about your customers, you can develop a buyer persona that your team can focus on serving.
2. Write a positioning statement.
Write out a statement that can clearly and concisely answer these three questions:
- Who is the product for?
- What does the product do?
- Why is it different from other products out there?
If you’d like to go even deeper, create a statement that answers the following questions:
- What is your target audience?
- What segment of the target audience is most likely to buy the product?
- What brand name will you give your product or service?
- What product or service category does your product lie in?
- How is it different from competitors in the same category?
- What evidence or proof do you have to prove that your product is different?
Still need more guidance on how to write a positioning statement? Check out this template.
3. Pitch your positioning to stakeholders.
Once you’ve established your position statement, present it to stakeholders in your company so they are all on the same page.
If your employees have a hard time buying into the product, your customers might as well. If your team loves it, that might be a great sign that the product launch will go well.
4. Plan your go-to-market strategy.
This is the strategy that you will use to launch and promote your product. While some businesses prefer to build a funnel strategy, others prefer the flywheel approach.
Regardless of which method you choose, this process contains many moving parts. To create an organized strategy for launching your product, it can be helpful to use a template, like this one.
As you create the strategy, also start considering which type of content you’ll use to attract a prospective customer’s attention during the awareness, consideration, and purchase decision stage. You’ll need to produce this content in the next step.
5. Set a goal for the launch.
Before you get started on the implementing your strategy, make sure you write down your goals for the launch.
Alex Girard, a Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot, says, “Create specific goals for the launch’s success. Keeping these goals in mind will help you focus your efforts on launch tactics that will help you achieve those goals.”
For example, the goals of your product launch could be to effectively establish a new product name, build awareness, or create sales opportunities.
One of the best ways to set goals for your launch team is to write them out like SMART goals. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
6. Create promotional content.
After planning out your go-to-market strategy and writing your SMART goals, start producing content that will support and align with those promotional efforts. This can include blog posts related to your product or industry, demos and tutorials, and landing pages.
Our go-to-market template will also help you determine which content you should create for each phase of your prospective customer’s buyer’s journey.
7. Prepare your team.
Be sure that your company and key stakeholders are ready for you to launch and begin marketing the product. Communicate with the company through internal presentations, Slack, or email to keep your company in-the-know of your launch plan.
8. Launch the product
Once you’ve completed all the above steps, you can launch the product.
9. See how well you did achieving your goals.
After you launch your product, track how the go-to-market strategy is performing. Be prepared to pivot or adjust aspects of your plan if they aren’t going smoothly.
Additionally, don’t forget about the goals you set before the launch. See how well you did achieving those goals. If the launch didn’t meet expectations, you can rethink your go-to-market strategy and adjust from there.
The cost of launching a new product varies significantly. For instance, an entrepreneur will see vastly different costs for launching a product on Amazon than an enterprise company might see for launching a product in a million dollar market.
Let’s consider two examples to explore this more closely.
In the first example, let’s say you’re an entrepreneur who has invented a design app you’re hoping to sell online. You might conduct market research to determine which marketing strategies work best for your goals, which messaging resonates best with your audience, and which design elements appeal to your desired prospects. If you use a few focus groups to determine these answers, you might expect to spend roughly $5,000.
When you’re bringing a new app to the market, you’ll need to choose the best go-to marketing strategy for your needs. Regardless of the strategy you choose, they all cost money. For instance, product branding could cost roughly $1,000 if you’re paying a designer to help you out, and website design could cost anywhere from $500-$3,000 if you’re paying a web designer a one-off fee.
These fees don’t include the cost you need to pay yourself and any employees if this is a full-time job. It also doesn’t include the costs of hiring an engineer to update the app’s features and ensure the app is running smoothly.
With this simplified example, you’re looking at roughly $8,000. Of course, you can cut some costs if you choose to do any of these tasks yourself, but you might risk creating a subpar customer experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, let’s consider a large enterprise company that is launching a new product. Here, you’ll likely pay upwards of $30,000 – $50,000 for market research.
Perhaps you’ll spend $15,000 on brand positioning and the marketing materials necessary to differentiate yourself against competitors, and you might pay upwards of $30,000 for all the product design and brand packaging. Finally, your marketing team could need a budget of roughly $20,000 for SEO, paid advertising, social, content creation, etc.
All said and done, launching a product against other enterprise competitors’ could cost roughly $125,000. Again, that doesn’t include the costs you’ll pay your marketing, product development, and engineering teams.
How to Launch a Product Online
To launch your product online, you’ll want to ensure you’ve followed the steps above. However, there are a few additional steps you’ll want to follow to gain traction primarily online.
1. Figure out the story you want to tell regarding your product’s bigger purpose.
What story do you want to tell across social platforms, landing pages, and email? This is similar to your positioning statement, but needs to be geared entirely towards your target audience. Ask questions like, Why should they purchase your product? And How will your product or service make their lives better?
Communicating cross-functionally ensures the communication materials you use across various online channels align — which is key when it comes to establishing a new product in the marketplace.
Consider, for instance, how Living Proof announced its new product, Advanced Clean Dry Shampoo, on its Instagram page. The story revolves around a simple nuisance common with most other dry shampoos — How consumers still want that just-washed feeling, even when using a dry shampoo.
By focusing on how the product will benefit consumers through storytelling, and using a new hashtag #NoWastedWashes, Living Proof builds excitement and demand for its new product.
2. Display customer testimonials, case studies, and other social evidence to positively frame your new product.
Consumers want to see that other consumers have already taken the risk and purchased your new product before doing it themselves. This is where social proof comes into play.
In the weeks leading up to a product launch, or shortly after its launched, begin posting customer testimonials, reviews, and case studies to showcase how your new product has already helped other people. Take this a step further and employ influencers to share the word about your product as well, if it’s a good fit for your brand.
Consumers are smart enough to know they shouldn’t trust every advertisement they see — but they can trust fellow consumers. So leverage that trust through social proof methods.
3. Create a social and email campaign.
Create a full, comprehensive social media campaign to increase interest and awareness in your new product.
Use paid advertising to reach new audiences, create full product explainer videos to use across your social channels, and use email to reach existing customers and provide an exclusive, first look at your new product’s features.
Additionally, you might consider hosting a live stream to connect directly with prospects and existing customers, and invite experts from your product development team to explain the new features of your product.
It’s important to note — in this stage, you’ll want to pay attention to how consumers are interacting with the communication materials regarding your new product. Share concerns and feedback with the product development team — it’s important to trust your consumers and use their feedback to strengthen your product.
4. Have a pre-order option.
If a consumer is excited to purchase your new product, don’t make them wait — provide an option to pre-order the product or service before it’s even available. This helps spread out demand, while enabling consumers to purchase the product whenever they’re feeling most inclined to do so.
Product Launch Best Practices by Industry
1. How to Launch a Digital Product
When launching a digital product, you’ll want to begin building anticipation with a strong content marketing strategy. Use blog posts, email marketing, social media, and other channels of distribution to increase interest and demand for your digital product.
You’ll also want to ensure you’re leveraging lead generation strategies to reach existing customers and prospects.
For instance, let’s say you’re launching an online course on SEO. In the weeks leading up to launch, you might create SEO-related blog content to send to your email subscribers with an option to join the SEO course’s waitlist. This helps you gauge the effectiveness of your marketing materials while reaching an audience that has already demonstrated interest in your brand.
How to Launch a Product on Amazon
Anyone who’s ever shopped on Amazon knows the importance of a good product listing. In the week’s leading up to launch, take the time to create a strong, high-converting product listing — including taking high-resolution photos of your product, writing a description that outlines your product’s differentiating features, and using keywords to help your product rank on Amazon.
Additionally, product reviews are incredibly important on Amazon, so you’ll want to ensure you have reviews ready-to-go before you even launch your product on Amazon. To do this, ensure you’ve either launched your product on your own website first (which gives you time to earn reviews before launching on Amazon), or send your product to a select group of interested buyers ahead of the full launch, and collect reviews from them.
Finally, ensure you’re ready for an Amazon product launch by checking inventory. You never know how quickly your product might gain traction on the ecommerce super-store, so make sure you have enough product to fulfill Amazon orders quickly.
Take a look at HubSpot’s The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Amazon in 2021 for more information related to Amazon.
How to Launch a SaaS Product
To launch a SaaS product, you’ll want to start by researching competitors and understanding the marketplace at-large. There’s plenty of demand for SaaS products, since more than 38% of companies work almost entirely on SaaS. However, the SaaS industry is also well-saturated, so before launching a SaaS product, you’ll want to determine how your product differs from all the others in the industry.
To create a successful product launch, you’ll want to conduct market research and focus groups to determine the true benefits and differentiators of your product.
Next, you’ll want to employ a strong content marketing strategy to increase your website’s visibility on search engines, and to ensure your business is appearing in search results for topics related to your product.
Since you aren’t launching a physical product, your marketing efforts need to convince businesses that your product can solve for their needs. For instance, take a look at how HubSpot positioned the new Operations Hub product in this introductory video:
Additionally, you might want to offer free trials or a freemium option for smaller businesses on lower budgets to test out your offerings before committing.
For a full SaaS rundown, take a look at HubSpot’s Ultimate Guide to Software as a Service (SaaS).
How to Launch a Food Product
To launch a food product, you’ll first need to ensure you’re prepared for the costs required to do so — including how much it costs to package and store the product (including packaging, warehousing, and distribution), and how much it costs to sell the product (including branding and digital marketing).
Next, you’ll want to follow federal and state food regulations. For instance, you need to ensure you’re following health department rules for food preparation surfaces, refrigeration, and sanitation.
You’ll also need to make sure the labeling you use on your product’s packaging is accurate, which requires you to send your food product to a lab for analysis, and check with your state commerce to see what it requires when it comes to nutrition labels.
When launching a food product, you’ll likely want to hire a food broker. A food broker can foster relationships with national or local grocery stores, and will create a promotional plan to help increase sales as soon as your food hits the shelves.
Typically, a supermarket will test out your product for a few months before determining if there’s enough consumer interest to keep it stocked — which is why a food broker can be incredibly useful for using business intelligence and industry knowledge to ensure a successful food product launch.
Product Launch Tips
To learn the best practices for a successful product launch, I talked to Alex Girard again.
The HubSpot Product Marketing Manager said he had three main tips for a successful product launch:
- Your product positioning should reflect a shift you’re seeing in the world, and how your product helps your customers take advantage of that shift.
- Create a recurring schedule for you and the core stakeholders for the launch to check in and ensure you’re all on the same page.
- Make sure you keep the product team in the loop on your marketing plans. The product team could have insights that inform your overall marketing campaign.
However, sometimes, external factors might impact your ability to launch a product. When that happens, you might need to delay your launch.
How to Know When to Delay a Product Launch
To understand when, and why, you might hold off on a product launch, Girard told me there are three key reasons why you might want to delay a product launch, including:
- When your product itself isn’t ready, and you need to change your timeline to create the best customer experience possible.
- If a situation occurs where your current customers are having a less than optimal experience with one of your current products. Before launching and promoting a new product, you should make sure your current customers are satisfied with your existing product offering.
- If something occurs on an international, national, state, or local level that requires your audience to readjust their priorities and shift focus away from your company and its product launch. Make sure that when the time comes to launch, your target audience is ready to learn about your new product.
If you’re looking for templates to coordinate your team efforts and align your company around your new product’s messaging, download our free product marketing kit below.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.