Updated: Sep 10, 2018
Following on from my post on how to increase the chance of technology being adopted, I want to reflect on what makes a successful product or service launch. Here are my top eight lessons learnt from launching a range of products and services across a range of global markets from credit cards to business consulting solutions to business analytics and optimization software and services.
1. The product/service fulfils a niche that people didn't know existed or a gap had been identified but no/few products currently address it.
Customers buy solutions that solve business and technology problems to take advantage of market opportunities. In a challenging economy it is even more important for a product or service to serve a real customer need. Any product/service must have a distinct value proposition and offer true innovation; it must be something that people will actually want even if they didn't know they wanted it. The first step is really evaluating if the product/service occupies a distinct niche. In a market where a customer has multiple similar choices, the advantage needs to be as clear, attractive and differentiated as it can be.
2. Customers buy more intelligently than ever before.
What is very clear is customers have a lot of choice particularly in markets where are there are low barriers to entry. They are better informed than ever before, buy more intelligently and will take the time to evaluate options. They are also more likely to buy from brands they are already engaged with particularly on social media. New consumer research shows over 50% of Facebook fans and Twitter followers say they are more likely to buy and recommend a product where there is pre-engagement through those channels (chadwick, martin, bailey). Enterprise customer research shows that the top levers to drive value and where customers are most likely to pay a premium is demonstrating 1) an understanding of my company and problem, 2) accelerated time to value and 3) relevant expertise/prior track record.
3. The product/service is launched only when it is ready, having been rigorously tried and tested.
After the customer is exposed to and believes your marketing campaign, the product or service must deliver on its promise and live up to the hype. It is critical to test the product to make sure it will satisfy buyers. A good example is the Microsoft Windows Vista launch in 2007 where high expectations were set. Microsoft assigned $500 million for marketing and predicted that 50% of users would run the premium edition within two years. The software had so many compatibility and performance problems that even Microsoft's most loyal customers revolted. Vista ultimately failed costing Microsoft an estimated $400 in lost revenues in 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Vista.
4. Customers need to be able to grasp how to use the product easily.
Strong usability and convenience are often quoted as the most important product attributes. Products need to be intuitive and easy to use to maximize adoption. From launch the focus then needs to be on driving up usage, utilising the feedback from early adopters as endorsements. One of the major reasons for the success of the Apple iPhone and iPad is the touchscreen interface that is very intuitive. Consumers with little product or technical knowledge can literally pick up the device and use it. The early vision of Apple: putting a computer in the hands of everyday people'.
5. Product needs to be designed as an extension of self.
People and indeed organizations want to associate with strong brands. The choices people make are ultimately a reflection of self and a lifestyle choice, which says something about them whether it be economic, political, social or indeed all three. An example is the increasing trend towards wearable technology an even greater extension of self e.g. the Pebble smartwatch and Google glasses. More and more people see technology as an extension of themselves. As Marshall McLuhan put it, we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.
6. Product/service launch needs to adhere to the marketing 4Ps.
The right product needs to be promoted in the right place and at the right price. The basic questions need to be addressed: Who will buy this, at what price and in what way? It is critical early on to engage brand, marketing, sales, advertising, public relations, and web professionals to help shape a launch. New products and services require an ecosystem of support in place. The product/service can be the most innovative in the world but unless the consumer is exposed to it often within different channels, they won't know it or buy it.
7. Product/service needs to scale quickly.
It is critical that if the product/service does take off that the vendor can support accelerated growth. There needs to be a plan to scale-up quickly particularly for early stage companies who have not yet got the infrastructure in place. This could involve partnerships, joint ventures and the leverage of associate/temporary staff, as long as they are aligned with your brand.
8. Build loyalty to your product/service to stay ahead of the competition.
Many companies have had a one-hit-wonder product/service, but in order to sustain the success of the product over a long-term, companies need to build a loyal following. Even if the product delivers on its promises at the offset, complacency can allow the competition to come back. It is critical that there is ongoing engagement with the customer to deliver an exceptional customer service updates to products and manuals, training materials and follow on products/service, which compliment the existing product/service. Amazon has an excellent reputation for customer service including personalized recommendations, good communication regarding orders and a customer-first approach when things go wrong. Because of this they have managed to retain their first mover advantage as the go to website for Internet shopping.