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Last week, we discussed the two kinds of B2B product launches: one for existing customers and one for new customers. For both types, a documented plan is essential for a successful launch. But the obstacles don’t stop there.
Based on our experience helping clients launch tech products, there are a couple pitfalls that consistently trip people up. Review this list as you begin to shape your own product launch plan so you can avoid these four common mistakes.
1. Launching before your organization is ready
Product launches are not the responsibility of your product team. Or your marketing team. Or your sales team. The responsibility belongs to everyone. Your entire organization needs to be ready and aligned for a product launch.
If Customer Support isn’t armed with new product knowledge, aware of potential issues, and ready to provide solutions to those issues, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If your Integration Team isn’t ready to migrate existing customers to the new product, you’ll lose customers. And if key stakeholders can’t confidently speak to the features and benefits of the new product, you’ll lose credibility.
Everyone in the organization needs to be ready — and rally — for launch.
2. Launching before your product is ready
There are two sides to this coin: either your new product is over-engineered and can’t be easily grasped and assimilated, or it’s under-engineered and you haven’t solved the basic problems of your users. In either scenario, you’re toast.
At launch, your product needs to have a delicate balance between being a minimally viable product (MVP) that will require well-orchestrated iterations to get it up to full speed, and a fully-functioning, benefit-focused product that meets the needs of your users (at least most of them). A key step to achieving that balance is through a beta launch.
3. Launching without beta testing
Remember NIHITO? Nothing Important Happens Inside The Office.
You’re super proud of your new product: all of its new bells, whistles, features, and so on. But here’s the stinger: none of that means anything until it’s in the hands of real customers who think it’s awesome after actually using it. They are your litmus test of your success — which is why you need to beta test it before launch. Let users (a.k.a. those outside of your office) inform and influence if you have a product ready for the marketplace.
If you decide to beta test with existing customers, use your best ones. They have a relationship with you: they want to work with you and they want to be involved. It’s in their best interest. But it’s important to supplement this with new customer testing for real insight. Product and development teams need to closely aligned with this process — user testing is not relegated to marketing teams behind a mirror!
4. Launching without a timeline
We’ll dive into an example of a launch timeline in the next article but, in addition to having a launch plan, you also need to have a defined timeline.
An effective product launch is typically scheduled around a specific date: a customer event, an anniversary (business or product), or a time of year coinciding with the buying cycle (back to school, fiscal periods).
Your organization and product can’t be “ready” if there’s no documented timeline, milestones, and launch date. A timeline keeps your entire organization focused and accountable, and expectations realistic.
Obviously, there are a myriad of factors that affect a product launch — but these are a few that we encounter the most.
Having these things in order will go a long way in determining the success (or failure) of your product launch. Every product, company, and sales cycle is nuanced. But if you get the big stuff right, you’re way ahead of most in the marketplace.