Online Marketing Lesson 56: Product Launch Strategies

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Crafting an effective product launch strategy can literally make or break the success of your online business. In this lesson we will cover the essential elements that you need to take into consideration when planning and executing your launches.

Always Be Launching

A product launch (throughout this lesson we will use the term “product launch,” but keep in mind it applies to services and websites in general too) is a powerful marketing strategy because it creates buzz, raising the awareness about your product and capturing the attention of potential customers. If you remember well, this is the first layer in most sales funnels.

Secondly, product launches trigger a wide range of emotions in your prospects, making them more prone to purchase. For example, a well executed launch could get potential customers so curious about your product that they will keep visiting your website to get more information about it. Other customers could want to purchase your product as soon as it is available to feel “ahead of the curve.” So on and so forth.

Given the benefits of using a product launch, therefore, it would be a mistake to limit yourself to a single launch, say when you open the doors of your business for the first time. You will notice that most successful companies, both offline and online, are always launching.

Want some examples?

  • McDonald’s is always launching new types of hamburgers.
  • Microsoft is always working on new versions of its products, and usually it invests a lot of money into promoting their launches.
  • Mozilla always creates big events on the Internet when it releases a major update for its Firefox browser.

For some companies the re-launch cycle will be as short as a month. For others a couple of years might pass before they introduce a new product or version into the market. More important than the time frames, therefore, is to make sure that your strategy will allow your company to always be launching.

Essential Elements

1. Planning: As we mentioned above, each company and business model will have its own time frame for re-launches. Upon seeing a successful first launch, many entrepreneurs get excited (or greedy) and decide to rush to a second launch. Some even rush to their first launch. This often backfires because the market will not be ready to absorb the launch, and because the people involved with the product won’t have enough time to plan all the details. Creating a successful product launch takes time and effort, so only go forward with one if you are absolutely sure it will work out.

2. Anticipation: The more anticipation you can build before your product actually launches, the better. Practically speaking, you should have marketing campaigns planned for at least one week prior to the launch, and extending this period to one month would not be a bad idea. Those campaigns could involve blog posts, the release of free reports, interviews, PPC advertising, email marketing and so on.

3. Affiliates: Unless you have a massive audience already in place, getting affiliates aboard would be recommended, if not essential to the success of your launch. You need to think about this point way before the actual launch, however, else you will have a hard time convincing people to joint venture with you. In other words, build a strong network of friends (and help them whenever you can) before carrying out your launch.

4. Affiliate Material: Getting software or a platform to manage your affiliate accounts and track the commissions is only part of the job. On top of that you will need to a offer a bunch of promotional material to the affiliates (e.g., banners, videos, swipe files for posts and email newsletters), and to keep them updated regarding the phases of your launch. Many companies create special blogs or email lists just to keep their affiliates in the loop.

5. Affiliate Competitions: A common and effective way to encourage the participation of affiliate partners is to create an affiliate competition with prizes. Those competitions can increase both the number of affiliates that will promote your launch, and the effort that each of them will put into it. You could reward the five affiliates sending more customers to you during your launch, for example.

6. Lead Content and Email List: This is probably the most important element of your launch. You need to have some free content that will be distributed before the actual launch, in exchange for the email address of the visitor. The content can be an ebook, report, videos, audio files, or even access to a free version of your website or service. This step is vital because it will give you an opportunity to showcase the quality of your product, and because it will create an email list of prospects that you can market to during the actual launch. The size of the email list that you will build prior to the launch with this technique will be proportional to the success of the launch itself.

7. Pre-Launch Events: Many companies and marketers create promotional events in the weeks preceding the launch of their products. These can be interviews, conference calls, webinars and even live meetups. Obviously it is necessary to have useful content to share in these events (as opposed to just delivering your sales pitch), but they carry many benefits for both parties. For the business owner they represent an opportunity to create more buzz and to gather feedback. The potential customers, on the other hand, can use these events to clear doubts and get a preview of what the product or service will look like.

8. Contests: If you have a limited budget to promote your launch, contests could help a lot. Depending on what your product is, you could offer it free for anyone willing to write a review about it, or you could stockpile some prizes and create a contest where people need to blog or tweet about your launch to participate in the final draw.

9. Advertising: If you have a good marketing budget for the launch, on the other hand, you could invest in advertising to build more buzz. Sponsored reviews are particularly effective for product launches, because you can time them to match the exact week when your product will hit the market.

10. Cross-check: Before putting your sales page live and giving a “Go” to your affiliates, it is essential to make sure that everything is working as it is supposed to. Cross-check every single element of your launch, including the shopping cart, email marketing software, affiliate tracking software, customer support email and the like.

The Scarcity Factor

Scarcity is a very strong motivator. People don’t want to miss opportunities. They fear it. If you can convince your prospects that they need your product, and that somehow access to it will be limited, they will think twice before skipping your offer (as opposed to thinking twice before buying it).

Not all market segments and business models can use the scarcity factor, but if yours can, you should definitely consider it.

The only thing to keep in mind is that the scarcity should be real. If you fake it, sooner or later you will get burned. There are ebook sellers who claim that they will sell a particular ebook to 100 people only, for instance. Usually they justify that by saying they don’t want to share their secrets with too many people. Needless to say that the bs detector of potential customers goes to red alert when they see those kinds of offers (especially because the 100 copies usually never sell out…).

Here are four common ways to add scarcity to a product launch:

1. Limited number of spots/copies: This model is particularly suitable for information products. If you have a membership site, you could limit the number of spots, to make sure that you will be able to provide excellent support for the joining members. If you sell a coaching program with DVDs, you could produce a limited number of them for each launch.

2. Limited time frame to join/buy: A similar technique is where you will put your product on the market for a limited time frame, which usually varies from 24 hours up to one week. There are different justifications for this type of launch. If you have a software product, for example, you could want to have a beta launch with the objective of testing the reliability of the product before launching it officially. Secondly, you could want to have a limited number of customers to be able to manage them. Finally, if you have a coaching program, you could need to have all the members joining simultaneously, to make sure they will be synchronized with the lessons.

3. Discount for the first movers: This model is more generic and can be applied in most market segments. You basically offer a discount for the first X customers purchasing your product. Companies usually do this to push the product into the market and get an initial number of customers using and talking about it.

4. Bonuses for first movers: Many marketers add bonuses to the offer if you are among the first X customers to buy. The advantage of this method is that it is easy to implement, and it will not impact your profitability (as the previous one). If you have time available, you could produce the bonuses yourself. If you don’t have time, you could consider purchasing the resell rights for a product or partnering with someone else who is willing to offer the bonuses.

Action Points

  1. Make sure to craft your business strategy in a way that will allow you to always be launching.
  2. Go through the list of essential product launch elements and make sure that you check for most of them as you plan your launch.
  3. Consider using the scarcity factor to give your launch an extra boost.

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