The product launch process is a fundamental way to create and launch new or innovative services or products into a market. The process, while developed formally by business and economics researchers, is simple but not easy.
There are six basic stages:
Analyze: The analysis stage is an exploration and detailed description of a service or product needed by your audience/market. It is not a product think tank session within your own firm. Products or services that you design because they are a ‘good idea’ or because you ‘think’ the market needs is a recipe for disaster. The easiest way to serve your customers what they want is to ask them what they need. This is an opportunity to provide great detail about what your business can provide the market you’ve defined.
Plan: Once you have ideas about the type and extent of need your market is looking for, designing the solution, or often repurposing a current product to more closely match the identified need, becomes more focused and easier to create. You have to know that your product is solving a real problem that buyers are willing to pay you to solve. Planning the design, production and launch of that solution can be done within your businesses resource constraints. This will provide the scale and scope of your design and launch efforts. Use your research to guide defining your core audience, picking a name, setting a price point, and creating a marketing plan.
Design: It is tempting for business owners and entrepreneurs to dive in that this stage instead of doing the legwork of analysis and planning. Designing is fun, creative and inspiring. everyone likes to daydream about the future and the waves of profit from a new idea. Design is really about solving problems within your plan to reach the market with a product or service. Keep the design process tied to your market goals and planning process and you will help keep everyone involved focused on real design work.
(An example: You are working with a small group of entrepreneurs to create a new baseball app. You have done your research and found several things that many fans and customers of the local baseball team want to keep up to date on. The majority of these fans own iPhones. You use this information to plan for the creation and launch of a 99 cent baseball app for iPhones in your market. If it hits certain sales figures you will use revenues to design design and launch the app on Android. Even if you don’t know much about developing apps this product launch process will help. Working with an app developer you can now guide the design of the apps features and keep development focused on what your audience wants, rather than let the project divert in different and potentially profitless directions.)
Launch: As your design efforts move forward you can search out launch partners, develop media contacts to tell your story to, and build an online presence using social and digital media resources that will let customers find you and your product/service. Letting a small group of potential customers test or try out your product will give you fine tuning design suggestions and help build buzz. Setting a launch date allows you to use your marketing budget effectively and focuses effort around your launch. There is a series of steps that any company can walk through that will help launch (or even re-launch) a product– email me for more details.
Evaluate: After the launch your sales data will provide you with the most basic information about what is working and what needs adjustment and improvement. Keeping accurate sales data and market feedback (including returns and repairs) is essential. Everything from downloads and web traffic to walk-ins and direct sales for physical store locations is crucial to tweaking your approach or pivoting to a new strategy if necessary. There are no failures in this process– every problem you face can be solved with agile management.
Improve: Use your evaluation of daily and weekly data to build a picture of your market’s response to your new product. Are there five or eight or ten things that you think should be done to increase sales and reach more people– pick two of them and implement the improvements. Evaluate again, and pick two more improvements to move on. These small innovations are valuable to your sales volume but also provide new data your next launch.