The truth is, most product launches fail for two very simple reasons, both of which you've heard about time and time again.
That big red button is just waiting to be pushed: Maybe it’s the Facebook Ad “Start” button, intended to drive leads to the sales funnel for your brand new product. Maybe it’s the AdWords “Start” button, intended to collect search engine leads for your sales funnel. Maybe it's something else.
But whatever the case, you’ve been working toward this moment for months, maybe even years. And it all comes down to this moment: Will your product-launch succeed? Or will it fail terribly?
The truth is, most product launches fail for two very simple reasons: Either the messaging for your product doesn’t clearly explain what problem you’re solving or how you’re solving it (think of the social media platform, Google+); or, worse, there’s no market need for the product you created at all (*cough* Google Glass *cough*).
And these negative outcomes befall optimistic startup entrepreneurs all the time. In fact, 42 percent of businesses fail because there is no market need, according to CB Insights research.
But being able to gauge whether your product is aboard an already-burning boat is easier said than done. So, to help you determine your product's fate, here are four signs that your launch won’t be a success. Are you in the clear?
Why should people buy your product? What single problem is your product going to solve? Who are the buyers in your target market and what are they currently experiencing?
If you can’t answer questions like these in just a couple of sentences, things do not bode well for your product launch. You might have a great product that people want and need, but if you can’t explain why they need it, what your product does and why people should buy from you, you’re in trouble.
Take the Google+ social media platform, for instance. Everyone was excited about the prospect of a new, perhaps improved social media platform competing with Facebook -- until it actually launched, that is.
Related: Why You Should Take a 'Wait-and-See' Approach to New-Product Launches
With an uninteresting and almost apathetic slogan -- “Real-life sharing rethought for the web” -- and an experience that left us all thinking, “So… how is this better than Facebook?” Google+ had an uninspiring product launch. Even today, it’s hardly anyone’s favorite social media platform (90 percent of people with a Google profile have never publicly posted on Google+, according to Stone Temple).
Here’s the deal: If you don’t even know why your product is awesome, there’s no way that your target market is going to happily hop onboard to find out themselves.
There’s certainly something to be said for launching fast, with your minimal viable product in tow. But launching with a minimum viable product is different than launching with a clunky or unclear marketing funnel.
If you’re going to convert your target market and have a good runway ahead, it’s not enough to know what you’re selling, you also need to know how you’re going to sell. And that’s something you should have lined up well before your official product launch.
A clear, well-thought-out sales funnel, for example, increased sales by 412 percent for Mary Hong Art, an online business that sells ShardWorx art kits. As a case study on PageWiz noted, the business's funnel for consumers was arranged in a kind of chronological order: epic content, lead magnet, tripwire (low-cost offer), core offer, profit maximizer (or upsell).
For Mary Hong Art, a strategic funnel like that made a big difference (412 percent, to be exact). Clearly, every successful product launch needs clear, logical marketing and a sales funnel that guides each consumer to purchase.
What’s the best way to determine whether your product will be a success before you launch?
Answer: by creating a beta and/or alpha version to test with your target market. So, create your minimum viable product, do a soft-launch pre-release to a limited amount of people and collect feedback.
Based on the feedback you receive, you can iterate your product and ensure that launch day is a major success. If you get a lot of negative feedback or confused responses, though, you might be better off shifting to a different product altogether.
An example? Had Nintendo spent more time allowing beta testers to play with the Wii U before it launched, the company probably would have known that the Wii U would be less than impressive to consumers. In fact, it sold only 400,000 units on launch day up against its previous system’s (the original Wii) 600,000 units sold at launch.
But ultimately, Nintendo seemed to learn its lesson. After it launched its wildly successful next gaming system (the Nintendo Switch), Bill Trinen, Nintendo of America's senior product marketing manager, spoke about the experience withBusiness Insider. Said Trinen:"With Switch being something that you can take with you, it made it really important that you could play it instantly… That to me is an example of a direct lesson from the Wii U era, where Nintendo said, 'That's something we're gonna zero in on and make a dramatic improvement on.'"
In short, Nintendo learned what its market wanted. And its engineers altered their next product launch to be a success. Learn from their experience and do a soft-launch of your own product or service to test and iterate before you fully bring your product to market.
Being honest with yourself about how you think launch day is going to turn out is absolutely critical to your product’s success. Most of the time, you know intuitively what your market buyers are going to think of your product, how they’re going to receive it, and what they’re going to say.
How is this intuitive? It's because your market will have the same concerns you have about your product in the back of your mind -- that itching lack of clarity, that muddy user experience or thatcheap look and feel.
The lesson here: Do not ignore your gut instinct. I love the way that Irene Barrera, founder of Stay Fit With Irene, put it in an email to me: “If you know in your gut that your product or service won’t resonate with your audience, if you hate or even dislike the experience it will give your target market, then why would you launch it? It’s far better to take additional time to launch a product that you’re proud and excited about to announce to your audience.”
So, a launch might seem complicated, but it really isn’t. Launches go sour for two simple reasons (usually): Either the market doesn’t have a need for the product at all, or you need to get the messaging for that product dialed in.
Of course, knowing whether your product will succeed before you launch is easier said than done. But treat the above four signs as indicators that you should rethink your product before bringing it to market, and, in the end, you’ll have a successful launch day. Even if it does take you a bit longer to get there, the effort will still be worth it.