It's important to get the timing of your product launch right. Around 13% of startups failed because of mistimed products. It was in fact, the tenth biggest reason for startup failures according to a recent survey by the Small Business Administration.
Timing is the number one factor that determines if a startup will be successful. If your idea comes too early, customers may not be ready for it. If your idea comes too late, you may not be able to squeeze in front of a market crowded with competitors. You can't ignore timing even though there’s no scientific process for determining it.
"Creating a product launch roadmap will make it easier to identify your goals, set out your strategy, and designate tasks to different teams and members. It sounds like this one document has a lot to cover, but with a designer or just a good roadmap maker, you can design a product roadmap that will help you implement your launch strategy and get members aligned around a single source of truth," according to Chameleon in their article "How to Create a Product Launch Roadmap: 10 Examples & Techniques"
Importance of Timing a New Product Launch
Launching a product is often a make-or-break moment for a company. Effective timing is critical to attracting customers. It optimizes revenue and profit on a new product. In Neil Kokemuller's article at Chron, he cited the following importance of timing for a new product launch:
- Customer Preferences: You want to launch your product at the perfect point. When the market is most anxious for the features and benefits offered by your product or service based on customer preferences. It will attract the most sales and generate the most revenue.
- Competitor Launches: Your competitor's launch also affects the timing of your launch. First-movers try to beat the market and attract eager buyers. Other companies prefer being a second-mover. They wait until the market becomes familiar with a product's features. Then, they launch when demand begins to grow.
- Quality: The timing of your launch may also affect the quality of the product at offering. The life cycle is often short for companies who rushed production and quality suffered. A pilot rollout is often a good first step. It's a way to get real customer feedback on the first batch of product and adjust the next wave before it hits customers or retailers.
- The Marketing Process: The product's launch needs to be in sync with marketing activities. Use advertising and other promotional techniques to introduce the product's benefits to targeted customers. Establishing a product launch date and building toward that, and then launching on-time is important. Missing a marketed product launch date can alienate potential customers.
How to Determine the Right Timing
When is the right time to launch a new product or service? There’s no scientific process for determining the best time. Omar Zenhom, in his article at The $100 MBA, suggested these five factors to determine the right timing for a product launch:
1. The Readiness of the Product
In general, the best time to launch is as soon as your product is ready. Release a product as soon as it's working. It has to perform the stated function, and that’s all. Do all the honing and perfecting when it's already in the market. You can start profiting from your product before you start tweaking it. Take advantage of customer excitement. Then sell the refined versions later.
That’s not to say you should release something inferior to the public, of course. It describes a different way of looking at product development. Product development should be a never-ending process. It's a lifelong struggle for perfection that’s never actually achieved. Knowing that, why not make money as soon as the product is viable? If Apple waited until the first iPhone could do what the latest ones can, we’d still be flipping open our Motorolas.
2. Sales Cycles
The exact time of the year, month, or even week you choose can make a difference. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is there a particular time when your target audience will want to use that product?
- When would they enjoy your product most?
Research proves that Tuesday is the best day for launching a product. On Mondays, consumers are too focused on the coming week. While on Fridays, people look forward to the weekend. On Tuesdays, you can be sure that people have already dealt with issues from the previous week. It also gives you enough time - a total of three days - to spread your message and follow-up on questions.
A seasonal product will itself determine the best time of the year to launch. Self-improvement products can work well in January to help fulfill New Year's resolutions. While outdoor products are best for spring and summer.
The time of the year matters as well. It doesn't make sense to reveal your product before a major holiday. People tend to travel back home and have no time to read when surrounded by family and friends.
3. Your Schedule
Your ideal launch time will also depend on your own schedule. Schedule the launch when you have as little going on as possible. so that you can devote the needed time and energy for the launch. It makes sense to focus on product launches over other considerations. You only get one shot at a successful launch! Expect glitches, customer service issues, and other unpredictable demands on your attention. It’s important to have all hands on deck, and yourself at the helm, ready to execute the launch with 100% presence.
4. Launch Conditions
There are conditions you need to meet to have a successful product launch.
- First, establish your brand’s credibility to justify excitement for your new product. If you haven’t already given your consumer base a reason to trust you, it’s time to lay that groundwork down. More customers will be willing to gamble on the certainty that a product will meet their needs.
- Make sure that you prepare your business infrastructure for the spike in sales. Is your distribution system in place? Is your payment system glitch-free? Do you have team members standing by for customer service and tech support? Expect success, and you’ll guarantee it.
- Finally, time the launch in relation to existing products and their performance. The best time to launch a new product is when another product of yours is reaching the peak of its success. You can ride that momentum into the next wave of sales.
5. Marketing and Communication
The best way to ensure that your launch goes well is to have a unique and creative product in the first place. Beyond that, it’s a matter of marketing and communication. Stay in touch with your audience. Use email and social media to build excitement around your product, and be there to usher it into the market. Expect the unexpected. Be ready to handle questions, concerns, and other feedback from your audience. Stand by your product but look for ways to incorporate feedback quickly. You’ll need to know what went well, and what didn’t. The day of your big launch is the day you start preparing for the next one.
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A Few Final Thoughts
Launching a product can be stressful but also highly rewarding. There's no guarantee things will go as planned and it's wise to "expect the unexpected." But there are things you can do to increase your odds of success:
Ask If You Should You Be First
While being first to market can have many advantages, it often comes with a whole host of problems. There are frequently unanticipated problems – from legal challenges to supply chain issues. Being second, particularly for problematic initial launches, can be a huge advantage if you can learn from the challenges your predecessor faced. You have the opportunity to address those initial launch issues and bask in the glow of a more successful product launch. You don’t have to do it first if you do it best!
Make Sure You're Ready
If you want to make the most of market opportunities when they present themselves, then you must be ready. When there's demand in the marketplace, you have to ask for the sale and be ready to deliver. When the market is primed for your exciting new offering, you have to have it in the pipeline. It take foresight to read the tealeaves of marketplace but to gain real competitive advantage, you must be ready for action at any moment.
Do the Research
Take the time to investigate whether consumers really want what you’re offering and there's product-market fit. Learn who your customers are and what matters to them. Make sure their needs are built into your offering and they can see and understand the value proposition. If your “plan” is to throw a whole bunch of stuff against a wall and see what sticks, then it’s not much of a plan. You risk losing money, losing customers, and hurting your entire brand. Proper preparation can save you valuable time and money. It's not a step to skip!
Get the Word Out
Build up anticipation and buzz around your new offering. Whether you’re adding to services you already provide or launching a new product, getting your new customers excited is critical to early success. When it comes to marketing, your goal should be to reach as many ideal customers as possible. Get them excited and intrigued by communicating how your offering will solve a problem. If marketing isn’t your strength, hire a Virtual CMO as a fractional executive to help you build out a comprehensive marketing strategy and launch plan.
Don't Be Blinded By What You've Built
It can be easy to lose your perspective when you've poured so much energy into building a new product or service. It's your baby! Make sure you keep your focus on business fundamentals. The goal is to make a profit, not to see your creation in the wild. Many great products and ideas failed to be successful because they weren't profitable. Sometimes, new products are unprofitable initially but as they gain traction, become profitable. If that's the case with your offering, make sure you understand how much runway you've got and if things aren't going as planned, when you need to abort or regroup. More than a few businesses have gone belly up because of the stubborn refusal to admit their product wasn't profitable. Make sure you understand your metrics and what it will take to turn a profit.