9 tips for launching a new product or service

9 tips for launching a new product or service

Product development and marketing experts offer advice for rolling out a new product or service and successfully getting the word out.

So you are about to launch a new product or service, or are thinking about it. Congratulations. Unfortunately, having the best idea (or product or service) in the world may not get you buzz, or sales, if the right people don't know about it. Here are nine steps you can take to increase the odds of your rollout being successful.

1. Make sure the product or service works before you start selling it. Whether your product or service is digital in nature, or you plan on selling it online, first "make sure the app or website is bug-free," says Mark Tuchscherer, cofounder & president, Geeks Chicago, a Web development company. "We see products launch all the time that companies didn't test thoroughly, and this is the best way to lose potential customers," he explains. "People have short attention spans and want stuff to work fast. If your application crashes in the first few seconds, you are going to lose a lot of new users."

The same applies to nonsoftware or Web-based products. Before you release it, make sure your new product works or won't easily break or malfunction shortly after the customer has acquired it.

2. But don't worry if your product isn't absolutely perfect at the get-go. "Don't wait until everything is perfect to launch," says Chad Halvorson, founder & CEO, When I Work, which provides employee scheduling software. "At the end of the day, you're going to be able to make improvements to your product once you get it into the hands of customers and people in your ideal audience."

Just make sure the product or service works. After the initial launch, you can "use tools like Intercom and Qualaroo to get real-time feedback from customers [and] use that feedback to improve your product on an ongoing basis," Halvorson says.

3. Create a dedicated landing page with an email opt-in. "When launching a new product, [especially] using crowdfunding tools like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, it's critical to build a critical mass of followers before the campaign goes live," says Len Kendall, head of Social at Havas Worldwide Chicago and maker of Devil's Advocate, a soon-to-be-released card game. "That way, when the [product or service or] crowdfund [campaign] goes live, there's a group of people you can quickly tap to support you."

Just make sure to "develop useful content [for that landing page] that will attract your target audience to sign up for your mailing list or follow you on social media," advises Amrita Chandra, head of Marketing, Normative, a software design firm. That way, "when you are ready to launch, you already have an audience of people that are interested in what you have to say," she says.

4. Build and/or join a community. "Tap into the power of community early on," says Gregg Pollack, founder & CEO, Code School. "In other words, find a community of like-minded people who would use your product or service and engage that community either via social media or in person," he says. "This is especially valuable in the tech world. There are a multitude of meet-ups for all kinds of tech, so engaging these communities in person is very doable [and advisable]."

5. Cultivate influencers in your industry or niche. "Reach out to people who influence your target audience," says Chandra. "Well before you launch, get to know how your audience hears about new products and services. Is it through high profile bloggers or analysts or maybe an influential person in their community? Reach out to those people in advance, get their feedback on what you are doing and invite them to get early or exclusive access to your product," she says. Then, "when you launch, enlist these people (either for free or as a paid service) to spread the word about your product."

To find key influencers, "you can use Pitchbox, which defines influencers according to your keywords," says Dmitry Davydov, CMO, Bitrix24, a social collaboration and communications platform. Or you can search Twitter and LinkedIn, "[which] is great for getting in touch with the influencers." And remember, even if you don't have a large influencer list, "one successful contact can introduce your product or service to thousands of people," he says.

6. Ask people to spread the word and give them free product or pay them to talk about it, if necessary. "Just because you have the next big idea, this doesn't mean people will find it and use it," says Tuchscherer. "One free Facebook post is not going to bring in new clients. You need to spend money and time on the product for it to grow," he says. And one proven way to generate buzz is to "reach out to blogs and websites in your industry, letting them know about your new app or website. Not everyone will pick it up, but some will."

Brandon Olson, content marketing manager at AWeber, which provides email marketing software, agrees. "User-generated content is powerful," he says. And "one way to get people generating buzz about your new product or service is to simply get it in their hands. Send samples or trials to a handful of influential people, and ask them to share their feedback with you and their social networks," he says. Then "encourage them to post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with their honest feedback of your product or service. If it's a product, invite them to even snap a photo of themselves using it."

And don't be afraid to ask family members, friends and colleagues to spread the word. The more people who know and care about your new product or service, the better.

7. Notify top customers and followers in advance of your release. "Build a list of individuals who you know absolutely adore your company [or products]," says Dan Fuoco, interactive marketing manager, Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. Then, when "the product or service is ready [to] launch, send an email to this group first, letting them know and asking them to share the new product or service or their social networks." And allow them to pre-order the product.

8. Use social media to get the word out. Use your "social media accounts [Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram] to get the word out about your new product or service," Olson says. "Post content that shows your product or service in a fresh, unique way. Share photos or videos of people using or talking about your product or service. [And] use relevant hashtags to draw attention to your post."

9. Advertise on Facebook. "My biggest tip to generate lots of traffic [for a] new product [or service] is to create a Facebook advertising campaign," says Termeh Mazhari, a PR and marketing consultant. "It's the single most cost-effective online advertising platform available to marketers," she says.

"Even if you have a low budget, say of $10 a day, you can target fans of your competitors (or any other demographic you're trying to reach) and drive traffic to your new website or product page for only 15 to 30 cents per click," she says. "So with just $10 a day, you can expect over 1,000 visits (from targeted consumers) to your website in just one month."

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