They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. Whether it’s the first day at your new job, meeting your significant other’s parents, political campaigning, or introducing yourself to new people in general, you want to come across as personable, likeable, and polished.

The same is true for a new product. Yes, it’s possible to recover from a disastrous launch, but it takes time, money, and effort. It’s much better to start on the right foot and build from the good vibes you generate from day one … because there’s a lot working against you, even when you launch flawlessly.

Scary? Absolutely. And it gets worse:

So even at the “low” end, you’re staring down the barrel of an 80% fail rate.

Now, I am not in any way trying to dissuade you from bringing your idea to life and launching your product. But I do want you to know what you’re up against, and to be prepared.

The biggest problem we’ve encountered is lack of preparation: Companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game.” ~Joan Schneider, CEO at Schneider Associates

Do everything you need to do prior to launch, and you can focus on spreading awareness and building momentum after you launch. There’s no catching up or fixing mistakes that take attention off your shiny new product.

Step 1: Mind the Gap

Fill the need. Make absolutely certain your product fills a gap in the market or fixes a problem for people. How does yours stack up?

Conduct or outsource some traditional market research.

Look at the similar products already out there. Why would someone opt for yours over those? What’s its USP?

The best way to test your product idea is to talk to people. Real people. Your target market. Create a quick and easy email or social media survey with a service like SurveyMonkey. What are people looking for, what features do existing products lack, what could they live without, what might they be willing to pay more for? Collect and analyze that data.

Talk to friends. Talk to family. Talk to colleagues. If demand and interest is there, it’s time to push forward.

Step 2: Competitive Pricing

If your product has legs in step 1, it’s time to price. And proper pricing is not something you can do quickly, nor should you try.

There’s a lot to consider: how much do similar products cost, how much will it cost you to manufacture your product, what are your overhead expenses, and on and on.

Your price needs to be competitive, but you also need to make enough profit with each sale to stay in business. It’s a fine line.

There are many pricing strategies out there:

  1. Keystone Pricing = cost to produce x 2.
  2. Psychological Pricing (also known as charm pricing) = ending your prices with .95 or .99 for the perceived value. $99.95 feels cheaper than $100.
  3. Premium Pricing – intentionally pricing at round numbers to give the illusion of luxury and status. Also known as prestige pricing.

Then, of course, you can experiment with discounts, fragmented pricing (cost per month versus price per year), bundling, and more.

Are you aiming for the budget buyers – where you undercut other products – or the luxury crowd – where you price slightly higher because you’re offering a “premium” product (just make sure you can deliver what you’re promising)?

Your price needs to reflect how you’re marketing your product. Budget. Luxury. Volume. Repeat purchases.

And don’t forget that price is not a set-it-and-forget-it task. An important part of business is monitoring competitor pricing. Ever notice that prices on Amazon can change multiple times each day? Ditto with Walmart and Target.

If, after selling for a while, you determine the current price is leaving you short, you can either increase your price, decrease your costs, or increase your volume. Think carefully before you decide.

Your price is like your headline. It deserves the lion’s share of your time and effort.

Step 3: The Right Crowd

Ask yourself: who is my ideal customer?

You need to target those people. A great product with the wrong target will fail. Guaranteed.

In fact, the top two reasons why new businesses fail are 1) no market need (hence the importance of step 1: mind the gap), and 2) running out of cash.

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And why do businesses and brands run out of money? Because they’re wasting time, money, and effort on the wrong people. Target those who would actually benefit from your product, and many will buy it. Target the wrong folks, and you’ll be ignored after throwing buckets of cash in the wrong direction.

That’s obviously unsustainable.

You need to create detailed buyer personas before you launch. Before you spend a penny on marketing your product.

Ask questions. Go looking for answers. Build detailed personas to guide your efforts.

Identify your target market and go after them and only them in the places both real and digital where they spend their time.

Step 4: Make a (Marketing) Plan

This is not a “wing it” situation, and far too many new companies and product launches do just that. In their eagerness to get the product “out there,” they give little thought as to how they’ll market it once it is.

Big mistake. A marketing plan is as important as the product itself.

What are your marketing goals? What channels and tactics will you use? How will you measure success? Be concrete, specific, and write it down.

A few things to remember:

  • Make sure your product messaging emphasizes the benefits to the user.
  • Never exaggerate or promise what you can’t deliver.
  • Where will you reach out and engage with your target? Mobile app?
  • Answer the “relevancy question” early in your marketing: why should your target care?
  • Educate your customers and leads on your product, its benefits, its USP, its advantage over the competition, and more.

A better product than your competition + a better marketing plan = a more successful business.

Step 5: Can You Handle It?

Plan for failure, yes, but don’t forget to plan for success, too.

If the product takes off, if it resonates with your target market, if it exceeds your wildest expectations, are you ready to scale up and meet that demand?

You have to be. Nothing can derail a new product faster than delivery delays and out-of-stock notices.

Those issues will generate as much – if not more – word-of-mouth buzz and kill your momentum. Before you launch, put systems and plans in place to scale up and meet the demand you hope is in the mail.

Launch before you’re ready, and you’re dead in the water.

Step 6: Gather Feedback

And use it. Have a plan to connect with every customer on some level: email, social media, a phone call, instant messaging, and more.

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Ask them questions on everything from marketing and the product itself, to pricing and value-added services. Ask them how you can improve your service. Ask them how you could improve your product once they’ve had a chance to use it for a while.

Ask. Analyse. And implement.

A product launch is hard enough without making it worse. Take the six steps outlined here to set yourself up for maximum success with minimum stress.

Look at good product launches for inspiration. Learn from bad ones and avoid their mistakes. Do your homework.

Launch that product the right way: in the right place, at the right price, and at the right time.

Anything to add? What tricks did you pick up during your last launch? Leave your comments below.