I often meet with companies that have put a lot of effort into building a new brand, creating an offering or cultivating additional markets or customer segments. All of that hard work can go to waste if businesses do not plan for a successful product launch or service introduction. This can be a daunting challenge, as 80%-85% of new products fail, according to a Nielsen article. This means there’s a lot riding on creating a thoughtful and comprehensive go-to-market (GTM) strategy or plan.
As the founder of a marketing company built to help entrepreneurs take their ideas to market, I’m often asked what makes a launch a winner. Here are nine factors that are imperative to get it right based on my experience creating GTM strategies for products and services in a variety of industries.
First and foremost, the offering must be market-ready. This is especially important, considering the difference between a strong and weak product experience can result in a sales difference of 30% in one year.
While parts may not be perfect, the main features customers need should be easy to use and error-free, and what makes you competitively different needs to work seamlessly. Communications must not over-promise and, conversely, customer experience must over-deliver. Customers can be unforgiving and create bad initial PR, which can cause a long-term effect on sales.
At first, explore customer options and select a single buyer or segment to focus on. There are many benefits of targeting, like focusing limited resources in one area to make a greater impact, speaking directly to a specific audience and differentiating from competitors. Taking the time to get intimate with these customers’ needs, buying process, sources of information and influences will help you make educated decisions in other parts of your GTM strategy, such as your messaging and channel plans.
Ensuring your product or service meets a customer need or demand is essential. Enough people must need and be willing to pay for something, otherwise, even the cleverest marketing will not convince them. Using a minimum viable product and getting pre-launch feedback through interviews, surveys and testing can help you gauge interest, uncover features to promote and learn about potential weaknesses that can be addressed before going public.
How much target customers are willing to pay for a product will have an impact on profitability and product perception. Sales will be slow if an offering is overpriced, but this can be fixed by dropping the cost.
A 2003 McKinsey article put it best: “Charging too little is far more dangerous; a company not only forgoes significant revenues and profits but also fixes the product’s market value position at a low level.”
A good place to start with pricing is to research competitors and substitutes, as well as the value customers place on the problem being solved.
Communicating your value proposition to your target audience in a way that moves them can help drive sales. Creative assets should speak to the target segment in a language they understand and emphasize how a solution addresses their needs and pain points in order to attract their attention. Competitive advantages should also be highlighted to help convince people to choose you over another company.
Selecting the right time to release a product is especially important to drive initial uptake. Whether it’s the season, a new need that’s emerged or an event for target customers, aligning a launch with a reason to buy can give it added impact and drive initial momentum. It is also helpful to uncover if customers are preoccupied with other things going on in the market or their lives that could result in your efforts being ignored.
Even with thorough preparation, if a plan isn’t executed well, you risk alienating or even losing customers. All customer interactions need to be rehearsed until they are frictionless to ensure customer satisfaction, minimize returns and maximize referrals. Operations should be ready to support your customers, from pre-sales questions to billing and payment processes to customer service.
The work is not done once you go live. It is equally important to keenly monitor launch data to see what’s working and what’s not. Keeping an eye on feedback from reviews and customer service calls, especially from lead users, can bring important information back to product and marketing teams.
Monitoring the demographics of your traffic and sales can also help gauge if your targeting was correct, creative performance can inform if messaging is succeeding, and reviewing sales by channel can help you determine if your distribution plan is working. Immediately after going live, analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs) on a daily basis can help validate many assumptions from the research stage and identify trends for you to adapt to market conditions.
Things may not always go as planned with your GTM strategy, so building in flexibility and preparing a risk/mitigation plan will allow you to adjust based on market feedback. By having additional channels, tactics, offers, etc., in your back pocket, you can move fast on opportunities that present themselves once live.
Bringing a product or service to market is an exciting journey for a company. Give it the best chance with research, preparation and by creating a solid go-to-market plan. Managing a balance between the precise execution of this plan and being fluid enough to adapt to market conditions can put your company in a position to learn from customer feedback and improve upon assumptions made in the planning process, ultimately powering launch success.