Apple product launch have become the stuff of legend.
When iPhone 3G was launched it sold over a million units on its launch weekend and iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million units within three days. Clearly, Steve Jobs knew how to launch a product.
Launching a new product or service isn’t what is used to be. In the “good old days,” you could hire a PR agency to craft a press release and prepare for a press tour. On the big day, if all your efforts of attending and pleasing journalists worked, you could sit back and watch the articles roll in. But times have changed and so has the challenge. In the current information age, getting your name in a publication has become easier than before as new media landscape incorporates far fewer major outlets; rather, it is made up of a smaller number of niche publications and number of specialist bloggers.
The success of a product launch could determine a company’s survival. So what are the keys to a successful launch? How can they be applied to your business? How can we learn from the best?
While we can all agree that Apple’s reputation and fanbase obviously plays a large role in the success of their launches, there are numerous strategies any company can employ to make their own product launch a huge success:
Focus on the People, Not the Product
A winning product launch starts with matching the capabilities of your product (or service) to the needs of your target market. Its about figuring out how does the product or service affect the life of its user. Rarely do you hear Steve Jobs talking about the various features of Apple products. He knows most people don’t care, and the ones who do can easily find that information on the website or product literature. Instead, he goes out of his way to emphasise how the product affects you. How its annoying to carry both a phone and an MP3 player and how with an iPhone you can could both. It’s about simplicity, productivity, style — all things he knows people are interested in.
And that is how you should frame your marketing. The more you talk about your product and how its superior in comparison to others, the more you become like other instead show them a compelling picture of how it’s going to make their life better. That’s what gets people excited.
Get Opinion Leaders/Influencers on Board
Apple does this really well. Apple would get together bloggers and thought leaders on board early and this would have them talking months before a product launch. You would see a heap of opinion pieces and speculations on what Apple could be releasing in the coming months. Even as a small business this is very beneficial even though you might not have the biggest media outlets lining up for you. Even if it doesn’t get you much coverage, it’ll give you something to build on. The media will know who you are, so come launch day, at least you’re not starting cold.
Influencers can be friendly customers, prospects, or even bloggers who have a sizable online presence. Encourage these people to use your product or service and then write review articles or posts.
Tell Them Why It Matters – Clear Positioning and Messaging
When Steve Jobs took to the stage, people watched. It dint matter you had an Apple product or could even afford one, it wasn’t because Apple was a big company, its was because they knew Apple is out to change the world. They change the way we think about the entire product category, and whole industries have to shift just to keep up. And people talk about it. Emphasise on why you exist and how are you changing lives. If you would have noticed, in Mark Zuckerberg’s recent Facebook Live broadcast from F8 conference, he spent an incredible amount of time initially talking about “Why” Facebook exists, its visions, and how they plan to fulfil that vision with its range of products.
Can you do the same? Of course, you can.
You might not be Apple or Facebook, chances are you are a small business just shaping up to change things, but every company, no matter how small, has the opportunity to revolutionise their business. Paint a picture of the future that your customers want to live in, and then put your whole company into motion creating that vision. Inspire your audience, everyone needs it.
Clear SMART Goals
You won’t have a chance at a winning product launch if you don’t establish clear goals. The goals frame the purpose of your product launch and help guide you in evaluating launch tactics. The use of SMART goal setting helps you and your team to know where the focus needs to be. As they say “Wherever focus goes, energy flows” To make your goal S.M.A.R.T., it needs to conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting clarifies the difference between ‘I want to be a millionaire’ and ‘I want to make 50.000 a month for the next ten years by creating a new software product’.
Questions you may ask yourself when setting your goals and objectives are:
- What exactly do I want to achieve?
- With whom?
- What are the conditions and limitations?
- Why exactly do I want to reach this goal? What are possible alternative ways of achieving the same?
Reporting on the results of your product launch should be a natural outcome of establishing launch goals. Define metrics that support the goals and then a meaningful Launch Status Report can be developed.
Turn Your Product Launch into an Event
When Apple launches a product they don’t just involve themselves pure PR activities. They build an event around the product so leave all attendees with a memorable experience. Knowing something intellectually is one thing and experiencing it for yourself is another.
Now a bunch of things here to note.
First up, you’ll need a team for your product launch. Even if a small team, you’ll need to identify your strengths and fill in the rest of the seats with to your best capabilities. Have a weekly war room with your team to get everyone on the same page and resolve open issues.
Second, maintain as much suspense as you can running up to the product launch event. Anticipation is a very powerful tool to grab attention in our current information intense internet world, use it wisely. Apples so far as to even close their online store, so that everyone knows something important is happening and they need to pay attention.
Third, One of the biggest secrets to a winning launch is priming the pump. This basically means to use any activity or resource to build excitement and demand around your product before its available to buyers. You can prime the pump no matter how large or small your company or the size of your budget. Start with:
- Involving customer support – these guys are on the front lines. Take advantage of it.
- Sales team – the sooner the better. Brief them early and give them the information they need to prime the pump in their territories.
- Channel partners – include them early so they can educate their customers
- Executives – they can be your biggest evangelists
- Industry Analysts – brief them, get their feedback and keep them up-to-date on developments
Fourth, if you have a budget, throw a big press event, invite family and friends, bloggers, prospects, influencers etc If not, at least have some kind of online event. If you make a big deal about your product launch, both your potential customers and the media are likely to take it more seriously, and it’ll be reflected in your product sales.
Having planned and execute all of the above is good but you need to know that A Product Launch is a process that has a lifecycle. You might think of a product launch as an event, which makes a lot of noise and gets attention, which is ok. There may very well be a launch event as part of a launch process, but it may be just one of the things that are part of a winning launch. The purpose of a Product Launch is to build sales momentum. Sales momentum enables your company to grow and prosper. You will add more customers and expand your influence.