Sooner or later, your small business will probably have to release a new product in order to grow. But unless you take a few key steps beforehand, your effort may be doomed to fail.
Here are four critical things to do before you launch a new product.
1. Figure out what customers want. Entrepreneurs come up with ideas for new products all the time. That’s not the same thing as determining whether a market exists for any given item.
One way to determine if customers need what you aim to produce is by asking them. Another useful approach: Identify a problem that your customers, or consumers in general, are experiencing. If your new product would offer a viable solution, you may be able to deliver just what the market is missing.
2. Design a marketing strategy to generate buzz. Just prior to launching your product, you’ll want to get the word out. Prepare a press release that explains why your item deserves attention (tip: a tie-in with current events usually helps). Avoid general hyperbole, such as “This is a once-in-a-lifetime product!” Instead, be as specific as possible about the solution your product provides and how it can improve a user’s life.
Don’t stop there, either. As part of your marketing strategy, consider different ways to get customers interested in your new offering, such as:
- Giveaways — On your website and Facebook page, offer prospective buyers a free sample in exchange for basic contact information. “Giveaways like these get consumers excited to engage,” Doreen Bloch, CEO and founder of Poshly, writes for Yahoo. “Consumers like to try before they buy, so new launches benefit from allowing relevant consumers to sample or test new products or services.”
- Sharable content — Posting valuable content on social media increases the likelihood of getting buzz for your new product. This could be an eye-catching infographic (with statistics that illustrate a consumer problem your product addresses), an entertaining short video, or anything that’s easy for consumers to share with their personal networks. If what you’ve created happens to go viral, be ready to take advantage of it.
- Digital influencers — If you know of bloggers who carry a lot of weight and influence in your market, let them know about your new product just prior to launch. (Again, avoid blatant self-promotion and tout the item’s benefits to consumers.) Their endorsements can go a long way toward promoting your offering.
3. Conduct a “soft launch.” You can gain considerable insight into a product’s potential by doing a limited release ahead of widespread availability. Invite a small group of loyal customers to “test-drive” the product. Then interview them about the experience, looking specifically at what works and what doesn’t. This can help you refine the product before its actual launch, if necessary.
Meanwhile, ensure your e-commerce website (landing page, FAQ, contact info, checkout, etc.) can handle the new item. The last thing you want is to have excited prospective customers encounter a glitch during the buying process.
4. Focus on delivering a good vs. perfect product. Did your test-drive yield mostly positive results? If so, go for it! “Don’t wait until your product is finished,” Charlie Graham, founder and CEO of Shop It to Me, tells Inc. “Wait just until it can give a good first impression. You can always improve it afterward, but getting the product out will let you get valuable feedback that will shape the features you build next.”
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