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How to avoid a disastrous product launch

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You had had a fantastic idea. You know it will do well, it will bring your company great success and people will love it. The product looks good, you have stock ready and launch day is approaching. Research suggests that 74% of people are excited when a new product launches and with the lead up to the festive season officially underway, that launch needs to go well. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Here are just a few issues you may face and just what you can do to avoid them.

There is no market for your product

The problem:

Without proper market research, your excellent, groundbreaking idea may be nothing more than a wasted one. If there’s no call for your product, no need for it or you are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t need fixing, then, unfortunately, consumers just aren’t going to buy it. There may be similar products out there already and trying to launch in direct competition with an established, successful brand which already provides convenience can be a tough sell.

The solution:

In order to avoid the mistake of financing, producing, testing and launching a product there is no demand for, thorough research needs to be completed. Look into the why of products (why is it needed? Why do people want them?). If it’s not something people want, chances are it’s a mistake.

You have to ensure that there is a market waiting for your product. Is there a gap you can fill? Who would you target? Is there enough scope for your business to grow around the product if it is a massive success? Over 30,000 consumer products are launched a globally every year (Forbes) and only 1 in 10 succeed. If you don’t have the answer to the above questions, you may end up being one of the product failures. The good news is, there is always time for more research.

An example:

In 1989 RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company released ‘smokeless’ cigarettes. They were a colossal failure, not only was there no demand but they apparently tasted like burning plastic. Not enough research had been done into consumer desires and the company suffered greatly for it. It may seem an aged example, but learning from the people who have suffered failure before is an excellent way of avoiding the same mistakes.

product launch

Your company is unable to support success

The problem:

If your product is a sudden success and your company has not prepared for it, then the product may fail as the company buckles under the pressure of trying to accommodate orders. Fast growth may seem like an excellent problem to have, but if you can’t keep up, your quick success will turn to rapid failure.

The solution:

This may seem like an obvious answer but planning is a major key to success. Before your product launches, you should plan for both its success and its failure. If it is a sudden hit, your company will have to match demand, produce more products and ensure that quality doesn’t slip in order to please your new customers.

The average cost of launching a new product is in the realms of $15 million (£11,600,000) and whether or not it will succeed is a gamble. If you have a contingency plan in place for the positive and negative outcomes, your company may remain stable whatever happens.

An example:

In 2000, a company named American Biophysics launched a product named Mosquito Magnet, a potentially life-saving device that used carbon dioxide to lure mosquitoes into a trap. The timing was perfect, the product was well made and it was an instant success.

Unfortunately, American Biophysics hadn’t quite planned for the sudden swell of demand. They panicked and moved the product from their own small production to a mass production facility in China. The quality of the product dropped, customers were enraged and the product very nearly left the market. American Biophysics lost substantial revenue and was eventually sold.

product launch

Your product falls short of your claims

The problem:

If you claim that your product is the second coming and in your marketing campaign you big up its fantastic features, clever use and how it will revolutionise the industry, it's next to useless if the product doesn’t actually deliver.

By all means market every drop of professional use and potential out of your up and coming product, but if you are selling it as the answer when it does not even answer the question, unfortunately, failure is imminent. 50% of consumers suggest the main reason they are interested in buying the latest products is the desire to try something new - they are excited without you giving false promises.

The solution:

There is a very simple solution to this. Yes, you are excited about your product and your potential customers should be too, but don’t overstate its benefits. If you promise capabilities, features and design that it does not have, you run the risk of disappointing your buyers and losing their trust.

4%  of buyers base their decision on social buzz and 9% believe shareable content online is important for launches, so remember to promote (especially on social media) what your product can do. But also remember to downplay it a little so that when it comes to launching, people are happy and surprised by what it actually does. Don’t build too much expectation otherwise, people might believe it can do far more than reality.

Test your product thoroughly with audiences to ensure that it meets their requirements and be prepared to tweak if they don’t believe you’re marketing it correctly. If they love it and it does more than they expect, they’ll let you know.

An example:

In 1996 Nintendo released the Virtual Boy.

Virtual reality was a brand new technology. It was exciting, it was innovative and it could be right there in your very own home. It was promised that you would get swept away to new worlds and have exciting adventures without leaving the room.

Unfortunately, what the Virtual Boy actually delivered was a low res black and red nightmare. It sold less than 1 million units and to this day is used as a stigma of modern gaming technology and a warning about overhype.

product launch

The problem:

One of the major selling points of a product is price. Whether its newly launched or has been around a while, consumers need to be swayed by the cost of an item before they purchase it. Getting the price right on your fresh, new product is vital. If you choose to charge customers far more than the product is actually worth (or more importantly, what they think its worth) then they just won’t buy it.

Equally, undercharging can have a negative impact too, as customers may believe your product is not as strong as it actually is.

The solution:

Trying to understand how your potential customers think is vital. If they value your product differently to you, then pricing will be difficult. By testing said product on consumers you will be able to garner their reactions and their opinions into a sound bracket for your price range. About 30 to 45% of new products fail to deliver any meaningful financial return, so in order to appeal to your audience and ensure your product is a success, the price should match what you are offering. Make sure there is value in it.

An example:

Before Apple was one of the biggest, most successful companies on the planet, they had a few bad days. One of their mistakes was the ‘Apple Newton’. An overlarge PDA, the Apple Newton came with a hefty starting price of $700. Needless to say it didn’t sell. Fortunately, this failure later paved the way for the eventual groundbreaking success of the iPad.

product launch

Product execution/Design Flaws

The problem:

Not all products are designed well. It’s a sad fact, especially when people put so much effort into the later promotion. Terrible quality can not only inhibit a consumer's experience, but it can also be dangerous. If products have a poor reputation from the offset, then they are guaranteed to fail. Sometimes these problems don’t surface until after launch, but when they do, customer trust is lost.

The solution:

Everything must work.

Vigorous testing must be carried out on your product. Even if you have every confidence in it, every single element should be tested and then tested again. Look for potential customers to get hands on - 67% of consumers are more likely to buy a new item if they’re able to try it out first. It will help you avoid any later pitfalls, pick out any current issues and help you improve the product in every way. It will give you a chance to inspect every single aspect and know every element before your launch so you can answer any potential questions.

Do not be afraid to push back the launch date if it means working out the kinks of your product. It’s far better to send it out a little later than to release on time and have potential issues which would damage your reputation.

An example:

The very latest and infamous example of a rudimentary design flaw happened in 2016 with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. The entire line had to be recalled - why? There was a problem with the lithium batteries overheating. There were instances of phones starting to melt, some burst into flame and there was even an incident where a car was supposedly burned down by one. Terrifying stuff. The phone hadn’t been tested enough and people were put in danger because of it.

product launch

Concluding thoughts

Creating a new product is difficult. With few gaps in the market to fill and demand for brand new products still high (63% of consumers like when manufacturers offer new products), getting the launch right when you do have a great idea is mandatory for success. By looking at what could go wrong as opposed to hoping all will go well, you will be far more prepared when launch day finally arrives.

July 20th, 2017 by Hannah Newman

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