So you have reached the moment where you think you are ready for your product to hit the market, but there are several important aspects you should have in place for your business in order to make a splash with your customers. Here is our take on what those are.
1) A clear understanding of your customers and market
For starters, you really do not have a product without a crystal clear picture of who your customers are and what problem you are solving. Too often entrepreneurs overlook or short change the customer discovery phase and therefore develop incomplete sketches of their potential customers; or they make biased assumptions based on leading questions or filtered data - ultimately proving whatever beliefs they already hold. You need to prove that people are willing to pay for your solution (versus a “user”) and further delineate that it is a good fit for the intended market, taking into account factors such as market size, competitive landscape, etc.
2) A minimum viable product
Hopefully, you have spent (almost) the minimum in developing a baseline product with which you can enter the market and start earning revenue. You would be amazed - or maybe not - at the number of entrepreneurs with whom I speak who believe their product can go into dozens of different verticals; but sometimes you just need to start with one. Don’t build before you validate and continue to add unnecessary features in an effort to achieve a bloated “ideal” solution. In that case, you often end up dumping thousands of dollars into things that the market is not interested in or that a need at least has not been proven. Before you launch, your product should have the least amount of features and fluff needed in order to solve the problem for your customers. There is nothing wrong with going after the low-hanging fruit.
3) A strong value proposition backed by purposeful brand/message pillars
What makes your product and your company unique? What are the tangible benefits that you offer which no other competitor can? Although informed by customer feedback, these are the internal mechanism determined by company leadership, and they filter into every aspect of the business - marketing, sales, customer service, etc. Every person within your company needs to learn, believe and communicate these ideals to customers and the community. It needs to be clear, simple and effective so as to leave little doubt in the buyer’s mind. As Dave Daniels notes, you need to construct message pillars which are “the simple phrases that reinforce the value your product delivers to your customers.”
4) A dedicated customer engagement and marketing strategy
Now that you have specific messaging in place, you need to have a communication strategy to actually get the word out. This includes the marketing channels, content types, and overall goals of the campaign. Again, your customer segments dictate the what, where, when and why of your engagement efforts; in fact, they should be even deeper representations of your buyer personas. Whereas your initial validation is focused primarily on problem-solution fit, here you are accumulating information on communication and marketing preferences, additional needs and challenges, as well as personal and professional goals. Your strategy also needs to include your post-launch promises: describe your lead nurturing tactics; outline opportunities to up-sell buyers; explore ways in which you can promote referrals.
5) Pre-launch buzz
Now that you have the strategy in place, you need to start creating buzz at least a few weeks in advance if not longer. This can be a mixture of numerous tactics, including social media campaigns, pre-launch teasers, the development of channel partners, and additional public relations efforts. You should also have a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to track business contacts as well as your pipeline of potential consumers. Start accumulating a contact list as well by adding a form submission on your website. Ultimately, your message needs to start reaching customers well in advance of the actual day you flip the switch.
Some of the more interesting pre-launch marketing tactics you can employ come from Freelance’s presentation 26 Product Launch Strategies. It is a really good overview of options an entrepreneur has in order to prime the promotional pump. But again, stay consistent with your customer and your brand.