The fact is, your digital product launch strategy should be a core part of your original product design and development plan. That’s partly why the legendary Seth Godin said “you can no longer say marketing is what I do at the end. It is what you do at the beginning.”
That may explain why (from my experience) many experienced founders now try to imagine the entire process that’d go into their digital product evolution. They try to observe trends/behaviors and gather as much data/details as they can, before taking any serious action towards product development or promotion.
As an emerging founder, you’ve probably imagined that you’d need to research your target market. Size up the competition. Assemble a team. And, finally, create your product. Awesome! Now, what next?
Develop a product strategy that’d minimize risk, improve viability and impress the target audience
I’ve found that many aspiring/new founders assume that they’d only need to start thinking about product strategy (and launch strategy) after they’ve finished developing their products. This could be counterproductive. The best time to develop your product strategy (including your product launch strategy) is before (not after) you finish developing your product.
A product strategy is the evolutionary vision of the product. Whether you’re building a new product from scratch or enhancing an existing one, a well-defined product strategy helps you make better product decisions, promotes consistency between teams and ensures that the product will bring real value to the market. In essence, your product strategy needs to outline what your product is, where it’s going, why users need it, and how you will promote it to users. This is where the product launch strategy is usually birthed.
Without a clear product strategy in place, you risk giving the product a bunch of unnecessary features, replicating other products on the market, and/or putting stakeholders’ wishes above users’ needs. Basically, the lack of early product strategy may increase the odds of launching a product that’s bound to fail. Fortunately, a sound product/product launch strategy is not beyond what any aspiring founder can put together.
Four actionable steps to building a useful product strategy framework
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
As I already explained, having a product strategy in place is pivotal to the creation of a viable product that would stand the chance to remain in the market for the long term. Thus, to develop a solid product strategy framework, you need to:
1) Clarify your business objectives
Conduct stakeholder interviews to learn more about the digital product you’re creating. Find out about any conflicting views, possible constraints, and practical solutions.
Questions to ask: Why are you building this product? Who is it for? What problem(s) does it solve? How is it different from other products? How will you profit from it? What is the ultimate goal that this product is designed to fulfill?
2) Get to know your competitors
Discover direct and indirect competitors who are attempting to solve the same problem. Analyzing the competitive landscape will help you understand the product differentiators and achieve unique positioning in the market.
Questions to ask: Who are your competitors? What features do they offer? How much does their product cost? What are the key differentiators? How are they promoting their product?
3) Get to know the intended users
Understand who your users are so you can shape your product to their needs. You also need to know where they are in the digital world, the common digital products they typically use, and the kind of influencers and digital tribes they generally belong to. Try to validate your assumptions by conducting user research, which should involve speaking to prospective users or users of your competitor’s products (more on this later).
Questions to ask: Who are your target users? Where can you find them online? Who do they listen to? How do they behave? Which similar products (direct or indirect) do they currently use? How do they typically use those products? What problems and frustrations do they currently have? How can your product help them?
4) Be sure to document your findings
Gather everything you’ve learned about your business, competition, and users, and document it. This way, you and your team will always have something to fall back on for clarity and direction.
Questions to ask: What have you learned from the findings? How will the findings help you improve the product? Are there any unsolved constraints?
*Note: The product strategy framework (at this stage) should not impose specific/final solutions. Instead, it should serve as a reference point to help teams prioritize tasks, assist in the decision-making process, and strengthen consistency among teams/units. Thing is, there’s still a need to go the extra mile in user research before making concrete decisions on strategy.
Conduct user research to gain valuable insight into the behavior/motivations of your primary target audience
You might think you’ve got an awesome product idea. But how certain are you that people need it, and will be willing to pay for it sustainably? No matter how good a product is, it’s useless if nobody wants it.
“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” — Seth Godin
Again, it’s vital to conduct user research early in the product development phase to determine what users want and more importantly, need from your product. This way, you can make quality decisions regarding your digital product.
Four effective user research methods any aspiring founder can deploy quickly
Ready? Try one or a mix of the following user research methods to help you better understand your target audience:
1) Create user personas
User personas are a representation of your target user group. They are a valuable research tool to help you understand how to build — and market — your product to a specific group of people. The aim of personas is to prioritize problems and solutions by predicting user behavior.
A good user persona incorporates the ideal user’s demographic profile, professional background, motivations, frustrations, and goals.
2) Conduct user surveys
User surveys are a good way of collecting quantitative data about your users before a product is designed or released. To carry out a survey, develop a list of questions that validate or refute any of your assumptions.
If possible, reach out to existing users or find survey participants via social media and online advertising. Just remember not to get too carried away with your questions or else people will skip the survey.
3) Hold user interviews
In-person interviews let you gather qualitative data about your users, their thoughts, and experiences. Since interviews are more flexible, you can delve into more detail about how users interact with your digital product and the quality of their interactions.
To get the most useful information out of interviews, avoid leading, closed, or vague questions that only elicit “yes” or “no” responses. This way, you will extract more useful information from users.
4) Observe people using your product
Another effective way to understand user behavior is to watch how people use your product. The goal of this research method is to observe how users navigate their way toward the successful completion of the task at hand. Therefore, this method is also ideal for testing the proficiency of your UX design.
To make the most of this user research method, ask users to perform specific tasks and encourage them to talk you through the process. For accurate results, keep any interference at an absolute minimum.
Also, again, you want to get as much information on your competitors as you can. What trends are they following, how are they promoting their products, and what features do they have? Looking at how your competitors are positioning themselves in the market is crucial to launching and positioning your own digital product. You may also use this new information to update/validate your initial product strategy framework.
Once your product strategy framework and user experience research are in place, the next thing is to design a process that would ensure that legendary user experience and enviable customer experience are a core part of your product delivery.
Define and communicate product value through an impeccable UX and CX process
You cannot launch a digital product without first laying the foundations for great user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX). Providing a seamless UX and CX will increase product value and make it easier to achieve your business goals. Therefore, you should work hard to fine-tune both your UX and CX strategy before launching your digital product.
But aren’t UX and CX pretty much the same? No, they’re not.
UX looks at how users interact with a specific digital product and their overall experience using it. Specifically, UX deals with the design of a product’s interface in terms of usability, navigation, predictability, visual hierarchy, and information architecture.
On the other hand, CX has a broader scope and looks at how users interact with all aspects of a brand — including products, customer service, sales process, advertising, brand reputation, and pricing — and how the user feels about them.
Now that you know the difference between UX and CX, you probably want to improve yours as soon as possible.
Five actionable keys to awesome user experience
For awesome user experience, you should pay attention to:
- Consistency — Ensure that customers will have the same experience across devices
- Simplicity — Remove any unnecessary steps in the customer journey
- Flow — Allow customers to smoothly navigate their way across touchpoints.
- User control — Give users the ability to use the product independently and efficiently
- Accessibility — Make your product easily accessible to as many customers as possible.
Five actionable keys to awesome customer experience
For great customer experience, you should focus on:
- Communication — Simplify communication processes for easier, real-time interactions
- Personalization — Let users personalize aspects of their experience
- Customer centricity — Put your customers first at every stage of the customer journey
- Speed — Respond to customers’ needs and requests as soon as possible
- Proactivity — Be proactive rather than reactive when dealing with customers
Once you’re done with the preliminary product/competition/user research, you’d be able to formulate a clear hypothesis regarding your product’s viability and the potential impact it would have on the market. Now it’s time to prove/disprove that hypothesis through prototype testing.
Build a prototype of your intended product and test it
A prototype is one of the best ways to demonstrate the value of a product to prospective users. Releasing a prototype of your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) before the official launch date helps paint a clearer picture of how users can use and interact with your product.
Just think about how much easier it would be to sell a product that you can actually show to users. It requires less imagination and getting a sneak-peek of the product scraps any doubts that potential users may have about buying it.
Draw on your findings from your market research to build a prototype, and then conduct beta testing on real users. Beta testing lets you confirm launch date readiness, evaluate customer experience early on, and more importantly, build product awareness. By doing so, you can identify any problems and solve them accordingly.
If your earlier hypothesis is disproved, a flaw is discovered, or something is found to be wrong during the testing period, it’s all good. That’s the time to go back and fix the problem (hopefully) without a monumental liability. But if all goes well, then you’re all set to launch. But, between the period of successful prototype test and the official launch date is a period that can be used for pre-launch activities.
Use the pre-launch period to build strong anticipation for your product launch
This stage focuses on what you need to do in the time leading up to your official digital product launch — which is usually weeks (and sometimes months) in advance.
The pre-launch stage is the perfect opportunity to stir the waters, spread the word, and prepare your audience for what’s coming. If you have done a good job from the onset, you’d find it easier to capture the attention of your target audience (and their influencers); and credibly spread your product’s uniqueness (and value) on the right media platforms/channels.
The idea is to create a massive buzz and anticipation that builds up to the official launch date. At a bare minimum, you need to deploy a mix communication tactics strategically in order to have a successful product launch.
Seven pre-launch tactics you can use to generate buzz and build anticipation for your digital product
You can have a super cool product, but without promoting it, no one will hear about it. Generating buzz is one of the most important elements of taking your product to market.
“You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” — Beth Comstock
Depending on your existing clout, budget and overall marketing strategy, below is a non-exhaustive list of some effective pre-launch tactics you can use to promote your product leading up to the big day: A strategic mix of all the entire tactics may create more buzz.
1) Build landing pages
Create a landing page with key information about your product. Add a countdown timer to generate extra anticipation.
2) Set up a pre-orders system
Set up a separate landing page where users can pre-order your product. Offering the option to pre-order will tell you if people are actually interested in your product.
3) Use email broadcasts
Send out a set of email campaigns to your audience. Partners/influencers may also be engaged to do this as part of the overall strategy. Use emails to inform people about what your product is about, when it will be released, and how it will benefit them.
4) Distribute press releases
Write a press release and distribute it across different news outlets. This way, you can increase your exposure and outreach.
5) Publish blog series
Create shareable content about your product and related topics. This will bring traffic to your website and increase your visibility.
6) Post social media updates
Establish your presence on various social media channels to create even more noise about your product and upcoming launch.
7) Offer the early adapters an early bird deal
Offer a discounted price for early birds interested in your product. This pricing tactic can significantly drive sales at launch. But, even after the official release, strategic pricing models can be used to either drive or control sales at post-launch phase.
Review your metrics and reevaluate your methods at the post-launch phase
After you have officially launched your product, you should focus on user evaluations and gathering feedback.
Here are the questions you should ask yourself post-launch:
- How many conversions did I get from my website? If the number is not what you anticipated, review your UX design to identify any obstacles in the customer journey.
- What feedback did I receive from users? Take the positive and negative feedback you receive from users and use it to refine your UX and CX.
- What can I do to increase conversions and generate new leads? Think of new ways to reach out to users, such as free trials, demos, resources, and product videos.
Speaking of conversions and leads, one tried-and-tested way to capture new leads is to use a conversion-centered design.
The seven main principles of a conversion-centered design include:
- Encapsulation — Use a tunnel-like effect to guide users’ eyes to your CTA
- Contrast — Make your CTA stand out by using a color that contrasts with the background
- Directional cues — Place arrows or pathways to direct users to your CTA
- White space — Use plenty of white space to make your CTA button easier to spot
- Urgency and scarcity — Compel users to make faster purchasing decisions with triggers
- Try before you buy — Allow users to try your product before committing to buying
- Social proof — Gain trust from users by displaying testimonials or ratings from other users
But don’t stop here. Continue to look at your metrics and analytics to understand user behavior. The data you collect will help you tweak your product and drive even more conversions further along the road.
The bottom line
Launching a digital product is nothing short of exciting — or terrifying. This is why it’s essential that you plan accordingly and execute effectively.
The future of your digital product depends on what you do now and the choices you make to improve your UX. So, make your actions count and stay ahead of the curve.
Published October 21, 2019 — 11:00 UTC