There is constant pressure on companies to come up with new product ideas. But the reality is that the journey from the initial idea to a successful product launch is difficult and paved with many complicated challenges.
Every year, 30,000 new products are introduced to the market, and 95 percent of them fail, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. What separates successful product launches from failures is very often a structured approach for creating a comprehensive product marketing strategy.
This article explains what goes into developing a successful product, highlighting the importance of pre-launch marketing.
1. The Journey Begins with In-Depth Market Research
The success of a product idea doesn’t depend only on its technical merits. If that were the case, Betamax would have defeated VHS, nobody would wear mechanical watches, and Apple products wouldn’t be nearly as popular as they are today.
For a product to become successful, it must—first and foremost—be a good fit for the target audience. The problem is that many companies never bother to validate their business ideas, analyze their competitors, or even identify target audiences before they waste millions of dollars trying to figure out how to market a product that nobody wants.
Sometimes, when marketing a new product, business owners dismiss developing an actual product marketing strategy and rely too strongly on their gut feeling and expertise, arguing that Steve Jobs never bothered with market research so why should they. What they don’t realize is that Steve Jobs launched numerous product failures because of his disdain for product idea validation, including the Apple Lisa, Macintosh TV, the Apple III, or the Power Mac G4 Cube.
Of course, it’s entirely possible to achieve great success by saying, “I have an idea for a product!” and throwing a large amount of money toward it, but this has been proven time and time again to be an inefficient waste of valuable resources.
“There are two ways to achieve product/market fit: adjust your product to fit what the market wants or move the market to align with your product. The former is a whole lot less expensive than the latter,” says Bret Waters CEO of Tivix. “No startup should build a product or develop a service without thoroughly testing its assumptions, given the tools available today and the low cost associated with gaining valuable insights. But entrepreneurs continue to overlook this important starting point—particularly when they have significant venture capital in their bank account,” he adds.
A good product development strategy always begins with in-depth market research and product validation to ensure that the right solution is being created. Is the product intended for an oversaturated market? Competitor analysis can reveal the answer. Are there some missing features that could make the target audience like the product even more? Target audience analysis can provide useful hints.
By establishing a partnership with a full-cycle digital marketing agency like ComboApp during the pre-launch stage, companies can clearly define the opportunity through market research and effectively position their products to meet the wants and needs of their target market.
2. Marketing and its Role in Developing a Product Strategy
A product strategy should be driven by the needs of real users—not assumptions as is often the case. “Assumptions are a double-edged sword. In some cases, they are those crucial eureka moments—sheer genius that strikes like a bolt from the blue. In other cases—as the product launch statistics indicate—such assumptions are dangerous indeed,” explains Neil Patel, the world’s leading online marketer and New York Times best-selling author.
A well-thought-out product strategy is like a map that guides each and every step of product development, from the very early stages, through the first product concept, to marketing. This map helps create alignment between marketing and product development teams, which is key because it allows the company to focus on the needs of its target market, instead of spreading itself too thin and achieving far worse results.
“Since markets have become increasingly global and complex, and the levels of competition have reached staggering heights, this outdated concept has, out of necessity, fallen by the wayside. It has become increasingly mandatory for marketing professionals to drive product development and product life cycle functions within the organization,” states Darrin C. Duber-Smith, M.S., MBA, is a senior lecturer at Metropolitan State University of Denver’s College of Business.
“Alignment between marketing and product development teams is the key because it allows the company to focus on the needs of its target market, instead of spreading itself too thin and achieving far worse results.”
Marketing a new product is always far easier if it has been developed with the target market in mind. Every business strategy should revolve around a clearly defined vision for the product. It’s the vision that helps the marketing team create engaging messaging and the development team to create marketable features. The vision should be described in a product roadmap, a high-level visual summary that maps out the vision and direction of the product over time.
In addition to the vision, this roadmap should also include information about the target market (demographic, geographic, behavioral, and psychographic), describe where the product will fit into the current market, explain what the product does and what makes it unique, specify what value it brings to the consumer, set out key dates the company needs to hit for the release of the product, and outline the resources required.
3. Optimizing Before Launch with Focus Group Testing
According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, market research itself can be deceptive because consumers don’t go about their shopping by conforming to particular segments. “The fact that you’re 18 to 35 years old with a college degree does not cause you to buy a product,” he says.
“It may be correlated with the decision, but it doesn’t cause it. … We realized that the causal mechanism behind a purchase is, ‘Oh, I’ve got a job to be done.’ And it turns out that it’s really effective in allowing a company to build products that people want to buy.”
Focus group testing involves a group of users talking about their experiences and expectations as a way how to acquire feedback regarding new products. Focus group testing is best performed during the early stages of product development, when companies are trying to develop their product strategy and optimize their products before launch. When done correctly, focus group testing helps determine how to market a new product and generate as much interest in consumers as possible.
The story of Sir James Dyson is a great example of why optimizing before launch and understanding what it is that customers really think is so important. Before the famous British inventor created his first successful bagless vacuum cleaner, he went through 5,127 prototypes.
After the success of the DC01 upright and DC02 cylinder cleaner, Dyson, who believes that it can take a very long time to develop interesting products and get them right, wanted to maintain its market-leading position with more, innovative products. Market research quickly became the main drive behind product development at Dyson, and the rest is history.
By including customers in the development process with focus groups, surveys, and usability testing, Dyson not only discovered an extremely effective strategy how to market a new product, but the company single-handedly reinvented a mature market.
4. Creating Success with Pre-Launch Marketing (Landing Page, Content Strategy, Link Building, SEO)
Success creates more success—not only in life but also in business. Customers are influenced not only by marketing but also by the behavior and decisions of other customers. For example, the goal of pre-launch marketing is to tell your target audience that you have an idea for an app and make them excited about it. When the app is finally released (provided the pre-launch marketing was successful), customers will flock to it, increasing curiosity around the app and convincing even more customers to check it out.
“Those who underestimate the importance of marketing in product development and skip such important activities as pre-launch marketing may discover that customers are simply not interested in what they have to offer.”
Many pages have been dedicated to how to market an app before launch, and it boils down to these four components:
- Creating a landing page: A landing page is an important part of pre-launch marketing because Studies show that marketers capture leads at a higher rate by sending them to dedicated landing pages, rather than sending traffic to the home page. Landing page testing (A/B testing) helps increase the effectiveness of a landing page and, consequently, the ROI of online advertising.
- Coming up with a content strategy: 87 percent of visionaries and 81 percent of leaders keep content at the core of their marketing efforts because content marketing generates three times the leads per dollar spent over paid search marketing. There are many types of content to explore, from blog posts to podcasts to YouTube videos, each serving a slightly different purpose but all falling within the realm of content marketing.
- Practicing link building: Link building can be seen as a by-product of a successful content marketing strategy. Even though links are no longer the most important Google ranking factor, they can still help spread the word about the product and drive engagement.
- Implementing a cost-effective SEO strategy: SEO isn’t just about keywords. It’s about making a website accessible for real users and search engines alike. It reflects the fact that most users come from mobile devices and won’t recommend a business if their mobile website is poorly designed or unresponsive.
Pre-launch marketing, just like all other marketing efforts, should be driven by the overall product marketing strategy. Companies that would like to maintain sharp focus on product development instead of worrying about how to market a product a long time before it’s ready, can turn to a full-cycle digital marketing agency with extensive experience in developing, executing, analyzing and fine-tuning search engine optimization and providing content management solutions for both B2B and B2C clients, such as ComboApp.
5. The Journey Ends with a Marketing Feedback Loop
Since the dawn of our species, humans have been thriving on feedback. In fact, all biological systems operate on a mechanism of inputs and outputs called a feedback loop.
“Positive feedback loops enhance or amplify changes; this tends to move a system away from its equilibrium state and make it more unstable. Negative feedbacks tend to dampen or buffer changes; this tends to hold a system to some equilibrium state, making it more stable,” explains the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College.
Feedback loops can also be incorporated in product development and marketing, allowing companies to continuously optimize their products after the launch by gathering and analyzing user feedback. For marketing feedback loops to work, companies must actively ask customers to leave feedback because that’s the only way how to get enough data.
As revealed by research from Apptentive, most brands hear from less than 1 percent of their customers. However, the number jumps to 70 percent when companies actively seek out customer feedback. Every post-launch marketing plan should include strategies on how to keep the target audience engaged and how to capture feedback to adjust and optimize product roadmap.
Once marketing feedback loops are in place, informed decisions can be made to better satisfy customers’ needs and create closer relationships with them.
It takes a lot of work to develop a successful product, but all the hard work can go to waste if the company behind it doesn’t know how to market a new product. Companies that have a marketing team on board from the very beginning and throughout the entire lifecycle of a product (regardless of whether it is a website, app, or something else entirely) have a much greater chance of achieving their goals and emerging as market leaders.
On the other hand, those who underestimate the importance of marketing in product development and skip such important activities as pre-launch marketing may discover that customers are simply not interested in what they have to offer. The good news is that all companies can effortlessly come up with an effective way how to market a product by partnering with an end-to-end digital solutions agency like ComboApp.
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