If you don’t have a great product yet, there is no urgency to think about your startup launch. Product first!
Getting ready to go to market is a crazy, exciting, and stressful time. You’re probably pretty stoked, but almost certainly sleep-deprived and second-guessing yourself. What does a product launch checklist look like? What do you need to cover?
We delve a little deeper in this article for all you budding startups.
Now imagine Joe, he doesn’t have a plan. He is launching his product, and his team is looking at the phone and online sales graph. After one hour it is deathly silent. The analytics chart reads one (from the test purchase they did 30 minutes into the campaign). Suddenly the phone rings. It’s a customer stating he can’t order because the merchant transaction facility isn’t working. “Oh S#*t”, you now take 6 hours getting onto the e-commerce support desk to find out why the Visa/Mastercard transactions aren’t going through. At the end of the day, Joe looks at his web analytics and finds it peaks to 1000 hits after one hour and sees a high bounce rate and more worrying, an exit rate from the payment page. A disaster!
Rob on the other hand is also launching three months later than he originally wanted, but he made sure his plan included a thorough test procedure. On launch day his carefully selected team, who had expertise in commercial, marketing, supply chain and sales support are reviewing the phone and online sales graph. After 1 hour they see an order for ten items, then 3 hours later, the graph has risen to 100. The ‘early bird’ deals have gone. Customers are calling to ask about some technical details. The trained sales support staff answered effectively, increasing orders. After two days they surpassed their launch target and had launched a very successful startup campaign.
The most straightforward plans are usually the best, as they lack the detail to trip-up over. However, the often-stated, “Devil is in the details” is also true. A good starting point is to look at the four P’s of marketing and expand from there: Product, Price, Place & Promotion. Some recent additions to this include the seven P’s adding Process, Physical Evidence and People, but this overcomplicates the issue as these fall out in the planning stage and are a given – as you cannot do much without people.
Let’s start with the product; if you don’t have a great product yet, there is no urgency to think about your startup launch. Product first!
1. The Product
- Legal and commercial: Do you have contracts in place for suppliers and customers? Have any product testing requirements been met such as EC standards for electrical safety?
- Unique sales proposition or USP: Has the USP been established? What separates you from your competitors? Have target profiles been created, such as who you will sell to; the business owner, riders of bikes, electricians etc. Has your USP and product been validated with a test group of customers?
- Name: Does your product have a name and have you registered this to prevent any copy-cats? Have you registered the website domain names and social media accounts for the same?
- Product development: Is the development finalised and signed off after trials and testing? Is packaging and documentation in place and prepared?
- UX or User Experience: Can customers find the product to purchase, do they understand its value, and most importantly, receive the product?
- Support: Does support exist in case customers have problems with the product and can customers pay for the product?
- Outsourcing: Often overlooked by many checklists, but it’s worth highlighting that it sometimes makes sense to work with external professionals or agencies when it comes to state of the art marketing and promotion. Outsourcing can be a good idea and eventually help you design some key elements of your marketing and advertising campaign. Do you have access or know how to find the best public relations, design a lead generation funnel, design sales collateral and the associated sales copy to draw your customers into making a final purchase? It can be daunting if you don’t have the knowledge or experience in marketing, PR and how to write convincing, grammatically correct and persuasive copy. If you do everything else in-house, you might want to consider employing an expert on the marketing requirements, experienced in your field.
- PR without a budget: If you don’t have the budget to hire a PR agency or to get some other form of external help, invest some time to find relevant media contacts and influencers in your field. Then, reach out to them with a personalised and short message and a kick-ass press release as attachment. Also, there are many free startup directories (Angellist, Crunchbase, EU-Startups, etc.) where you can submit your startup/product and get the attention of some additional eyeballs.
- Have a demo/sample: Another thing you want to make sure is to have physical demo’s available for the press or potential clients to test. This can help you to eventually get more client or some helpful reviews by the media.
- Put in some thought: Considering your go-to-market plan, what will your pricing be based on for both channels and end users? If you use distributors or retailers, you need to reward them for their support, promotion and space in-store.
- Everyone should be informed: Your end-user pricing structure needs to be in place, and your in-house team need to know how to calculate any volume or channel pricing based on key criteria, such as volumes or rebates.
- Competitors: Have you reviewed your competitor’s pricing? It is rare for a company to be unique in its field, so competitor positioning is invaluable.
4. Channels to market (or place)
- Sales channels: Considering your channel strategy and pricing, is there a roll-out strategy in place for both channels (distributors and retailers) and customers? It may be more accessible to sell direct but don’t under-estimate the power of retailers and distributors to sell your product and increase volume.
- Go-to-market strategy: Many of these issues rely on your go-to-market plan as a startup. Like a one-hit wonder, with one product and a niche customer profile, it can be easier to sell direct and online. Again, don’t under-estimate the need for a good marketing team to assist in this.
5. Launch Plan / Support
- More planning: Finally, once all the above is in place, it is not over. A detailed launch plan helps you to further decrease the risk of failure, and it should also include a knowledgeable customer support.
- Launch date: Have you developed a launch plan with every team member knowing what is required? Is the launch date set? Depending on your product, you should definitely avoid holiday seasons or other outside factors that might play a role in picking your perfect launch date.
- Support strategy: Problems, problems, problems! They will happen. The best teams will have anticipated the majority of issues and have a plan in place to address the most common. These could be non-payment issues (have alternate payment methods in place), to website downtime (advise your host and test your CDN in advance in case of high volume traffic). A well trained and decision authority delegated after-sales support team is key to ensuring any problems are dealt with effectively.