Successfully launching a new beauty product is a complicated process. Whether it’s your first launch or your 20th, your team must follow the right steps in the proper sequence. Product managers, designers, formulators, marketers, and customer service teams must all work together to ensure success. Over the years, we have refined the process into the following 10-steps.
1. Make sure you have a market looking for a product and not a product desperately seeking a market.
All too often, companies (of all sizes) launch a new and exciting product into a market that isn’t well defined. Taking shortcuts on the preliminary market research that helps you identify and understand your target market will cost you. If not planned well and implemented correctly, you could face months or years of missteps, sunk costs, and lost competitive advantage.
Fast answers rarely give you the results and data foundation you need to build a credible story. You need to have a crystal clear vision of how your product will address a need in your market. Not just a “nice to have” requirement, but the kind of urgent need that will have your product pushed up to the top of a buyer’s list. Things that can be done to answer these questions include market research studies, focus groups, customer interviews, win/loss studies, and discussions with market analysts.
2. Understand the full revenue impact of your new product or service.
Often, a new product introduction can slow down or halt current sales cycles because customers choose to wait for the new product vs. purchase the available version. Make sure you fully understand the revenue impact, which encompasses the revenue erosion from other product lines and the ramp up time expected for the new product to generate enough revenue to replace what was coming in from the existing product line.
3. Market test. Market test. Market test.
It seems obvious, right? But, do you know how many companies “skip” this vital step in the launch process? It’s because there have been development delays, and they opt to skip the test to get out the door on time. Just remember, haste makes waste, and you may end up alienating right customers with these practices.
Beta testing gives you the chance to work with customers who are fully aware they are using new version products or services. In most cases, your company ends up developing a strong relationship with that customer, which has additional benefits for you. A market test also enables you to address product flaws in product and packaging before release and gives you a more robust product once launched.
4. You have developed referenceable customers.
The first thing your distribution channel will need to help you execute this product launch is reference sites. This assistance makes the sales process much smoother, and in many cases, will speed adoption rates. However, references are a luxury at the early introduction stage of the launch, and there is no guarantee they will be ready. A beta test phase (see the previous step) can help you address this issue. Many times, happy test customers will end up being reference sites. If not, make sure you develop a plan to handle reference requests if a reference site is not available, i.e., a customer on an older product version.
5. Your channel is informed, trained, and ready.
Sales training is a must for a successful product launch. The channel will carry your new message and product to the market. Not only do they need to know what it’s all about, but it’s marketing’s job to make sure that they have all the materials they need to be successful. Start with:
- What is the product?
- How does it address a business need?
- Is there any differentiating technology?
- Are there any differentiating features and options?
- How does the product compare to competitive offerings and market standards?
- Where are the holes and recommendations for getting around them?
- Developing sales kits with a set of tools to address the informational needs of the channel is highly valued. Recommended tools include feature/advantage/benefit charts, FAQs, PDF files and hard copy brochures, a breakout of needs by industry and more.
6. You have a customer communication plan.
Customers need to be among the first to know about product plans and launches. The last thing you want to do is raise fear of product abandonment or concerns that your focus has changed. This worry is why customer communication plans need to encompass the following:
- Upgrade/migration issues
- Pricing or licensing issues
- How the new product is different from the current products/versions
- Why they should consider upgrading/migrating
7. The support organization is trained and ready.
It’s always best to get your support organization involved as early as possible; don’t wait until the last minute to get their input. They should be intimately involved with the beta process so they can prepare their organization for the new release. They can often put their experience to work by helping with such issues as implementation design methods. Also, customers will want assurance that there is a long-term support plan for their existing product and will want to understand the implications of moving to a new product, the time-frames, and if there is an end-of-life plan for the products currently in use.
8. Create clear, concise messages that will support your go-to-market strategy.
Build new messages that appeal to market needs, as discovered in step one. Make sure the messages do a good job of identifying a problem and presenting your solution and the benefits. This task sounds more comfortable than it is. Make your solution simple to articulate and easy to understand. Hold back your desire to over-explain. Just focus on the compelling facts that will help persuade someone to look at your product.
- What problem/s are you solving?
- How does your offering solve them?
- What are the benefits?
9. “Try before you buy”: Test new messages before taking them to market.
After you have set the initial foundation for your message, it’s time to take it for a ride. It’s essential to try it out and get feedback from outside influencers like analysts and customers. You will quickly gain an understanding of how your message is received and where you need to make adjustments.
10. Create a buzz around your product before and after the launch date.
To jump-start momentum, you should plan to create buzz and excitement just before the launch by conducting a press tour and introducing influential editors and analysts to your new product or service. This strategy may result in coverage that could go a long way.
Also, you should plan a lead generation campaign that will coincide with the launch date to build interest and excitement in your local market. These campaigns should focus on educating the market about your solution to establishing credibility and bond with the needs of that audience.
And finally, don’t forget that a new product launch doesn’t end at the launch date. The most successful campaigns have established long-range communication plans to give your product wor service the visibility and consistency it needs to gain market share and mind share.
Ideally, you should plan a minimum 6-month horizon to get ready for the launch day. Think of your launch plan as the foundation for the future of that product or service. If you find that prep time is pressing, make sure you prioritize deliverables that will ensure your success, i.e., working with beta customers, and push out sales tools and other deliverables that will not impact your effectiveness if you create them post-launch date.