February 9, 2018

Preparing your product launch

Launching a product is more than just pressing the green button

In light of recently launching the Design Life community I’ve been getting a few questions about launching products. While I’m no expert and this is my first official ‘launch’, I thought I’d share some of my early learnings.

Understand your audience first

It’s imperative that you understand who your product is for and how it benefits them. Without knowing this, you’ll be creating a product in the dark in the hopes that it’ll catch on. and at least someone out there will care.

Don’t guess what your audience wants. Talk to people — a lot of people. Ask them questions. Learn how you can help them. At the same time, build an audience. Launching to crickets doesn’t sound fun to anyone. Your product stands a much higher chance of selling if you have an existing audience you know how to help.

Having and understanding your audience is crucial to your product creation. How will what create to appeal to them? What need is it fulfilling? How can your product help them with their current struggles or challenges? What value will it provide for them?

Knowing your audience helps you to:

Without knowing your audience it’s a lot more uncertain whether you’re creating something of value. How will you know if people need your product if you haven’t talked to them?

Charli Marie and I had been getting to know the Design Life audience for two years before we put in motion the creation of the community. However, the idea first came to us a year prior. Back then we could’ve dived straight into creating and selling the community, yet it was important for us to first really get to understand our audience before we dived head first.

Instead we spent a year learning more about our listeners, brainstorming potential ideas and planning the launch. This patience and steady build helped us to launch a product we knew was going to be valuable for our audience from day one.

There are several ways you could build and understand your audience. The best strategy I’ve found is to attract the people who will give you their email address. These are the people you can speak to directly and get to know on a personal level.

One of the best things we did for the community launch was put up a Community coming soon page. At the top of the page was an email form where people could register their interest. Those who joined this list were eventually invited to participate in the beta so we could test and validate whether the product could work.

Forget your announcements

A few years ago I was listening to the seanwes podcast on my morning commute. As I listened to Sean McCabe and Ben Toalson bounce back and forth, Sean suddenly said:

“People don’t notice announcements, they notice consistency.”

Unless you’re the Royal Family or the like, announcements often fall on deaf ears. The truth is that the world is incredibly noisy. We’re bombarded by hundreds if not thousands of announcements daily. While I may want to hear your announcement, it’s so loud and foggy that it’s hard to hear it.

Repeat your message, over and over. One tweet about your launch is unlikely to send an avalanche of customers your way. Talking about and promoting your product in the months prior helps to not only continue growing your audience, but also generate interest in the product you’re going to sell.

From Adam’s Instagram

It’s never to early to start sharing your message. Artist and designer Adam J. Kurtz has been promoting his book for months leading up to and after the launch. Each time he shares a different story or message –– whether it’s sharing sneak peeks, fan photos or product information. Now each time he shows up at an event during his book tour, he almost always sells out.

People are forgetful. Be consistent and continuing spreading the message, perhaps changing the angle slightly every time. You want to remind people of not only what you’re launching, but why they need it.

How much can you give away during the product creation? Sneak peeks are a great way to generate hype and provide a glimpse into the product. Alternatively, keeping a behind-the-scenes blog or running a beta is a great way to get early input.

Beta’s incredibly valuable for generating early feedback that you can use to improve for launch. They also help to provide social proof during launch time. Having positive testimonials from people who have tried and used product might help pull a couple of those who are on the fence.

Decide on your launch strategy

Getting people to care about your product is an immense challenge. When it comes to launch time, most people simply won’t care. Instead, focus on the small group of people who do care. It’s the 1,000 true fans mentality — instead of focusing on quantity or volume, focus on quality and value.

Pricing tiers — from Kyle Adams Choosing Great Colours course

There are several launch strategies and campaign ideas you could use when it comes to launch time. Some things to consider:

Will your product have tiered pricing?Will you have a bundle option available?Is there launch week pricing?What extra value do I get as an existing subscriber?Are there any bonus materials?Will your product ever go on sale in the future?

For the Design Life community we wanted to reward the loyalty of our beta members, so we gave them lifetime discounted pricing. As for the public, we wanted to encourage people to sign up early and not wait. Adding a sense of urgency would help avoid people adding it to their ‘someday’ list.

To encourage new members to join at launch we promoted launch week pricing. Those who signed up in the first week got a slightly discounted member price and also a free sticker pack.

Start selling

You’ve reached the home-run; you understand the people you’re selling to, you’ve been consistent in your messaging and decided on a launch strategy. Now it’s time to sell.

Except, that selling should begin before you launch.

Announcing your product early and talking about it consistently before pushing the green light sparks curiosity and eagerness. An early launch campaign also gives you time to answer people’s questions and spread the message.

How do you actually get people to buy? Ideally, from the moment you open the doors you want your audience to be ready to press buy. If at this stage they have to invest time into learning what you’re selling, figuring out if it’s for them, asking questions and putting money aside to purchase — a lot of them are going to drop off.

Emails from Austin leading up to the launch of Lettering Animation

Just like one announcement goes unnoticed, so does one email. When Austin Saylor launched his Lettering Animation course, he sent nine emails about it to his mailing list. Nine!

While it sounds like a lot, each of these emails were perfectly timed that it didn’t feel like overkill at all. Every email had a clear message delivered and provided just a little bit more information about the course.

Your ideal customer is someone who knows in advance what you’re selling. They already know that it’s going to be of value for them, has had time to ask questions and also set money aside. All this customer has to do is press buy. They don’t even have to think — they already decided weeks or months ago they’ll be a customer.

People are slow at decision making, especially when it’s investment. Make sure you give them the information they need to make a decision prior to launch, so that come launch day there’s no hesitation.

Launching is no easy or overnight task. You could either spend months perfecting every step of your launch (or never launching at all in fear of perfectionism), or give it your best and learn for next time. I always encourage others to take the ‘learn as you go’ approach. Your product is never finished. You can always iterate on it after it’s live, improving it based on the things you’ve learnt.

Key takeaways:

  1. Start building your audience early
  2. Don’t guess what your audience wants — ask them!
  3. One announcement about your product will fall on deaf ears. 
  4. Be consistent in your promotions
  5. Focus on 1,000 true fans — decide how you’ll reward loyalty
  6. Tell them everything they need to know in order to buy

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