One of the hardest things is to build great products your customers truly desire. It feels a bit like you need to read their mind to know what they want.
How do you know whether your product will succeed in this highly competitive world?
Why do products still fail despite having access to so much data?
Most Brands are failing to do the right things and develop a failproof process.
What can you do about it?
Let me help you by exploring ten painful new product launch mistakes you need to avoid to be successful.
1) Poor planning and process
We usually hear on the news whenever a product launch failed. New product launches are complex and can be overwhelming at times.
It sometimes feels like juggling ten balls at the same time.
It’s so difficult to keep track of what needs to happen when.
Is there a secret recipe to success?
The only possibility to improve your chances of success is to create a robust Go-to-market framework which includes a detailed launch plan to ensure you are on top of all activities and to provide top management with a clear progress overview.
If you are launching new products, you need to establish a standard launch methodology or process to become more effective and efficient.
To help you build your Go-to-market document you can use the below Go-to-market framework as a reference and customise it according to your needs.
During your kick-off meeting, you can use this as a discussion base to brief your Go-to-market team and set the right expectations for the next launch.
To keep the projected schedule, you need to organise weekly catch-up meetings with all the relevant stakeholders and be flexible to adjust the project plan.
Every launch brings unexpected challenges. Add some time buffer in your schedule to avoid product launch delays.
2) Announce too early
When you are working on launching a new exciting product or service you can’t wait to tell the world about it. It’s part of our human nature.
But what happens if you announce your new shiny product too early and you are facing difficulties along the way forcing you to delay your launch?
Even worse imagine that many customers have already pre-paid to get it as soon as it’s available?
It’s an embarrassing moment you don’t want to have unless you don’t mind facing an army of haters on social media.
The best way to avoid such a difficult moment is to make the announcement when your product has passed the beta stage, and you are satisfied with the quality level.
If you are working in a complex environment where you depend on suppliers, distributors or retailers, make sure that everyone can meet the set launch date before making the announcement.
Let’s not forget to set a suitable launch date to maximise the impact of the launch. It doesn’t make sense to launch when everyone is on holiday.
Additionally, you might face the risk that your competitors will have enough time to react and launch a rival product before you.
Example – Playstation – Gran Turismo Sport
Sony is still unable to announce a launch date for the game.
On top of that Sony had to cancel and refund pre-orders.
As a result, many fans vented their frustration on social media because this was a significant delay.
Two years later still no product!
3) Under-deliver after hype
Imagine you have been announcing your new upcoming product launch at a large conference promising that it will blow everyone away.
But what if your product can’t live to its claim?
How would you react if you can’t wait to buy the next big thing, but once you bought it, it’s very disappointing?
Are you still going to stay loyal to this Brand?
Nobody wants to go through this embarrassing moment when you get destroyed by your customers and the press.
This might even cost you your job if it turns out to be terrible.
Be very careful with your claims when you are launching your product. If your product proves to be a disappointment, you will instantly lose your customers.
Unfortunately, it will tarnish your reputation and damage the relationship with your fans.
There are a couple of things you can do to avoid that:
- Test your product extensively before launch
- Learn from the beta
- Delay your launch if the product is not ready
- Define a robust launch schedule
- Minimise risks by adding a time buffer
- Excellent project management and collaboration
- Provide clear guidance & expectations
- Organise weekly catch-up meetings
- Frequent communication to tackle any issues immediately
Example – Apple Maps
Apple described it as the “The most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever” with new features which looked like an evolution from Google maps.
In reality, it was a complete disaster.
How bad was it?
Well, when some cities are completely missing, or you end up in a river, you want to throw your phone out of the window.
4) Doesn’t solve a problem
One of the most emotional and exciting moments is to finally launch your product, but what if you receive the feedback that nobody needs your product.
No signups or sales. What do you do?
“If your product doesn’t solve a problem, no one cares.”
It’s, unfortunately, the reality across all industries.
How do solve your customer problems?
The only way is to get an in-depth understanding of your target audience.
These simple steps can help you understand their problems:
Step 1 – Analyse your market environment
For that purpose, there is a great tool called the “Context Canvas” to have a good understanding what’s happening around you and what will affect your company.
Step 2 – Segment your market
Once you have a good knowledge of the wider context, you need to segment your target market. Market segmentation is a very efficient method to discover how to reach your customers.
Step 3 – Create your customer persona
The customer persona will help you to visualise who is going to buy your product. And remember to focus on one target customer. Make it as narrow and specific as possible.
Step 4 – Explore their problems in depth
Please find below an overview of the different methods you can use:
- Perform customer interviews
- Map the hierarchy of human needs
- Do a Gap Analysis
- Use the Jobs to be done framework
- Look at the Kano model
Example – 3D Televisions
While at Samsung we launched back in 2010 a range of 3D TVs in the European market announcing that 3D television was the next big thing and providing you with a more immersive experience.
We were not the only ones pushing for the adoption of this new technology.
In fact, every major TV manufacturer started releasing 3D televisions.
Right from the outset, the consumer adoption was very slow, and the majority of people didn’t care for this feature.
On top hurdles such as limited viewing angles, lack of 3D content and the necessity to wear clunky glasses reduced the attractiveness of this new feature.
Fast forward to 2017.
3D as a home television feature is dead.
Most TV manufacturers have dropped this feature, and even broadcasters such as Sky have abandoned their 3D channel.
The lesson – 3D never solved a problem.
5) Customers don’t get your messaging
Are you looking for ways to grab your customer’s attention?
How do you stand out from the competition?
A strong positioning statement is the best way to grab their attention and to explain to your customers why you are different.
Sounds easy, but in reality, it’s hard.
You need to craft a simple and compelling positioning statement which invites your customers to learn more about your product.
The positioning statement will be even more powerful if you can add some additional supporting claims to reinforce the importance and the uniqueness of your product.
According to Geoffrey Moore:
“Positioning is the single largest influence on the buying decision.”
He recommends to use the following framework to formulate your positioning statement:
For [target customer] who [statement of the need or opportunity], the [product name] is a [product category] that [statement of key benefit; also called a compelling reason to believe]. Unlike [primary competitive alternative], our product [statement of primary differentiation].
Examples of positioning statements
Amazon used the following positioning statement in 2001:
For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.
Zipcar used the following positioning statement when it established its business in 2000:
To urban-dwelling, educated techno-savvy consumers, when you use Zipcar car-sharing service instead of owning a car, you save money while reducing your carbon footprint.
6) Cheat or hide the truth
You found out that your product doesn’t meet the required regulatory requirements, but your launch is imminent.
What do you do?
Are you delaying the launch or are you looking to find an alternative solution?
Do you ignore it? Is it worth the risk?
Don’t take the risk of cheating or hiding the truth to meet certain regulatory or legal requirements.
The consequences can be brutal.
You will not only lose the trust of your customers, but you will most likely also need to pay hefty fines because you tried to game the system.
If you are facing such a challenging situation, it’s better to delay the launch and spend your time and resources in finding a solution.
Example – VW Emission scandal
According to the TIMES, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found in 2015 that many VW cars being sold in America had a special software – in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results.
How bad was it?
Volkswagen admitted since that 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide were equipped with software that was used to cheat on emissions tests.
The software was so well programmed that it was hiding the fact that in reality, all so-called “Clean Diesel” engines were emitting 40 times more toxic fumes than permitted by law.
According to the FT, the latest settlement brings the total cost of VW’s global diesel-emissions cheating scandal to €18.2 billion.
Was it worth it cheating?
7) Failing to leverage distribution channels
Even if you are launching the best product in the market, you still need to get it out to your customers. Does the best product in the market always win?
Do you think it’s enough to sell your product on your online shop or distribute it via a couple of retailers?
So many companies are underestimating the importance of a well thought through distribution strategy.
In fact, you need to erase that illusion that the best product in the market always wins.
According to Peter Thiel:
“Most businesses get zero distribution channels to work. Poor distribution, not product, is the number one cause of failure.”
If you are a B2B or a B2C company you may need to adapt your distribution channels. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
All the research and analysis you have done earlier in the process will help you to select the right channels.
Let’s have a look how you can approach this task:
Step 1 – Review data, research or customer feedback to get first insight
Step 2 – List all distribution channels
- Indirect channels
- And more…
- Direct channels
- Your site/App/Store
- Your sales team
Step 3 – Narrow down your list using specific and relevant selection criteria like:
- Speed to market
- Value add like skills, experience or a particular expertise you lack
- And more…
Step 4 – Be realistic what you can manage before making your decision
To start with I would recommend selecting max. three distribution channels to ensure that the execution is flawless across these channels.
Example – Intuit quickbooks
Intuit identified early on those small and medium businesses (SMB) needed accounting and tax software.
Even though it’s traditionally hard and expensive to scale a company in the SMB space, Intuit has managed to succeed by nailing their distribution strategy and partnering with a broad network of channel partners to reach all these businesses.
It would have been near impossible to reach all these customers with their sales force.
8) Working in isolation
It feels good to validate your MVP and to start thinking of taking your next product to market.
What is the best way to launch?
Do you launch your product by involving your engineering team?
Who else needs to be involved?
At this stage, your priority is to assemble a launch team to cover all bases and avoid any nasty surprises when you launch.
Why is that relevant?
If you are not working with all key stakeholders across the organisation, I can guarantee you that you will fail.
How would you know if your product is meeting all legal requirements?
Or does your site provide all the necessary information about your product?
How do you promote your product?
Only the subject matter experts from the relevant departments have the knowledge to answer these questions.
You should treat every product launch an individual project which requires a structured process.
Let me give you a short overview of the key steps to kick this process off:
Step 1: Prepare your Go-to-market briefing document
Step 2: Assemble your product launch team
The main stakeholders to invite are:
- Logistics if you need to ship anything
Step 3: Organise Kick-off meeting to brief all key stakeholders
Arrange weekly catch-up meetings to track progress and collect feedback
Step 4: Build the launch schedule with the input from all parties
Managing so many stakeholders might be overwhelming at times.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to manage everything yourself.
Otherwise, you might end up not sleeping anymore.
That is not very healthy.
Instead of managing everything yourself, you should divide all the different tasks into various workstreams with a fixed owner.
To keep an overview, you need to create a Launch readiness tracking sheet on excel, or alternatively, you can use the above software.
This way you have a good view what needs to be done before launching. If you want to go through the details which each stakeholder
If you want to go through the details with each stakeholder you need to ensure that every area owner prepares a detailed plan.
During each weekly catch-up meeting, every single owner will be able to give you an update on the progress using the launch readiness tracker.
If you need an inspiration how to create a launch readiness tracker, you can use the below example as a reference.
Don’t forget to add a calendar view to visualise all activities and add dependencies in your plan.
For example, you can only start working on your Product promotion once it has been signed off by all stakeholders.
9) Launch an unsatisfactory product
You might be under time pressure to launch your next product ahead of your competition, but are you prepared to sacrifice the product quality to be first to market?
What if your product is not adequately tested and is defective at launch?
Is it worth to take shortcuts in your product development process?
Consumers are now more demanding of products, services and brands than ever before, according to a new report by Euromonitor International.
Launch your product when you are confident that the quality and performance is matching your customer’s expectations.
Before any product launch, you have to setup a beta testing cycle.
What is Beta testing?
Beta Testing is the last phase of tests involving your target customers before you launch your product to the wider audience.
It’s not enough to conduct internal acceptance tests (“alpha”) with developers, testers and other key stakeholders.
Why does it matter?
Especially beta testing will help to refine your product and improve the customer experience.
By identifying and fixing these problems early, you will avoid a PR and social media disaster at launch, and this will also reduce your development costs.
Let’s face it, if your product is not intuitive enough or doesn’t deliver the expected performance, your customers will never use it again.
How to run your beta test?
If you want to run a successful test you need to follow these steps:
- Step 1: Select your testing platform
- Step 2: Select your beta testers
If you already have an established beta tester community that’s great.
Otherwise, you could leverage your circles of friends and recruit some beta testers on sites like:
- Step 3: Distribute your beta
- Step 4: Analyse feedback
To get the most out of your test, you should develop your methodology by segmenting implicit and explicit feedback
- Step 5: Make adjustments
Example – Samsung Galaxy Note 7
You might remember the headlines story around the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 which kept exploding.
Samsung thought it could leap ahead of Apple with a better design and new features because of rumours that the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were lacking any groundbreaking innovations.
The attempt to launch the Note 7 as soon as possible led to design and manufacturing errors and ultimately to a massive corporate scandal.
Samsung had no choice but to issue a global recall as a result.
10) Launch to the wrong audience
One of the biggest fear we all have as a product manager is to build something no one wants.
What if you launched to the wrong audience?
If you want to have a guaranteed success every time you launch you need to have a robust and customer-centric Go-to-market framework which involves early all the key stakeholders in your organisation.
How can you identify that you are launching to the wrong audience?
If you are using my customer-centric Go-to-market methodology which I shared earlier on you can already identify while developing your Product strategy what customer problems need to be solved.
By having a deep understanding of your customer pain points, you can only develop the right product.
You will offer the remedy for their pain or the answer to their prayers.
If you are unsure that you have the right value proposition for your audience, there is still the opportunity to test and validate your assumptions with a minimum viable product (MVP).
If your assumptions proved to the wrong at least, you haven’t wasted time and resources on building a complete product.
During my career, I have seen on so many occasions that product teams are developing a product and then trying to desperately find an audience for it.
Let’s be brutally honest. It rarely works!
Example – Google Glass
It was supposed to be a great idea, but at the end, if flopped miserably and Google closed the beta programme in 2015.
Why did it fail?
In essence, Google targeted the wrong customer group with Google Glass.
On top, the product positioning and messaging was unclear.
Most consumers know why they should use it. It didn’t solve an apparent problem.
On top of that concerns around privacy issues and a prize of $1500 (£1000) didn’t help to convince a wider audience.
Instead, the real potential for this product lied in the B2B sector where for example doctors or engineers could get access to real-time data or learn new processes.
Before launching it would have made sense to think this through with a structured customer-centric Go-to-market process to avoid this embarrassment.
Orchestrating a successful new product launch is hard and exhausting.
Knowing all the 10 painful new product launch mistakes – and how to avoid them – can help you to develop a solid launch process.
Successful launches require meticulous planning, intensive collaboration and precise execution.
If you have the patience to set up a detailed and effective launch process which can be replicated and adapted for every launch, you will succeed.
Over to you
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