Marketing Advice

Avoiding Bad Product Launches

Launching a new product? Take the time to get the product launch right. You only get one shot at glory. Don't waste it.

You came up with the idea and wrote up the plans. You contracted the workers and applied for the patent.

Avoiding Bad Product Launches

You've drummed up the publicity and even handled the media and, at the end of all this, your new product is finally ready for launch.

Unfortunately, you're not done yet.

While it may seem like entrepreneurs at this phase of project development have earned a little rest and relaxation, how you handle the final planning stage before launching any type of product or service can truly make or break the project's success.

Even highly successful companies sometimes don't get it right.

After the recent launch of Microsoft's Windows Vista, users began to complain about the operating system's compatibility issues, which included problems with such common pieces of software as the popular iTunes music service.

The resulting negative publicity, fueled largely by technology bloggers, put Microsoft in a terrible public relations situation.

The bottomline? Entrepreneurs, no matter how large or small their companies are, would do well to sidestep some of the mistakes that led to this fiasco.

Here are a few tips to ensure your product launch goes smoothly:

Don't follow great publicity with a mediocre product or service.

While it is never a good idea to introduce any mediocre product into the market, a strong advertising campaign can further amplify the damage that such a launch has on a company's reputation.

In the case of Vista, Microsoft took such a long time to develop the software that consumers began to speculate on the enormity of the changes that they assumed the company was making to their flagship product. This de-facto publicity, when coupled with the inevitable media circus drummed up by Microsoft's public-relations department, only worsened consumers' disappointment with the high-profile problems that the system possessed.

In general, a good rule of thumb to follow is that the level of public excitement that you create for any new launch should correspond to your level of confidence concerning the quality of that product.

Think long-term concerning the effects of potential mistakes.

Microsoft has been quick to point out that consumer complaints concerning Vista do not seem to be deterring buyers.

However, what they have not been noting is the long-term detriment to their market share that such bad publicity is likely to cause. Launching a disappointing product is a little like being the boy who cried wolf. For a significant period of time, consumers are likely to remain ambivalent about any new development that you may produce.

In deciding what mistakes to research and fix, this should be your primary concern. A dip in revenue is generally temporary, but damage to your company's reputation will hurt you in your wallet for years to come.

Run your product or service through its paces.

The most reliable way to test any product is to try it under realistic conditions. For example, software and web designers will often run a so-called "beta test" of their almost-finished product, in which users have the opportunity to try a for-pay service or game for free on the condition that they report any errors in programming or gameplay.

These types of tests have two main benefits: they both create positive publicity for sites and give designers and programmers a chance to anticipate and repair possible errors before a product is launched, creating a more successful launch than would occur without the test.

Designers of other types of products can enjoy these same benefits by testing their work in focus groups or by testing out the product among company employees.

Without a solid product, no entrepreneur can realistically expect to achieve success. However, without a solid method of introducing this product, no small business owner will ever be able to expect to see their product take flight either.

By acting with caution and forethought, investors and business owners can look forward to seeing the product or service take the market by storm.

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