Plan a successful product launch

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Mitchell Harper, co-CEO of BigCommerce doesn’t like to spend too much money on product launches for a very good reason: His company has a major product debut every three months or so.

BigCommerce makes e-commerce tools, such as shopping carts, that help businesses process online sales. It’s a fast-moving, competitive space where successful introductions rely on casting a wide net for prospects, including BigCommerce’s previous customers as well as new prospects.

“We can typically hit about 300,000 people for each product launch,” Harper said. “And it doesn’t cost us much. We spend about $2,000 for each launch, and that’s mainly for the press release.”

This is possible because BigCommerce uses free social media—the company has a huge Facebook and Twitter following—and blasts e-mails to its existing customer list. BigCommerce also maintains a popular blog that Harper updates with detailed entries to announce new products.

Print and direct mail play only a small part in Harper’s product launches. Instead, customers are treated to multiple e-mails.

In today’s world of cost-conscious online marketing, BigCommerce’s product introductions are likely the rule rather than the exception.

ICore Networks rolls out its voice-over-Internet products almost exactly the same way.

“We have a strong emphasis on e-mail,” said Lorena Magali, director of marketing at iCore. “We focus on e-mail blasts supplemented with an offer for free training, and we post an on-demand training video on our website.”

Like BigCommerce, iCore invites customers into its product development early on, collecting survey data about features and products that are in demand. This makes it possible to narrowly target the marketing messages during the launch to specific customer horizontals.

After the initial launch, iCore typically has a three-month window in which it continues to push the new product with more e-mails and offers designed for specific customer groups. This window gives the company an opportunity to develop ROI measurements for its campaign.

Both companies follow the principles of the best product launches, said Robyn Sachs, president of PR firm RMR & Associates in Rockville, Md.

According to Sachs, this means they let customers help develop the product in a two-way conversation. They find effective ways to reach potential buyers, market to their existing customer bases and wait until the product is ready to go before launching a campaign.

Then they find the communication channels that work best for them and hit their potential customers multiple times.

“The wish is that people want one campaign to solve all their marketing issues,” Sachs said. “But it doesn’t work like that. It’s frequency over time that works.”

It’s also important to have well-developed goals going into a product launch, Magali said, so the company can figure out how much it needs to invest and later determine if the introduction was a success or not.

“We work with sales prior to the campaign to get a forecast,” she said. “So realistically, we can gauge how much money, effort and time to invest.”

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