“Different products are all launched in different ways, so there is no way to learn about them in a general way,” said nobody ever. In fact, there are a few universal best-practices when it comes to launching any product. Today, you will learn them.
Launching a product is very much like managing any system or event—there must be three things for effective management:
• a plan
• a way of telling if you’re “on plan”
• corrective actions to take when you go “off-plan”
To describe the plan, metrics, and contingency plans associated with a product launch, product developers use the term, “Launch Management System.” And despite the fact that products vary from industry to industry, launch management systems are often very similar to one another.
The plan consists of the actions you intend to take in order to launch your product.
For some products, these actions might be very simple and last only a short period of time. For example, launching a slightly updated version of existing product might only require sending an email or putting a new Stock Keeping Unit on a shelf.
For other products, the launch plan can last months or years and consist of a wide range of activities, from teaser campaigns, advertising, launch events, staged releases, geographic roll-outs, and so on and so forth.
Common things included in the launch plan:
• advertising and promotion
• press relations/communication
Metrics are things that get measured. That’s admittedly not a very good definition, but it’s accurate.
Every good launch management system should track metrics. The reason for doing so is that metrics tell you if you’re on plan or not.
How do you track metrics? That’s difficult to answer briefly, but it has to do with “market intelligence systems,” and these things can range from web analytics to customer feedback surveys.
Here are a few common metrics that get tracked during a product launch:
• trial rates—how many people are trying your product
• initial sales—units sold or revenue within a specified initial period of time
• availability—how widely available your product is (e.g. how many retail locations)
• customer retention rates—how many consumers continue using your product, especially if it’s something like a software or service
There are many frameworks for launch metrics that are used in various industries; for example:
• “A.T.A.R.” which stands for Awareness, Trial, Availability, Repeat
• “AARRR,” sometimes called the “pirate” acronym, which stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, and Referral
Finally, a launch management system should have a series of contingency plans and triggers for when to execute them. The reason this is important is that it’s almost always easier to plan effectively prior to moment of action. It’s wise to spend time before launch getting organized and documenting contingency plans when you have time to think them through properly.
A few examples of contingency plans:
• Initial sales not quite as expected? Up the advertising.
• Signups lagging on your website? Start tracking where people are abandoning the page.
• People are interested but not trying? Activate an initiative to drive trial.
• Everything going completely to plan? Wake up, you’re dreaming.
As you can see, all launches—from small, incremental products to large, complex innovations—can benefit from planning and a systemized approach to launch.
Our last lesson tomorrow wraps everything up and gives you some info on a few product development methodologies.
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