Product launches are never an easy process to coordinate. Depending upon the size of the company, it may require a project manager coordinating a range of activities from product development to manufacturing or programming to legal to marketing and, in the case of public companies, to investor communications.
But how about we focus on the marketing communications activities of companies in the middle of a product launch? What are some surprising activities that can get overlooked in the race to launch before the next big trade show or vendor conference?
Here are 15 items we came up with, distributed over owned media (the channels you own), earned media (the ‘free publicity’ received through media coverage) and paid media (what you pay for):
Blogging: it’s a head-slapping moment many companies have experienced before. How did you forget to update your in-house blog when it was right there the whole time? It should have been a slam-dunk after all. Still, in the fog of launch, blogs can sometimes fall by the wayside in the sprint to go live. Keep in mind that a best practices approach to blogging won’t have you gushing too much about your new product, but a launch post can and should be part of the strategy. Don’t forget to embed a call-to-action to convert readers into customers.
Social media: these days it’s hard to believe anybody would forget to incorporate social media into the product launch strategy. It’s unlikely that social media is left out but what’s more likely is that a company fails to approach it strategically by stitching into the launch messaging for a consistent customer experience across all communications channels. If this is a B2B product, it may make sense to seed LinkedIn while also working in Twitter, Reddit and some other communities. A B2C product launch can live its entire life on Facebook but forgetting SnapChat, Periscope, Pinterest and Instagram would be a huge missed opportunity. Bottom line: go to where your target audience lives online.
Product videos: video has become mainstream over the past few years but forgetting to make them shareable is a faux pas. Video can be shared over more platforms and if you turn it into GIFs or really short-form videos you can seed other platforms to drive exponential shares.
Email campaign: that’s right, you can’t forget the number one way to reach and convert customers to your new product or service. Email is still the undisputed King of maximizing per capita customer sales. Whether it’s part of a weekly or monthly newsletter or a one-off email announcing the launch, this will likely net you more sales than the combined sales coming from all of your social media channels.
Press release: don’t be among the crowd of press release haters. Yes, these seemingly archaic communications are down but they’re not out yet. While the media is split on the merits of a press release, it generally makes sense to use one when you launch new products and have a decent amount of product specifications and other related information to convey. A press release will keep the communication organized and allow you to be succinct in your emails sent to busy reporters and bloggers. P.S., posting the release on your website and through an online distribution service will improve your new product’s search engine ranking.
Reviews: one of the best ways to NOT get your viral message out is to forget to send your new product to journalists and bloggers known for doing reviews. Favorable reviews can help you blow past your sales projections, so best not drop the ball or you’ll be playing catch-up.
Ambassadors: here’s another great activation strategy that may get overlooked. Some brands have the luxury of calling on ambassadors and super fans to receive early product shipments to begin whipping up the anticipation in the marketplace. There can be some paid elements to this kind of program but in a perfect world your brand has the kind of followers that won’t mind doing some cheerleading just because they are singled out as influencers.
PPC: don’t forget to work with your in-house or outsourced search engine marketing expert to weave any new terms (Free Trial, product name, special offer price, demographic details) related to the product launch. You want to be able to drive any many clicks as possible during the initial promotion. Google AdWords is still the 900 lb gorilla in the PPC market but social platforms like Facebook are giving it a good run for its money, especially for B2C campaigns.
Landing pages: forgetting a landing page can lead to disappointing PPC results simply because sending clicks to your homepage could end up a dead-end for conversions. Be prepared with some A/B tested landing pages that include effective call-to-actions in order to ensure you kill the conversion rates and see the revenue or adoption numbers you built into the launch P&L.
Google Analytics: while not technically paid media, it’s a part of your search engine marketing strategy and you don’t want to forget adding any new product web pages (including landing pages) so you can track inbound traffic.
Event signage: planning to attend an industry tradeshow or conference like CES or SXSWi later in the year and still don’t have the booth updated with your new product signage? Yea, you better get started on that. You’d hate to be caught napping while your target demo streams past your booth blissfully unaware of your revolutionary new whatchyamacallit. Heads will roll.
Product placement: well, if you are a consumer product company with the budget and don’t at least consider how to get your product into one of the hottest shows on TV or in an upcoming movie starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg then it would be a shame to let a competitor steal it right out from under you.
Event demos: similar to signage, not attending an industry event and demoing the product to the audience you address would be a sad thing indeed. If you are targeting K-12 schools with new sub $500 line of 3D printers then forgetting to attend the annual National Conference on Science Education could cost you thousands, if not millions, in lost revenue.
Event sponsorships: don’t forget to ask where your best customers like to hang out. Are you striving to be a high-end liquor brand for those with 6-figure and above income? Then advertising at the state fair may not be in the cards, although sponsoring a Formula 1 race might be.
Media buys: okay, for large brands, this rarely falls off the radar in a product launch. But for up and coming ones that automatically assume it’s not an option, investigating media buys with your ad agency should be on the go-live checklist. Whether it’s buying bus wraps and billboards, or commercials on tv and radio, it pays to take stock of your budget and decide what the potential ROI is on a projected ad spend. Will you actually see the ROI on an ad spend? Who knows, but don’t assume the worst until you have fully tested it as an option.
Some parting words of wisdom: it is of utmost importance to align all owned, earned and paid efforts in a product launch strategy. Keep in mind that with paid media it is useful to reach out to the media beforehand, to prime your audience for the advertising campaign to follow. And of course the messaging of both the media outreach (the press release, for example) and the ad campaign should be fairly consistent with one another.