The Launch Lab

A Step-by-Step Beginners Guide to Product Launch - Assess the Situation

Launching a product for the first time can be a little scary. Without experience it’s hard to know when things are going right and when they’re coming off the rails. In this series I’lll hold your hand and step you through a product launch so you can have the confidence you’re doing the right things at the right time for the right reasons.


I'll use the structure of the BrainKraft Product Launch Framework as a guide. In each step of the Framework I’ll point out the essential actions and information you need. And I’ll point out what to look for that might get your launch in trouble.




Assess the Situation

This is the first of many critical steps in your journey. A product launch isn’t a mad dash to update your website and get a bunch of sales tools built. It’s about having a positive impact on your business.

There are many moving parts to a remarkable product launch and that starts with getting the answers to these 4 fundamental questions:

  • What problems does our product solve and for whom?

  • Who are our potential customers and why do they need our product?

  • What are we trying to accomplish with this launch? Grow revenue? Increase profitability? Decrease customer churn? Establish credibility or authority?

  • Have we sold and delivered this kind of product before? How did it turn out? What did we do right? What did we do wrong?

Let’s break these questions down. In doing so you might discover a few questions of your own to add.


What problems does our product solve and for whom?


You’re getting to the essence of a product. Why was it built and who was it built for? Watch out for two things. The first is a description of the product that concludes with it does all things for all people all the time. No product can do that and it’s a sign of a product that was built without a vision or direction.


Second, look for differing opinions from the product team. If they aren’t providing consistent answers to this question it’s also a sign of trouble. Don’t leave the question until there is consensus on the answer.


If you can’t get a consensus, stop and raise the issue with the leadership of your organization.


Who are our potential customers and why do they need our product?


At first glance this question may seem similar to the first question but it’s not. The first question is looking through the lens of your product. This question is looking through the lens of your potential customers.


Dig until you're comfortable with the description of your potential customers. Who are they? What do they do? Why do they need us? How well do we know them? Are the people who buy our product the same as the people who will use our product?


What are we trying to accomplish with this launch?


The answer to this question is never “To get the product to market” or “Get it into the hands of the sales team so they can sell it”. You’re launching a product to achieve something for your organization. That something is measurable. If the answer is “increase revenue” you should respond with “How much and when?”. The purpose of this question is to help you establish the definition of success.


Don't be surprised is you discover multiple definitions of success. It's better to find that out now and address it than it is to discover after your product is in the market.


The most important thing to consider here isn’t the exact measure. It’s the metric. I’ll get to how much and when in future article.


Have we sold and delivered this kind of product before? How did it turn out? What did we do right? What did we do wrong?


The purpose of this question is to determine how drastic a change the product will impose on your organization. Is the product completely different from anything you’ve sold before? Is the product completely different from anything you’ve delivered to customers before? Are you selling to familiar customers or are you selling to new potential customers?


Never assume that change is something that's accepted by your colleagues. Especially if it means it alters the way they do their job or the way they get compensated.


This question is about assessing risk. The more change required by your organization the higher the risk. If this is the first product your organization sells it won’t be a problem. But put yourself in the shoes of the people in an organization with dozens or even hundreds of products. There are people who have routines and are successful with their routines. Change is hard for them to accept and adopt.


The way to get answers to these questions is to conduct a Product Launch Planning Session with an inner circle of your colleagues and stakeholders. Include product management, product marketing, marketing communications, and development. You want to meet with people who can represent their functional area - don’t invite everyone. At least not yet.


TIP: A Product Launch Planning Session is deliberately cross-functional to get different perspectives at one time. Avoid one-on-one meetings with individuals, you'll miss important insights.


You may wonder why I left out other groups. It’s because you need basic information first and you need to assess if everyone in your smaller group is on the same page. You'll have opportunities to expand the team as needed.


The goal of a Product Launch Planning Session is to get enough information to formulate a set of Launch Objectives, which I'll cover in the next article. Until then schedule a Product Launch Planning Session and asses what you'll be up against.


If you have any questions about scheduling or conducting a Product Launch Planning Session (or any launch questions) you can send me an email at daviddaniels@brainkraft.com or post on the BrainKraft Facebook page.

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