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How to become an unstoppable launch machine

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Ralph Waldo Emerson said that if a man made a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to his door. Maybe in the 19th century when rodent infestations were the thing, but these days, he’d have to be a bit more proactive.

Coming up with a great product is really only the start of the entrepreneurial journey. The business world is littered with examples of mousetraps that never made it: superior Beta was overhauled by VHS; Google came late to the search engine party pioneered by the likes of AltaVista and Ask Jeeves, and Apple’s iPod wasn’t the first portable MP3 player.

The neglected strategy

Getting the product to market with an effective launch strategy is the crucial, but all too often neglected, aspect of success.

Entrepreneurs should be pushing an open door as 74 per cent of consumers are excited about product launches. The problem is that they are largely forgettable – only 28 per cent of consumers could name a product launch that they remembered.

Big brands can kid themselves that they can make a launch happen by throwing money at an all singing, all dancing ad campaign (they’re wrong by the way – advertising alone won’t create a successful launch), but this often isn’t an option for growing businesses with more limited budgets. This can actually be a positive as it forces brands to take an approach that is more likely to deliver results.

Sir Dave Brailsford turned British cyclists into world beaters by employing a philosophy of marginal gains.

He broke everything the team did – training, diet, equipment, psychology and so on – and looked to gain an extra few per cent of performance from each. The overall result was a compounded level of improved performance that has delivered Olympic golds and Tour wins by the bucketload.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

In launches too, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and team effort is what makes things happen.

The whole of an organisation needs to be behind a launch – after all, it could be the organisation’s existence that is on the line. Every department needs to understand the essence of the product you are launching and its own role in making the launch successful.

To really get behind a product it has to have credibility and a reason to exist. The product has to be designed with a customer centric approach, if it’s something they don’t need, and simply a “me too” addition to an already crowded sector, it will be unsurprising if your team and consumer base is suitably uninspired.

That’s not to say that every product has to be earth-shatteringly new and unique, but it must have a defined place in the market.

A golden thread

Launches then need a golden thread that binds all elements of the launch campaign together. This is the core of the campaign that you must stick to, as deviation will weaken the essence of your launch message.

This golden thread can then inform the story you take to market, and a compelling story can be the difference between success and failure.

Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Sauce is a great example. Who would have thought that a condiment would become one of the most successful Dragons’ Den launches ever? It probably wouldn’t have without the intriguing and engaging back story and the idea that the product brought a bit of Jamaican attitude to the dinner table.

It is only when these key principles are in place that an entrepreneur should start fleshing out the campaign elements.

Too many brands start at the wrong end of the process with a creative idea that then goes on to misdirect the rest of the campaign. By establishing the reason to exist, golden thread, and the brand story, the other elements should fall into place.

As well as a killer creative idea, don’t neglect the more rational aspects of the equation. Emotional storytelling is important, but if the pricing policy is out of whack with competitors then you’re hindered from the start.

Similarly, don’t put overemphasis on one (traditional) channel. Advertising is just one channel through which consumers receive information these days. Reviews and social sharing are powerful tools, so don’t neglect them.

The world will no longer simply beat a path to your door to buy your better mousetrap, but by creating a smart launch strategy you can light the pathway and lead them to you.

Gareth Evans is business development director for Five by Five.

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