We open registration for Platform University twice a year. We just completed the relaunch for the fall, and it went extremely well—in fact, we beat our goal. But not every launch works, and sometimes we’re left wondering, “Why did my product bomb?”
A friend recently asked for my input on why her product launch failed. She was using a sophisticated and proven launch method, one I’ve used myself, but she didn’t get a single order for her course.
Most of us in business have been there at one time or another. As just one of many examples, I tried to launch a book about protecting personal privacy one month before 9/11. Guess what no one cared about after 9/11? The result was that book sold less than 10 percent what my prior book had done. So how can we increase our chances of launch success?
After hearing from my friend, I went back through my own strategy and came up with a framework to analyze eight different key elements of a successful product launch. I’ve derived these elements from product-launch guru Jeff Walker and branding expert Donald Miller.
When a launch fails—barring external events we have no control over—it’s usually for one or more of these eight reasons. But the good news is that you don’t have to wait for failure to use this framework. It doubles as a pre-launch checklist to ensure we get things right on the front end.
- People. Have you targeted the right prospects? It doesn’t matter how good your product is if you’re offering it to the wrong potential customers. If you’re trying to sell snow in Siberia, don’t be surprised if it’s tough sledding.
- Problem. Have you clearly articulated the prospect’s problem using the language they would use? Having the right prospect is only part of it. Can you connect your product to their needs, fears, or wants? All the better if you can articulate something they need your help to understand. No one knew their reliance on the Walkman was a problem until Steve Jobs introduced us to the iPod.
- Promise. Have you painted a vivid picture of a desired future state—the transformation your product can bring? This is all about connecting the dots. Do the work for the prospect. Will your product solve their problem? Then show them what their life looks like after they’ve used your product.
- Position. Have you positioned yourself as an authoritative guide who can help them get to their destination? It doesn’t matter if you’ve communicated the promise to the right people about their problem if they’re unsure you can solve it. Trust is crucial to any product launch. Endorsements can help, but nothing beats winning people’s confidence directly.
- Plan. Have you shared a plan they can follow that will lead them to their destination? Sometimes this is simple. Buy product, use it, voila! Other times the transformation is more nebulous. A clearly articulated plan will help the prospect see how your product can help them.
- Pitch. Have you created an irresistible, no-brainer offer? Problem, promise, position, and plan form the content of your offer, but your pitch represent style and approach you take. Some pitches are inappropriate for some audiences and undermine your credibility. Think of it this way: A pitch is not only an offer, it’s a musical note. Hit a sour note, and you might lose the sale.
- Price. Is your product priced right for your market? Pricing can be very mysterious. What people won’t buy for $10, they’ll buy for $99. One thing is for sure, nailing the right price is crucial for success. Price communicates more than mere monetary value. Before you go to market it’s critical that you get this right—even if that means relearning everything you think you know about what your product is worth.
- Place. Are your marketing efforts reaching prospects at the right place? Nothing is more wasteful than advertising that never connects or affiliates that can’t reach your people. Make sure you’ve got this eighth element working for you or it can undermine all the rest of your efforts.
Nothing is guaranteed with any launch. With our recent Platform University launch, we had all these elements working for us, but my team and I had to stay hyper engaged at every step, calibrating and recalibrating our messaging, frequency, and more. It was like running with the bowling ball down the lane to make sure we hit all the pins.
We did, but it took tenacity and the hard pre-launch labor of ensuring we had the eight key elements in place.
Whatever you’re launching next, you could benefit from running through this checklist first. I would also recommend checking out what Jeff Walker and Donald Miller can do to help you think through strategy and execution for your next launch.
Question: What’s the toughest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in a product launch?