4 Keys To Bouncing Back After A Failed Product Launch

Despite all the plan­ning, cus­tomer inter­views, pro­to­type test­ing and val­i­da­tion, and mes­sag­ing, your prod­uct launch flopped. Now what?

Dave Daniels By Dave Daniels from Pragmatic Marketing. Join the discussion » 0 comments

By the time you reach the release date for a new prod­uct, you and your team have already invest­ed a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time, mon­ey, inno­va­tion, and emo­tion into mak­ing sure every­thing goes per­fect. Because there is so much rid­ing on the suc­cess of a launch, it’s crush­ing when a prod­uct doesn’t receive the pos­i­tive atten­tion or sales you antic­i­pat­ed. Where do you go from here?

Despite the plan­ning, cus­tomer inter­views, pro­to­type test­ing and val­i­da­tion, and mes­sag­ing, the launch fell flat. This unfor­tu­nate sce­nario is some­thing many prod­uct man­agers and mar­keters will expe­ri­ence at some point in their career. When it does, how do you bounce back from an under­per­form­ing launch?

1. Open The Dialogue Externally And Internally

The ulti­mate goal of a launch is to kick start a sales engine that con­tin­ues to grow and gain momen­tum. When that doesn’t hap­pen, it’s time to get out and talk to cus­tomers and prospec­tive cus­tomers again (hope­ful­ly you did this pri­or to launch). Iden­ti­fy why they didn’t take to the prod­uct or the mes­sag­ing. Once you’ve gained that data, the next step is to pull the team togeth­er to dis­cuss the find­ings, as well as iden­ti­ty oth­er holes in the launch. It’s impor­tant to estab­lish a pos­i­tive tone dur­ing this debrief­ing. It is not about plac­ing blame. Focus on the facts – the goal is to iden­ti­fy the root caus­es of the wins and fails of the launch. Was it relat­ed to prod­uct fea­tures? Not tar­get­ing the right mar­ket? Were the mar­ket­ing chan­nels off? Or was it a mat­ter of tim­ing? Doc­u­ment what you learn from this debrief and cre­ate an action plan for iter­at­ing the prod­uct or mar­ket­ing cam­paign.

2. Diagnosis By Numbers

As the say­ing goes, “the num­bers don’t lie.” Grab a shov­el and dig into the ana­lyt­ics. Exam­ine the mar­ket­ing chan­nels and strate­gies that were employed. Did these gen­er­ate leads, but not con­ver­sions? Where along the sales fun­nel did prospects drop off? This can help uncov­er whether it was an issue with the mar­ket­ing mes­sage, sales tool, prod­uct, or mix of all three. If you have past prod­uct launch his­to­ry to bench­mark these fig­ures against, that can also pin­point what led to the launch fail­ure. Also take a look at your goals and how you mea­sured those goals. Were your pro­jec­tions or sights too lofty? In some cas­es, prod­uct launch­es aren’t actu­al­ly unsuc­cess­ful – they were just put up against unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions. Look­ing at the ana­lyt­ics and trends in the mar­ket at the time of launch will help zero in on con­tri­bu­tions to the lack­lus­ter suc­cess.

3. Be Upfront With Your Customers

If the unsuc­cess­ful launch was a ver­sion update of an exist­ing prod­uct or a com­pli­men­ta­ry prod­uct to one you already have cus­tomers for, it’s essen­tial to be up front with them about how you plan to make it right. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with cus­tomers direct­ly may mean spend­ing some time on the phone with them to make sure they under­stand how to use the prod­uct, or a free upgrade once you have the prod­uct improved. You may remem­ber Apple offered to replace the bat­tery on thou­sands of iPhone 5 mod­els when it didn’t hold a charge prop­er­ly. You may take a loss finan­cial­ly, but it’s a small price to keep a long-term cus­tomer. If it was a new prod­uct that failed to con­vert beta users to pay­ing cus­tomers, get a dia­logue going with those who aban­doned post launch, as well as those who stayed on. From these con­ver­sa­tions cre­ate a com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­e­gy to inform the non-con­vert­ing ear­ly users about the pos­i­tive changes that will be made.

4. Redefine, Recalibrate & Relaunch

Are you tar­get­ing the right mar­ket? You might find your prod­uct is fine, but the prob­lem you thought it would solve for a par­tic­u­lar mar­ket, is actu­al­ly bet­ter suit­ed for anoth­er. Or maybe the end user is not the buy­er, in which case you’ll need to recal­i­brate your mar­ket­ing and sales strat­e­gy. Sim­i­lar­ly, maybe you thought this prod­uct would be a quick, imper­son­al sell, but it turns out it’s going to take a longer, more hands-on sales cycle to close the deal. Some­times it’s the sim­plest of tweaks that can make all the dif­fer­ence between a wild­ly suc­cess­ful launch and one that goes south.

Dave Daniels

Written by Dave Daniels

Instructor, Pragmatic Marketing

Dave has more than 25 years of experience working in technology companies. He specializes in product marketing and product launch, with an emphasis on effective go-to-market strategies and execution. Prior to joining Pragmatic Marketing, Dave founded Launch Clinic, a consulting company focused on helping organizations implement best-practice launch strategies.

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