That was the exact sentence I shared with one of my clients last week. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression – and I’m afraid you’re going to waste it if you move forward with this product before it’s ready. I know you want to launch in a few weeks. I just don’t think you’re there yet.”
Ouch. I know.
It’s not necessarily something that any company wants to hear, but I’m not hired by companies to tell them what I think they want me to tell them. I’m hired to give honest, direct feedback based on my experiences that will help them launch their products successfully. I’ve already shared what I learned from my biggest product failures in a previous post, so I won’t reiterate those again – but I have realized that there are some red flags to look out for when deciding if a product is ready to launch or not.
Schedule alone is dictating “readiness”
Yes, I know. You want the product to be used commercially in the Fall semester. That’s when you told your leadership it would come out (or your leadership told you it needs to). That’s when you told the market it would come out. But now, it’s August and you still haven’t had many (or any) potential users in beta using the product. You won’t even be able to go through your final QA checks and business acceptance testing until a couple of weeks before the semester starts because you’re still working on it. Do you still think it’s ready? Still, want to move forward with the commercial launch? For me, it depends on what the product is. If a student’s grade is dependent on your product being as close to flawless as possible, I say no. Take the time to run pilots on the beta version knowing that there could be and probably will be some kinks that your users will uncover. Use that to your advantage. Gather the strong feedback from your market and use that in your marketing and sales campaigns for when you launch commercially. You may walk away from a small amount of revenue in the short term, but if you launch before a product is ready and your customers have a bad experience, it’s much harder to win back their trust, let alone business again.
You have no idea who is coming on board when you launch
I was hired by a company to help them launch a digital product; the final product was done and they just needed some information to go out to the market. Sounds clear enough, right? Me: “Great. Can you show me the reviews from the years in development? I’d love to see what people said about it and have some conversations with them about what they felt were the most compelling features/benefits so as we craft the message it can be in the words of the potential users.” Response: “We don’t have any.” If your market didn’t have input into the product you developed, how do you know it meets their needs? Do you know what those needs are? Market development is critical. A former colleague of mine used to say (and probably still does) “You don’t have to market develop all of your products. Just those you want to sell”. If you haven’t had any potential customers giving feedback throughout the product development process, you may have missed a good opportunity to build the market while you build your product – but it isn’t too late. Late market development is better than no market development at all.
You cannot get your elevator story down.
If you can’t make your value proposition and message of your product easy to deliver – so easy a 4th grader could get it – you have work to do. Most likely your sales team has a lot of products in their arsenal, and having been a sales rep myself – I used to go with what message I could easily deliver because when I was confident in the product I was selling, I got more sales. No surprises there. Make their job easy and spend the time that it takes to test your message – refine it – test it again – refine it again if needed and make it simple to understand. Without that kind of clarity for your sales team, you leave them needing to fill in a lot of gaps to explain it to their customers – so they may just not do it at all, or not in the way you need them to.
Companies have the best of intentions and are working to create the best products they can. But, there are time restrictions, staff restrictions, and so many products in the pipeline…
Don’t let a product go to market before it’s ready. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Give us a call and let’s talk through it. The Boedeker Group can help.