Launching a new product or service is equal parts exciting and terrifying.
There’s always one question at the forefront of your mind… “What if I fail?”
Entrepreneurs have a complicated relationship with failure. So much so that different business owners treat it very differently.
The sanest ones just debrief what went wrong, learn from their mistakes, and move on.
Others treat every failure like a tragedy. Or try to spin it as an awesome learning experience – an idea which, as demonstrated by research, is highly overrated.
And a few mavericks, like Jeff Bezos, choose to brag about it.
But while failure is always possible when you’re launching something new, it’s far from inevitable. And this is something we rarely talk about in business.
Today’s post is all about how avoiding failure. We’ll talk about what exactly you can do when you’re launching a new product or service, and things aren’t going very well.
Even if your launch looks like it’s about to fly off the cliff, you don’t have to watch it happen – there are always steps you can take to either:
- a) turn the tables and walk away with a successful launch, or
- b) rapidly pivot and re-launch a different version of your offer.
Let’s go through this process, step by step.
Step 1. Spotting the early signs
So let’s say you’re launching a new product or service, and things are… sluggish, for lack of a better word. Here are some typical signs that the launch isn’t going well:
- There’s very little interest from your leads – even as you ramp up your marketing efforts, nobody reaches out to you to ask about the offer.
- When you do get questions, it’s from time-wasters who nitpick and focus on irrelevant questions, instead of asking if your product or service is right for them. When people say stuff like, “You have a typo in your sales email!” is usually code for, “I will never buy from you, I’m just here to waste your time and justify my decision to myself.”
- Sales are barely trickling in, even when you’ve moved past the “warm-up” part of your launch, and are now doing the hard sell. Your offer should be selling like the proverbial hot cakes, but it isn’t.
If you’re noticing one or more of these red flags when rolling out something new to your prospects, it’s your cue to do some research and identify what the problem is.
Which brings us to Step Two…
Step 2. Identifying the problem
Nine times out of ten, if your launch is struggling to get traction, it’s because of problems in one or more of these areas:
If your product or service isn’t meant to solve a massive pain point or deliver a huge benefit to your target customers, they don’t have a compelling reason to buy. One of the most common mistakes made by brands is creating a product or service that is a nice-to-have, but not a must-have.
It’s also known as a “vitamins vs. painkillers” problem, beautifully summed up in this article from the Entrepreneur magazine. Spoilers: whenever possible, create a “painkiller” offer, not a “vitamin” offer.
If your marketing message doesn’t focus on what is relevant to your customers, it becomes next to impossible to make a compelling case for your product or service.
For example, let’s say your target customers want to lose weight. But you’re framing your product or service as something that will help them live a healthier life – even though it can help them lose weight, too. But you’re not focusing on that!
As a result, your message passes right over their heads, and nobody buys from you. Of course, that’s just one example of how a misaligned message can cost you sales. Here’s a short list of 5 other messaging mistakes you might be making.
Your target customers
Reaching the right people with your offer is perhaps the most important prerequisite for making sales. The good news is, it’s fairly easy to check if your message is directed at the people who are most likely to buy.
Here’s how: apply something that’s called “The Pay Certainty framework” (first coined by Ramit Sethi and nicely summarized in this post). Just ask these two questions:
- Do your customers have the ability to pay for your product or service?
- Do your customers have the willingness to pay for your product or service?
Note: if your business is in the B2B space, you will want to add another question to this list…
3. Do your customers have permission to pay for your product or service – i.e. are they the key decision maker)?
Finally, sometimes the timing of your new offer is just wrong.
For example, some products or services do amazingly well during the holiday season, while others flop. In a similar fashion, your customers could be at different points in their lives that might make them more or less likely to buy from you.
There is one other subtle timing challenge that could hurt your launch – lack of urgency to buy. When customers don’t have an incentive to purchase right away, it becomes very hard to make sales.
So… which one is it?
Chances are, your launch has run into one or more of these 4 problems. And the best way to identify what’s going wrong is by listening to your target customers. You know, the ones who saw the offer but didn’t purchase!
Getting feedback from these people is paramount. Email them, get on the phone with them, and do your best to get to the bottom of the issue. It’s just like a customer development survey… except it’s not about finding out what they want, and all about zeroing in on why they didn’t buy.
After you have done your due diligence and listened to the market, the question becomes: what do you do? What should the solution be?
And that brings us to Step Three…
Step 3. Formulating the solution – 3 questions to ask
Once you have identified what might be going wrong with your launch, it’s time to put together a solid potential solution. You can do this by asking these 3 questions:
- Are you reasonably sure that you have correctly identified the problem? This one is self-explanatory: if you have misidentified the problem with your launch, you won’t be able to fix it. You should always aim to be 100% certain that you’re fixing the real issue, instead of your assumption about what it might be.
- What 1-3 steps can you take right now to solve or minimize said problem? If you’re trying to fix your launch as fast as possible, overhauling it completely is not an option. Instead, focus on the fewest actions that would make the biggest impact (we’ll talk about them in Step Four).
- What precautions are you taking to avoid this next time? Sometimes it’s not practical to try and fix your product launch on the go, and the most sensible thing you can do it to take down the offer, change how you approach your next launch, and try again later. In fact, even if you choose to go ahead with your launch, you should still plan ahead to prevent similar problems in the future.
Obviously, your solution to fixing your product or service launch is going to be unique to your brand, and your offer. That said, as we’re diving into Step Four, we are going to list a few most common – and most impactful – “fixes” you can apply to your launch, depending on what the problem is.
Here they are…
Step 4. Executing the highest-impact solution
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to fixing a failing launch. As much as we wish we could give you one specific piece of advice for this step that would save the day, we can’t.
So instead we’ll give you a few potential solutions for each type of problem that you might encounter during your launch.
If your offer isn’t aligned with what your target customers want, there are a few steps you can take to improve the situation, like:
- Revamp the offer to make it more specific to the needs of your target customers. If you’re selling a service, it’s going to be super-easy. But if your offer is a product, you might want to simply change the messaging around it (see below).
- Create a higher-end or a lower-end version of the same offer – for example, a downsell for the customers who find your product or service too expensive… or a premium-level offer for people who want more, and are ready to pay more.
Sometimes you can save your launch just by tweaking the marketing messages around your offer. For example, you could:
- Check if your product or service’s benefits and pain points are aligned with what your target customers want – and re-tackle your messaging accordingly.
- Think about what you can do to make the sale a no-brainer for your target customers. Can you tackle some of their unspoken objections? Could you offer an incredible guarantee to reverse potential risks?
- If your sales depend on one mission-critical piece of marketing – e.g. your main sales page, or your homepage, or a whiteboard animation video – focus on improving that to boost your conversions.
Your target customers
Here’s what you can do to get more of your ideal customers interested in your offer:
- Qualify your leads by explaining who your offer is for, and who isn’t the right customer for you. For maximum effect, do it in sales conversations, as well as at strategic points in your copy – e.g. your sales page FAQ section.
- Allow potential customers to self-select by expressing interest in your offer. That way, when you’re selling it to them, you will know that you’re targeting the right people, and you’ll have an accurate idea of how many prospects actually want your product or service.
- Focus on your existing customers over everyone else – they are much more likely to buy than new leads, or people who haven’t bought anything from you despite being familiar with your brand for a long time.
Finally, to fix potential problems with the timing of your offer, the #1 thing you can do is to introduce urgency and scarcity to your launch. Don’t just tell people why they should buy – tell them why they should buy right now!
It’s not failure – it’s a test
That’s one cheesy-sounding headline, but it’s true. No matter what kind of business you run, you should treat every less-than-successful launch not as a failure, but as a test. And the wonderful thing about tests is, you can learn from the results and try again.
Even though not all launches can be saved, every single one can be improved upon. We hope that this post gives you the tools to do just that. After all, some products are only world-famous because their creators didn’t give up after initial failures. Which means, neither should you.
Even if your offer doesn’t become world-famous, if your next launch is more successful than your previous one, that’s a victory in our book!
P.S. Whether or not you rely on launches to grow your business, an awesome whiteboard animation video can make a huge difference in your marketing in 2017.
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