I've lost track of the number of product launches I've worked on in my career, and one thing I've learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for entering the market. Some products launch at the high end and move downward, some launch at the low end and move up. Some hit their niche immediately, while others need time to settle into their place.
To have a successful launch, it's vital to find the right fit between your company brand, your product, and your customers. Sometimes this intersection is obvious, but often it takes market research and strategic planning to find the best market space for your new product. Here are some tips I've learned along the way:
Make Your Product Resonate With Your Customers
1. Don't narrow your product's focus too much.
While finding the right niche can be a good way to capture a segment of the market that's currently being ignored, getting too specific can be fatal. There just may not be enough consumers in that niche to support your product. As Gary Smith writes in Entrepreneur magazine,
“For optimal success, don't brand your product as too niche an offering because then it will appeal to only a few consumers. A product's branding should be focused on something a mass audience can relate to.”
2. Keep the value as simple as possible.
If you, the product's inventor or chief sales person, have to spend a long time explaining how your product works and how it can help consumers, the product is likely too complicated. After all, you're not going to be able to reach every potential buyer to explain the item. The product needs to be able to sell itself. Some of this can be done via packaging and advertising, but the litmus test is this: If someone with no prior knowledge sees your product online or on a shelf, is the benefit immediately apparent and compelling? If not, you may need to go back to the drawing board.
3. Know your ideal customer.
Time spent getting to better know your target consumer and their needs is never time wasted. Are you launching a high-end home appliance or an innovative app that coordinates various modes of public transportation? You will be targeting a very different consumer depending on the type of product, so ask yourself “Which segment of the market will have a compelling need for my product?” Marketing your public transportation app in the luxury car market won't get you far.
In his article “3 Steps to Determine Product-Market Fit“, Will Caldwell advises:
“If you don't know your customer, you won't have much luck figuring out the product-market fit. To get a better understanding of your target demographic, you should spend time with your customers… Developing a deep understanding of the problems facing your customers enables you to relate to them better and ultimately helps builds trust and credibility.”
4. Be consistent in your branding.
I recently wrote about the importance of brand credibility and included a few tips on how to achieve it. The final step is to be consistent. If you are sending one brand message on social media sites, another via email marketing, and a third message in your print advertising, you will confuse consumers and come across as insincere or uncertain. Customers respond best to established brands with a sense of consistency and authority, so stick with your most authentic branding and marketing message and slightly tweak it to best suit your various marketing outlets and demographics.
5. Reposition your product only if necessary.
While consistency is key to building a brand reputation, if you need to reposition a product because it's failing in a certain market space you should do so. It's possible to adjust your target market without undoing all of your branding work. Gary Smith says:
“Repositioning or pivoting [your product] can help create a clear differentiation of your product in comparison to its competitors. Leveraging existing relationships or potential partners can also work to legitimize a brand as it expands its reach… That way, the repositioned brand doesn’t have to start from scratch in communicating a new meaning to consumers. This is a cost-effective and efficient way to quickly ramp up a fresh position.”
While there is no one right way to guarantee a product's success, you can dramatically increase the chances of your product being a winner by making your product appeal to a reasonably broad audience, keeping the product as simple as possible, and understanding your customers' needs as well–or better–than they do. Armed with this knowledge, you can make an informed choice about your target market and the best ways to reach your ideal customer.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on product positioning. Tweet us @eidsonpartners with your ideas!