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People dressed in cow outfits try to hail a taxi on 5th Avenue in New York 12 May 2005 during a promotional stunt to introduce a new product by Coffee-Mate. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
People dressed in cow outfits try to hail a taxi on 5th Avenue in New York 12 May 2005 during a promotional stunt to introduce a new product by Coffee-Mate. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Start: Mark Evans

Product launch sets stage for success Add to ...

Launching a new product or service can be exciting and challenging.

It offers a golden opportunity to make a big splash and capture the spotlight. It also means doing a lot of legwork to make sure everything is ready to support the launch so it can be as well received as possible.

The process can consume a lot of time and it involves a long list of small and large tasks along the way. But if done well, a launch can be an amazing coming-out party that sets the stage for future success.

I recently helped one of my clients, Wave Accounting, launch its free online account service for small businesses. The planning started a couple of months ago, at a time when the Toronto-based start-up was also applying the finishing touches to its service, which is going head-to-head with rivals such as Quicken.

For Wave, the launch kicked off with a video that shows the service's features and benefits. Even though it's only 90 seconds long, it took several weeks to write and approve a script, create storyboards, and then produce it.

At the end of the day, it was a solid investment because it provides a quick and user-friendly snapshot of the service for the media, bloggers and potential users.

Wave also hired a public relations agency to help with the launch. It took several weeks to do the research on potential agencies, to invite a small group to provide proposals, and to then make a selection. The agency had to get up to speed about the service, build a target list, and create a press release.

Another part of Wave's launch plan was the creation of a "media" page on its website that featured the press release, screen captures of the service, the video and photos of the management team. It was crucial to develop an interesting theme other than the fact Wave is a new service. While the company is excited about debuting, it can be difficult to capture the attention of media and bloggers without a different angle.

For Wave, the pitch was that it's a free service in a marketplace featuring paid services, and that it is a service designed to stop small-business owners from using spreadsheets and shoeboxes to do their accounting.

With everything in place, Wave officially debuted earlier this week, and it reached out to dozens of reporters and bloggers in Canada and the United States. With the launch finally done, the reality is Wave needs to continue spreading the word because it can take time for media and bloggers to pick up on the story when there is so much happening - even a new and interesting service can slip through the cracks.

The hard work and preparations for a launch need to be viewed as a long-term investment as opposed to something designed for one-time use. While the world may not beat a path to your door right away, having the right collateral in place for the debut means being prepared when the spotlight finally shines on what you are doing.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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