If someone asked you to cram a year's worth of work into one week, could you do it? Would you?
Any sane person would refuse the request, but hundreds of companies take on the challenge each year when launching new products. That means issues that would normally be mere annoyances — down servers, hour-long interruptions on a payment processor — become catastrophic money losses that might never be recovered. But they can be avoided. Here's how:
Every successful launch starts with a launch calendar. Start with the projected launch date and work backward to capture every step needed to meet your deadline. Your timeline should include: releasing promotional information, recruiting and updating affiliates and partners, initiating the pre-launch start (the day the main promotion begins), promoting launch day (the day the product goes on sale), closing carts (the day the product or promotion ends), and fulfilling orders and customer service requests.
Companies must also build in time for new ideas. Leaders are often shocked by the amount of money left on the table because they failed to account for non-essential strategic activities during the launch.
The most vital part — fulfilling orders and customer service requests — is what makes a launch successful. It allows a business to create a fan base whose loyalty will last for years.
In our space, a minimum 30-day refund period is a must, and there's a high return rate in the online training market. Our first online training course launch a few years ago had a 50 percent return rate — not what we had hoped for. Sometime it came from scammers wanting free information request returns, while others requests come in from clients disappointed by the delivery.
After implementing a better launch strategy, we got refunds down to a highly respectable 15 percent. How? By providing exceptional customer service and delivering on our promises. We worked long hours in advance to ensure customers got results from our training.
Even long-time launchers make mistakes — but you don't need to. Here are five effective ways to prepare for a product launch:
- Expect bad things to happen. No matter how unsexy they are, every business needs contingency plans. Don’t think that what happened to others won’t happen to you. For example, will you be cycling millions through a payment processor over a seven-day period? Put multiple processors in place and rotate them to avoid slowdowns.
- Bring on extra staff. A big product launch is no time to run lean and mean. Let full-time andtemp staff know they’ll be working around the clock, and compensate them well. The large influx of business will create customer service and technical issues you don’t normally experience, and you’ll need people to handle them. A new customer’s first impression is usually a permanent one.
- Improve your reputation.When buzz is generated, people will research your product and business. Make sure what they see is very good. Have existing customers or staff write blog posts and create videos to enhance your search results. Promote these on your website to generate more revenue during your launch.
- Set expectations. Launches are hectic; let the people in your life know you’ll be largely unavailable. Eliminate other major obligations during this time.
- Schedule weekly check-in meetings. About three months pre-launch, my team meets every single week for up to two hours to stay on schedule. This discipline reduces procrastination and the need to urgently handle miscommunicated responsibilities.When you’re stressed, you tend to make poor decisions, whether that means declining an opportunity because you don’t have time or failing to provide good service because you’re stretched too thin.
A launch is a great time to attract loyal customers who can change your life — and the future of your company. Make sure your launch is a rewarding experience for everyone involved. It will make the hectic work absolutely worth it.
Matt Clark is a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, and health and fitness enthusiast. He is an entrepreneurial thought leader, and he founded a multimillion-dollar product distribution business enterprise. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.