10 Steps to Take Before You Launch a Product or Service
A business owner that does not plan for the possibility of success beyond their wildest dreams runs the risk of failing to keep up with demand. That leads to unhappy customers, bad reviews, and enormous missed opportunities. How can you best prepare for a product launch?
The following list offers guidelines for marketing your launch, budgeting, building a team, and more. Each launch presents unique challenges, but this list can get you started on your way to success.
1. Understand What Makes You Unique
(how will you stand out from the competition)
You might be offering something that the market has never seen before. More likely, though, you are diving into a crowded sea. You need to make your product/service stand out to consumers. You can do this by creating a unique selling proposition (USP), which sets you apart from your competitors.
In order to create a USP, you need to research your competitors to see where your product or service is truly exceptional. Consider the consumer insights that can be gained from an analysis of social media.
Areas of comparison might include various marketing dimensions like:
How much does your product/service cost compared to your competitors?
What are your customers getting for their money?
Are your customers paying for a lasting product or reliable service?
How useful is your product?
How well-known or respected are you or your product/service?
Are you also offering an ongoing relationship with your customers?
How well do you back up what you are offering?
2. Determine Your Budget
(and if you will need funding)
Your budget should include startup costs and an estimate of your expenses once you are underway. First, you need to know whether you will need a physical location for your business, or whether you can operate entirely virtually. From there, you can begin to estimate what you will need for startup costs.
These may include:
- A lease for office, warehouse, or retail space
- Utility costs
- Permits and licenses
- Professional fees, including lawyers and accountants
- Fees for business formation and intellectual property registration
- Marketing, advertising, and sales
- Printed and online marketing materials
- Employment expenses
Once you know how much money you will need to get your business up and running, you will know if you need to raise money. Depending on the type of product/service you are launching, you might consider venture capital, angel investors, bank loans, friends and family, or other possible sources of funding. Here is a handy tool that can help you calculate your startup costs.
3. Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan for a startup can provide you with a roadmap for launching your business. It may also be a necessity for obtaining certain types of funding. A good business plan helps you set priorities and stay focused. At the same time, an extensive and detailed business plan becomes obsolete almost as soon as you face real-world challenges.
- A traditional business plan could take weeks or months to prepare, and could run over forty or fifty pages in length. You might need this level of detail for some types of funding. If you do not absolutely have to prepare this kind of plan, you have an alternative.
- A one-page business plan allows you to show investors and others what your business will be about quickly and efficiently. It highlights key points and gives you room to adapt to changing circumstances.
4. Set Up Your Business Structure
You can operate your business with or without a formal business structure. Informal business structures include:
- Sole proprietorship: You own and operate the business by yourself.
- General partnership: You own and operate the business with one or more other people.
Informal businesses might involve less paperwork, but they offer you no liability protection. You could be individually liable for business debts, and your business could be affected by your personal liabilities. In a general partnership, any partner could be liable for decisions made by other partners.
Formal business structures include corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships. You must file paperwork with your state government and pay a fee to create a formal business entity. They offer liability protection for the business owners, but also require additional paperwork.
5. Secure Your Online Identity
A presence on the internet is essential for almost any business operating today. Consumers often do all of their research into a product or service online. Once you have determined the name of your business, you should take steps to secure it as part of building a strong brand image. You may decide to register your business name or product name as a trademark. You should register both your business name and product name as a domain name, even if you do not intend to use it as a URL right away.
Logo design can be crucial to successfully build out your visual brand for your business. Your logo will appear on all of your marketing materials, not to mention business cards, social media accounts, letterhead, and so on. It is worth some effort and expense. You want your logo and related visual brand elements to stick out in consumers’ minds.
Here are a few guidelines to consider:
- Keep it simple: A logo should be reasonably easy to duplicate on computer screens, printed materials, and product packaging.
- Think about scale: You want it to look good on a business card and on the side of a building.
- Stay evergreen: You do not want something that will seem dated by next year.
- Pop some eyes: Your brand elements should get people’s attention.
- Authenticity: Your logo should fit with who you are, who your company is, and what your product/service is.
Don’t overthink your logo at this stage of your business or worry about spending too much money. You can create a professional logo design with the help of a DIY platform without denting your pocket.
7. Validate Your Product
You do not want to waste time on a product or service that nobody wants or needs. Market validation gives you an idea of how much your product/service is worth to consumers, as well as where to focus your marketing efforts. It will also reassure potential investors that betting on you is worthwhile.
Methods for conducting market validation may include:
- Using social media engagement to test product/service ideas
- Surveying consumers about their needs
- Beta testing a product
- Creating a limited product release at a discounted price
The success of these efforts, or lack thereof, can provide a great deal of information about the potential of a product/service in the wider market.
8. Develop a Clear Marketing Plan
Business owners have access to more marketing channels now than at any other point in history. So it is important to develop a clear marketing and sales plan to ensure how you cover your target market.
- Social media
- Search engine optimization
- Word of mouth
- Advertising, both on- and offline
Your marketing plan should begin by identifying and analyzing your likely customers, answering questions like:
- Who are they?
- Where do they live?
- What do they want and need?
- What might get them to buy your product/service?
- What challenges might come between them and buying your product/service?
From there, you can look at your competitors to see how they are meeting customers’ needs, and to consider ways you can do better. This information will help you identify the best marketing channels to use, and estimate how much it will cost.
Set Up Your Online Presence
Now that you have secured a top level domain (TLD) name and developed a marketing plan, you can work on building your online presence. At a minimum, your online presence should include a website and social media profiles. Setting up a website is not enough to build and maintain an online presence. You will need to maintain online engagement in order to build brand recognition and boost yourself in search engine rankings.
Ways to do this might include:
- Regular social media posts across multiple channels
- Engagement with consumers on social media
- Blog posts and other updates to your website
Get Your Core Team
No matter how hard you work, you will need help to build your business. Creating a core team is essential to success, but you need hire the right team–your dream team. Each business’ unique needs will define what “the right team” means for them.
When you first set out to hire a team for your new business, consider the following points:
- Carefully consider what you need: Which parts of running the business are most appealing to you? Which ones are best delegated to others?
- Take it slow: Employees are a huge responsibility. You want to find the right candidate for a position. You also do not want to bring on too many people too soon.
- Know your rights and obligations: The moment you hire employees, you add “management” to your list of job duties. This might be a very different skill set from your other duties, but it could be among the most important.
Steps You Should Take Before Launching Your Product
You put a substantial amount of time and effort into creating your product or preparing to offer a particular service. Obviously, you hope that your product or service will be well-received. Some thorough preparation will help you maximize the chances of a successful product or service launch and reduce the chance of getting into difficulty because the debut went too successfully. These are the benefits of observing the steps you should take before launching your product or service.