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Preparing_For_A_Successful_Launch

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					Title:
Preparing For A Successful Launch

Word Count:
1149

Summary:
When sending a new product or service out into the world, a flashy launch
party won't do the trick. Here's how to spend your marketing budget
wisely

Your public launch of a product or service should be designed to raise
the profile of your company. Think of it as a marketing event—a kickoff
party of sorts. What you need for a launch is a compelling product or
service, plus a handful of early customers providing gushing
testimonials.

Don't spend money on a flashy launch...


Keywords:
business, business launch, startup, entrepreneur, launch party, marketing
budget, new product


Article Body:
When sending a new product or service out into the world, a flashy launch
party won't do the trick. Here's how to spend your marketing budget
wisely

Your public launch of a product or service should be designed to raise
the profile of your company. Think of it as a marketing event—a kickoff
party of sorts. What you need for a launch is a compelling product or
service, plus a handful of early customers providing gushing
testimonials.

Don't spend money on a flashy launch party when you have no
accomplishments to show off. Spend your marketing budget on making the
press and blogging community aware of your product and the companies that
are using it, as well as the problems your product is solving and the
specific benefits that have resulted from its use.

You should prepare for your launch by answering the following four
questions. Which companies are using your product/service? What specific
problems are being solved? What associated "pain" is your product/service
removing? What have the tangible and quantifiable benefits been to your
clients?

Your goal is to provide a clear message about the customer's problems,
and the benefits your product or service has provided and will continue
to provide. This is what the press should be made aware of when you
launch. This is newsworthy.
From those four questions, you'll be able to formulate a few customer
case studies that will illustrate the many benefits of using your
product. Case studies should tell the story from the customer's
perspective. You can offer the case studies to journalists who are
working on a story about your company.

There's no magic number of customers or amount of sales you need in order
to execute a launch. If you're a privately held company, you don't have
to disclose either to the press. You'll launch when you are ready to gain
traction and when you have the infrastructure set up to handle an
increased number of inquiries and sales. Make sure you're ready, though—
many startups sell their product for six months or more before they
officially launch.

Pick a point person for the launch. This person will be internal or
external, and have a blend of marketing and PR skills. They'll spend a
great deal of time on preparing marketing materials such as customer case
studies, customer testimonials, and product fact sheets.

They'll also distribute press releases, pitch journalists and influential
bloggers, answer frequently asked questions, book customer interviews,
and a lot more. The pre- and post- launch activities take months of
dedicated time. Doing it right is well worth it.

It might be helpful at this point to tell you more about the key steps
from founding to sale to better understand how your own launch process
and timeline should look. In the 1990's I got an idea for an Internet
promotions company while chatting in line with a man at Starbucks. Over
time, we built a team and funded the company with venture capital, built
it up, and a few years later I sold my shares to Rupert Murdoch's News
Corp.. The route I took ended up having 12 main steps. While your own
launch process will be tailored to your specific industry and product or
service, seeing how one of my companies progressed provides a case study
you can use to get started.

1. We wrote the business plan in order to clarify our vision. We wrote
our funding pitch in a PowerPoint presentation and our first year's
budget in an Excel spreadsheet. We created a formula-based dynamic model
so we could plug in numbers for different "what if" scenarios (what if
our expenses were higher, what if our revenue were lower, etc.).

2. We mocked up our Web pages so others could visualize how our site
would work and how consumers, retailers, manufacturers would interact
with it. Always do this. Many people you'll pitch to will be visual.

3. We designed the architecture so others could visualize how we'd do
certain product functions such as data analysis and data mining.
Providing a schematic of the backend architecture helped boost our
credibility with the potential client's information technology teams that
would have to interface with our backend.

4. We got our first round of funding! We sold 33% percent of our company
for 18 months' worth of operational cash.
5. We hired key staff: a VP of engineering, a VP of Sales, and a VP of
marketing because this company was very engineering- and sales-intensive.
We needed to have a solid architecture and we needed to get started on
the incredibly long sales cycle for retailers and manufacturers.

Marketing worked on collateral—sales support material like brochures and
data sheets—while the sales folks hung out with potential customers and
asked for their suggestions on our product design. This helped get the
potential customers more emotionally engaged in our success and increased
their likelihood of buying a system they had helped design.

6. We secured our first customers (both retailers and manufacturers) and
Web site strategic alliances. We raised our profile with trade
associations and distributed a white paper we had written that
illustrated the future of our business: online, targeted promotions. We
positioned ourselves as the experts. This is like declaring victory as
you're stepping onto the battlefield. Do it!

7. We launched a 90-day beta test.

8. We got our first consumers using the beta system. We gave countless
speeches to manufacturers and retailers. Then we cranked up the PR engine
and started getting press.

9. As a result of the above, we got more funding.

10. We demonstrated our product's data analysis capabilities to
customers. They were wowed, and we were able to up-sell them to a more
premium (read: expensive) service.

11. We expanded our customer base. We released a complete Version 1 of
the system. We did zillions more speeches. Whew! That was a lot of
talking for me and my executive staff! And we got more press.

12. And yep, you guessed it. We got more funding.

So you see, the launch process is cyclical. Each time there is a
progression and growth associated with customers and press, more funding
follows. You must repeatedly demonstrate growth with each step of the
launch process.

Also, you don't need to pay a market research company big bucks to write
a report on you. Like the companies Gartner Group, Jupiter, and Aberdeen,
there are many reputable and influential (and expensive) groups that can
raise the profile of your company.

I prefer gaining credibility from customer case studies, from showing
specifically how you are solving problems as opposed to paying someone to
write about you. You'll be written up once you've gained traction. So
hunker down and get to work! That said, you may need the credibility
boost of a research report from a third party if you are selling a six-
digit product to enormous enterprises and your executive team doesn't
have fabulous accomplishments in their past.

				
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