If someone asked you to complete a year’s worth of work in one week, could you do it? Would you?
Most people would refuse the request, but hundreds of companies take on this challenge each year when launching new products. This means that issues which are normally mere annoyances — down servers, hour-long payment processor interruptions — become catastrophic money losses that might never be recovered. But they can be avoided.
Even seasoned entrepreneurs make mistakes — but you don’t need to. Here are seven effective ways to prepare for a product launch:
Schedule your success.
Every successful product launch starts with a launch calendar. Develop your roadmap with the projected launch date and work backward to capture every step needed to meet your deadline. Your product launch timeline should include: releasing promotional information, recruiting and updating affiliates and partners, initiating pre-launch start (i.e., the day the main promotion begins), launch day (i.e., the day the product goes on sale), closing carts (i.e., the day the product or promotion ends), fulfilling orders, and customer service requests. You must also build in time for new ideas.
Entrepreneurs 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.
Lower refund request rates, early.
In my industry, a minimum 30-day refund period is a must. And there is a high return rate in the online education and training market. Our first online training course launch a few years ago had a 50 percent return rate — not what we had hoped. High refund rates came from scammers wanting free information, while others were from clients who were disappointed by the delivery. After implementing a better launch strategy, we lowered our refunds 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.
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 payment processors in place and rotate them to avoid sales slowdowns.
Bring on extra staff.
A big product launch is no time to run lean and mean. Let full-time and temp 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 company website to generate more revenue during your launch.
Set clear expectations.
Launches are hectic; let the people in your life know you’ll be largely unavailable. Eliminate other major obligations during this time. 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.
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 practice reduces procrastination and the need to urgently handle miscommunicated responsibilities.
A new product 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+.
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