Common Pitfalls In The Product Launch Process

Derek is a former marketing exec, now founder of Ignition—the GTM platform helping teams get to market faster and more effectively.

The success of a product launch could make or break a company. This article aims to help businesses avoid common pitfalls in the launch process by examining real-world examples and providing tactical insights. Let’s dive into these examples and learn from their mistakes and successes.

1. Insufficient Market Research And Poorly Defined Target Audience

A common pitfall in the product launch process is neglecting market research (both competitive and customer research), causing a failure to define a clear target audience. This can lead to the development of products that don’t address real customer needs or preferences as well as confusing and bland messaging.

Quibi, the mobile-first streaming platform, raised over $1.75 billion in funding but shut down just six months after launch with only 500,000 paying subscribers. It appears the company’s leadership had made assumptions behind the scenes about how users would consume content on its platform, with it focusing on short-form video for on-the-go consumption. The streaming space is competitive, though, and because it wasn’t able to meet customer needs and grow its base, the product fell extremely flat.

It didn’t build commonly desired features like the ability to share content on social, and it failed to highlight true competitive differentiation by offering content on the platform its users loved.

It’s all too common for companies to build things nobody wants (intuition is often wrong) or tell stories that lack real insight into customer problems and thus don’t resonate. It’s vital for organizations to conduct thorough market research and develop detailed buyer personas to guide product development and marketing efforts.

2. Inadequate Interdepartmental Coordination And Communication

Another pitfall to avoid is poor interdepartmental coordination and communication during the launch process. This can lead to the inefficient allocation of resources, delays and even technical problems that impact the user experience.

The HealthCare.gov website launch in 2013 experienced numerous technical issues, leading to only six people successfully enrolling on the first day. Multiple government departments and contractors were involved in the build and launch process, which led to a lack of clear lines of communication and accountability.

For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was responsible for coordinating the efforts of 55 contractors yet failed to properly communicate with those contractors. Timelines, requirements and assets all failed to make their way to the important parties, and execution suffered as communication and coordination broke down.

It’s critical to remember that it takes a village to launch a product; everyone needs to be operating in lockstep with full context and the information needed to execute their portion of the process. Make sure you establish clear communication channels and constantly “pulse” information outward to every stakeholder involved in the launch process to make sure balls don’t get dropped.

3. Lack Of A Structured And Iterative Launch Process

A successful product launch often requires a structured and iterative process that allows for flexibility and adaptation based on customer feedback. Companies that neglect this approach may find themselves struggling to address issues that arise post-launch, failing to capitalize on opportunities for improvement or wasting critical time reinventing the wheel every time a new launch rolls around.

Slack, the popular workplace communication tool, released the product in a limited beta prior to its official launch, enabling the company to gather invaluable feedback from early users. This feedback-driven approach allowed Slack to make critical improvements and address any issues that arose during the beta period. By the time Slack officially launched in the App Store in 2014, it had already had 16,000 users.

For subsequent launches, Slack had a process in place that had been vetted and iterated on to introduce new products, and it established consistent communication processes both to customers and internal audiences—allowing it to rapidly ship updates in the most impactful way possible to customers.

It’s a good reminder that processes don’t have to be “heavy” and that simply having processes in place can allow for a higher level of agility as you scale.

Avoiding The Pitfalls And Making A Lasting Impact

Successful product launches don’t have to be hard, but they do require thorough market research, well-defined target audiences, clear interdepartmental communication, and a structured and iterative launch process. If you don’t have the right strategy, you fail. If key people don’t have the right context and messaging, you fail. If you’re spending more time on process design than strategy, you fail.

Most of this work happens before you’re ready to launch, and it’s essential to invest time and resources upfront into understanding customer needs, fostering strong communication within the organization and implementing a process that allows for continuous improvement based on feedback.

Just keeping these three pitfalls in mind can help avoid massively damaging impacts in terms of your process and internal efficiency as well as lost sales opportunities.


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