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3 months to launch a new product

successful-product-launch-advice

Question, hot shot. You have 3 months to launch a new product, what would be your game plan?

Research

Get to know and deeply understand the product, what the product solves and who the product’s potential customer base is (customer profiles), get to understand and potentially become part of that market. Do your competitive research. This would really be the research phase before the launch started. In general, as marketing gears up, I would share our messaging and content with the other departments’ emissaries (I’m looking at Product Development, CS and Operations) to make sure it is technically on point and covers any questions from that angle I may not have addressed. Make sure the product is thoroughly tested and evaluated internally before launch.

Messaging

Formulate messaging, language, voice, tone – in an effort of congruency and speak to the ears of your customer profile(s). Align your imagery, videos, and other sensory branding in the same manner (there are very successful companies that will actually scent their packages and/or stores with a brand smell – a supplement powder has a smell one might capitalize on). If multiple customer styles – segment and optimize messaging to those unique ears.

Part of this will be your content marketing which will be online, video, scripting to sales (if necessary), in print via catalog and packaging. In my opinion, it is important to sell, as they say, the sizzle before the steak. In other words, focus on the benefits to the customer, at least initially, rather than the features. I find huge value in telling the product’s story, as in why it exists, what inspired it, and so on, in a very theatrical, comical or otherwise interesting and engaging manner. There is more and more research showing that storytelling is quite powerful as is testimonials.

A lot of this is happening before the launch and evolving as the launch develops. On the product management end, you want to set goals, KPIs and anticipated ROI so you have your guidelines and target to gauge your levels of success. Online you’ll want to set up your funnels and conversion points (custom analytics). One may want to set up a go to market guide and branding style guide if none exist.

1. Pre-launch/Tease

If the company already has a “following”, then that would warrant pre-launch emails and socials which would hint at the upcoming product, much as a movie trailer does a movie or a phone company, a new phone. Give hints and imagery they really draw this audience in and start courting the influencers, evangelical and early adopters.

2. Press Release

Targeted press release which is written very clearly. Use a service like PRWeb or PR Newswire (if budget allows) to assure to get the word out to as many agents in the vertical as possible. Contact and stoke any friendlies in the press or networks that the company may have already nurtured.

3. Amazon/Ebay Store/Google Shopping

Create and optimize the product presentation for Amazon. This includes an optimum product feed (both images and content just like a site or brochure), work closely with the Amazon Representative (if you get big enough you get one of these) and seller support. Consider paying for ads as a sponsored product in the category, eliciting vine reviews as well as natural testimonials. Use autoresponder emails after purchase asking the client how things are and so on.

eBay and Google Shopping are different yet the same general concept and strategies apply.

4. Tradeshows/Events/Partner Stores

Go to the popular B2C (in this case) events or tradeshows. Set up booths to promote and talk about the product. If there are speakers there that we could sponsor and have to promote the product in their lectures do that as well.

If there are partner stores that sell the product, one may pay them or reward them for priority space (an endcap in a store and so on). We could also hold events at the stores provided they merit that. A further option would be to offer the sales staff itself to sell the item in store through perks or a commission. If desperate Groupon and similar partners may be an option (they take a big cut).

Affiliate marketing can fit in here – offer a percentage to people who sell your product on their site via a customized link and tracking. Encourage a large affiliate community to cover ground that even the authority figures may not reach. Often an affiliate, to the customer, may appear as a word-of-mouth lead which can be one of the most valuable of all.

Samples are great to give out at events, stores or through online registration. If a sample would merit a positive feeling this can have a powerful immediate effect on the most important (to me) marketing tactic – word of mouth. Would a first-time purchase discount or deal do the same without diluting or sabotaging your MSRP or general pricing strategy? If not, then this should be considered. Overall when a sample gets in the hands of the community as a sample and has a noticeably positive effect, this is quite agreeable.

Make sure to have business cards, flyers, brochure and whatever support the sales staff needs to be successful, leave an impression and ease of contact.

5. Authority Figures

Speakers and influencers that we sponsor would cross promote with their sites, events, and videos. This doesn’t have to be limited to your traditional athlete or actor, it can also be bloggers, forum leaders, Reddit writers and more. The goal is to get them and the earlier adopters to evangelize the product and the rest will follow. This is similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s mavens, connectors, and salespeople from his book The Tipping Point.

6. Social Channel Distribution

Look at the various marketing channels and determine which ones house the most potential audience reach. Create content focused on the audience in these channels and then distribute across them.

Social – what social sites is our audience actively involved in. Target that.

YouTube – the second largest search engine and something we would definitely want to create content for. Serves a dual purpose of gaining and audience and eyes on YouTube itself and our channel plus the videos then came be used on the sites or other mediums (events and so on).

Print and Direct Mail – the traditional mode of attraction is not dead. The question is does it have value for the product and getting the word out versus cost.

LinkedIn – Targeting specific groups with promoted content can be very powerful to attracted the professional potentially influential clientele.

Others – There are a number of other social channels (Facebook, Instagram and the like but don’t forget forums and Reddit) that may be places where our targeted audience congregates. Again, the research phase will point the best ones to be utilized.

There are many different channels, some listed separately in this document. Social and YouTube are monsters that we would want to leverage and those plus everything else in here warrant a completely separate post. I cover these and my thoughts a bit deeper on my site under services.

A key thing to remember with all these channels is that we want to review the performance of any channel we use, create new mixes of channels as we move forward and grow as well as research and score other channels for potentiality and involvement in the future.

7. SEO

Optimize the site based on educated keyword and competitive keyword research. Create content that targets what users are searching for in the vertical with the goal of getting in the top three top search results (at least on the first page of the SERP). Make sure the landing page is optimized both for the reader and the search engine (write for the reader, optimize for the search engine), has very relevant content, gives value and shows authority.

8. SEM/PPC

Utilize paid advertising on major channels like Google, Bing and strategic social platforms where budget allows. Very carefully watch your ROI and make adjustments to encourage your well-performing keywords and ads with the constant action of always refining and improving. Use the given targeting methods to your advantage and try multiple methods such as interest, topics, placement, search and display. If budget is limited I would encourage the use of remarketing (targeting people who have already visited your site but have not converted – the ads that follow you around) as it is working on consumers that are already engaged with the brand at some level and are thus more likely to convert, become ambassadors and/or repeat visits.

9. Site Itself

Set up e-commerce on the site and use optimize content to bring value, conversions, and sales. Build your email marketing list. Offer loyalty programs, bulk discounts, sharing rewards, affiliates, infographics, videos and persist in building out your leads/email database preferably connect to a CRM or similar lead cultivation and management system. Remember the site itself is the hub and in many cases, all aspect of your marketing program (with the exception of Amazon and similar sales venues) should point to it where the consumer can engage directly with you, under your influence and your direct conversions or funnel points.

10. Email Marketing

Email remains one of the strongest ways to be in direct contact with consumers. If they are on the list, they have opted in and shown interest – very important customers. Find the sweet spot of content length, how often you email, what time and the visual design presentation. Stay on top of this with your analytics and encourage A/B testing (as you should with all public facing digital interactions) while refining and making adjustments.

Respond to any email/form contact queries as fast and personally as possible.

11. Customer Service

Make sure your customer service department is on it. Responds quickly, with care and intelligently to any questions or issues. No point in losing the customer due to some misunderstanding after the sales or due to some dissatisfaction which you could remedy nicely by being there and caring. This is not limited to direct calls or emails but also includes monitoring social comments, setting alerts (like Google alerts for your brand or product name) and responding to them. Don’t ignore Amazon testimonials or other market venues, and make sure to respond to the negative ones with a manufacturers response or similar. Marketing and CS should work hand and hand and in tangent. CS is very important.

After the three months.

Review your analytics – this is something we would be doing throughout. However, if three months is the set point for a success or failure – we will want to deeply look at all levels. ROI, general profit, future expectation (growth rate curving), upcoming possible tipping influences, market and channel success, online success, the general time and energy it takes to keep the product growing (are these resources growing or diminishing or simply stagnating and becoming disinterested) and the general health of the product launch itself. Was it a success? If not, is it forecasted to become a success in the near future? These types of questions.

After launch support.

Survey people using the product to find out what works, what lacks and what they would like. Take this advice where appropriate and optimize or spin off the product.

Continue to create content (blogs, articles, YouTubes, emails, socials and so on) targeted at the audience and their interest.

Continue to create events around the product or sponsor, get involved in events that align with the product.

Thank and support any influencers, bloggers and authority figures that are helping. Persist in nurturing this relationship.

In many ways continue with your launch, optimize it, figure out the success and grow them while soothing over any failures, rectifying and improving them. If the product is valid the launch will become the lifecycle and like our own, we will nurture it and grow it from cradle to the grave.

Conclusion

This is by no means an exhaustive, detailed list but rather it is a brief summary and stream-of-conscious of some options I would consider utilizing for a successful product launch. As each product and customer profile is different, a fact which then would relegate more effort in some areas whereas less in others. A big part of the launch is going to be the research and the intelligent consideration of data as it comes in and making an informed choice based on what that data indicates.

I did not break my thoughts down into a week to week plan as much of this needs to initiated and continued on a week to week basis. Meaning that one may be writing blogs, working in Amazon, creating videos, nurturing influencers, doing social channels, SEO, SEM and all of it throughout the 3 months. It would not be a week 1, write the blog, week 2 open and post on your social account – rather these would all have to occur constantly and consistently. They all have to integrate and sync for the betterment of the product and brand with intelligence and awareness of resource and how to strategically direct them based on analytics and successes.

The initial research of knowing the product and the audience will then help us predict where to put our energies in and what best channels to utilize.

The pre-launch is when the site is set up, packaging is done, content is written and reviewed, as well as social channels opened, SEO, influencers courted and the entire marketing engine setup, reviving and sitting at the starting line.

The launch itself, beginning with the day of is when the messaging hits the public directly (with the exception of teaser launches) and all chosen channels are enabled. The time breakdown depends on when it is optimal to hit a particular channel, that channel’s contact threshold, resources and later history…

Just some random musings on product launches.

Understanding Web Pricing – Coming Soon

successful-web-solution-blog-understanding-web-costsUnderstanding Web Pricing

The members of Successful Web Strategy | Solution have all been in the business for a long time now – most of us since the 90’s and the question of how much has always been an issue of debate. First of all there are a lot of options out there and a lot of manufactures – more so every day. One way to think of it might be to consider a website to be much like a car brand. You will get what you pay for. Now you might go with a low end Hugo or Hyundai but then again you might get a mid-range Toyota / Honda or move on up to the top of the line Mercedes / Lexus / BMW or heck you might just get a Lamborghini or a Tesla. You are going to get what you pay for both in quality,  service, reputation, prestige and so on.

Why do we bring this up? We have had many clients go to other vendors to get a quote with the same project specifications. The first one came back with $2,500, the next came to $12,000 and finally the third came back with $28,000.  Now this may seem ridiculous and all over the place especially with the same desired specifications. The fact of the matter is you will get what you pay for.

Which brings us right  back to the car analogy. The question you want to ask yourself is – What is my business or my brand? Am I a Hyundai Accent, a BMW 7-Series or something in between? What decide your website is worth on the information highway will reflect this and yourself.

It is a simple question of quality. Be cheap and get cheap – get the best and be the best. For many of you this is a critical investment.

Realize that often times today your website is your business, for many it is more important than your actual brick and mortor store, it is the very essence of your brand, it is the engine that you use to make all your money and impact. It just shocks us when partners want to go low on the one thing that is most important to their business.

An Example
Let’s look at a nice mid-range small business website. We love these and frankly like partnering with these types of clients the best.

Basic Website Components and Costs

On average, the following figures can be applied to estimating the cost of a small business website (if you’d like a custom estimate for your website contact on line or call us at 334.403.LOVE (5683)):

  • Domain Name – $10/year
  • Hosting – $10 to $100 a year (depending on traffic and hosting services)
  • Web Planning, Design and Development Time – 60 hours and up
  • Continued Website Maintenance – $500 a year and up (depending on number/type of updates required)
  • Marketing Your Website Online – $750 a month and up

Important Factors that Contribute to Website Cost

When preparing to budget web design costs, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this a brand new site or a redesign of an existing site?
  • How prepared are you to ask for bids? Have you prepared a detailed requirements document?
  • Do you need a blog or a content management system (CMS)?
  • Have graphics already been created for the site?
  • Do you want the site to automatically resize for mobile and tablets?
  • Do you need multimedia elements (Flash, video, etc.) on the site?
  • How much content do you currently have and how much will need to be created?
  • Do you need other special features such as social media channels, SEO (search engine optimization) or ecommerce?
  • Who is going to maintain the site after it has been launched?

Below we go into these items in greater detail and provide an estimate of how much you should budget for each. The prices listed are estimates based on our 16 years of experience designing and building business websites. Prices will vary depending on your specific requirements. Be sure to contact us for an estimate.

New Sites Often Cost More Than Redesigns

Remember, when you’re starting a new website from scratch, so is the web designer. With no existing elements to work from, the designer can’t look at an existing site and study your current online brand nor can the design team examine the features and functionality that will be carried over to the new website and improved upon.

Discovery and Documentation

For the best outcome, all new websites projects should begin with a required “ discovery and documentation process. This process helps define three important elements:

  1. Online brand
  2. Website structure
  3. Website functionality

We think this process is critical because it helps set expectations on all sides and reduces potential frustrations. Simple business websites — those in which the client has a solid idea of what he or she wants — can get by on a minimal amount of discovery and documentation, amounting to perhaps one day’s worth of effort.  BUT… more complex websites may require weeks of meetings plus the creation of many detailed documents to fully define the project.

Interface Design

Interface design — also referred to as visual design or the site’s “look-and-feel” — incorporates your branding, all your photos and images, even your page layouts. Don’t assume that if you already have a pre-made template you won’t need images or layouts re-done. Interface design is usually an iterative process, meaning that the designer will show you several options and then modify them based on your feedback to arrive at an approved design. For a small business website, budget $1,200 to $3,500 to get you from concept through to the final design that will be handed off to the developers for programming. Don’t skimp on the interface design; if you do, today’s sophisticated visitors won’t give your website a second glance.

Images and Graphics

Budgeting website graphics is tricky because images can range from $10 each for cheap stock images to hundreds of dollars each for custom or high-end stock images.  Incorporating compelling and appropriate graphics can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your website. On the low-end, budget at least $100 for stock images.  Remember that a good designer can make a cheap image look like a custom one.

But that’s not all. You will also need stock icons and buttons to compliment your design. Add $50 to the budget for these graphic elements.

Mobile and Responsive Design Costs

Because mobile devices have become critical to online success, your design should be at the very least mobile-friendly. The best designs are “ responsive,” meaning designed to automatically adjust their layout to look good and function easily on multiple devices: smartphones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers. Creating a responsive design can cost 20% to 30% more than a site designed solely for a desktop web browser (the price of progress). This additional cost can be attributed to the extra effort the interface designer makes to design the site’s appearance and function on the various devices, which in turn will have to be programmed by the programmer. Finally, more testing is required before the site is ready to launch. Today almost all Executionists’ projects include responsive programming.

Costs for Content Creation and Insertion

When it comes to adding content, the least expensive model for small business owners is to create all the content on their end and insert it into the site via a content management system (CMS).  Most designers have no problem delivering a blank design template that the client would populate with text and images. But if you want the design firm to add your content and adjust the layout of the text, you should budget $100 to $150 per page.

Programming Special Features Often Cost Extra

A ton of extra features are available that web developers can integrate into your site to improve your business, but these extras can add up. Some features may be “included” in your website framework – but beware, just because they are “included” doesn’t mean that they look or work the way you would want. The estimates below reflect the general requirements we have seen, however, many factors can push these costs even higher. If you don’t see your add-on here, just give us a call and we can provide an estimate.

  • Custom Content Management Systems — For clients who want to manage their own content the web designer can integrate and customize content management systems (CMS). We work with PHP-based open-source CMS solutions like Drupal and WordPress. Costs for integrating and customizing a CMS can range from $2,000 to $20,000.
  • Training and Documentation – You will need a set of instructions and documentation explaining how to maintain and edit site content. Depending on how extensive the material is, expect to pay from $400 to $1,500.
  • Blog – Many clients request a blog (WordPress or something similar) within their website, customized to reflect their website’s branding and design. Adding a blog ranges from $1,000 to $2,500.
  • For E-commerce shopping carts, catalogs, and payment processing add $1,500 to $5000 or more depending on requirements.
  • Email Marketing Campaigns – Clients that want to gather emails and send out branded email blasts for announcements or newsletters require an email management tool. We can integrate third-party tools such as Graphicmail, Mailchimp or Constant Contact along with an email blast template design. We can even manage your email blasts. $720 and up.
  • Branding/Identity Development – We are often asked to design logos. On the low-end, we start with an eight-hour process that generates about six rough logo concepts. If one of these is chosen, we go through several rounds of edits to arrive at a final version. $900 to $3,500.
  • Style Guides – An online style guide establishes brand consistency and provides for compliance across all your print collateral and online marketing messaging. Basic style guide: $1,440.
  • Targeted Landing – Landing pages are pages that promote a specific product or service. They are usually part of an email, social media, or banner ad campaign. We can design and create these pages starting at $450.
  • News feeds of both your content (outgoing) and adding content to the site (incoming): $400
  • Contact forms and surveys: $300 and up
  • Newsletters: $400 to $900
  • Advertising integration (Google AdWords): $200
  • Photo gallery: $250 to $500
  • Metrics (Google analytics, custom reports, etc.): $200 to $2000
  • SEO (on-page optimization, off-page optimization submission to search engines, etc.): $500 to $4000
  • Social media — Create and manage social media network profile (Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.): $500 to $2000

So How Much Does a Small Business Website Cost?

The majority small business websites that we design, develop and launch range from $6,000 to $20,000. Using the a la carte estimates above you can see how quickly elements and functionality add up. Another way to break the budget down is to assume:

  • 15% Planning
  • 25% Interface design
  • 40% Programming
  • 20% Project Management

And Don’t Forget the Maintenance Cost

Websites don’t just maintain themselves. The best websites change all the time as their strategy is tweaked and updated. Maintenance is something that most businesses forget to budget, often because they think that they can do it themselves. But the first time you delete your entire home page by mistake and lose eight hours of sales while you’re trying to get it back up and running, you’ll wish you’d spent the extra money on a maintenance contract. Make sure your web developer offers post-launch maintenance; many don’t because they can’t be bothered with clients calling with small requests.

Maintenance contracts vary greatly depending upon what you expect from the firm. You should budget a minimum of $250 per month to have a designer/developer on call if you have a problem that you can’t fix. And if you expect them to do additional work such as creating new images, adding new content, maintaining social media or newsletters, etc., expect the price to go up.  Executionists offers several customized, full-service maintenance plans.

A Final Note

If your website will be a significant part of your business DON’T SKIMP on design and development. If you would expect to pay $100,000 for a brick and mortar retail shop (inventory, interior design, furniture, rent, utilities, staff, equipment, insurance, etc.), then don’t balk at paying reasonable rates for the creation of your online business.

So, how much does a website cost?

For a small business website you can spend as little as $6,000 or as much as $20,000 or more.  Your budget should be based on the strategic needs of your business.