You’ve researched your market. You’ve validated your digital product idea. You’ve defined your niche. You’ve created your product and it’s at least in the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage. Now what? How do you successfully launch your digital product?
If you’re considering the launch phase of your product, you’ve already conducted sufficient research into a niche to know there is a definitive market of people looking for products like yours. Launching a digital product that you’ve spent hours of blood, sweat and tears creating is a nerve-wracking experience, but how you proceed from this point will determine how successful your product will be.
Having a plan for your launch is key
Your product might not yet be 100% complete, but you still need to formulate a plan for how you’ll take your product to the people. As the saying by Benjamin Franklin goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” With zero planning, you may find yourself scrambling to promote your product when it’s ready. Make time to craft a launch plan for your product, and then review the plan when you’re ready to launch. It’s likely you’ll need to to create content, engage third parties, and potentially create additional assets to share and post. All of these things take time.
It’s extremely common for people to commit to a launch date, then panic and rush to fix a website issue at the last minute because they didn’t test that everything was working as expected. Plan and prepare as far in advance as you can.
There are numerous product launch checklists out there, but this one created by Asghar Masqood is a good starting point. Not all items on this checklist will apply to your product launch, but it can help you see how much planning might be involved when your product is ready to go to market.
Important factors in your digital product launch strategy
Building an audience
You’ve already started building an audience, haven’t you? Yeahhhh, I knew you had! Awesome! If you’re already building an audience, you have a head start. You should always be working on growing your audience.
If you haven’t started yet, and your MVP is ready for launch, you need to start building an audience sooner rather than later. Like, last week. But that’s OK! You just need to get started as soon as you can.
As wonderful as it would be, people won’t magically come to your website when you launch it. They need to find out about it somehow. Let’s look at some ways you can start growing an audience ASAP.
First, define your initial target audience
Your product won’t be useful for everyone in the world. But there is a group of people who your product will be absolutely perfect for. When the idea for your product or business was conceived, you may have already had an idea of who you were building this product for. Perhaps you were scratching your own itch, or perhaps you have an incredible talent to share with the world.
Your audience will eventually be made up of people who are interested in your industry, product niche, or you. But who are those people? Spend some time thinking in detail about who those people might be.
- How old are they?
- What do they do?
- What is important to them?
- What motivates them?
- What struggles or frustrations do they have?
When defining your audience, also consider the following points:
- Do you have existing customers who have purchased another product you created? Are those customers also likely to be interested in this product?
- What need does your product fulfill, or what pain point does your product solve? This will help you determine where to find your most valuable customers.
- If you, yourself, are your “ideal customer”, how would you learn about products like the one you have created (if your product didn’t scratch your own itch)?
The answers to these questions will help you target your launch to a more refined audience. These are also the first steps toward helping you create a Customer Persona or Buyer Persona for future marketing, which you can start diving deeper into when you have an established customer base.
Build a mailing list using an email marketing / marketing automation service
Create a form on your ‘Coming soon’ page (more on these below) to capture email addresses (leads) and store them in your chosen email marketing/marketing automation service. If you’re using WordPress there are numerous form plugins and standalone plugins that connect to various third-party mailing list services. If you’re using something else, there may be built-in functionality that allows you to connect with your chosen email marketing service.
Guest posting and pre-release reviews
Creating posts for already-established websites can help stir up new audiences and make them aware about your product. Provide a demo, sample, or beta version of your product to relevant industry blogs or industry influencers in return for an honest review. Ask them to encourage users to visit your website if they’re interested about learning more about your product.
The time to launch is… now?
When is the best time to launch your product? Great question! The answer is, there isn’t a “best time” to launch your product.
Does your product or website work? Excellent! As long as your product delivers what it says on the metaphorical box, you can start rolling out your launch as soon as you have your launch plan in place. Extra features can be added in future versions or included in your offering as your product gains momentum and your customer base grows.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put just a little thought into when you should launch! Here are the top watch-outs for new product launch timing.
Don’t launch around big holidays
Avoid big seasonal holidays and well-known sale periods. The financial stretch is real for everyone! Your potential customers will be saving their hard-earned cash for already-established products that go on sale, or they will be spending a lot of money on big events like Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Be wary when launching around minor public holidays. Like with Christmas and other such holidays, retail companies are known to discount heavily during these periods, causing spikes in spending on physical products. This could mean a dip in consumer spending on digital products. Also, many people head out of town during long weekends, so you might not be reaching as many people as you could if you launched away from a long weekend.
Monday’s adult is ready to race, Friday’s adult is outta this place!
Time of week is another factor. How do you feel on a Monday? Many people feel busy, tired, and overwhelmed. How do you feel on Friday? We’ve all been there, watching the clock, counting down to the weekend. And most people are too busy to be receptive to new products during the weekend.
Consider a launch date between Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for maximum impact. People are typically too busy on a Monday or too distracted on a Friday to fully engage with a new product or website. Catch them mid-week when they are more focused.
Look to your product for timing or seasonal guidance
Consider the content of your product and industry, and where in the world the majority of your audience is likely to be based.
- Have you created an eBook targeted at health and wellness? January is an excellent time to launch and ride the wave of New Year’s resolutions.
- Designed a full planner for DIY weddings? Launch in winter to help couples organize and finalize planning for their spring or summer nuptials.
- Are you launching a website with courses that can help students? Launching before the school year starts is an ideal time (and may be different in each country).
- Created a set of downloadable knitting templates? Get your customers prepared for winter and launch early in early fall/autumn before it starts getting too chilly outside.
- Built a gorgeous new WordPress theme for websites? Encourage businesses to start the year with a fresh new look and launch in October to give people time to refine their design.
From our experience, seasonality can be a factor. For digital products, there may be a decrease in spending during warmer seasons as people spend more time outside and away from home or the office. Similarly, when the temperatures drop, people might be more inclined to escape cold weather for warmer climes, spending their money on a getaway instead of elsewhere. Take into account the above points and make the call that is the best for your product.
Getting down to buzz-ness
Your product could be a game-changer, but if you don’t promote your upcoming product, nobody will know about it. And nobody will buy it.
Don’t go from dead silence to “we’re live” without creating any kind of buzz.Kyle Maurer
Communication is 100% the most important element of taking your new product to market. There are numerous marketing channels and strategies you can implement to effectively promote your product when you are planning to launch.
Here are a couple of our favorite ways to start generating buzz around your launch.
Add a ‘Coming soon’ page
Mystery is an effective hype tactic. Humans are curious by nature. Tease people by providing them with a little information, and then ask them to sign up to join an exclusive waiting list. Put up a ‘Coming soon’ page on your website and use it to keep building that audience I mentioned earlier. Add a countdown timer to generate anticipation as your launch draws nearer. Add social sharing links on the confirmation page people are shown after they sign up, so they can share your site with friends and followers!
Free marketing activity
- You’ve started building that audience, so now you can engage them with emails! Send a pre-launch email to fuel the excitement, and a launch email to notify your audience when your product is available.
- Write guest articles for other blogs aligned with your industry. It might take some time to find the right blogs to approach, but when you do, and if they accept, you have an opportunity to communicate with a new, engaged audience about your product.
- Creating demos or providing sneak peeks of your digital product will allow you to show potential customers what they’re buying before they purchase.
- Offer your product for reviews from experts and influencers in your industry who already have captive audiences and social followings.
- Craft and schedule posts on your own social media accounts to create more positive noise about your upcoming launch.
If time is limited, you can choose to focus on one primary channel (i.e. a review by an industry expert) and use other channels to support that channel (i.e. emails, social posts, and other articles).
Is the price right?
By the time you’re ready to launch, you will have already done some research into how you should price your digital product. For the actual launch period, however, there are a few more tactics you can apply to help get your product off the ground.
Offer a free trial period for launch
A free trial gives customers the opportunity to fall in love with your product before they spend their money with you. It gives them an opportunity to use or access your product to ensure it delivers on your promises.
You can also offer a free trial period and require the customer provides credit card details to take advantage of this offer. This means the customer will be charged when the free trial expires, unless they cancel their account before their trial period ends. Remember to think about the length of the trial period you intend to offer, and ensure your purchase terms or refund policy also takes the trial period into account.
With all the hype you’ll be generating, opening your doors to preorders allows customers to invest in your product before it’s even available. Whilst you shouldn’t necessarily judge your success on preorders, it can help you learn which channels of communication have been effective in driving customers to your website who are already eager to purchase!
Offer early bird or early access pricing
When you have set your pricing for your digital product, offering it at a discounted amount for a short period of time can help drive significant sales at launch. This pricing tactic can be used for pre-orders, or after your official product release.
Here are some examples:
- For pre-orders: “Pre-order now and save 20% on the full product price. Prices will increase on our official launch date!”
- When you launch: “Secure our special launch pricing and save 20% on when you purchase this week only!”
Test, and test, and triple check your product
Whether you are selling software, eBooks, music, photos, videos, or something else, you need to ensure your digital product MVP works as it’s supposed to. Have you tested the software? Have you read and re-read your eBook? Does the video file play correctly? Is the music file free of skips? Are your photos a high enough resolution to launch with?
If you’re selling digital products that are not software, make sure they are as free from errors as they can be. Ask other peers or industry influencers to check out your products before you launch. This is another great way to build awareness!
If you are selling software, start beta testing your MVP. Beta testing before your official launch is hugely beneficial to your business:
- It’s a test run for your product. Multiple beta testers can help you pressure test your product before you launch to find how it will handle heavy site loads or scaling.
- Beta testing will allow you to find any major or problematic issues you might have missed when you were building. We are often too close to our own products to see some of the more niggly issues.
- It allows your beta testers to evaluate the customer experience – how is the product received by the testers?
- As mentioned above for non-software digital products, it can help build awareness of your product. People who are willing to beta test products are often industry-savvy. They will be able to provide you with invaluable feedback, as well as potentially engage their connections when you’re ready to launch.
Grab some beta testers to help check for any HUGE problems, but then go for it. It’s better to launch your product imperfect and fix things later than never launch at all. It’s never going to be perfect.Ashley Gibson
Whatever your digital product is, you should also test the most important parts of your website are also working correctly. From links throughout your site, to your user registration process, to your checkout process. You absolutely need to be able to take payments on your site when you launch!
Put some stagger in your steps
A staggered launch strategy allows you to plan what information you’re going share, and when. You can roll out well-defined steps of your launch plan in small, frequent segments to keep your messages focused and to keep driving momentum. Smaller launch phases ensure the conversation about your product is fresh instead of hammering your audience with the same messages over, and over, and over again.
Here’s a super quick, very loose example of how you could go about staggering a product launch, using software as an example:
Phase 1: Pre-, pre-, pre-launch
– Give access to beta testers to help fine-tune for MVP and gather feedback
– Launch coming soon page specifically for product to collect email addresses
– Start creating content on website optimized for SEO based on search terms for industry
– Contact industry blog to ask if possible to write an article for new product
Phase 2: Pre-, pre-launch
– Write guest article for industry blog to generate excitement for new product
– Ask beta testers to write reviews on MVP product in exchange for free copy of software
– Use social media posts to generate buzz
Phase 3: Pre-launch
– Open up pre-orders with early access pricing
– Send pre-launch email to mailing list audience offering discounted pre-order pricing
– Publish more SEO-optimized content to continue building awareness
– Final push with social media before launch
Phase 4: Launch
– Launch event on website with exciting imagery and content
– Industry blog posts guest article
– Social media posts for two weeks from launch pushing to article on industry blog, and website
– Send launch email to mailing list audience
– Keep collecting feedback
Phase 5: Post-launch
– End early access pricing, return to full pricing
– Continue to write and publish content consistently which is emailed to mailing list audience. Prepare cornerstone content to link to from other articles.
– Keep collecting feedback
– Continue working on improving product based on feedback
Phase 6: Maintenance
– Begin paid Google AdWords activity for ongoing awareness
– Continue to write and publish content consistently which is emailed to mailing list audience
– Keep collecting feedback
– Continue working on improving product based on feedback
If you’re a small business, a staggered launch will also help you make the most of various marketing channels so you don’t burn yourself out. We don’t all have hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw at big advertising campaigns or launch events!
Keep an eye on key metrics to help you stay focused on promotion methods that work best. Some examples of key metrics are unique visitors, number of sessions (visits to your website), email sign-ups, and of course, sales.
Remember to test all of your website processes, marketing measurables, and lead capture mechanisms to ensure they are working correctly. The last thing you want to happen is to launch your product and not know where your traffic is coming from, or find there is an issue with purchasing!
When you’ve started putting your launch plan in motion, it’s time to jump. Just do it. Hit the button and launch your product!
Just launch it.Pippin Williamson
Sage words, indeed!
Congratulations on launching! But the work doesn’t stop there, my friend! Now is time to continue creating your product or products, and incorporating feedback from customers or users to improve them.
Create a minimal viable product or website, launch it, and get feedback.Neil Patel
Use email automations to ask for feedback
If your email marketing service has automation, you can use this to request feedback from new customers.
Firstly, ensure that new customers are sent to a mailing list in your chosen email service. If automation is an option, set up an email that sends after a customer has purchased your product. Set this email to send a few weeks, a month, or even a couple of months after they have purchased, and ask them to reply directly to that email with their feedback. This gives your customers a good amount of time to try out your product.
Sending an automated email without any prompting questions will encourage a more organic response from customers who are willing to provide feedback. This means they may not be thinking about any feature of your product in particular, and will be more likely to share a generalized opinion of your product.
Send surveys to your customers
Surveys are easier and faster for customers to quickly provide feedback. You can use surveys to ask customers very specific questions about your product offering, or ask them to rate their level of satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10.
Surveys allow you to prompt customers to answer questions that you are the most interested in. It also means that any verbatim or open-ended questions in a survey may be nitpicky, or focused on the specific feature you asked about. Whilst not totally organic, this prompted method of gathering feedback can help you focus on areas of improvement that are important to you.
Invite customers to give feedback through your website
Create a feedback form on your website and send an email with the link to your customers letting them know you’d love their feedback. The form might be a simple text input box to collect unprompted feedback, or a multi-step survey for prompted, focused questions. Asking customers to visit your site is a manual step, but if they truly wish to share their thoughts and opinions with you, it’s one they’ll be happy to take.
There is never a perfect time or perfect strategy to launch your product
And your product will never be 100% perfect. But armed with a plan, you can successfully launch your digital product to an existing audience. It is more important to launch now than to strive for impossible perfection. Don’t miss a moment in time fussing over details, or an opportunity to ride the momentum you have created, or a chance to capitalize on topical conversations in your industry.
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.Reid Hoffman
Follow these six steps to successfully launch your digital product:
- Ensure your product is at the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage
- Build your audience (and keep building your audience)
- Create a launch plan
- Test everything is working correctly
- Launch your product
- Gather feedback and iterate, iterate, iterate.
Ready for liftoff? We are GO for launch! 10, 9, 8, 7…
What have you learned about launching digital products, and what advice would you give to someone launching their first product? What strategies have you used to successfully launch your digital products? Share your story in the comments!