On the eve of launching their new product, a local inventor and his team looked nervously around the office. The clattering machines were silent as they waited to see if it all made sense. Should we really go through with this? The room fell into silence again, until someone finally broke it. “I don't know about you guys, but I think we should launch! We’ve been working on this for years now. It feels like quitting would be a real shame." His boss was visibly moved by the sentiment and nodded in agreement towards him- he deserved to have some closure after all those years of work. He leaned back from his desk and closed his eyes for a moment before speaking up again: "Alright, I guess we’ll launch this thing."
And so, they did. And of course, it failed. It failed miserably. Everyone thought that the product was great - or at least not bad -but no one really cared about buying it. The main problem seems to be that the company had absolutely no idea who its target market was, or what the product would even be used for. The inventor had fallen in love with his idea and didn't want to let it go, despite no one really wanting it. He couldn't see the forest through the trees.
As a result, he failed to take charge of his own company direction and he eventually lost control of his invention altogether. His company was bought out by a larger, more successful one that can properly market the product.
This man's experience is not unique- it happens all the time to small business owners like him.
The late Clayton Christenson, the author of The Innovator'sDilemma, spent years studying why some products succeed where others fail. He found that around 95% of new products fail while only 5% become market leaders.
Hindsight is 20/20, but for this newly acquired company and its team of engineers and marketers, it seemed obvious that they didn't get the success that they had hoped for.
Here are some of the most common reasons why product launches fail, and what you can do to make sure your launch doesn't become another statistic:
The Product Isn't Something People Will Want
If no one wants or needs your product, then it will be really hard to get them to buy it. Too often companies will launch a product simply because they think it's a good idea, not because there is really a market for it.
Before you launch, make sure that people will actually want to use your product and that they would be willing to pay for it. You need to know exactly who those people are as well as the demographics of the entire potential market as a whole.
You can't just create a product and expect people to flock to it, especially in this day and age when there are so many other options to choose from.
Also consider that you need to be realistic about who your target market is- companies will often try to appeal to everyone, but sometimes we're better off narrowing things down to just the specific group that will actually use our product.
Resources are exhausted on product development, so no time or money left for the launch
Even successful companies suffer from this, which is why you often hear stories about founders who worked hard to get their businesses up and running by any means necessary (including selling their own personal belongings).
While it's great if your product is something that can be manufactured quickly and easily, there are plenty of other products out there that CEOs spent years working on before they even meant the light of day.
If you really want to make your product a success, then leave enough time and resources for launching it properly and engage professionals to help you if possible.
The inventor falls in love with the product and resists any changes
If no one on your team is willing to accept criticism about their work, then you're going to have trouble identifying flaws that need fixing before it's too late.
It starts with the inventor but eventually carries over into everyone else involved in the project. If no one is willing to put the product out there and accept that it may not be perfect, then you're going to have issues getting through the launch phase.
Even if you think all your ideas are great, don't fall in love with them so much that you refuse to cut anything that isn't working 100%. You need to be open about what your product does well and what it doesn't in order to make the changes that will surely come up.
An inventor fails to develop a clear marketing strategy
It's important for you to know exactly who you're selling your product to, where they shop and how much they pay for things. In other words, you need to know your target market as we've already mentioned. There's a fine line between knowing who your customer is and letting that information dictate what you do as an organization.
For example, you might want to know as much as possible about the target market as facts and figures (i.e., their income level) rather than trying to figure out what they like based on intuition or even guesses. At the same time, you don't want to develop a marketing strategy that's too narrow or specific since it can limit your potential unless done right.
Marketing is often introduced to an idea long after the development begins
While every product has some kind of intended use, the chances are good that you didn't think of everything. In fact, there may have been a lot of things involved in the product design that you simply couldn't have realized until the initial development was finished and you got down to actually using it yourself, i.e. eating your own dog food, as the saying goes.
No matter how wonderful your product may be, you're going to miss something and that's why it's important to start marketing early and often. Sure, you don't want to overwhelm yourself with too many details or options too quickly, but you can also afford to take a step back and consider different approaches as time permits.
Whatever you do, avoid that trap of focusing on the development work and then trying to add marketing in at the very end when your product is nearly finished or even after it's already been launched.
Putting all of this together: If companies don't succeed at launching their products, it's because they either spent too much time developing them or not enough. Either way, they end up with a finished product that doesn't really have a market in place and not enough time or money to fix it.
Inventors must be willing to make whatever changes necessary in order for the product to succeed at launch, then establish an active marketing strategy long before sending anything into production. A company's marketing and product development departments must work together from the start rather than waiting until it's almost too late.
In other words, you need to be open about what your product does well and what it doesn't in order to make the changes that will surely come up.