How to Plan Your New Product’s Success

A new product has been conceived, researched, tested in prototype and made it through all the hurdles of the process. The time has come to launch it in the marketplace. What happens now?

In the most successful ventures, planning for the new product launch starts along with preliminary design and development. Positioning, sales channels and distribution, advertising and public relations all need to be addressed and should be given as much time and energy as the development and design stage. Synchronizing marketing activities with product development is critical for success.

Among the key components included in a strong product launch plan:

o Clearly defined sales objectives
o Assured sales channel readiness
o Promotional functions in place (public relations/marketing/advertising)
o Resources to track, monitor and account for execution

Launch projects often fail because companies don’t manufacture adequate quantities of the new product and make them available to prospective customers. Create a launch team with responsibility for, among other things, ensuring that all levels of the company are prepared to handle demand for the product and to train staff in its use for customer support.


Positioning is not about features and specifications. It’s the core message that differentiates your product from everything else in the marketplace. A unique product identity strengthens the market’s perception of your product and in turn reinforces your company’s overall positioning.

To make sure everyone is working toward the same goal, certain milestones should be established:

o Have we identified all necessary launch channels?
o What number of new products do we plan to sell by a specific date?
o When will the product be ready to launch at a national trade convention?
o Are sufficient stocking orders placed with key distributors?
o How can we grow the product into a 5-10 percent market entrenchment by a specified date?

Break down every conceivable launch component. “Identify customer databases where appropriate. Send new product samples to industry and trade publication reviewers. Do everything necessary to create a strong, functioning life-support system for that product.

Approaching the customer with the new product can be the most delicate situation of all, which is why “having your ducks in a row” is so important. If existing customers encounter design flaws in the new product, they may forgive and forget (particularly if their relationship with the company is strong enough), but it’s unlikely new customers will feel the same way.

Also, the new product may not be the right “fit” with all of your current customers. Preparedness reduces the risk that the company’s credibility may be damaged by missteps at launch time.

In order to establish the new product’s identity in the marketplace, the core message must be repeated over and over again. This requires consistent positioning within all of the company’s marketing communications, including:

o New and current product literature
o Press releases
o Product specifications
o Sales presentations
o Internal communications

There is a distinction between advertising and public relations. Public relations presents the new product as “news” which, “is viewed as impartial and more reliable than advertising — even if the news is only a company press release printed verbatim.”

Advertising, on the other hand, is aimed at presenting the product (specifically, its features and benefits) in the best possible light.
These promotional tools are most effective when used in tandem. The goal is having each activity reinforce each other to influence the market and your customers.

Beyond issuing press releases, look for unique angles to interest industry opinion leaders, or try placing stories about how the new product benefits customers in trade publications. Exposure to your product via both advertisements and public relations generates greater mindshare and higher perception in the marketplace. “Success breeds success.”


How will the new product reach customers? Are your established sales channels (sales force, distributors, dealers, etc.) up to the new challenge?
When introducing a new product, you need to step back and assess its fit with existing channels. For example, if the new product is a features-reduced version of an existing product that is being targeted to a mass market, there are some questions you should ask:

o Do our existing distributors serve mass marketing retail outlets?
o Does our current pricing schedule take factors like mass market competition into consideration?
o If we lower our price, how much can we afford to spend on the sale of each unit at this lower price?
o Can we reach this market with our current sales force?

Determining your pricing strategy and reviewing your sales channels should be happening while the product is being positioned, as these factors will have a definite impact on the positioning message.

In situations where one company partners with another to introduce a new product, strict due diligence before the execution phase is advised — thus ensuring that each partner is fully committed to the process and has the necessary financial resources and familiarity with the marketplace.

Whatever the circumstances, have clear-cut performance objectives in place and be ready to measure them carefully. Use the launch team to track progress and make it responsible for communicating results to senior management.