A successful product launch starts in the earliest stages of development. If the product isn’t the right match, or if your assumptions about the market have led you astray, the product you develop likely won’t align with the proper audience — a mistake that can cost millions.

Prepare for roadblocks and risky situations before they happen. This article walks through six keys to ensuring success on your next product launch.

Launching a new product can be risky and complicated. Some products fail to sell, and others never even get to market. It takes research, planning, and a good amount of diligence to overcome the odds and see a successful product launch — but the good news is, with the right strategy it’s possible.

1. Make Sure You Have a Product Fit

The first steps of preparing for a successful product launch begin at the genesis of product development. You need to be thorough in your research to ensure that you have the right product offering for the right market.

This begins with an in-depth understanding of the problem that your product solves, and whose lives it will help to improve. Test all your assumptions and let the data speak for itself.

You may find out that your initial assumptions were wrong about what your product should do and who your target user base should be. Embrace this discovery and course-correct early on. It will save you a significant amount of money in the long run and keep you positioned for a successful product launch.

>> Discover product design that takes the risk out of your software development investment.

Successful Product Launch

2. Know Your Metrics

It’s crucial to understand exactly what indicates product success and to measure how well your product performs on those indicators. On the surface this may seem straightforward (sales, downloads) but there is more to it than that. Let’s use a mobile application as an example.

It’s tempting to make Number of Downloads the key metric for your app. But this metric, alone, is not enough to measure how easily people can interact with your product and whether or not it helps them accomplish their goals. What happens if people download your app, and for some reason or another rarely open it again? If you’re not tracking performance on the right metrics, you may never know what led to their loss of interest.

One good example of a metric is measuring time spent within each feature. Another is measuring the amount of time it takes for a user to complete a task. For e-commerce applications, you can track the amount of sales generated within the app, and where people are dropping off before completing a sale within the application. This kind of specific information tells you which areas of your product need to be improved.

Without the right metrics in place, you’re guessing at every step of development and design — not a great way to ensure ROI!

3. Conduct User Research & Market Evaluations

In the product development and launch phases, you should be surrounded by data. You should have customer and usage data. You should have product research data and market analysis data. Make sure to take a look at competitors as well. This data can give you a big-picture look at what success looks like. It can be used to answer any questions that may come up and guide you through tough design and development decisions.

Always couple data with actual user research. Numbers never tell the full story behind why and how people will be most likely to use your product. Translating numbers and user research into the “what” and “how” of your product contributes to a successful product launch strategy.

>> Read what senior UX designer, Nick Comito, has to say about how companies can tackle user research practically and cost-effectively.

4. Develop Your Messaging

Once you have your product concept and target audience locked in, it’s time to consider how you want to share your idea with the world.

The research, data, and planning that’s been done to ensure product development starts off on the right foot is your launchpad for developing a strong, persuasive message that resonates with your audience.

Look to Amazon for inspiration. Every new innovation at Amazon starts with a press release. An employee with an idea writes the product launch press release. If the release grabs the attention of the appropriate manager, the product can proceed. This results in a more holistic approach based around the initial messaging.

5. Build an Early Customer Base

You don’t have to wait until the launch to start building your customer base. For digital products, beta-testers and early adopters not only represent your first potential customers, they can also be a huge word-of-mouth marketing asset.

Couple beta-testing with strong messaging and a powerful marketing campaign to develop early interest in your product. Your website, blogs, emails, social media and YouTube teaser videos can all be used to get momentum going prior to launch.

For added momentum, consider capitalizing on early interest to help fund part of the development and launch process. The most successful Kickstarter campaigns come from initiatives where there is already an early following in place.

6. Collect & Implement Feedback

The moment that people outside your walls start using your product, you need to be ready for any feedback. Look at this feedback as an opportunity to improve.

To continue on the mobile application example from earlier, it’s important to utilize the help of beta testers. These testers not only represent your initial customer base and potential product advocates, they will also do the work of reporting any initial bugs to you. This gives you the opportunity to fix these issues before your product is accessed by a wider audience.

Too many companies try to shortcut their way around using beta testers but it’s a crucial step in the process because it gives you the opportunity to improve. You can also separate out the issues that must be fixed pre-launch, and the issues that might be okay to tweak in subsequent updates.

Don’t forget to pay attention to product reviews. This is another place where you might find some gold nuggets for constructive criticism. You can also conduct surveys or questionnaires to ask current users about their experience.