Steps to Getting it Right
When healthy soda brand Olipop released a new flavor, it made $30,000 in the first 15 minutes the product was on sale.
So how did the team make that happen?
You can create a compelling product launch by tuning into product feedback, crafting thoughtful marketing assets, drumming up interest, and choosing marketing channels carefully. We’ll sift through this meaty topic and pull out what you need to know to nail a product launch.
What is a product launch?
A product launch is a coordinated marketing effort to launch a new item.
Clever product launches engage existing customers, entice new ones, and create urgency. Any time you release a new product out into the market, it’s an opportunity to connect with people, whether they’re new to your brand or they’ve been loyal for years.
How to launch a product and build hype
As you set out to release a new product into the market, you’re essentially delaying gratification for your target audience. Instead of allowing them to purchase something new immediately, you’ll tease your launch through organic and paid advertisements, catchy copy, and assets that capture how amazing your new product is.
1. Set a launch date
Your launch date is what you’ll work toward as you develop your marketing copy and assets and establish a plan. It’s also what you’ll work back from and how you’ll know the deadlines you need to hit and when. Without a launch date, you risk losing any built-up hype, getting into a cycle where you keep pushing the launch out, or worse, not ever launching at all.
2. Determine your launch channels
The launch channels you use should be the ones you’re already most active on as a business. These are the channels where you’re already connecting and making sales, and where your target audience hangs out or expects you to be.
Remember Olipop’s $30,000-in-15-minutes launch success? The brand uses SMS as one of its main marketing channels.
“The click-through rate on a text is exponentially greater than what you get on email, because it’s so immediate,” says David Lester, Olipop’s co-founder. “But it’s about having the discipline not to abuse that channel and to respect the intimacy of the communication while offering real value to people.”
If SMS is a channel you’re active on, its immediacy can cut through the noise of the many emails and social media posts your audience sees daily, especially for a new product launch. Olipop found success with this channel because its team respects how invasive a text message can be. Because the team limits the SMS messages it sends, the texts that do come through make more of an impact. If you have a major launch, and you have a robust SMS list, this is a great opportunity to use it to send a message that you can be pretty certain your audience will see.
Email is an always-on owned channel that allows you to tell your product launch story directly to subscribers in a more long-form setting—especially if you have a substantial email list and high email engagement.
Though less immediate than SMS, email marketing still has the power to win customers over and catch their attention as you build up energy and excitement for a product launch.
For example, handmade jewelry shop OxbowDesigns sends marketing emails to its list to announce limited releases for the sought-after collection of unique skull pendants.
Which social media channels are you most active on? Where does your audience expect updates from you? These are the places where you can do the best work to promote a new launch. You don’t need to invent or invest in any new channels at this point in time, only the ones where you’ve built a following or see the highest engagement.
In- person events
The best way to get your product in front of as many new people as possible could be through an in-person event. This might be as simple as renting a booth at your local farmers market or street fair, and it gives people the opportunity to try out your products in person and ask you questions directly.
Working with influencers extends your reach and builds trust with your target audience. It also gives people the opportunity to see your products styled in real life, which can eliminate barriers to purchase, like how big the item is, what color it is in natural light, and if the purchase is worth it. Because influencers already have the trust of their followers, it makes it easier for them to convince those people to purchase your product, especially if they give it a winning endorsement.
3. Craft your launch messaging and assets
This is the step of your product launch plan that is going to take the most amount of time. Now, you’ll do the photoshoots, craft the visuals, and write the copy that goes along with the social media posts, emails, SMS messages, or paid ads you plan to put out. But before you get started, take some time to answer the following questions:
- How will you position this new product?
- What tone will the taglines and copy take?
- How will messaging differ across channels?
- How many emails/text messages/social media posts will you create?
- Will you pay for any advertising?
After you have the answers to these questions, the next step is to take some high-quality product photography. If you don’t want to spend money on hiring a professional, it’s more than possible to take some great images yourself.
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Select the best images for each channel and write the accompanying copy that you feel will capture the most attention.
Athletic-wear company Girlfriend Collective, for example, uses a cheeky tone in its product launch emails. A recent release included the subject line, “Ooh, Limited Edition,” with the preheader, “These colors are too cute to stay in stock.”
🚀It’s your turn! Put together all of your launch materials, including any social media posts, emails, paid ads, SMS messages, flyers or emails for in-person events, YouTube vidoes, etc. to start drumming up excitement for your impending product launch.
4. Drum up excitement
When San Francisco street artist Fnnch started gaining popularity, his prints and originals sold out in mere seconds online. While the launches were uber successful, they left many fans in the lurch. And hungry resellers were purchasing the coveted items and marking them up for thousands on eBay.
Fnnch realized that he could sell more art, please more art enthusiasts, and support local charities by running his future product launches a little differently.
Now, many of his product launches feature prints and originals that are timed editions, like the December 2021 Heart Bear. Here’s how it works: the editions launch on a particular date and time, like 11 a.m. PT on April 22. The art is then available for a limited period of time, like one hour or four days. Fnnch will complete however many orders he gets during that time frame.
Timed releases create urgency because customers need to act quickly before the time frame ends. It also allows Fnnch to sell more art without the risk of creating too much or not creating enough to meet demand. To inspire more people to purchase, Fnnch has also made certain product launches “fundraising releases,” where he donates a percentage of the sales to different non-profit organizations, usually in the Bay Area.
These types of creative product launch ideas can help attract more eyes and build up more excitement. Here are a few other ideas:
Host a presale
Presales are an excellent way to gauge interest in your new product and give you a better idea of how much inventory to purchase or produce.
Throw a launch party
Sometimes an in-person event is the best way to launch a new product with a splash. If you don’t have a retail store, it’s also a great opportunity for people to see your items in person. Serve snacks, play some good music, and give people the chance to mingle. Even if the event is free, consider requiring a ticket purchase so you can collect emails and get people to opt in to your marketing mailing list.
Make the launch exclusive to members
Some launches are only available to people with a paid membership. For example, if you teach online fitness classes and offer class memberships, you might limit the release of merchandise to your members. This creates exclusivity and might inspire others to opt into a membership when they otherwise may not have.
Gate the launch with a password only available to email subscribers
Handmade fine jewelry shop Young in the Mountains releases sale items to members of its email list one day before everyone else can get in to shop. You can use this concept for product launches as well: allow members of your email list to shop the sale early with a secret passcode. This limited access feels exclusive, which will entice more people to sign up for your newsletter. It promotes scarcity (shop one day before, because things will sell out!), gives folks a reason to sign up for your mailing list, and allows you the opportunity to re-engage with people post launch.
Create a special edition
Olipop creates special edition flavors at different times of the year, like Blackberry Vanilla. The flavor came back “by popular demand” in December 2021 as a limited release. If you’re testing out a new product, trying a limited edition launch has several benefits. It can help you gauge interest in the new product. If folks don’t like it, you haven’t committed to keeping it as part of your permanent collection. It also creates scarcity, enticing more people to convert before it sells out. By selling a limited number of items, your customers will know that when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Put out a collaboration
Join forces with a brand that’s bigger than you and you’ll get the eyes of its entire audience. Aside from creating a unique product, you’ll get exposure to members of your target audience who may not have heard of you before. The partner promotion you can get from a bigger shop will be invaluable, especially if you’re just getting started.
Donate funds to a good cause
Promising a percentage of profits to a worthy cause helps people in need, and it can also inspire customers to support a charity they care about while obtaining a product from you that they’ll like and use. Win-win!
Offer a timed release
Like Fnnch, you can set a time limit where customers can only make purchases during a specific time window. This eliminates the risk of producing too much or too little, and it also creates urgency.
Tease the launch across social media, SMS, and email
Regardless of which type of launch you go with, you’ll always want to advertise it across your dedicated social media channels, SMS contacts if you have them, and your email list at least a week or two before launch. These posts serve as little reminders for your audience that can make them excited, remind them to put the launch date and time on their calendars, and convince others to follow you for updates on the new product you’re putting out.
Olipop, for example, put out this post to tease the re-release of its Blackberry Vanilla flavor. The team blurred out the flavor name to build interest and added comments from the last launch to create buzz.
You likely already have an idea of your launch messaging and assets at this point, but keep in mind that the more you post on social media, the better. Some brands share images of the new products before they come out. Others, like Olipop, keep them hidden and only reveal small details in the days leading up to launch. Consider what works best for your brand here.
5. Launch the product 🎉
The day you and your audience have been waiting for is here: it’s officially launch day and time to make some sales. This is when you’ll release any launch day content, like social media posts, email sends, and SMS messages, to your followers to let them know that your product is live and available for purchase.
6. Track and review the results
Post launch, dive into the analytics across platforms to better understand what worked well and what didn’t. Take a peek into the numbers on your social media apps and collect the data points that detail how much engagement each one got. If you work with a social media tool like Sprout Social or Buffer, it likely will be able to generate a report for you. Similarly, review the results from any email or SMS campaigns you sent. What were the click-through and open rates for launch emails? Which subject lines performed better than others?
Then, take a look at how many sales you made during the launch. If you’re on Shopify, you can dive into the analytics for your shop directly in your Shopify admin. You can also consult Google Analytics for traffic information and to see how many people visited your shop on launch day.
Drive growth by releasing new products
Product launches give you the opportunity to reach out to past customers and get them to come around again, which is a much more affordable way to make sales. They also allow you to get creative with the way you promote your brand. By pulling new levers, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t.
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Product launch FAQ
What is a product launch?
A product launch is a coordinated marketing effort used to launch a new item. A strong product launch strategy drives sales and gets people excited. The end goal of a product launch is to sell as much of the new product as possible.
How do you launch a product?
You can launch a product through this six-step process:
- Set a launch date
- Determine your launch channels
- Craft your launch messaging and assets
- Drum up excitement
- Launch the product
- Track and review the results