5 Common Product Launch Pitfalls to Avoid

Product Launch

5 Common Product Launch Pitfalls to Avoid

While attempting to accomplish anything complex like a product launch, challenges arise and mistakes happen. Missteps teach valuable lessons, but no one has enough time and resources to make all the mistakes before they start to learn. Some wisdom must come from watching others struggle. Many challenges are a product of specific individual circumstances, but patterns emerge. It is incumbent on the product launch team to know the recurring underlying causes of failure and make every attempt to avoid them. Here, we discuss common problems that plague many startups and provide some tips to navigate turbulent waters.

1. Questionable/Ambiguous Value Proposition

In a B2B setting, companies buy products to enhance revenue, reduce cost, gain capabilities, improve quality, and/or reduce risk. In B2C, there are two basic motivations behind purchasing anything: to increase pleasure (e.g., enriches life and health, fashion, vanity, popularity) and to decrease pain (e.g., fulfill a need, reduce effort, convenience). For drugs, devices, and diagnostic tests, the competition plays out in one or more of several arenas, e.g., sensitivity, specificity, safety, ease of use, cost, reimbursement, customer service, brand equity etc. Platitudes like better, faster, easier, or more reliable seem abundant but are far from being sufficient for a buying decision.

Evaluators want the claims to be backed up by scientific data and see proof that is replicable and communicable and conveyed through crisp and concise messages, e.g., clear articulation of how their solution is better, faster or cheaper than the standard of care? Is it solving the right problems and filling identifiable feature gaps that bring value to the customers? You need to understand the health care economics for each segment and be prepared to communicate your differentiating characteristics from several perspectives. There is a need to define the standard of care for each stakeholder and then, preferably quantitatively, explain how your product improves the status quo. Make sure that the business case is robust, and it can stand up to scrutiny to blunt potential sticker shock.

2. Stealth mode too long

A startup in a stealth mode means they are keeping their plans, products, and technology concealed through legal maneuvering. They hide information about their agenda and activities until they feel they are ready for disclosure through their website, social media, or other public materials. Businesses go stealth to:

    • Safeguard intellectual property
    • Ensuring launch materials are ready to make a splash at launch
    • Conserve resources
    • Maintain focus and avoid distractions

A common mistake is staying in stealth too long and getting paralyzed from over-analysis which can delay market entry. Product awareness is created through exposure, dialog, and interactions with prospects and eschewing limelight can backfire in a big way. Moreover, inviting early public scrutiny can validate or invalidate management perceptions, initiate strategy adjustments, and improve messaging and product quality.

3. Wrong indication targeting the wrong market segment

Many drugs and medical devices can be used for multiple purposes. A great deal of consideration should be given to the type of customers you will target. A cancer drug may show efficacy for several cancers, a technology can be used for developing various diagnostic tests, and a device utilized for evaluating different conditions. Generally, the choice of indication comes down to one of two considerations: what condition the founder knows or cares about or the market size. This may be a poor decision or metric. The choice of indication should be based on perceived value, competitive landscape, and adoption expectations. There is no sense in challenging entrenched heavy hitters when there are other areas of potential and opportunity.

4. Discordance with core competency

There are some things I do well, for instance playing chess. There are other things I can do well, if need be, like playing checkers, but it is something I don’t do regularly, and then there are things I am an expert at where I shine the brightest. That is my expertise or core competency. This does not mean that I should never veer away from my lane and stop broadening my skills. We must continue to grow but the likelihood to succeed will increase if we utilize our special talents to develop novel things. This has two main advantages; unique skills lead to special products and barriers to entry are higher. There will be fewer people with the requisite knowledge base to develop copycat me-too products and the inventor will have a longer period where he may enjoy exclusivity that comes with the early mover advantage.

5. Ill-conceived marketing plan

Steuart Henderson Britt, in “Marketing Management and Administrative Action” remarked that,” “doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.” We know marketing is important but how can it be done well with limited personnel and budget. The building blocks are value proposition, positioning, targeting, and messaging. It is increasingly clear that several channels should be employed for distribution and a combination of inbound and outbound marketing tactics considered to drive awareness, interest, evaluation, and commitment to buy. An informative and easy to navigate website is necessary, presence on appropriate social media platforms is imperative, and targeted content is necessary. Sales training and collateral must educate and discuss points of competitive differentiation. Prospects need to be identified and engaged to move down the sales funnel. The driving force is the market research that keeps bringing a steady flow of business intelligence and insights on consumer behavior to make strategic adjustments. Proper metrics used to benchmark and quantify success.

Launch mistakes are common but not inevitable. A combination of primary and secondary research married with sound business strategy are essential ingredients for launch success.

If you are preparing for launch and have any questions, please reach out to me at brad@btsconsultingllc.com