strategy to launch a product

Launching A Product: When Should You Start Marketing It?

Which school of thought do you belong to when it comes to launching a new product?

A while ago, a friend approached me to help her market her new product. At that point, she hadn’t even ordered stocks of her product yet. She wanted to start marketing it and collecting orders first. It was her way of validating the idea and getting in some cash before accelerating the business.

When we first spoke about this, she had only designed her packaging and started an Instagram account. She also did a photoshoot and wanted to hire me to write captions for all the photos. Sure thing, I said.

A few days after the above conversation, I spoke to someone else who was also launching a new business. In this case, they had not created their brand assets, not ordered any stock, but they insisted that they wanted to fix up all their website glitches and operational flow before they started getting in their product and marketing in full force. Without even knowing if anybody wanted their product.

While I was (and still am!) more agreeable with the former scenario, I started to #overthink. Which way is better when it comes to launching a product?

Launching a product: putting it to test

Staying true to my marketing mind, I decided to test this.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve been actively promoting marketing tips and hacks, plus my services through my Instagram account @minimarketinghacks

When I first started, I tried out a lot of things. Instagram, at that time, was still pretty basic. No excessive stories, no guides, no Reels. It was probably the heyday for IG Live at that time, if I recall correctly.

So I went all out with posting little marketing hacks. I did basic engagement like following other accounts, and I made some great friends in those first few months. I showed up.

I also tested a lot of “beyond” Instagram stuff. I wondered if I should have a website. Or was a SaaS platform to showcase my digital products enough? Did I need a newsletter? LinkedIn? TikTok? I tested it all.

As I did that, people started approaching me for work. They started enquiring about my writing services. I wanted to just do it all. Take all those clients.

But then I realised. I am one person. I can’t service all these clients. 

I need a passive product.

Creating a product first, then launching

Fortunately, at the same time this idea struck me, I had become close friends with a few ladies who also created content — video, audio, stories, design. We decided to join forces and come up with an Instagram starter pack to teach our followers how to create the different types of content we are proficient in, in an easy, digestible manner.

Yay, passive income!

Lucky for me, I had already started drafting my first product — an ebook called Writing Hacks for Instagram. And this product was a great fit for the bundle! Perfect timing.

We talked about how we wanted to market this. We decided to complete our individual “items” first, and then get together and launch it in phases. The first, a pre-order to test the waters and also encourage others to get it with some extra bonuses, and then to launch it properly a few days after that.

The bundle was a pretty big hit. For people who were all in our early days of Instagram, we got a healthy number of buyers. We even relaunched the product a few months later (I believe it was on Black Friday/Cyber Monday) and got a few more buyers.

In this case, we worked on our product first and then launched it. We’re all good at what we do and because we wanted to stick to a timeline and be on the same page, we all worked on our individual deliverables first and then focused on marketing our item later. This really helped because we were left to our own comfort when we were creating our products, and then used our combined expertise to market the product, interact with potential buyers and get them to buy. We didn’t stretch our energy by doing two things at the same time. Imagine working on the product WHILE getting orders. We would’ve been tired of doing it all!

Announcing first, then working on the product

As I got a better understanding of how to collect passive income sales, I then decided to switch gears.

From time to time, I started working on smaller passive projects of my own. From my Udemy courses to my Kindle ebooks, I kept churning out small items that didn’t take me too long to work on. I would work on the project first and then talk about it when the time was right. Sort of “leave it on the interwebs and see who comes” sort of situation.

But I got tired of waiting around after a while.

I wanted to test the waters. See what people wanted from me.

So I sat down and went through all the conversations I had with potential clients that I never closed. What were their issues? What did they want? 

I realised that a popular service people were hiring me (on Instagram) was to write captions. A lot of people enquired about this, but budget issues (most of them are new business owners/solopreneurs) hampered their ability to sign up.

So I decided to work on a fill-in-the-blank caption template bank. Easy cut and paste solution for busy solopreneurs who want to create more posts on Instagram but are strapped for cash, time and energy.

Great, I thought. This would work.

Then I remembered. After creating so many courses and ebooks, not many people were buying from me. How would I know this idea would work? What if this was one of those things that I worked hard on but didn’t bear fruit?

So I decided to announce the product first.

I even went the extra mile to set up a product page and “launch” it at a pre-order price (massive discount). I shared what the product was about. I told myself I’d only work on it if I had 5 buyers. Lo and behold, after a few days, 10 orders and more started rolling in…

So I got to work. It took me about 18 hours to work on it and by the time I launched it, I had about 23 people who bought it at the pre-order price. A few more trickled in when I launched it at the full price, too!

The verdict? 

So here’s what I learned after testing both options.

Work on the product first? Announce first, launch later? Or launch first, announce later? Which one works best?

In all honestly, like I said above, the announce/market first option gave me more bang for my buck. It helped me validate the idea, build momentum and curiosity and rake in more sales. This is why I was definitely on board with my client who wanted me to write captions so she can start posting about her upcoming product on social media before her shipment even came in.

However, I highly encourage you to work on the launch first, announce later method if you’re working in a group. Look at the strength of your team. Are they capable of working on a product in crunch mode (after receiving orders?) or do you want them to complete the product/project first before you are ready to announce it to the world? This method worked best for me when I had product bundles with my business buddies, but not so much when I was a lone ranger working and marketing my own products, possibly due to my limited resources.

Sounds like I’m ending this off with the cliche “it depends” answer? Yes, because, it does, really.

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