Launching a new product requires time, money, and a whole lot of elbow grease.
When the launch goes off without a hitch, all the effort seems worth it — but when it fails, it can send you and your business into a doubt-ridden daze.
The good news is even if your product launch was a total dud, there’s a strategic three-step recovery plan that can turn the tables in your favor once again.
Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: The Autopsy
There’s usually a very real and quantifiable reason for the failure of your product launch — you just have to find it.
This three-step autopsy will frame your investigation:
Analyze The Data
First things first, you’ll want to analyze every piece of data surrounding the failure of your product launch.
Why? Because your product itself may not have been the reason for its failure — it may have been the customer journey surrounding it.
If you used Google Analytics, or any other entry-level analytics platform, you’ll want to begin investigating the following metrics:
- Bounce Rate: Your website’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on a page, and then exit before visiting any other page. By investigating the bounce rate on your website on a page-by-page basis, you can identify your weakest pages and then think about how to improve them in order to retain your traffic. To check your bounce rate using Google analytics, go to Audience > Overview.
- Exit Pages: Knowing where you lose your audience is key. If, for example, most of your traffic leaves your website at the checkout page, you can investigate your checkout process further to see what’s turning people away. You can evaluate which pages are leaking visitors by going to the Users Flow section in your Google Analytics dashboard.
- Entry Pages: It’s not all about evaluating bad news. By finding out which pages your audience is landing on most, you can work on optimizing that section of your site. You can access these metrics by heading to Site content > Landing Pages.
Additionally, if you are a Kissmetrics user, you can drill down to your website’s most relevant data with features such as:
- Path Reports: This Kissmetrics feature shows the quickest and most effective route your customers take towards your entire website’s goal.
- Objective-based Reporting: Don’t know what kind of report to create? Objective-based reporting is a Kissmetrics feature that recommends an appropriate report based on whatever your objectives are. For example, if you’re focused on improving your funnel, you can use the Funnel Report to see where prospective customers are dropping out before they purchase.
- Cohort Reports: This feature shows how segmented groups behave over time. You can use such information to figure out how well your audience in one particular country is reacting to a piece of content over time, for example.
The bottom line here is that you should try to get your hands on as much data as possible from your analytics platforms. You can then spend time analyzing that those insights in a way that will help you improve your conversion rates. This guide to ecommerce analytics should help you along the way.
Talk To Your Audience
Next up, you want to engage with your audience to find out what exactly turned them off your previously failed product.
Leveraging your email list is the most common way to reach out and survey your audience. It’s as simple as sending out a request for your subscribers to fill out a short survey on a platform such as SurveyMonkey. You could ask questions like:
- What did you dislike about ‘Name of Product’?
- How would you improve ‘Name of Product’?
- What ‘Name of Product’ features did you like?
- What were you trying to accomplish with ‘Name of Product’?
Or any other question that will help you better understand the perception around your failed product. As an incentive, you could offer them a discount on other products in your store.
You can also reach out to your audience on social media by running Twitter polls and asking for feedback via Facebook and Instagram.
To really make use of your customers, you can continue your outreach by inviting engaged members of your audience to meet you (or perhaps video chat with you), in order for them to further explain the problems they had with your product — and how they propose you fix it.
Reach Out to Experts
Although your existing audience will shed plenty of light on the failure of your product launch, hearing from experts from within your niche will enhance your understanding even further.
Websites like ExpertFile can help you find experienced names in your industry.
Once you whittle down a list of experts who can help you improve your product, you can reach out to them individually — and perhaps send them a free product — in order to get their take on why it failed to resonate with your audience.
Step 2: The Overhaul
Armed with the data from your autopsy, it’s time to revamp your marketing strategy in preparation for your new and improved product.
Apply All Necessary Changes
With the data you gleaned from your audience, and the feedback you received from the experts you reached out to, you need to apply all necessary changes to your product.
Naturally, the specific changes you need to make will depend upon the type of product you’re dealing with — but one rule always applies: don’t rush it.
Embrace the feedback you received, and take your time in applying it properly. The last thing you want to do is rush it back to market in a poorly prepared state.
Return to Your Audience
Remember when I told you to talk to your audience and set up feedback meetings? Now is the perfect time to reconnect and show them the changes you’ve implemented.
You can present new features (or features that have been stripped away), and demonstrate first hand that the product is in line with their feedback. If their updated opinions are now positive, you know you’re on the right track.
On the other hand, if they still have some qualms about the product, you can always go back and tweak it to perfection. Getting back in touch with those experts at this stage would also be a good idea.
At the same time, be wary of abandoning your own vision and intuition at this stage. The experts are worth listening to, but your own experiences with your audience will tell you things that no expert can.
Identify Your Target Market
Getting to grips with your target market is absolutely vital to the success of your future product launches. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to do it.
First up, a quick visit to your Google Analytics dashboard can reveal the age, level of education, gender, and browsing location of your current audience. Alexa’s paid service expands upon all of that by giving you insights into things like the keywords being used by your competitors.
Analytics tools like Google Analytics or, even better, Kissmetrics can also teach you a thing or two about your existing audience. Google Analytics will give you an overview of what pages they visit and where in the world they are, but Kissmetrics is built to tell you far more about the people visiting your website. See where they’re coming from, where they drop off in your funnel, and remarket to your best customers – all within Kissmetrics.
Ahrefs is another handy tool that you can use to identify the audiences of your competitors — an extremely useful tactic for when your product rivals the offering of an existing brand.
Finally, you can use Hunter.io to get the emails of individuals within organizations that you could partner with, as well as influencers who can help get the word out about your future product launches. However, you should be cautious with unsolicited emails by not spamming the receiver’s inbox with multiple messages.
Define Your Keywords
Once your audience has been identified, you can start thinking about the keywords you want your content and marketing copy to revolve around.
The most efficient way to come up with keywords is as follows:
- Create a Seed List: Start with a seed list of terms based around your products. For example, if you’re selling furniture, start with keywords like ‘Oak dining tables’.
- Expand with Keyword Research Tools: Next, expand your terms by running your seed list through tried and tested keyword research tools like Google Trends and the Google Keyword Planner.
- Check Competitors: Finally, you want to check out which keywords your competitors are focusing on. This may sound difficult, but there are in fact tons of free and inexpensive competitor keyword research tools to help you achieve this.
Once you have your extended list of keywords, it’s wise to head back to Google’s Keyword Planner in order to see which keywords will fetch you the most impressions and traffic. That way, you can focus your marketing efforts around those select few keywords.
Select Your Marketing Channels
If you’re struggling to figure out which channels to market through, here’s a hint: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Pinterest are the biggest players — and you should consider marketing through all of them.
With that being said, marketing veteran Neil Patel is an advocate of brands covering as much ground as possible when it comes to social media marketing. In fact, he advocates publishing on a wide range of social media platforms at least once per day. Be cautious of which social media platforms you choose (if any). Make sure it’s a platform that is used by your target market and has a good user base.
But if you’re still unsure of where to really focus your social media marketing efforts, here are breakdown of each of the top players:
- Facebook: With over 1.79 billion active users, Facebook is the world’s most popular social media platform in the world. Its most popular age demographic is 18-29, although it’s safe to approach it no matter who your target market is. Here’s a guide to Facebook marketing to get you started.
- Twitter: While not as big as Facebook, Twitter brings brands and personalities closer to their audiences by creating a very direct conversational link. This is evidenced by the fact that 83% of world leaders have a Twitter account. This Twitter marketing guide will teach you the basics.
- Pinterest: If you’re targeting women, Pinterest is for you. According to recent research, 71% of Pinterest users are female. Here’s how to start marketing on Pinterest.
- Snapchat: Originally touted as a passing fad, Snapchat is becoming a very serious player in the marketing scene, especially for brands targeting millennials. In fact, Snapchat’s biggest age demographic is the 18-24 age group. It can be a tricky platform to get familiar with though, so checking out this guide to Snapchat marketing is a good idea.
- Instagram: Like Snapchat and Pinterest, Instagram has a heavy focus on visuals. However, recent updates — such as Instagram Stories — have turned it into a very direct rival to Snapchat in particular. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you should check out this detailed Instagram marketing guide.
- YouTube: If you’re planning on creating long-form video content, YouTube is the place to publish it. Why? Because it reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S. Here’s how to start marketing on YouTube.
Step 3: The Lessons Learned
Now that you have thoroughly investigated the failures of your last launch, and addressed any holes in your marketing campaigns, it’s time to gather the lessons you learned for future reference.
The lessons, expert advice, and customer feedback that you gleaned from your failed launch should be compiled in the form of a marketing strategy document: which will be your smoking gun for all future product launches.
A marketing strategy document is an in-house guide that your sales and marketing teams can refer to when setting up marketing campaigns, and whenever a new product is getting prepared for launch. The lessons learned from the previous failure will prove invaluable in such times.
This marketing strategy template will help you to frame your content, although the following articles are also worth reading:
You want the document to be the embodiment of your recovery process, ensuring that the same mistakes never get repeated in future.
To sum up, here’s how to finalize your recovery from a failed product launch:
- Gather all your analyzed data, expert opinions and customer feedback
- Put together an improved marketing strategy, with a redefined audience
- Create a marketing strategy template to house all your findings and new objectives
Once you have your final marketing strategy document, your team will be able to easily extract the lessons from your failed product launch — making it more like a successful experiment.
The Value of Failure
As serial-entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, “don’t be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.”
In light of that quote, it’s fair to say that not every move you make is going to be a win, so gleaning the positives from your worst moments is a vital skill.
Not only will this recovery process improve your product, it will also highlight your mistakes and give you a better understanding of your audience. Not a bad return for a complete failure, right?
Has your brand ever had to recover from a failed product launch? Let us know how you handled it in the comments section below!
About the Author: Anja Skrba is a content manager at First Site Guide, and she has been in the world of online business and content marketing for many years! You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.