What types of risks are associated with launching a new product? First and foremost is product-market fit: is there a demonstrated need for your product in a market you can reach affordably? If not, you’re toast. Bye.
But even if you can reach your targets affordably, there is a hidden risk. Timing. You can knock on your customer’s door, but they may want to size you up over a cup of tea—or seven—before they are willing to pull out the pocketbook.
So how can you speed things along? Build your customer base before you launch. That means knocking on your customer’s door long before you want them to buy your new product. Have tea, make friends, tell them a little about what you’re up to. It’s like a marshmallow test for grown-ups—requires tons of patience—but it often has a big payoff when you’re ready to launch.
In the context of apparel, "radical transparency" sounds a bit, um, revealing. But as part of a manifesto to deliver ethically sourced quality clothing at a fair price, it's a fantastic marketing strategy. Everlane's message attracts fans who are looking to combat fast fashion with ethically and sustainably sourced products long before they place their first t-shirt order. The company shares cost info at every step of the value chain and even invites the public to visit its factory partners. Content for Everlane isn't just product information or a hot ad; it's the mantra of a movement.
Its "information-first" culture allows Everlane to collect data about products before it "builds" them. Its "small-batch" approach to product launches allows it to collect feedback from customers and improve its product by iterating on design and manufacturing specs, ensuring that successive manufacturing runs sell through.
To wit: when the company was preparing a launch of new denim products, it asked some lucky customers to try jeans and give feedback. The result? A 12,000-person waiting list and a whole lot of buzz.
The Patient Will See You Now
As the market for pharmaceutical products becomes increasingly competitive, companies are shifting their market focus to a new target: patients. While their approach may seem old-hat to people in other industries, pharma companies are learning that putting the patient first can lead to smoother product launches (and better health outcomes). This roundtable interview with pharma leaders by McKinsey reveals a new humility about product launches with some practical tips on avoiding overconfidence.