Expensive marketing launches seem to be the order of the day. In fact, it almost feels like there’s some fancy party being held every single evening (with a flashy entertainment programme alongside) to show off some new product. But is that the wisest use of money for a startup? Shouldn’t it conserve every bit of its resources for when really needed? Can’t it benefit from a soft launch?
Sure, marketing’s essential for any business, and admittedly, can be more so for a startup that needs to gain visibility fast, but is there a better way of doing things?
Fed up of trying to emulate their startup compatriots (and also, giant corporations with deep pockets) in the product launch arena, many new startups and small businesses are opting for soft launches. What this means is that sometimes they go live with the product without any fancy celebration, or at best, invite a few select clients and prospective journalists for informal interaction. In all, this can save a startup a lot of money. Of course, there are drawbacks – mainly the lack of publicity, but as you’ll find out, that’s not always a negative. And remember – a soft launch always leaves you with the freedom of a big, star-studded celebration when the time’s right! So here’s a closer look at why a soft launch might be the right decision for your upcoming product:
We’ve spoken about this earlier, but you just can’t emphasise this enough. A full-fledged marketing launch might mean a lot of publicity, but it costs a lot – even the smallest marketing launch can cost you a few lakhs, with the cost rising if you decide to make it really elaborate. At the same time, your product might even get ignored with the party (and any celebrity guest) stealing the spotlight. A soft launch, on the other hand, keeps the spotlight completely on the product, with your team being free to work towards ensuring the product’s completely ready, instead of getting caught up with trying to keep people happy!
A soft launch has another advantage – there’s little likelihood of negative publicity or PR if you quietly start serving your clients instead of making a big fuss about it. In fact, a big launch party can lead to too much attention that can be a double-edged sword. A mix up in answering the press’ questions, something as trivial as party arrangements that fail to keep your invitees happy, or product failure in front of TV cameras? Sounds like a nightmare! On the other hand, a soft launch lets you keep your focus where it belongs: In making sure your initial customers – the ones likely to form a long-term association – are happy!
One of the worst mistakes a company can make is to announce a big launch and get all the attention focused on it, only to realise that it’s not ready! That’s happened on more than one occasion, and in such an eventuality, the publicity of a proper marketing launch can be a liability. Instead, why not devote your resources to making sure your product/service is ready? Even if things do go wrong, your exposure is limited. But more importantly, you have the freedom to tweak, tune, and improve your product or service with a manageable client load. It’s not a beta launch, it’s not a ‘release candidate’ – instead, you’re just getting the chance to iron out all teething troubles and initial bugs before inviting the world’s attention.
Marketing launches draw a big crowd, but it’s not all consisting of ‘serious’ customers and journalists. What happens then is that your message gets diluted, and your marketing (and support) teams get spread too thin trying to take care of everyone. But with a soft launch, you can send out early feelers to journalists who’re regarded as authorities in your domain, and to prospective clients who’re really serious about working with you. This benefits everyone – you get highly relevant feedback, your clients get personalised attention, and even the journalist gets early access over competing publications.
And finally, there’s the advantage of being able to use this feedback from a soft launch and your early adopters before going in for a major marketing campaign. You have the luxury of fine-tuning your message, and with experience of what works (and what doesn’t) on a small scale, you can then execute a better-targeted launch later on. **A soft launch doesn’t cost you attention, but instead, lets you gather ‘intelligence’ to make for an even more effective marketing launch later on. **And as we mentioned earlier, by that time even your product should be able to stand up to the rigours of a more public evaluation!
A flashy product launch might be what you’re dreaming of for your new startup, and while that’s a very good idea, you shouldn’t ignore the advantages of going for a soft launch ahead of your big marketing push. As we’ve mentioned above, a soft launch lets you play to your strengths, minimising risk and expenses, while at the same time, making sure you’re better prepared for when you finally go in for a massive public launch!
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