Have you ever purchased a new product and then regretted it?
A few years ago, with little notification to users, an office I was working at implemented a new travel management system. Soon after the product was launched, it was clear that new system was challenging to use and did not include all the necessary workflows to complete our custom travel reports. After about a year of frustrated users flooding the service desk and a management decision to return to manual processes that travel management system was replaced with a different one, a tell-tale sign of the original project’s ultimate failure. Had the implementation team engaged their users, they would have immediately found that the product was not user-friendly and was missing key features required within our organization.
User engagement is the key to successfully launching a new product. There are many drivers that may cause your organization to implement a new product, but no matter what, continuous user engagement throughout the development and deployment is vital to ensuring a successful product launch.
What should I do before launching a new product?
When developing a new product, user participation during the planning, scoping, and requirements definition will ensure the product design considers how and why the product will be used. Engagement of these same users to evaluate the wireframes or test a prototype before any significant investment is made will prove whether the planned product meets the initial requirements, preventing you from going down a wrong path. After production is complete, user acceptance testing or beta testing with a sample group before deploying the product to the entire user community will help to identify any remaining bugs or usability issues.
Since not all future users can participate in pre-deployment activities, a detailed outreach strategy will ensure your user base is well aware of your product before launch. These pre-launch communications will build trust with an established user community and improve adoption rates with new users. The objective is to get them comfortable with the changes that are coming. This effort should occur at least a few weeks before your launch and clearly explain both what changes are in store and the benefit of these changes. As part of the outreach for a new product, I recommend using multiple communication channels, such as email, social media, newsletters, and system notifications, to maximize awareness. To reach an external audience, you may want to incorporate traditional advertising methods, including a press release, digital and print media, or event promotion into your outreach strategy.
Training sessions and user guides are also important pre-launch tools. Training sessions will help make the transition smoother, create early buzz around your product, and provide you with an initial review of the product. Although training may not cover all aspects of your product, the user guide should be comprehensive document. An effective user guide is easy to read, offers self-help, and is well organized, providing clear and concise instructions with diagrams or screenshots and reference materials to assist in troubleshooting. Hosting training and distributing a user guide before your launch will show your users you are well prepared and ready to assist them if any issues arise.
How can I tell if my product is successful?
Product developers need to select evaluation criteria for measuring success. Collecting metrics about who, what, when, where, and how your product is being used will provide you with a valuable information about your users’ experience with your product. This becomes the roadmap for future product evolution and continued user satisfaction.
After your product launches, users must know who to go to ask questions, and it is essential that communication channels allow for two-way dialogue. Providing users with multiple feedback outlets will help you provide this support.
- Product support should be available and prepared for the call volume spike that typically follows a new product launch. Service desk volume can help you determine if your product is performing well or has critical flaws.
- Anonymous user surveys can help you gauge what techniques worked and what didn’t during the launch, where product improvements are needed, where progress has been made, and where satisfaction is consistent.
- Focus groups or online forums encourage users to provide detailed feedback and may disprove assumptions.
The quantitative and qualitative metrics you collect need to be analyzed as soon as possible, and the results should be used to establish requirements for the current or future product releases. For example, a critical task after conducting an annual survey is to develop and implement an action plan with the purpose of improving user satisfaction.
How can I ensure success after a product launch?
Ultimately, the success of your launch will be measured by the satisfaction of your users.
- Continuing to actively involve users throughout the life of your product will ensure your product remains successful past launch day.
- Sharing performance metrics, survey results, and communicating what and why product changes are occurring will help build and maintain a level of trust with between your users and your product.
- Following up on user feedback and collaborating with users on product improvements will help retain satisfied users (or regain frustrated ones).
Satisfied users will not only continue to use your product, but will also recommend the product to new users.
How do you engage users before a product launch? What are some other tips or lessons learned for successfully launching a new product?
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