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Website Elements for a Successful Product Launch

Part II of the Series: 10 Ways to Untangle Your Product Launch

Your website is the first sale rep people meet at your company. Unfortunately, many marketing teams can quickly find themselves overwhelmed when trying to tackle all of the elements of their web strategy– websites, SEO, blogs, pay-per-click, email integration and more. We want to take the mystery and frustration out of using your web elements in a successful product launch.

Impact on Brand Equity

Before you can decide on the exact tactics for your website, you have to answer the question, “what is the impact of this launch on brand equity?”

Option 1: This product launch enhances brand equity.

The product is part of our core service offering. If so, fasten your seat belts, there really isn’t a single step you should skip. Your website is the first place most of your prospects will interact with your brand. You can’t afford to leave parts of it out of date with regard to a central brand offering.

Option 2: This product launch borrows from our brand equity.

If you’re a software company, you might refer to this type of launch using Geoffrey Moore’s term, “Plus One.” In this case, you may not need to address every page on your site but instead consider a subset in your product areas and enhance your click paths. You’re not off the hook with social media either, because you will have some explaining to do when all those customers ask why your plus-ones don’t come free with their standard product.

Option 3: This product launch has the possibility of cannibalizing our brand equity.

Perhaps you’re launching an extension of your current product set into a new market. This is especially risky when moving downstream. First, you may be losing money in new deals as prospects and customers decide that the additional functionality in your premier product suite isn’t worth the additional investment. Your new small or SaaS-based offering is good enough. Second, research has shown that the market will perceive a reduction in the quality of your brand as you move downstream. It’s not so easy to move upstream either. That’s why when Toyota wanted to rival European luxury automobiles they went to market as Lexus. If you think you might cannibalize your brand equity, you should really consider a separate suite name, with a separate microsite. You might even consider a separate business unit or even a separate company. You’ll thank me later for not eating away at your current revenue sources.

Option 4: The product launch has the ability to confuse our market.

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be CMOs. If you think there is a real contradiction between your current brand position and your new launch, run it as another brand, company or division. You can only own one brand position at a time, and then only if you’re really good or really lucky, usually both. Here are some of my favorite brand confusions:

  • Who is Martha Stewart? Is she a curator of sophisticated taste and if so what is she doing in Home Depot, Staples and in 2013 J.C. Penney. At least she’s not in Kmart anymore.
  • Have you ever seen Quaker Oats Breakfast Cookies? Yes, cookies. Isn’t Quaker Oats supposed to be about health? I’ll believe the rice cakes and even the chewy granola bars–even though both are far removed from anything your cavemen ancestors would have put into their mouths. But cookies?
  • Stop reading here if you have a sensitive gag reflex: Cheetos Lip Balm and Sylvester Stallone Pudding.

End Confusion with More Content

Assuming you have a workable website, the general principle for any new product launch is more equals more. This is true even if you decided to take your potentially cannibalistic product to another site.

Too many people are depending on your content to make their lives better: sales reps, prospects, channel partners, journalists and analysts and more. Let’s face it, most of the people in your own company have trouble explaining all of your offerings today. It’s not going to improve after the launch of your new products.

With all that new content, your website is going to do the heavy lifting. So let’s now turn to the specific areas you need to address.

Product Areas

This should be the most obvious but you’d be surprised how many people I talk to who tell me, “don’t go by what’s on the website, it’s a little out of date.” And by a “little out of date,” they mean that none of the products on the site actually match what they sell. Here are four things to consider:

  1. Do a complete audit of your web site against your current product offerings. Make sure they match up.
  2. Present your products in a way that makes sense to your prospects. I know you really like the name “Turbulator 5000,” but I have no idea what that thing does. It’s better to refer to it by it’s function than it’s name if the name isn’t on the nose. Call that page and navigation link “Workflow Management,” or something that specific. As a bonus, you’ll pick up some search engine love along the way.
  3. Decide on your organization. Which are the main product suites, which are the plus-ones, which are modules and what content simply describes additional functionality? Or, will you organize by industry grouping? I suggest doing both because again, more equals more.
  4. Get an outside person to navigate and read the content to make sure it makes sense to the cultures that live outside your tribe. In fact, find out what your grandmother is doing next Saturday. Is the copy filled with insider jargon? Are you making assumptions about how much people already know about your brand?

Blogs and Social Media

We’ll cover public relations and social media in a future post for this series. We’ll also be returning at a later date to discuss what you need to do to generate hype during the prelaunch phase. But for now, you have a blog, you have a Twitter account, you have a Facebook page so go forth and BloTwitFace. (That sounded better in my head).

To get you going, here are 10 things you could blog or tweet about:

  1. Your five favorite new functions
  2. Installation tips and tricks
  3. Profile someone in R&D
  4. Photos of the product or better yet, videos of the product in action
  5. Customer and partner testimonials and shout outs
  6. A challenge you overcame in the development of the product
  7. Provide some guidance on return on investment
  8. Talk about how your industry is evolving and why your new product shows you are a leader
  9. Promote a webinar
  10. Roll all of the nine things above into a white paper or e-book and tweet for downloads

See, wasn’t that easy?

PR Announcements

These are pretty standard. The harder work is to get an actual story out of a product launch. But most trade magazines need the content so they will at least pick up a blurb or two for their web site.

Here are the three releases I think you should plan at a minimum:

  1. The standard new product announcement. These aren’t as important as they were a few years ago but a lot of people still cover new products. At the very least, you can generate some new links to your site this way.
  2. Announce a case study of a client using the product. These do drive a lot of activity and can even get you some ink.
  3. Promote a series of events at which you’ll be demonstrating the new product: webinars, trade shows, road shows and more.

Microsites

When they are done correctly, microsites can helps generate urgency, excitement and buzz. The easiest way to pull off a microsite with a product launch is to focus it either around product content–especially social and video–or focus it around an industry you serve. As an added bonus, you’ll pick up some search engine links from another domain.

In addition, if your launch has the potential to cannibalize your brand, a microsite can help. Or perhaps your current product offering is so large that you worry about getting lost with your new launch.

If you play it right, a microsite can look educational and not self-serving. That could pick you up some links, shares, likes and retweets.

PPC Campaigns

You may not need to change anything with your pay-per-click campaigns with a new product launch. Your markets and core pain points are the same, lucky you. But chances are you’ll at least want to review them and add a few of your new selling points to attract new prospects. As with all new PPC campaigns, this will set off a series of tests to make sure you’re hitting the right notes in your copy, design and ad headlines.

Search Engine Optimization

As long as you’re building all those new pages and posts, you might as well take the time to optimize them for SEO and get you link structure working to your advantage. This is too large a topic to cover in this post, but a new product launch is a great opportunity to grab some SERP real estate. At the very least, do a little keyword research in your market to see if there are some keyword phrases you haven’t approached that could use you brilliantly written copy.

Landing Page Development

You’ll be doing a lot of campaign work–calls, mail, email and more–that you need to track. You also want to drive conversions as quickly as possible with as few clicks as possible. Enter the landing page. Here are eight basics you want to cover:

  1. A headline or grabber that is very specific and let’s the prospect know he or she is on the right page
  2. Clearly written copy and subheaders that drive the reader to an eventual action
  3. A video or a photo
  4. Grammatical perfection–the page needs to be perfect to reduce bounces
  5. Social proof–testimonials, awards, analyst mentions, PR blurbs and more
  6. A call to action: download a white paper, sign up for a demo, purchase today, etc. Make it as obvious as possible.
  7. Load up your additional analytics code to track conversions and A/B testing
  8. Consider some other unique URLs. Make them pretty, not some weird code. In other words, www.yoursite.com/wow is a lot better than www.yoursite.com/100eiai$$?asp~blahblahblahblahblah.

Interactive Elements

Interactive elements have the potential to go viral. You don’t have to add them right away, but if you can it can really boost the number of likes and shares you get. Some of the most popular involve games, movies, recorded demos and ROI calculators. These have the added benefit of demonstrating your empathy with your prospects, which is why they encourage viral behavior. Make sure you encourage them to pass the information along through email and social media.

Click Paths

Once you have everything lined up above, you want to bring it all together with click paths. Most people only think about two click paths. First, a big splash on the main page. Second, navigation links. But why not put display ads and calls to action on the appropriate interior pages as well. A good click path strategy can boost your conversions by 20% or more.

Automation: The Last Mile

The last mile in your web strategy for your product launch should be automation. According to the Aberdeen Research Group, companies who use marketing automation convert 107% more leads than their Luddite counterparts. Here are five things you should be able to do with automation:

  1. Automatically fire off emails based on profiles
  2. Link prospect behavior (e.g., downloaded a white paper) to future action (e.g., get a call from a sales rep)
  3. Automatically score and add prospects to your CRM system
  4. Integrate into other campaigns so that you get a whole view of your prospects interactions with you
  5. Put your prospects on a proven path of lead nurturing based on results and best practices

That wraps up our discussion of web elements in a product launch. I’m not pretending that this is the end-all list; however, if you do these things you’ll be doing more than 85% of your competitors are doing. Next time we talk about product launches, we’ll cover public relations tips and tricks.

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