Product launches: What makes a successful launch anyway?
Every beginner entrepreneur can relate to the fantasy of just closing our eyes, pressing a magic Easy button, and — voila, our new product is launched and is a hit! But hold on, what does a “successful” information product launch even look like?
Six figures? Seven figures maybe?
Oodles of paying customers (like 1,430 of them)?
Or if it’s your first time, maybe just making one sale?
The truth is, each of those could be considered successful because a successful launch isn’t — and shouldn’t be — limited to a singular event that makes people rich and famous (but that sure wouldn’t hurt either). What success actually looks like is different for everyone and every stage of your business.
Metrics for success around your very first product launch will differ vastly from your fifth one. I remember the first time I built and launched my very own product, and defined “success” as having generated any sales at all. Years later, my success metrics were in an altogether wildly different playing field, having both designed and launched IWT’s flagship products Earnable and Find Your Dream Job. By then, I had looked at success with a different lens (scope, revenue, NPS, etc.).
In this article, I’ll help you define success that goes beyond the hard, sexy numbers. Whether it’s your first or 15th launch, knowing what you want to achieve for each launch is an important first step … for your morale and sanity.
The #1 mistake business owners make when judging their launches
When you’re talking shop with other entrepreneurs, discussions around the performance of their recent launches (assuming they did well) are inevitable. Hang with the right group, and inevitably you’ll often get eye-poppingly impressive numbers, making you think that you yourself need to pull off something similar just to keep up.
But really, the first rule of Entrepreneur Club is: Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s journey.
In other words, don’t base your success on someone else’sself-imposed and often arbitrarystandards. Unless they’re in the same market with the same positioning, same price point, same product selling to the same email list, and same everything, comparing your circumstances to another person’s is a sure-fire way to feel like what you do or achieve will never be good enough.
What other people are doing or not doing isn’t always relevant to you because you have to be realistic about where you are in your journey.
For example, if you’ve just created your first product, but have never even done a launch before, the VERY LAST thing you need is to spend weeks planning an elaborate launch with affiliates, paid ads, or webinars. Rather, your measure for success in that case may just be finding out if your market actually likes and wants to buy your product.
I remember when I was first testing my product. I had an outline on a Google Doc, and instead of concocting a complex launch, I simply asked my Facebook friends if my course was something they’d buy (read more details about how I got over my fear of selling). Even that was scary and a lot of work!
My success metric then?
Validating my product idea and making sure that people actually wanted to pay me.
To confirm, I asked for people to PayPal me upfront to reserve a spot — and when they did, it felt so empowering, but that’s a story for another article … *takes note*
The lesson here is that a successful product launch isn’t necessarily wrapped up in revenue numbers or the number of people who bought your product. I myself didn’t have a revenue goal in the beginning. I just wanted to make sure people would pay me for my product idea before I pour more of my time and resources into it.
There’s always something to aim for other than smashing a revenue goal. These other metrics are considered a success if you’ve…
- Validated the positioning and your overall product — success!
- Road-tested and assessed the quality of your product by getting great customer feedback and having low refund rates (below 20-ish%) — success!
- Gradually increased the number of customers who buy in succeeding launches — success!
- Acquired more email leads or social media followers so that they may buy your other products — success!
Our motto here at IWT and GrowthLab for our product launches is always:
“It’s not a failure. It’s a test.”
As a Product Designer, I view every product launch as an opportunity for us to learn more about our products, our customers, and what we can do better. Our Director of Operations, Gretchen Leslie, suggests that, if this is your first product launch, focus on:
- Validating your product idea (e.g., are people buying?)
- Checking if your product fits with the market and positioning (e.g., what was the reaction to the product?)
- Gathering feedback on the quality of your product (e.g., are people asking for refunds?)
- Being able to fulfill orders seamlessly (e.g., does the sales page work? Can people check out? Are you not crying in the corner during your launch?)
Revenue isn’t the only or one true measure of success. Even if you didexceed your revenue goals but your refund rate is very high, that doesn’t necessarily make your product successful and would be something worth looking into.
What does success look like for you?
Our goals for success with each product launch are probably very different from yours, depending on if it’s a new product or a re-launch of an existing one. For example, a few things we look for:
- Number of new customers who buy
- A refund rate below 20% (if it’s above 20%, we know that something is wrong with the product’s quality and/or positioning)
- Overall comments and feedback
By now we’ve done over a hundred launches, and we’re still learning and adapting. Of course, as a business, revenue is important, but it’s more important to us that we put out our best products that align with our values. Oftentimes, our insights from previous launches inform our next launches or fan the flames of our next Big Product Idea, too.
For you, set some realistic goals for yourself, taking into account your product and available resources, by asking yourself: What is the goal of your launch?
Making money should be the side effect of everything else you do, and it shouldn’t be the only goal. If this is your first launch, I encourage you to look at your upcoming launch as a way to harvest feedback you can use to iterate on your current idea or perhaps segue to your next idea. In other words, focus on serving your customers, not just on the fancy things your fancy product has.
In the end, a launch — whether “successful” or not — is something you can be proud of because you actually did something extremely difficult, time- and resource-intensive, and incredibly stressful, albeit rewarding in so many ways. Learn from each launch and view each as a way to continue evolving.
And that’s the way to success — whatever that may look like for you.