Improve Your Next Product Launch: Engage Customers Through Social Media Channels
One of our most frequent inquiry topics is how to improve product launch. An important boost to the commercial success of an offering, this process often becomes mired in tactical details and spreadsheet checklists.
Most marketers think of launch as an event instead of an opportunity to engage in conversation with their target customers. Unless you are entering a new market, communicating with existing customers should be a priority. Consider who needs to hear about what you are offering and how are you going to reach them.
To engage customers in a product launch, social media is a valuable addition to the traditional mix of press releases, emails, newsletters and sales calls. It can be used before, during and after the launch date:
- Pre-launch. In order to be effective, social engagement must begin in advance of launch. Product/solution marketing must begin planning once the build decision stage has been reached. Although it’s tempting to use social only for launch and post launch, the goal should be to establish a two-way dialogue and build an online community during development. Content and communications should focus on customers’ issues, experiences and interests. Conduct surveys and consider virtual focus groups. Use your online community to keep customers apprised of the product roadmap. Build brand enthusiasts, and ask them to share their opinions, feedback and preferences. Positioning the new offering in reference to their involvement in the development process will result in higher customer satisfaction and retention. The social media operations team is a critical partner to product and solution marketing during this phase, facilitating conversations and providing actionable insights to the launch team.
- Launch. The goal is to make all customers aware of the new offering. Use active conversation channels, making sure that the messaging closes the loop (i.e. “you proposed, we listened”). An emerging best practice is to build acceptance by setting up live chat sessions or online town halls in which subject matter experts answer questions about the product. The information must be easily shared within customer organizations. Consider offering customer communities a special preview invitation ahead of the rest of the market.
- Post-launch. After release, the focus shifts to metrics and evaluating the success of the program. Involve your customer marketing team. Assess community reaction to the offering, and determine whether customers are engaged. Capture early-adoption stories, and create online video case studies. Demonstrate that you care about customers and will use their feedback to improve future versions. Revisit the number and tone of conversation topics to determine whether messaging and reach need to be improved. Tie social channels into the marketing automation platform so that contribution to leads and revenue is measurable.