Product launch: Impact on existing customers and your business
A successful product launch involves preparing for its impact on your existing customers and your organization. While a product’s new features are exciting for new and prospective customers, they represent change for your existing customers.
New product features and your existing customers
When preparing for a product launch, consider what the new features will mean to existing customers. Ask yourself the following questions to assess the impact.
How will the product’s new features affect existing customers?
New features might affect existing features or might require a customer to change their processes. Evaluate each feature on your list of product requirements to assess its impact on existing customers.
Example: Company ABC has an image-editing solution. They have just added facial recognition to the product. Every customer can now classify his or her photos that contain the same person. Existing customers who might have saved files according to the people in them (by file name or folder) would now have to tag their photos so that that the system would automatically recognize and tag their photos.
How do customers get these new features after the product release?
How customers upgrade their existing product will depend on your offering. In the case of software-as-a service (SAAS) products, customers might have automatic access to new features. If you have a hardware product or installed product, you might have to facilitate the upgrade process.
Example: Company ABC’s product is installed on a customer’s desktop. With this upgrade, the company needs the user to perform the upgrade. The product will need to prompt the user to upgrade the product when they first log in after the launch date.
Will the customers’ current product have to change?
Similar to the evaluation of how the new feature will be upgraded by customers, determine if customers’ existing product will need to be changed to support the new features.
Example: Company ABC might need to add photo classifications to each photo in the system. This will mean that the customer’s existing photos will have to be updated.
What if a customer chooses not to upgrade after the product release?
In the case of installed software or hardware, or a cleantech product, a customer might choose not to upgrade.
Evaluate the impact of this eventuality on both your system and your organization. Maintaining your product to support old environments is costly and should not be entertained lightly.
Weigh the consequences of making an upgrade mandatory, knowing that this also bears risk for ongoing customer relationships, as people tend to resist change.
Example: Some of Company ABC’s users do not want to upgrade. Initially, this might not present a problem because it will not affect the photo-editing functionality. But the company might choose to issue a mandatory upgrade next year if it builds more functionality based on the image recognition feature.
How will customers learn about the new product functionality?
Customers must receive notification of an upcoming upgrade well in advance of the release. This will allow them to make the necessary preparations.
Example: Company ABC will handle customer notification in two ways. The company will send a mass email to all registered users to inform them of the new feature. The company will also add to the software a“What’s New” screen that users see when they log in.
Guidelines for a successful customer upgrade
Follow these guidelines for a successful product launch with existing customers:
- Do no harm: Minimize the disruption for your customers, and make the transition as easy as possible.
- Make it simple: Ensure that the upgrade is simple and straightforward. Eliminate as much effort for the customer as possible.
- Provide ample notice: Provide customers enough time and notice to adjust their processes, or arrange for the upgrade.
New product features and your organization
When preparing for your upcoming product launch, review all departments of your organization in an effort to anticipate and avoid any unintended outcomes. For example, consider the following:
Accounting: When reviewing new functionality, determine if the product’s payment process changes. Consider if you need to include a new SKU, or if the new product will affect financial reporting.
Example: Company ABC decides that the facial recognition functionality will cost new customers an additional $5, and existing customers will receive it free. This will change the purchase process and back-end accounting.
Customer support: Your customer support team will be answering calls about the product’s functionality. In addition to receiving training on the new features, they might need to update online FAQs or other customer-facing information.
Example: Company ABC has an online knowledge base of common questions. With the new software upgrade, they will need to add additional questions to the knowledge base.
Sales: Your sales team might need updated sales tools to reflect the modifications to the product.
Example: Company ABC uses an online demo to show how the software works. It now needs to add a component on facial recognition.
Legal: Determine if your new features will change any legal agreements with your customers. If so, you will have to update the document, and secure acceptance from customers.
Example: Company ABC wants to update their software agreement to limit the liability of facial recognition (for example, “We don’t promise that it’s always accurate.”) The company has to create a new version of its legal agreement, and have users to agree to it before their upgrade can take place.
Daniels, D. (2010). Is Your Product Launch Doomed? Pragmatic Marketing. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/8/2/is-your-product-launch-doomed
Daniels, D. (2010). Goals, Readiness and Constraints: The Three Dimensions of Product Launch. Pragmatic Marketing. Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/7/2/goals-readiness-and-constraints-the-three-dimensions-of-product-launch
Johnson, S. (2010). Don’t Let the Sun Go Down. Pragmatic Marketing. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/pu