Are a product launch and a go-to-market strategy the same thing? The answer to that question is a clear no. And we're going to share with you what the differences are.
A soft product launch is part of a go-to-market strategy before you start to imagine them as two separate elements within the grand scheme of things. It is the first commercialisation phase where a small group pays for your solution. At this stage, you are not actively promoting your product.
Your soft product launch is the first step to creating and executing your go-to-market strategy. A GTM is a marathon where you'll be testing about 3-4 different channels to identify the right ones, which will be the ones with the best ROI together with the best volume.
Part 1: Soft Product Launch
With a soft product launch, you start small to gather as much feedback from your initial customers and gain initial market validation. They are the first people who have decided to sign up and pay for your solution. You need to understand what attracted them to discover your solution further, as well as what made them decide to pay for it.
Once you undergo this customer research phase, you will be able to create more value for them and future customers. Finalising your product and USP with a soft launch is the best way to minimise risks and costs.
It is also the reason why a product launch is not the equivalent of a go-to-market strategy but rather a part of it. You are essentially testing the following:
- Who your target customers are precisely
- How to effectively express your USP in a way that resonates with your target customers
- Which sales-oriented messaging we'll encourage your future leads to convert
Once you've achieved this phase, you are now ready to reach a wider audience, hence the rest of your go-to-market strategy.
The adequate way to go about this is to build your product with your customers. Too often, early-stage companies build their entire product from end to end without consulting the people they want to market to it in the process.
It was the case of the London-based startup Prediko which have built an inventory planning solution for e-commerce brands. Thanks to a forecasting engine that business' owners can easily customise and update, they now receive predictions on upcoming sales.
The founders had spoken with around 50 brands to understand their pain points. They understood why they were having a hard time forecasting, how they were doing it and what was causing them problems before developing anything. It allowed the team at Prediko to closely onboard and accompany their power users throughout their development phase. They have now gained market validation to continue with their growth.
Part 2: Go to Market
As we've established, your soft product launch will provide you with essential learnings which will fuel the rest of your go-to-market strategy.
So what is it you need precisely to create this strategy? Its success rate relies on the three aspects:
- Your understanding of your solution's positioning within your market
- Your capacity to test your hypotheses rapidly on a given sample
- Your ability to invest in the right channels will enable you to increase your chances of becoming profitable.
The key to making all these aspects work is to focus on your uniqueness. It is something we cannot stress enough. You very likely have competitors with a similar solution. Analyse their solution and compare it with yours. This might be a difficult task since you've created this new solution. But take a step back and think about what makes you so different in your marketplace. What needs does it meet?
Once you've truly pinpointed the answer to that question, you will now focus on ideal customer profiles. Who will benefit the most from your offer? Do a deep dive into the type of person they are, their experiences with other solutions, and their potential frustrations and needs.
Focus on your core users and their problems enable you to build an adequate solution. This is the case of the Berlin-based startup, DANCE, an e-bike subscription service with an all-inclusive support package. They are building a community around their product, starting with one specific location, Berlin.
By being focused on a very defined audience to start with, you will be able to:
- Increase your chances of converting leads into paying customers
- Create loyalty amongst your customers, which will kickstart a word-of-mouth effect
- Have a clear focus of your entire company and, therefore team's direction
Conclusion on Product Launch vs Go To Market:
The early days can feel hectic as you want to achieve so many things. But step by step, you are building stable foundations to ensure you'll continue to have opportunities to scale your growth further.
Your time and investment in these crucial steps are a long-term investment into your future. So don't forget to design your solution and relationship with your targeted audience, so you are ready to reach more and more new audiences when the time is right.