launching off a dock to bellyflop into the water
PHOTO: Oliver Sjöström

Some statistics are ubiquitous in marketing circles. Such as the one about half of all new businesses failing within the first five years. (And yes, there is some debate on how true it really is.) But if you think "half" sounds high, there is a failure rate that is even higher.

The top reasons so many startups do not survive range from failing to solve an actual market need to simply running out of money. According to research by CB Insights, “70% of upstart tech companies fail — usually around 20 months after first raising financing."

And if you look beyond new business ventures and observe launches for new products and offerings at established companies, the news there isn't so good either. According to a 2019 Roadmap.com survey of more than 500 product and marketing leaders, two-thirds said their company manages launches only “somewhat well.”

Having spent my career in marketing and product management at technology companies, I have seen how these kinds of go-to-market failures happen. The same Roadmap.com survey found that go-to-market activities typically fail due to a misalignment between marketing and product. Broken communication, missed deadlines, and overall lack of support — all were mentioned.

But the biggest issue reported was that internal groups did not share any unifying goals. So how do you get on the same page? If you work in marketing, you can start by creating a clear and actionable launch strategy.

Related Article: The Elements of a Strategic Marketing Program

Your Marketing Launch Plan Needs a Strategy

Goals

Your launch strategy should start with a simple question: “What do we want to achieve?” Talk about this with the broader team. The other functions likely have some already established goals, like creating product awareness or gaining new customers. Detail these goals as part of your marketing strategy and make sure they connect back to the overall business goals.

Initiatives

Yes, you need purpose. But you also need to focus. The key initiative is simply to launch the product or service. But within that initiative, you need to detail the work required to reach your goals. Identify three to five key sub-initiative efforts that will be used to do this. Note the work that entails and the milestones you should hit along the way.

Related Article: Fragmentation Is Holding Marketing Back

Positioning

The strategy should make it clear how customers will learn about and evaluate your new offering, as well as how it stands out from alternative solutions or the competition. To get clear on this, write a positioning statement. This template can help you get started:

For [target customer] who [statement of the need], the [product] is a [product category] that [key benefit]. Unlike [primary competitive alternative], our product [statement of primary differentiation].

Messaging

Once you have defined the positioning, you can draft the messaging. This is what you will consistently say about your new product or service externally. Focus on the key points that you want to convey to your audience and write down as many messages as you can think of. From there, you can condense the list to three to five key statements — the ones that will best resonate with your audience and convey the truth of your offering.

Related Article: We Don't Care About Your Mission Statement

Unified Goals Lead to Successful Launch

A clear strategy will align the entire team — both marketing and product — around what you want to achieve. You will have unified goals. And rather than a launch that goes “somewhat well,” you can deliver one that makes everyone proud.