You’ve got a great product. So why don’t more people buy it? Many of my clients come calling because they’ve had the scare of a launch that didn’t preform to their expectations. It’s not because their plans were bad. Nor was it that the product design was subpar. It might not even be that the messaging or positioning was off.

Often, it’s because the wham-bam-thank-ya-ma’am style launch that everyone from that super successful life coach to the latest iPhone wonder app developers make look highly effective is actually the wrong choice for most new products or programs. There are lots of people out there who would buy your product–if only they heard about it the right way at the right time.

And what you don’t know is…

That blitzkrieg-style launch is actually the final iteration of careful planning, testing, and incremental sales cycles.

Why not everyone buys what you launch right away


Why is this important?

Sure, planning and testing is always a good idea. But really, the reason the initial stages of introducing a new product, program, or service to the public is that there are 3 kinds of good customers and you need to sell to each differently. And that means the majority of your potential customers won’t buy the first time you launch something or because of the same messaging you’d use to get that first round of customers.

To get more people to buy what you’re selling, you’ve got to adapt your marketing and sales approach to each segment.

Moreover, you must sell to each in their own way in the right order.

Stages of Customer Development

Image from The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development


Early Adopters

Early adopters, by nature, want the dirt on the newest things to hit the market. They want to try it, experiment with it, offer suggestions, be a part of the process. “New” and “innovative” are value-adds in and of themselves. Early adopters will work to figure out what untapped benefits are buried within a new product.

These are the people who waited in line for the very first iPhone.

Early Majority

The Early Majority are interested in being ahead of the curve with new ideas but aren’t willing to suffer the kinks & quirks of an untested product. They rely on others to test drive a product but then happily buy what is new and trendy.

These are the people who waited in line for the 3rd generation iPhone.

Late Majority

The Late Majority wants what is standard. They don’t want to look like they’re lagging behind but have no interest in being ahead of the curve. They’re happy to buy a product, as long as it has reached a certain ubiquity in the conversation.

These are the people who waited to buy a high definition DVD player until BluRay beat out HD-DVD.

For more on this, check out the book The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development.

What does this have to do with your launch?

If you create a shock & awe launch without first selling to your Early Adopters, those Early Adopters won’t buy because they’ll shy away from something that is aimed at the Majority of the market. The Early Majority will be nervous that there isn’t a proven track record for the product. And the Late Majority? Well, you can only imagine how nervous they’d be.

The key to a truly successful launch (over time) is to sell to the natural buying habits of each segment of your market.

Introduce the Early Adopters to a beta version of your product. Offer a limited number of first edition products, seats in a new program, or spots on your service calendar. Let them know why they’re getting the first word (you value their opinion, you’re looking for testers, you want to reward them for their loyalty, etc…) and invite them to buy.

Once those Early Adopters have had their way with your new idea, you can open sales to your Early Majority. They’ll want to see testimonials from Early Adopters and hear about the actual results that group got. They also want to hear a bit about the process you used to create the product and why you’re bringing it to market now.

Finally, the Late Majority will be ready to buy. They don’t want to know about your process or your inspiration; they just want what everyone else is buying. They’ll happily listen to the Early Majority recommend your product. Demonstrate that your product is “standard” and reach out to new markets.

How do I take advantage of these market segments?

Taking advantage of each market segment is a matter of, you guessed it, segmentation. You need to be able to segment your audience by their buying habits so that you can present your offer in different ways as you go.

You might be able to hand pick a group of Early Adopters to sell to via social media or your email marketing service. Just remember that your Early Adopters are probably brand evangelists but not every brand evangelist is an Early Adopter. Many brand evangelists are not customers at all but simply people who buy into your vision and want to see your business or ideas succeed. Early Adopters are the ones who actually buy.

So when you’re picking that initial group, concentrate on people who have purchased something from you recently. Look to your last launch and target those who bought in the first wave. You can also identify Early Adopters in your industry or niche and invite them to try your product or service. Remember to focus the value here around what’s “new” or “innovative” about your product and why those features benefit your Early Adopters specifically. You’ll want to make sure all your messaging is focused on “invitation” instead of sales pitches, too.

Your Early Majority is found in the heart of your list. These are the people who already know, like, and trust your business; they just don’t place as high a value on buying right away. Focus the next stage of launching a new product on your internal network. Use the themes you’ve been discussing in email marketing, social media, and/or your blog to springboard this part of your launch. Affiliate marketing and most media relations aren’t very effective here so don’t spend a lot of time with this. Make a splash but keep it inside the pool, so to speak.

Your Late Majority is found outside your internal network. Here is where joint venture & affiliate marketing, as well as media relations, really work. This is when an explosive launch strategy can create big returns. With everyone talking about your “new” (ahem) thing, the Late Majority will realize your product has become standard (safe) and ready for them to give it a go.

Is there an example I can check out?

Marie Forleo‘s Rich, Happy, and Hot B-School is a great example of this in action. When that program was officially “launched,” the ideas in it were not brand new. The program incorporated elements that had been being taught to Marie & Laura Roeder’s inner circle (read: Early Adopters) for years. The Early Majority (the core of Marie & Laura’s audiences) took the program the first two years based on the fact that those Early Adopters were trusted, high profile members of the online business community.

The last two launches of the program focused heavily on affiliate marketing and brought in a whole new audience to the brand. That affiliate marketing also turned off a whole slew of Early Adopter and Early Majority community members because, while on the surface it was annoying to see the same marketing message everywhere, below the surface these segments didn’t like that the program had become “standard” and ubiquitous.

The launch of the iPhone is also similar. The first and second generation iPhones were produced in limited quantities, largely marketed to early tech adopters, and sold only through one provider. Early adopters are willing to jump through those kind of hopes to get the hot, new thing. Later generations, were marketed more openly and produced in much larger quantities. Finally the last two generations saw not only larger quantities produced but many more sales channels added to the mix. For a large segment of the smartphone market, the iPhone is standard.

What to do next

The summer is the time when many businesses are putting the final touches on new products or programs to launch in the Fall. If you’re wanting to make a big splash later in the year, this might be the perfect time to get your Early Adopters involved. Don’t keep the lid on your big project, devise a way to sell an early prototype of your product, program, or service to Early Adopters and invite them to start working with your ideas pronto.

Use their feedback to make the jump to your Early Majority in the Fall. Plan a launch that relies on internal communication and word of mouth referrals among your own community. Then, consider relaunching in the Winter, casting a wider net to catch your Late Majority.

If you’re in a different part of the sales cycle, adjust accordingly.

— PS —

If you’re looking for more strategies for launching, check out this Forbes article that featured some of my best advice on the topic. I offer ideas on why a launch didn’t go as well as it could have and what to do differently next time.