Lose, Falter & Fail at Launch

There are millions of websites and businesses that show you (or try to show you) how to succeed. But few detail how companies and websites might lose, falter and fail at the launch of their product or service. Website Magazine has been fortunate in the past five years to watch thousands of companies go through the launch process - some with great success and others suffering epic failures. That experience has honed our ability to separate the future winners from the losers. The following is a list of reasons and corporate traits that will be most detrimental to your website or product launch. Ignore them at your own peril.

Customer Development: Whether building software, creating a Web destination or selling products on the Internet, customers (clients and users) are always the engine drives revenue growth and your ultimate success. Often, those seeking press coverage from Website Magazine do not have customer stories about the usage of their products - an immediate indication they don't take customers seriously. Having a stable of users and early adopters prior to launch will offer input on your product or service and a head-start on new customers and brand awareness.

Street Credibility: Even if your launch is months or years away it will be well served if your reputation is already established in certain circles. For example, say you are in the product development phase of a new and innovative electronic gadget. If you've spent time building up some followers (see the viral component section below) your opinions and beliefs are going to be respected and trusted. When you are ready to launch, the job of building trust in your new product or service will be far easier with established credibility. To earn some street credibility, create your own weblog and promote it anywhere that is relevant, offer up advice and expertise, and find a following.

Viral Components: In the age of sharing and social media there is no excuse for Web businesses not to have a "presence" and account for users' willingness to spread something they like or appreciate. The benefit of doing so is that it dramatically increases the potential of message frequency (how often messages will be seen by others) - something that proves very valuable during a launch. It's not uncommon for users (and those of us in the media) to simply ignore something until it can no longer be ignored; becoming too "big" not to consider. Adding in viral social and sharing components (Facebook Pages, share buttons on blog posts, etc.) pre-launch will ensure an optimal response.

Viral components don't just stop at sharing and social, however. Affiliate and partner programs can provide a much needed boost and the savviest among them (should you make the effort to recruit them) will be excited to get in on the virtual land rush - scooping up all those early adopters. Build a second- or third-tier into your partner offering and you'll get street credibility of which your competitors will envy.

Product and service launches are tense and tough times. Being customer-focused (supporting an environment where customers are valued and trusted), having a cache of credibility that you can leverage in the future, and giving the Web as a whole an opportunity to share and extend your brand message are basic but key steps in launch success. Otherwise, welcome to the dead pool.