Doors to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan sprung open at exactly 8 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, and no one was more excited than a man named Brian Ceballo. According to press reports, 19-year-old Ceballo had been waiting outside the store for 15 days just to get the locations' very first iPhone 5s. Upon purchasing his gold phone, he triumphantly walked out and smiled in front of scores of television cameras.
Apple is known for generating consumer hype that can only be equated to Beatles fan mania of the 1960s or Michael Jackson concerts of the late 80s. And while it may seem daunting for small business owners to replicate Apple-esque new product frenzy, there are several things entrepreneurs can do to increase excitement, pre-launch.
Focus on the customer
A new product launch usually culminates a heavy amount of back end work, including pouring over customer complaints and suggestions and tweaking and testing until everything looks perfect. While it can be tempting to promote your launch with specific details about the product and micro-level upgrades, you are likely to received glazed looks from customers if you do so.
To generate consumer excitement, instead focus on the solutions you are providing to your audience. The iPhone 5s may have a new screen, but Apple isn't focusing its marketing around that feature. Instead, the company is zeroing in on the fingerprint functionality, a solution for customers tired of entering pass codes every time they boot up their phones. Take Apple's example and focus on the perspective of the end user when marketing your new product.
By providing your loyal customers early access to your product, you will help increase demand. Email or call your customers a few weeks before launch to talk with them about the product. Explain the problems your product will solve and why it will be the perfect fit for them or their business.
Taking pre-orders can positively affect your company's bottom line in two ways. First, it can secure purchases in advance and guarantee sales. Second, by telling your longtime customers about your new product (and getting them excited about it), they may become product/brand evangelists for you and spread the word to additional potential customers.
Reach out to the press
Public relations is an integral piece of a successful product launch. Work far in advance at cultivating relationships with journalists by talking with them about the solutions your product offers and why customers will be interested. Key influencers can include industry-specific newspaper columnists and bloggers with large followings.
Extra tips: Try using Help a Reporter Out, a free service that alerts business owners as to when journalists are looking for new sources. This is an excellent way to get quoted (with your company name) in publications as large as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Take note of publication lead times. Magazine editors work several months in advance, so make sure to contact them with ample notice to increase your chances of exposure. Newspaper and online journalists work with shorter leads, but it still pays to cultivate relationships all year long, not just when you are about to launch a new product.