You have many choices to make when you first start marketing a product. Some of these decisions will be dictated by your resources. Others will be strategic. One of the first choices you’ll need to make will be whether to do a hard launch or a soft launch. In this post, we’ll walk you through the differences between the two and the advantages of each.
Hard Launch vs. Soft Launch
A hard launch is when you release a fully-baked product to a wide audience. Your goal is to make a splash, raising awareness and generating excitement about the new offering. Hard launches include a full marketing effort and they take a lot of time to implement. You need to have a market-ready, bug-free product, and you’ll need to plan on a significant marketing investment.
A soft launch is a release to a smaller, restricted market. Like a beta release, the product can be an MVP or a full version. But the goal of a soft launch is to get the product out to collect feedback and performance data that will inform continued development. With a soft launch, your product must include at least a core feature set that solves your target customer’s primary pain point.
Benefits of a Hard Launch
Though a hard launch takes more time and financial resources, there are some real benefits of going this route.
- Faster revenue gains — With a full-fledged marketing effort and the resulting awareness of your new product, it’s easier to get generate sales.
- Competitive advantage — It can be challenging to stand out in a competitive market. When you make a lot of noise with a hard launch, you have a better chance of being heard.
- Easier marketing — You can create a more targeted and precise plan to better focus your marketing efforts due to the compact nature of a hard launch marketing campaign. You’re aiming for a splash and not slow growth, so you can hit it with all you’ve got.
- Publicity — You’ll attract a lot of attention with a hard launch due to the extensive marketing effort. If done well, you’ll raise awareness which helps to build brand recognition.
The success of a hard launch is all about the marketing campaign, so make sure to be strategic with your up-front planning to make it as effective as possible.
Benefits of a Soft Launch
There are some clear advantages to a soft launch as well. You’ll want to consider whether you could benefit from them at the stage your product is currently in.
- Get early feedback — Use customer feedback to prioritize feature development. An added bonus is that you’re increasing user testing so you can catch any bugs you might have missed as well.
- Test product strategies — You can do early analysis to determine the best KPIs to track as well as test your user acquisition and monetization strategies before a hard launch.
- Cost-effective — Not only do you spread your development spend over a longer period, but you can also focus on building only what the market wants. Targeted development efforts make the subsequent spend more efficient.
- Maintain interest — Keep users excited about the product by releasing new features to them before the product is widely available. It’s a good way to build a strong base of fans.
A soft launch provides reliable user data which helps you quickly iterate your app. If preliminary data be less positive than expected, you also have the ability to pivot without impacting a significant audience.
How to Choose Between the Two
Though soft launches are increasing in popularity, there are still reasons you may want to go with a hard launch for your app. If your product has already been thoroughly tested and you have a clearly-defined and interested market, you may not need the benefits of the soft launch. If your company has solid brand recognition and you have an adequate budget to execute on your marketing strategy, a hard launch may make more sense. And it may be beneficial to go with a hard launch as you are at a higher risk of being copied by competitors if they get wind of your product during a soft launch.
Many companies choose a soft launch when they don’t have an established client base. Soft launches help companies proceed in a more measured manner, so companies with lower budgets for marketing and development will benefit from this approach. Soft launches are also a good idea if you’re unsure of your marketing strategies or if you’re not sure what the market demand will be. This isn’t to say research shouldn’t be done before a soft launch, as you don’t want to release anything without insight, but if you want to test pricing or interest, a soft launch is a good option.
Which method you choose will depend on a number of factors, including your resources and product maturity. Keep in mind that there’s a third option as well: starting with a soft launch and using it to prepare for a hard launch — so it’s not an either/or decision.
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