A failed product launch can cripple a startup.

This post covers failed product launch including the most common product problems, ranging from those that are relatively easy to solve by marketing techniques, to those that require extensive retooling of your company’s product or service.

The product is not well examined or understood can cause a product launch failure

This is a common problem for marketers have complex, high-technology related products and services, and is caused by not providing sufficient detail on product features in applications and marketing activities aimed at prospects.

Complicated, extensive products take more time and effort to sell. Part of your function as a marketing manager in a high-tech company is an “educating” task, supplying potential customers with all the information they need to make their purchase decision, at the time it does your company the best.

The latter point is critical in high-tech selling. The sales prospect doesn’t want to bombard your prospects too soon with too much in-depth information in the initial correspondence, ads, and sales kits you send to them.

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Providing too much information too early in the sales cycle is self-defeating. It is because your prospects either won’t bother to read it or, absent any personal interaction with your sales reps, some prospects who do read these background information and materials.

These may begin to develop incorrect impressions of your product, based on their incomplete or misunderstood reading of the sales information supplied to them.

This happens most often among technically-oriented prospects. They tend to overlook the business benefits of your product, choosing instead to impose their own, incorrect, find more judgment on your products technical features in the manner of a frustrated product engineer.

Let’s explore how to prevent a failed product launch.

Product information to give to the prospect right away

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As a rule, you’ll want to supply just enough product information in your initial marketing activities to get the prospect to contact your company.

How much is not enough depends on whether your prospect keeps asking the same question over and over during their first contact with your company sales reps? A failed product launch may happen, so pivot if you need to.

Here are some examples of questions that, if asked over and over again by prospects in their initial conversations with your sales reps, should have been addressed by the marketing deliverables sent to them previously by your company.

  • Major functionality question: How does your product work?
  • Common product misconception clarified:  do I have to do such-and-such to use your product?
  • Major application question: Can your product do_________?
  • Compatibility with other commonly used industry products or service:
  • Is your product compatible with [a well-known product, system, standard, or process]? Common feature question: Does your product have {feature X}?

If you’re getting a sizable number of questions like these, important product information is missing from the marketing deliverables—emails, ads, website, etc.–in your marketing program.

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For every prospect who asks one of these questions, there are at least one other prospects out there (if not many more) who have already asked and answered the question himself. But not in your favor. These are the prospects who aren’t responding to your marketing programs.

Closing product information gaps

Do you want to prevent a failed product launch? Content marketing, copywriting, and storytelling all play a role in an excellent product launch.

These important product information gaps in your marketing executables can be solved by revising the sales copy of your marketing deliverables and advertising to provide the needed additional product information.

Other product information gaps can be addressed by developing additional tested emails, and sales kits, such as answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) or product Q&A sale sheets.

Answer the questions your prospects asked most frequently about your product in your first marketing contact with them, and more prospects will respond to your marketing efforts.

You’ll also clear the field to allow your sales reps to handle the more complex and difficult questions raised by your prospects during phone and in-person sales calls. Which are the best times in the sales cycle to address these questions?

Product information your prospects should receive from your sales reps

how to launch products
Source: Pixabay

In-depth, detailed information on your products technical features and capabilities, its applications, and other information addressing complex aspects of your product should be part of the sales material your sales rep supply to prospects in follow-up mailings and personal sales call with prospects.

Examples of these kinds of product information that should be accompanied by additional explanation and commentary by your sales reps include the following.

  • Product case studies
  • White papers on specialized product use in applications
  • Third-party technical articles and analysis relating to the product
  • Product sales/applications videos
  • Product instructional use manuals, reports, ROI calculators, and specification sheets

The rule of thumb here is that any issue relating to your company’s product that prompts a question from the prospect which threatened the sale. This should be handled by skillfully neutralized by an on-the-ground sales rep when the sales rep contacts a prospect.

To make the distribution of these materials fast and easy by your company sales reps, many of them can be posted to a dedicated web URL on your company’s website.

Your sales reps can then email this link to their prospects as a follow-up to their contact with them. You should, of course, continue to produce these important deliverables in their electronic form (like a PDF), and your sales rep should continue to strip distribute them to prospects as needed.

Crisis marketing:  Taking action when the product is ahead of its time

Products that require the prospects to change the ways of doing business, or head of their time, represents the toughest product related problems to solve. Set a launch date too early and your target audience may not understand how they benefit from your product. Often leading to product launches that fail.

It takes a lot of market research to begin product development, a solid pre-launch and launch plan, marketing strategy for a successful product launch.

This is a very common problem in high-tech startups and established companies launching brand new kinds of products.

Startup or established company may create and produce a revolutionary new product, process or service with many, very positive attributes. A new medals finishing process for industrial manufacturers, a new electronic payment system for businesses, a new resume screening system for HR managers, or SaaS model for cyber-security.


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The companies cutting edge new product or service may well be quantum leaps beyond the current technology, manufacturing processes, or the market current business practices. But, despite their many positive attributes, and despite a well-conceived and executed product launch, sales response is poor.

The company’s management, product development, and marketing staff are stunned to see such a poor reaction to their new product, and rightly so.

After all, they say America is the land of the creed of innovator, the technology that transforms entire Industries, the new way of doing business that creates an entirely new market.

But why are we getting traction with our new product launch?

For every business innovation or technology that changes the world, there are many, perhaps equally significant, new products or services that failed to generate sales response, for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They require users to make disruptive changes in the ways they currently do business or to run their operations in ways that are too much of a radical departure from their current ways of doing business
  • They threaten the prospects economic livelihood by upsetting traditional, well-established sales and distribution channels in the industry
  • The time required for an industry of marketplace to accept and adopt the innovator’s new technology is well beyond the innovator’s financial staying power

Sometimes the disruptive technology represented by your company’s new product or service is just too disruptive for its market. The smart marketing manager knows it’s a losing battle to waste time criticizing the prospect’s lack of vision, and despair in his company’s bad fortune.

The action is the antidote to despair, and a product or its marketing approach can often be changed in ways that increase market acceptance and a sales response.

A new day begins for a troubled company as soon as the company’s management team snaps out of the shock and despair that comes from the realization that its product is far ahead of its market and starts taking action to solve its problem in the “here and now.”

I’ve had an opportunity to work with hundreds of small businesses launching products very similar to this. For example, when we develop the check reader and brought it to the test market it was very innovative and had a price point of $199.  However, the multi-lane market, because of its volume, required a check reader that was priced at $99.

The point I’m making here is that you can add all the feature functions you want but until you understand your target audience requirements and product positioning, so don’t over-engineer your product. The lesson here is that are no magic marketing campaigns to help poor performance with your product. Think of all the money spent because your price tag was too high.

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Saving a product that is ahead of its time

disruptive technologies

During a turnaround for a startup with a product ahead of its time in its market is the most difficult effort of any company’s management, product development, and marketing teams to undertake.

It happens. Your failed product launch occurred because the market didn’t get it like you.

Establish companies with other successful product lines, a single new product failure may be a major, but a survivable setback. The first startup, failure to save its one and only product can be a fatal blow.

Products utilizing technology or processes way beyond the understanding and acceptance of their target markets must often be substantially modified to meet the needs and wants of the prospect.

For example, a product can sometimes be scaled back in some way, like the check reader, by eliminating certain features are components to reduce its price, and hopefully to improve its market appeal.

A product or service can also be reduced in scope down to the one or two essential features that are most useful to its potential customer. Or new features may be added to bring the product more in line with market needs.

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As a marketing manager with this kind of problem in a startup or a new product launch, you must make drastic changes in how you present and sell the product. Many of these marketing approaches will require a similar downsizing of your original marketing plan and deliverables.

In the process, you must put aside many of the aspirations you once held in your original vision of the product, in order to make the required changes.

However, if you can keep from losing your sense of idealism in the mission that drove you to join the company or startup in the first place, and instead, view the inevitable compromise. You’ll have to make in the product and its marketing goals as a strategic pullback, not a defeat.

For startups, original goals may only be temporarily deterred, and not compromised out of existence. One day, the full version of the product may return to the market and be embraced by it, with all the exciting technical aspects.

But until then, your current marketing efforts can generate sales and keep your company going so that (and you) may you live to fight another day.

Common changes to marketing strategy and deliverables when a product is retooled

failed product launch
Source: Pixabay

When a startup or established company undergoes a major product retooling, the sales copy and presentation used in the marketing deliverables of your marketing program also face the mass of revision. As  the product is changed to make it more saleable for its market, there are examples of three kinds of changes to sales copy and presentation that frequently occur alongside product retooling efforts:

  • Sell a piece of the product, not the whole.  Focus on the one or two aspects of the product that provide the most benefit to the prospect, instead of overwhelming the prospect with all of its product features and detail. Prospects in your market may more readily accept a simpler product that is positioned as a solution to their one big problem. Rather than a product they perceive as a complex new technology or process, they will have to install and learn.
  • Talk like an Insider.  Adopt the language of your market. You should be describing your product in ways that are analogous to the kinds of products the prospect currently uses in his or her industry, in the ways to prospect currently does business.
  • Hide the hardware.  Shift the focus of your products sales copy from its technology (the hardware),  to the problems your products cause for the user in his or her industry. Most people—your prospects—don’t like to think about having to do the extra work required to learn a better way of doing their jobs. No matter how impressive your technology looks, so cut back on the technospeak and other marketing rhetoric you used to describe your product’s technology.

These changes are solid advice for any marketing project. However, many startups (our new product launch)  management teams lose touch with their markets because they have become too attached to the notion of touting their products advanced technical features.

These are the very features that made their product to advance brother markets in the first place, and this attachment often carries over to the company’s marketing program, and the deliverables used to sell the product. When the product is retooled, the marketing deliverables that are used to sell the retooled product must also lose this attachment.

Check out Geoffrey Moore’s, the book called “Chasing the Chasm,” it’s a must-read for anyone marketing and selling disruptive products to mainstream customers. This will help understand why failed product launches happen.

Wrap up on failed product launch

Don’t look at a product launch as a failure. No one likes a product flop. So, learn the value of failure and try not to repeat it.

After all, as serial-entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, “don’t be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.”

With that said, it’s fair to say that not every move you make is going to be a win. So gleaning the positives from your worst moments is a vital skill.

Not only will this recovery process improve your product, but it will also highlight your mistakes and give you a better understanding of your audience. Not a bad return for a complete failure, right?

Let us know how you handled it in the comments section below!

We’re listening.

Has your brand ever had to recover from a failed product launch?

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General FAQ’s

What do product launches fail?

It comes down to leadership and management. Poor product quality, a product, higher price, poor positioning, not understanding the target market, weak value proposition, and a weak foundation.

How to recover from a fail product launch.

Re-assess where you’ve been and where you are going. Get a marketing assessment done immediately. Primary and secondary research should be refreshed. Go back and look at your value proposition design.

Do you want to prevent a failed product launch?

Do you want to prevent a failed product launch? Content marketing, copywriting, and storytelling all play a role in an excellent product launch. These important product information gaps in your marketing executables can be solved by revising the sales copy of your marketing deliverables and advertising to provide the needed additional product information.

Where can I get help to launch a product?

Look for consultants and marketing agencies that have launched products in your industry. Your support should have the entrepreneurial spirit and startup in their DNA.


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