Product Launch Checklist: How to Launch a Product, According to HubSpot’s Experts
Like a tree falling in the woods, if you plan a product launch without spreading the word — will anyone use it? Will anyone even want it?
Probably not. Whether you’re launching something huge, something small, or you’re updating a current offering, you’ll want to start your preparation well in advance of the launch date with a product launch checklist.
Because there are so many moving parts in this process, bringing your product to market can be intimidating and tricky. To help you, we’ve come up with a step-by-step checklist for a successful product launch and gathered the best product launch tips from a HubSpot Product Marketer.
1. Learn about your customer.
Whether you call it “market research,” or “customer development” it’s key to learn about what drives your customer. Identifying their goals, motivations, and pain points could lead you to developing and marketing a valuable solution.
You don’t need to perform years of intense research to learn about your customer. In fact, we suggest just talking to 12 to 15 current or prospective customers.
When speaking to them, pay extra attention when they start sentences with “I wish a product did this function…” or “Why can’t products do this?” When they give these statements, respond with questions that go deeper, like “Can you get more specific about that?” If they don’t bring up any pain points, ask them a few specific questions that will encourage them to give deeper answers.
These conversations will give you a solid idea of what their biggest pain points are and how you can market a solution to them. Once you learn these key details about your customers, you can develop a buyer persona that your team can focus on serving.
2. Write a positioning statement.
Write out a statement that can clearly and concisely answer these three questions:
Who is the product for?
What does the product do?
Why is it different from other products out there?
If you’d like to go even deeper, create a statement that answers the following questions:
What is your target audience?
What segment of the target audience is most likely to buy the product?
What brand name will you give your product or service?
What product or service category does your product lie in?
How is it different from competitors in the same category?
What evidence or proof do you have to prove that your product is different?
Still need more guidance on how to write a positioning statement? Check out this template.
3. Pitch your positioning to stakeholders.
Once you’ve established your position statement, present it to stakeholders in your company so they are all on the same page.
If your employees have a hard time buying into the product, your customers might as well. If your team loves it, that might be a great sign that the product launch will go well.
4. Plan your go-to-market strategy.
This is the strategy that you will use to launch and promote your product. While some businesses prefer to build a funnel strategy, others prefer the flywheel approach.
Regardless of which method you choose, this process contains many moving parts. To create an organized strategy for launching your product, it can be helpful to use a template, like this one.
As you create the strategy, also start considering which type of content you’ll use to attract a prospective customer’s attention during the awareness, consideration, and purchase decision stage. You’ll need to produce this content in the next step.
5. Set a goal for the launch.
Before you get started on implementing your strategy, make sure you write down your goals for the launch.
Alex Girard, a Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot, says, “Create specific goals for the launch’s success. Keeping these goals in mind will help you focus your efforts on launch tactics that will help you achieve those goals.”
For example, the goals of your product launch could be to effectively establish a new product name, build awareness, or create sales opportunities.
One of the best ways to set goals for your launch team is to write them out like SMART goals. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
6. Create promotional content.
After planning out your go-to-market strategy and writing your SMART goals, start producing content that will support and align with those promotional efforts. This can include blog posts related to your product or industry, demos and tutorials, and landing pages.
Our go-to-market template will also help you determine which content you should create for each phase of your prospective customer’s buyer’s journey.
7. Prepare your team.
Be sure that your company and key stakeholders are ready for you to launch and begin marketing the product. Communicate with the company through internal presentations, Slack, or email to keep your company updated on your launch plan.
8. Launch the product
Once you’ve completed all the above steps, you can launch the product.
9. See how well you did in achieving your goals.
After you launch your product, track how the go-to-market strategy is performing. Be prepared to pivot or adjust aspects of your plan if they aren’t going smoothly.
Additionally, don’t forget about the goals you set before the launch. See how well you did in achieving those goals. If the launch didn’t meet expectations, you can rethink your go-to-market strategy and adjust from there.
The cost of launching a new product varies significantly. For instance, an entrepreneur will see vastly different costs for launching a product on Amazon than an enterprise company might see for launching a product in a million-dollar market.
Let’s consider two examples to explore this more closely.
In the first example, let’s say you’re an entrepreneur who has invented a design app you’re hoping to sell online. You might conduct market research to determine which marketing strategies work best for your goals, which messaging resonates best with your audience, and which design elements appeal to your desired prospects. If you use a few focus groups to determine these answers, you might expect to spend roughly $5,000.
When you’re bringing a new app to the market, you’ll need to choose the best go-to marketing strategy for your needs. Regardless of the strategy you choose, they all cost money. For instance, product branding could cost roughly $1,000 if you’re paying a designer to help you out, and website design could cost anywhere from $500-$3,000 if you’re paying a web designer a one-off fee.
These fees don’t include the cost you need to pay yourself and any employees if this is a full-time job. It also doesn’t include the costs of hiring an engineer to update the app’s features and ensure the app is running smoothly.
With this simplified example, you’re looking at roughly $8,000. Of course, you can cut some costs if you choose to do any of these tasks yourself, but you might risk creating a subpar customer experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, let’s consider a large enterprise company that is launching a new product. Here, you’ll likely pay upwards of $30,000 – $50,000 for market research.
Perhaps you’ll spend $15,000 on brand positioning and the marketing materials necessary to differentiate yourself against competitors, and you might pay upwards of $30,000 for all the product design and brand packaging. Finally, your marketing team could need a budget of roughly $20,000 for SEO, paid advertising, social, content creation, etc.
All said and done, launching a product against other enterprise competitors’ could cost roughly $125,000. Again, that doesn’t include the costs you’ll pay your marketing, product development, and engineering teams.
How to Launch a Product Online
To launch your product online, you’ll want to ensure you’ve followed the steps above. However, there are a few additional steps you’ll want to follow to gain traction primarily online.
1. Figure out the story you want to tell regarding your product’s bigger purpose.
What story do you want to tell across social platforms, landing pages, and email? This is similar to your positioning statement but needs to be geared entirely toward your target audience. Ask questions like, Why should they purchase your product? And How will your product or service make their lives better?
Communicating cross-functionally ensures the communication materials you use across various online channels align — which is key when it comes to establishing a new product in the marketplace.
Consider, for instance, how Living Proof announced its new product, Advanced Clean Dry Shampoo, on its Instagram page. The story revolves around a simple nuisance common with most other dry shampoos — How consumers still want that just-washed feeling, even when using a dry shampoo.
By focusing on how the product will benefit consumers through storytelling, and using a new hashtag #NoWastedWashes, Living Proof builds excitement and demand for its new product.
2. Display customer testimonials, case studies, and other social evidence to positively frame your new product.
Consumers want to see that other consumers have already taken the risk and purchased your new product before doing it themselves. This is where social proof comes into play.
In the weeks leading up to a product launch, or shortly after it’s launch, begin posting customer testimonials, reviews, and case studies to showcase how your new product has already helped other people. Take this a step further and employ influencers to share the word about your product as well, if it’s a good fit for your brand.
Consumers are smart enough to know they shouldn’t trust every advertisement they see — but they can trust fellow consumers. So leverage that trust through social proof methods.
3. Create a social and email campaign.
Create a full, comprehensive social media campaign to increase interest and awareness of your new product.
Use paid advertising to reach new audiences, create full product explainer videos to use across your social channels, and use email to reach existing customers and provide an exclusive, first look at your new product’s features.
Additionally, you might consider hosting a live stream to connect directly with prospects and existing customers and invite experts from your product development team to explain the new features of your product.
It’s important to note — in this stage, you’ll want to pay attention to how consumers are interacting with the communication materials regarding your new product. Share concerns and feedback with the product development team — it’s important to trust your consumers and use their feedback to strengthen your product.
4. Have a pre-order option.
If a consumer is excited to purchase your new product, don’t make them wait — provide an option to pre-order the product or service before it’s even available. This helps spread out demand while enabling consumers to purchase the product whenever they’re feeling most inclined to do so.
Product Launch Best Practices by Industry
1. How to Launch a Digital Product
When launching a digital product, you’ll want to begin building anticipation with a strong content marketing strategy. Use blog posts, email marketing, social media, and other channels of distribution to increase interest and demand for your digital product.
You’ll also want to ensure you’re leveraging lead generation strategies to reach existing customers and prospects.
For instance, let’s say you’re launching an online course on SEO. In the weeks leading up to the launch, you might create SEO-related blog content to send to your email subscribers with an option to join the SEO course’s waitlist. This helps you gauge the effectiveness of your marketing materials while reaching an audience that has already demonstrated interest in your brand.
How to Launch a Product on Amazon
Anyone who’s ever shopped on Amazon knows the importance of a good product listing. In the weeks leading up to launch, take the time to create a strong, high-converting product listing — including taking high-resolution photos of your product, writing a description that outlines your product’s differentiating features, and using keywords to help your product rank on Amazon.
Additionally, product reviews are incredibly important on Amazon, so you’ll want to ensure you have reviews ready to go before you even launch your product on Amazon. To do this, ensure you’ve either launched your product on your own website first (which gives you time to earn reviews before launching on Amazon), or send your product to a select group of interested buyers ahead of the full launch, and collect reviews from them.
Finally, ensure you’re ready for an Amazon product launch by checking inventory. You never know how quickly your product might gain traction on the eCommerce superstore, so make sure you have enough products to fulfill Amazon orders quickly.
Take a look at HubSpot’s The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Amazon for more information related to Amazon.
How to Launch a SaaS Product
To launch a SaaS product, you’ll want to start by researching competitors and understanding the marketplace at large. There’s plenty of demand for SaaS products, as the industry is expected to grow by more than 16% by 2026. However, the SaaS industry is also well-saturated, so before launching a SaaS product, you’ll want to determine how your product differs from all the others in the industry.
To create a successful product launch, you’ll want to conduct market research and focus groups to determine the true benefits and differentiators of your product.
Next, you’ll want to employ a strong content marketing strategy to increase your website’s visibility on search engines and to ensure your business is appearing in search results for topics related to your product.
Since you aren’t launching a physical product, your marketing efforts need to convince businesses that your product can solve their needs. For instance, take a look at how HubSpot positioned the new Operations Hub product.
Additionally, you might want to offer free trials or a freemium option for smaller businesses on lower budgets to test out your offerings before committing.
For a full SaaS rundown, take a look at HubSpot’s Ultimate Guide to Software as a Service (SaaS).
How to Launch a Food Product
To launch a food product, you’ll first need to ensure you’re prepared for the costs required to do so — including how much it costs to package and store the product (including packaging, warehousing, and distribution), and how much it costs to sell the product (including branding and digital marketing).
Next, you’ll want to follow federal and state food regulations. For instance, you need to ensure you’re following health department rules for food preparation surfaces, refrigeration, and sanitation.
You’ll also need to make sure the labeling you use on your product’s packaging is accurate, which requires you to send your food product to a lab for analysis and check with your state commerce to see what it requires when it comes to nutrition labels.
When launching a food product, you’ll likely want to hire a food broker. A food broker can foster relationships with national or local grocery stores and will create a promotional plan to help increase sales as soon as your food hits the shelves.
Typically, a supermarket will test out your product for a few months before determining if there’s enough consumer interest to keep it stocked — which is why a food broker can be incredibly useful for using business intelligence and industry knowledge to ensure a successful food product launch.
Product Launch Tips
To learn the best practices for a successful product launch, I talked to Alex Girard again.
The HubSpot Product Marketing Manager said he had three main tips for a successful product launch:
Your product positioning should reflect a shift you’re seeing in the world, and how your product helps your customers take advantage of that shift.
Create a recurring schedule for you and the core stakeholders for the launch to check in and ensure you’re all on the same page.
Make sure you keep the product team in the loop on your marketing plans. The product team could have insights that inform your overall marketing campaign.
However, sometimes, external factors might impact your ability to launch a product. When that happens, you might need to delay your launch.
How to Know When to Delay a Product Launch
To understand when, and why, you might hold off on a product launch, Girard told me there are three key reasons why you might want to delay a product launch, including:
When your product itself isn’t ready and you need to change your timeline to create the best customer experience possible.
If a situation occurs where your current customers are having a less-than-optimal experience with one of your current products. Before launching and promoting a new product, you should make sure your current customers are satisfied with your existing product offering.
If something occurs on an international, national, state, or local level that requires your audience to readjust their priorities and shift focus away from your company and its product launch. Make sure that when the time comes to launch, your target audience is ready to learn about your new product.
If you’re looking for templates to coordinate your team efforts and align your company around your new product’s messaging, download our free product marketing kit below.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
The Who, What, Why, & How of Digital Marketing
With how accessible the internet is today, would you believe me if I told you the number of people who go online every day is still increasing?
It is. In fact, there are about 4.9 billion global internet users as of 2021, a 400 million jump from 2020. And although we say it a lot, the way people shop and buy really has changed along with it — meaning offline marketing can’t be your only strategy for driving sales because you need to meet audiences where they’re already spending time: on the internet.
Marketing has always been about connecting with your audience in the right place and at the right time. Today, that means you need to meet them where they are already spending time: on the internet.
Enter digital marketing — in other words, any form of online marketing.
At HubSpot, we talk a lot about inbound marketing as a really effective way to attract, engage, and delight customers online. But we still get a lot of questions from people all around the world about digital marketing. So, we decided to answer them. Click the links below to jump to each question, or keep reading to see how digital marketing is carried out today.
What is digital marketing?
Why is digital marketing important?
Types of Digital Marketing
What does a digital marketer do?
Inbound Marketing vs. Digital Marketing: Which is it?
Does digital marketing work for all businesses?
How to Do Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing Examples
So, how do you define digital marketing today?
A seasoned inbound marketer might say inbound marketing and digital marketing are virtually the same thing, but there are some minor differences. And conversations with marketers and business owners in the U.S., U.K., Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, I’ve learned a lot about how those small differences are being observed across the world.
How does a business define digital marketing?
At this stage, digital marketing is vital for your business and brand awareness. It seems like every other brand has a website, and if they don’t, they at least have a social media presence or digital ad strategy. Digital content and marketing is so common that consumers now expect and rely on it as a way to learn about brands. Because digital marketing has so many possibilities, you can get creative and experiment with a variety of marketing tactics on a budget.
Overall, digital marketing is defined by using numerous digital tactics and channels to connect with customers where they spend much of their time: online. The best digital marketers have a clear picture of how each digital marketing campaign supports their overarching goals. And depending on the goals of their marketing strategy, marketers can support a larger campaign through the free and paid channels at their disposal.
A content marketer, for example, could create a series of blog posts that generate leads from an ebook. A social media marketer might help promote those blogs through paid and organic posts on the business’s social media accounts, and the email marketer could create an email campaign to send those who download the ebook more information on the company. We’ll talk more about these specific digital marketers in a minute.
There are a few major benefits of digital marketing:
You can focus your efforts on only the prospects most likely to purchase your product or service.
It’s more cost-effective than outbound marketing methods.
Digital marketing evens the playing field within your industry and allows you to compete with bigger brands.
Digital marketing is measurable.
It’s easier to adapt and change a digital marketing strategy.
Digital marketing can improve your conversion rate and the quality of your leads.
You can engage audiences at every stage with digital marketing.
Let’s dive deeper.
1. You can focus your efforts on only the prospects most likely to purchase your product or service.
If you place an advertisement on TV, in a magazine, or on a billboard, you have limited control over who sees the ad. Of course, you can measure certain demographics — including the magazine’s typical readership or the demographic of a certain neighborhood — but it’s still largely a shot in the dark.
Digital marketing allows you to identify and target a highly-specific audience with personalized and high-converting marketing messages.
For instance, you might use social media targeting to show ads to a certain audience based on variables like age, gender, location, interests, networks, or behaviors. Alternatively, you might use PPC or SEO strategies to serve ads to users who’ve shown interest in or searched for specific keywords related to your product, service, or industry.
Ultimately, digital marketing helps you conduct the research necessary to identify your buyer personas and refine your strategy to ensure you’re reaching prospects most likely to buy.
2. It’s more cost-effective than outbound marketing methods.
Digital marketing helps you track day-to-day campaign performance, so you know what channels are performing well and which aren’t, helping you optimize your campaign budgets for high ROI. The same can’t be said for traditional forms of advertising. It doesn’t matter how your billboard performs — it still costs the same, even if it doesn’t convert.
Plus, with digital marketing, you have complete control over where you choose to spend your money. Perhaps you spend money on design software to create high-converting Instagram content rather than paying for PPC campaigns. A digital marketing strategy allows you to pivot continuously, ensuring you never waste money on channels that don’t perform well.
By and large, digital marketing is a more cost-effective solution and provides unique opportunities to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
For instance, if you work for a small business with a limited budget, you might try investing in social media, blogging, or SEO – three strategies that can give you high ROI even with minimal spending.
3. Digital marketing evens the playing field within your industry and allows you to compete with bigger brands.
If you work for a small business, it’s likely difficult for you to compete with the major brands in your industry, many of which have millions of dollars to invest in campaigns. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to outrank the big players through strategic digital marketing initiatives.
For instance, you might use long-tail keywords to create high-quality content that ranks on search engines. Search engines don’t care which brand is the biggest, but it does care about prioritizing content that resonates best with target audiences.
4. Digital marketing is measurable.
While traditional advertising can be helpful for specific goals, its biggest limitation is measurability. This is one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing, as it can give you a start-to-finish view of all the metrics that matter to your company — including impressions, shares, views, clicks, and time on page.
Unlike most offline marketing efforts, digital marketing allows marketers to see accurate results in real-time. If you’ve ever put an advertisement in a newspaper, you’ll know how difficult it is to estimate how many people flipped to that page and paid attention to it. There’s no surefire way to know if that ad was responsible for any sales at all.
On the other hand, with digital marketing, you can measure the ROI of pretty much any aspect of your marketing efforts.
Here are some examples:
With digital marketing, you can see the exact number of people who have viewed your website’s homepage in real-time by using digital analytics software available in marketing platforms like HubSpot.
You can also see how many pages they visited, what device they were using, and where they came from, amongst other digital analytics data.
This intelligence helps you prioritize which marketing channels to spend more or less time on based on the number of people those channels drive to your website. For example, if only 10% of your traffic is coming from organic search, you know that you probably need to spend some time on SEO to increase that percentage.
With offline marketing, it can be difficult to tell how people interact with your brand before they interact with a salesperson or make a purchase. With digital marketing, you can identify trends and patterns in people’s behavior before they’ve reached the final stage in their buyer’s journey, meaning you can make more informed decisions about how to attract them to your website right at the top of the marketing funnel.
Content Performance and Lead Generation
Imagine you’ve created a product brochure and posted it through people’s letterboxes — that brochure is a form of offline content. The problem is that you have no idea how many people opened your brochure or threw it straight into the trash.
Instead, imagine you have that brochure on your website. You can measure exactly how many people viewed the page it’s on, and you can use a form to collect the contact information of those who downloaded it. It’s twofold: you measure how many people engage with your content and generate qualified leads when people download it.
An effective digital marketing strategy combined with the right tools and technologies allows you to trace all of your sales back to a customer’s first digital touchpoint with your business.
We call this attribution modeling, and it allows you to identify trends in the way people research and buy your product, helping you to make more informed decisions about what parts of your marketing strategy deserve more attention, and what parts of your sales cycle need refining.
Connecting the dots between marketing and sales is hugely important. According to LinkedIn, 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth, but misalignment between both teams can damage financial performance. If you can improve your customer’s journey through the buying cycle by using digital technologies, then it’s likely to reflect positively on your business’s bottom line.
5. It’s easier to adapt and change a digital marketing strategy.
A lot of work goes into developing a marketing strategy. Generally, you will follow through with that strategy until completion, allow it to take effect, and then judge its results. However, things do not always go according to plan. You may realize halfway through that a calculation was off, an assumption was incorrect, or an audience did not react how they were expected to. Being able to pivot or adjust the strategy along the way is highly beneficial because it prevents you from having to start over completely.
Being able to change your strategy easily is a great benefit of digital marketing. Adapting a digital marketing strategy is a lot easier than other, more traditional forms of marketing, like mailers or billboard advertising. For instance, if an online ad isn’t delivering as expected, you can quickly adjust it or pause it to yield better results.
6. Digital marketing can improve your conversion rate and the quality of your leads.
As digital marketing makes it simpler to measure your marketing efforts, this makes improving your conversion rate simpler as well. Being able to measure the effectiveness of each tactic helps you develop better strategies. Continuously refining your methods improves your conversion rate. Investing in online marketing ensures that everything is optimized for the highest amount of conversions.
Additionally, all leads do not offer the same value for your business. Digital marketing allows you to target a specific audience that will yield higher-quality leads that are more likely to become customers. Connecting your business with the most valuable leads will directly improve your conversion rate.
7. You can engage audiences at every stage with digital marketing.
It’s essential to begin engaging your audience as early as possible. Making a connection at the first stage of the buyer’s journey helps push the lead through the customer funnel. Using digital marketing allows you to accomplish that from start to finish and at every point in between.
Online channels allow you to follow the entire buying journey of your customers. Understanding and analyzing how customers are move and operate is important for converting leads. Digital marketing allows you to track them through that process. And, even if they don’t convert in the early stages, it at least helps ensure they have made a connection with your business.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common digital marketing tactics and the channels involved in each one.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is the process of optimizing your website to “rank” higher in search engine results pages, thereby increasing the amount of organic (or free) traffic your website receives. The channels that benefit from SEO include websites, blogs, and infographics.
There are a number of ways to approach SEO in order to generate qualified traffic to your website. These include:
On-page SEO: This type of SEO focuses on all of the content that exists “on the page” when looking at a website. By researching keywords for their search volume and intent (or meaning), you can answer questions for readers and rank higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs) those questions produce.
Off page SEO: This type of SEO focuses on all of the activity that takes place “off the page” when looking to optimize your website. “What activity not on my own website could affect my ranking?” You might ask. The answer is inbound links, also known as backlinks. The number of publishers that link to you, and the relative “authority” of those publishers, affect how highly you rank for the keywords you care about. By networking with other publishers, writing guest posts on these websites (and linking back to your website), and generating external attention, you can earn the backlinks you need to move your website up on all the right SERPs.
Technical SEO: This type of SEO focuses on the backend of your website, and how your pages are coded. Image compression, structured data, and CSS file optimization are all forms of technical SEO that can increase your website’s loading speed — an important ranking factor in the eyes of search engines like Google.
For a real-life example on how to successfully implement SEO into your digital marketing strategy, check out our case study on Canva here:
2. Content Marketing
This term denotes the creation and promotion of content assets for the purpose of generating brand awareness, traffic growth, lead generation, and customers.
Want to learn and apply content marketing to your business? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free content marketing training resource page.
The channels that can play a part in your content marketing strategy include:
Blog posts: Writing and publishing articles on a company blog helps you demonstrate your industry expertise and generates organic search traffic for your business. This ultimately gives you more opportunities to convert website visitors into leads for your sales team.
Ebooks and whitepapers: Ebooks, whitepapers, and similar long-form content helps further educate website visitors. It also allows you to exchange content for a reader’s contact information, generating leads for your company and moving people through the buyer’s journey.
Infographics: Sometimes, readers want you to show, not tell. Infographics are a form of visual content that helps website visitors visualize a concept you want to help them learn.
Audio or visual content: Television and radio are popular channels for digital marketing. Creating content that can be shared online as a video or heard on the radio by listeners can greatly broaden your potential audience.
Stumped? Download 150+ content creation templates by clicking below:
3. Social Media Marketing
This practice promotes your brand and your content on social media channels to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads for your business.
If you’re new to social platforms, you can use tools like HubSpot to connect channels like LinkedIn and Facebook in one place. This way, you can easily schedule content for multiple channels at once and monitor analytics from the platform as well.
On top of connecting social accounts for posting purposes, you can also integrate your social media inboxes into HubSpot, so you can get your direct messages in one place.
The channels you can use in social media marketing include:
Many marketers will use these social media platforms to create a viral campaign. Partnering with a popular content creator or taking part in a trend that resonates with a wide audience is a viral marketing strategy. The purpose is to create something shareworthy in the hopes that it will organically spread across a social media channel.
Don’t know how to get started with social media marketing? Download our free social media content calendar to get your social strategy up and running.
4. Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC drives traffic to your website by paying a publisher every time your ad is clicked. One of the most common types of PPC is Google Ads, which allows you to pay for top slots on Google’s search engine results pages at a price “per click” of the links you place. Other channels where you can use PPC include:
Paid ads on Facebook: Here, users can pay to customize a video, image post, or slideshow, which Facebook will publish to the news feeds of people who match your business’s audience.
Twitter Ads campaigns: Here, users can pay to place a series of posts or profile badges to the news feeds of a specific audience, all dedicated to accomplishing a specific goal for your business. This goal can be website traffic, more Twitter followers, tweet engagement, or even app downloads.
Sponsored Messages on LinkedIn: Here, users can pay to send messages directly to specific LinkedIn users based on their industry and background.
PPC can be hard to grasp at first, so we’ve created a beginner-friendly guide to get you started. Download it below:
5. Affiliate Marketing
This is a type of performance-based advertising where you receive a commission for promoting someone else’s products or services on your website. Affiliate marketing channels include:
Hosting video ads through the YouTube Partner Program.
Posting affiliate links from your social media accounts.
This is part of the relatively new wave of influencer marketing. Creating a campaign using influencers can be a highly effective form of affiliate marketing. Finding the right content creators can take your digital campaign to the next level.
6. Native Advertising
Native advertising refers to advertisements that are primarily content-led and featured on a platform alongside other, non-paid content. BuzzFeed-sponsored posts are a good example, but many people also consider social media advertising to be “native” — Facebook advertising and Instagram advertising, for example.
7. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation refers to the software that automates your basic marketing operations. Many marketing departments can automate repetitive tasks they would otherwise do manually, such as:
Email newsletters: Email automation doesn’t just allow you to automatically send emails to your subscribers. It can also help you shrink and expand your contact list as needed so your newsletters are only going to the people who want to see them in their inboxes.
Social media post scheduling: If you want to grow your organization’s presence on a social network, you need to post frequently. This makes manual posting a bit of an unruly process. Social media scheduling tools push your content to your social media channels for you, so you can spend more time focusing on content strategy.
Lead-nurturing workflows: Generating leads, and converting those leads into customers, can be a long process.You can automate that process by sending leads specific emails and content once they fit certain criteria, such as when they download and open an ebook.
Campaign tracking and reporting: Marketing campaigns can include a ton of different people, emails, content, webpages, phone calls, and more. Marketing automation can help you sort everything you work on by the campaign it’s serving and then track the performance of that campaign based on the progress all of these components make over time.
8. Email Marketing
Companies use email marketing as a way of communicating with their audiences. Email is often used to promote content, discounts and events, as well as to direct people toward the business’s website. The types of emails you might send in an email marketing campaign include:
Blog subscription newsletters.
Follow-up emails to website visitors who downloaded something.
Customer welcome emails.
Holiday promotions to loyalty program members.
Tips or similar series emails for customer nurturing.
Learn more about email marketing with our free guide:
9. Online PR
Online PR is the practice of securing earned online coverage with digital publications, blogs, and other content-based websites. It’s much like traditional PR but in the online space. The channels you can use to maximize your PR efforts include:
Reporter outreach via social media: Talking to journalists on Twitter, for example, is a great way to develop a relationship with the press that produces earned media opportunities for your company.
Engaging online reviews of your company: When someone reviews your company online, whether that review is good or bad, your instinct might be not to touch it. On the contrary, engaging company reviews helps you humanize your brand and deliver powerful messaging that protects your reputation.
Engaging comments on your personal website or blog: Similar to how you’d respond to reviews of your company, responding to the people reading your content is the best way to generate productive conversation around your industry.
If you don’t have a dedicated PR team, it can be hard to get started. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Download our free PR kit below:
10. Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing refers to a marketing methodology wherein you attract, engage, and delight customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. You can use every digital marketing tactic listed above throughout an inbound marketing strategy to create a customer experience that works with the customer, not against them. Here are some classic examples of inbound marketing versus traditional marketing:
Blogging vs. pop-up ads
Video marketing vs. commercial advertising
Email contact lists vs. email spam
11. Sponsored Content
With sponsored content, you, as a brand, pay another company or entity to create and promote content that discusses your brand or service in some way.
One popular type of sponsored content is influencer marketing. With this type of sponsored content, a brand sponsors an influencer in its industry to publish posts or videos related to the company on social media.
Another type of sponsored content could be a blog post or article highlighting a topic, service, or brand.
12. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
When a potential lead is searching for a product or business related to yours, it’s a great opportunity for a promotion. Paid advertising and SEO are two great strategies for promoting your business to capitalize on those future leads. Search engine marketing is another way to increase website traffic by placing paid ads on search engines. The two most popular SEM services are Bing Ads and Google Ads. These paid ads fit seamlessly on the top of search engine results pages, giving instant visibility. This is also an example of effective native advertising.
13. Instant Messaging Marketing
Marketing your products through messaging platforms is a fast way to reach potential leads, even for those who haven’t offered up their cell phone number. It’s a simple way to let your audience know about flash sales, new products, or updates about their orders. If your customers have questions or need more information, it’s also a convenient way for them to connect to customer service. You can send messages directly to a mobile phone via text or on platforms like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
The digital marketer focuses on each channel’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to properly measure performance. For example, a digital marketer in charge of SEO might measure their website’s organic traffic.
At small companies, one person might own many digital channels and tactics described above, while larger companies typically have a specialist focused on one or two brand channels.
Here are some examples of these specialists:
Main KPIs: Organic traffic
SEO managers work to rank a business on Google SERPs. Using various SEO strategies, this person might work directly with content creators to ensure the content is high-quality and up to Google’s standards, even if the company also posts this content on social media.
Content Marketing Specialist
Main KPIs: Time on page, overall blog traffic, YouTube channel subscribers
Content marketing specialists are digital content creators. They might keep track of a blogging calendar, or develop a content strategy that includes video. They often work with people in other departments to ensure products and campaigns are supported by promotional content on all digital channels.
Social Media Manager
Main KPIs: Follows, Impressions, Shares
A social media manager’s role depends on each company and industry. But above all, social media managers manage social media by establishing a posting schedule for the company’s written and visual content. They might also work with a content marketing specialist to develop a strategy for which content to share on social media.
(Note: Per the KPIs above, “impressions” refers to the number of times a business’s posts appear on the newsfeed of a user.)
Marketing Automation Coordinator
Main KPIs: Email open rate, campaign click-through rate, lead-generation (conversion) rate
A marketing automation coordinator helps choose and manage the software a marketing team uses to understand customer behavior and measure business growth. Many of the marketing operations described above might be executed separately, so it’s important for there to be someone who can group these activities into individual campaigns and track performance.
Inbound Marketing vs. Digital Marketing: Which Is It?
Inbound marketing is a methodology that uses digital marketing assets to attract, engage, and delight customers online. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is simply an umbrella term to describe online marketing tactics of any kind, regardless of whether they’re considered inbound or outbound.
Digital marketing is often compared to inbound marketing, but it doesn’t differentiate between ‘inbound’ and ‘outbound’ methods. It’s more of an umbrella term for all marketing that involves digital communication, while inbound marketing is more of a strategy.
Digital outbound tactics put a marketing message in front of as many people as possible online — regardless of whether it’s relevant or welcomed. For example, the garish banner ads you see on websites that push a product or promotion to people who aren’t necessarily ready to receive it.
Marketers who employ digital inbound tactics use online content to attract their target customers by providing assets that are helpful to them. One of the simplest yet most powerful inbound digital marketing assets is a blog, which allows your website to capitalize on the terms which your ideal customers are searching for.
Does digital marketing work for all businesses?
Digital marketing can work for any business in any industry. Regardless of what your company sells, digital marketing still involves building buyer personas to identify your audience’s needs, and creating valuable online content. However, that’s not to say all businesses should implement a digital marketing strategy in the same way.
B2B Digital Marketing
If your company is business-to-business (B2B), your digital marketing efforts are likely centered around online lead generation, with the end goal being for someone to speak to a salesperson. The goal of your marketing strategy might be to attract and convert the highest quality leads for your salespeople via your website and to support digital channels.
Beyond your website, you’ll probably choose to focus your efforts on business-focused channels like LinkedIn, where your demographic is spending their time online.
B2C Digital Marketing
If your company is business-to-consumer (B2C), depending on the price point of your products, it’s likely that the goal of your digital marketing efforts is to attract people to your website and have them become customers without ever needing to speak to a salesperson.
You’re probably less likely to focus on ‘leads’ in their traditional sense and more likely to build an accelerated buyer’s journey from when someone lands on your website to when they make a purchase. This can mean that your product features are higher up in the marketing funnel than it might be for a B2B business, and you might need to use stronger calls-to-action to inspire purchases.
For B2C companies, channels like Instagram and Pinterest are often more valuable than business-focused platforms like LinkedIn.
What types of digital content should I create?
The kind of content you create depends on your audience’s needs at different stages in the buyer’s journey. You should start by creating buyer personas (use these free templates, or try makemypersona.com) to identify what your audience’s goals and challenges are in relation to your business. On a basic level, your online content should aim to help them meet these goals, and overcome their challenges.
Then, you’ll need to consider when they’re most likely to be ready to consume this content in line with their stage in the buyer’s journey. We call this content mapping.
With content mapping, the goal is to target content according to:
The characteristics of the person who will be consuming it (that’s where buyer personas come in).
How close that person is to making a purchase (i.e., their lifecycle stage).
In terms of the format of your content, there are a lot of different things to try. Here are some options we’d recommend using at each stage of the buyer’s journey:
Blog posts. Great for increasing your organic traffic when paired with a strong SEO and keyword strategy.
Infographics. Very shareable, meaning they increase your chances of being found via social media when others share your content. (Check out these free infographic templates to get you started.)
Short videos. Again, these are very shareable and can help your brand get found by new audiences by hosting them on platforms like YouTube.
Ebooks. Great for lead generation as they’re generally more comprehensive than a blog post or infographic, meaning someone is more likely to exchange their contact information to receive it.
Research reports. Again, this high-value content type is great for lead generation. Research reports and new data for your industry can also work for the awareness stage, though, as they’re often picked up by the media or industry press.
Webinars. As they’re a more detailed, interactive form of video content, webinars are an effective consideration stage content format as they offer more comprehensive content than a blog post or short video.
Case studies. Having detailed case studies on your website can be an effective form of content for those ready to make a purchasing decision, as it helps you positively influence their decision.
Testimonials. If case studies aren’t a good fit for your business, having short testimonials around your website is a good alternative. For B2C brands, think of testimonials a little more loosely. If you’re a clothing brand, these might take the form of photos of how other people styled a shirt or dress, pulled from a branded hashtag where people can contribute.
1. Define your goals.
When you get started with digital marketing, it’s critical to identify and define your goals since you’ll craft your strategy with them. For instance, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you might want to focus on reaching new audiences via social media.
Or maybe you want to increase sales on a specific product — if that’s the case, it’s more important you focus on SEO and optimizing content to get potential buyers on your website in the first place. Additionally, if sales are your goal, you might test out PPC campaigns to drive traffic through paid ads.
Whatever the case, it’s easiest to shape a digital marketing strategy after you’ve determined your company’s biggest goals.
2. Identify your target audience.
We’ve mentioned this before, but one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing is the opportunity to target specific audiences – however, you can’t take advantage of that benefit if you haven’t first identified your target audience.
Of course, it’s important to note your target audience might vary depending on the channel or goal(s) you have for a specific product or campaign.
For instance, perhaps you’ve noticed most of your Instagram audience is younger and prefers funny memes and quick videos — but your LinkedIn audience is older professionals looking for more tactical advice. You’ll want to vary your content to appeal to these different target audiences.
If you’re starting from scratch, feel free to take a look at How to Find Your Target Audience.
3. Establish a budget for each digital channel.
Your budget will depend on the elements of digital marketing you use.
If you’re focusing on inbound techniques like SEO, social media, and content creation for a pre-existing website, the good news is you don’t need a big budget at all. You can aim to create high-quality content your audience will want to consume, where the only investment you’ll need is your time.
You can get started by hosting a website and creating content using HubSpot’s CMS. For those on a tight budget, you can get started using WordPress hosted on WP Engine, using a simple theme from StudioPress, and building your site without code using the Elementor Website Builder for WordPress.
With outbound techniques like online advertising and purchasing email lists, there is undoubtedly some expense. What it costs comes down to what kind of visibility you want to receive as a result of the advertising.
For example, to implement PPC using Google AdWords, you’ll bid against other companies in your industry to appear at the top of Google’s search results for keywords associated with your business.Depending on the keyword’s competitiveness, this can be reasonably affordable or extremely expensive, which is why it’s a good idea to focus on building your organic reach too.
4. Strike a good balance between paid and free digital strategies.
A digital marketing strategy likely needs both paid and free aspects to truly be effective.
For instance, spending time building comprehensive buyer personas to identify your audience’s needs and creating high-quality online content that converts them, you’ll likely see strong results despite minimal ad spend.
However, if paid advertising is part of your digital strategy, then the results might come even quicker.
Ultimately, aim to build your organic (or ‘free’) reach using content, SEO, and social media for more long-term, sustainable success.
When in doubt, try both, and iterate on your process as you learn which channels — paid or free – perform best for your brand.
5. Create engaging content.
Once you know your audience and have a budget, it’s time to start creating content for the various channels you will use. This content can be social media posts, blog posts, PPC ads, sponsored content, email marketing newsletters, and more.
Of course, any content you create should be interesting and engaging to your audience because the point of marketing content is to increase brand awareness and improve lead generation.
6. Optimize your digital assets for mobile.
Another key component of digital marketing is mobile marketing. In fact, smartphone usage as a whole accounts for 69% of time spent consuming digital media in the U.S., while desktop-based digital media consumption makes up less than half — and the U.S. still isn’t mobile’s biggest fan compared to other countries.
This means optimize your digital ads, web pages, social media images, and other digital assets for mobile devices is essential. If your company has a mobile app that enables users to engage with your brand or shop for your products, your app falls under the digital marketing umbrella, too.
Those engaging with your company ovia mobile devices need to have the same positive experience as they would on a desktop. This means implementing a mobile-friendly or responsive website design to make browsing user-friendly on mobile devices. It might also mean reducing the length of your lead generation forms to create a hassle-free experience for people downloading your content on the go. As for your social media images, it’s important to always have a mobile user in mind when creating them, as image dimensions are smaller on mobile devices and text can be cut-off.
There are lots of ways you can optimize your digital marketing assets for mobile users, and when implementing any digital marketing strategy, it’s hugely important to consider how the experience will translate on mobile devices. By ensuring this is always front-of-mind, you’ll be creating digital experiences that work for your audience, and consequently achieve the results you’re hoping for.
7. Conduct keyword research.
Digital marketing is all about reaching targeted audiences through personalized content — all of which can’t happen without effective keyword research.
Conducting keyword research is critical for optimizing your website and content for SEO and ensuring people can find your business through search engines. Additionally, social media keyword research can also help market your products or services on various social channels.
You’ll still want to conduct keyword research even if you don’t have a full-time SEO strategist. Try creating a list of high-performing keywords related to your products or services, and consider long-tail variations for added opportunities.
8. Iterate based on the analytics you measure.
Finally, to create an effective digital marketing strategy for the long term, it’s vital your team learn how to pivot based on analytics.
For instance, perhaps after a couple of months you find your audience isn’t as interested in your content on Instagram anymore — but they love what you’re creating on Twitter. Sure, this might be an opportunity to re-examine your Instagram strategy as a whole, but it might also be a sign that your audience prefers a different channel to consume branded content.
Alternatively, perhaps you find an older web page isn’t getting the traffic it used to. You might consider updating the page or getting rid of it entirely to ensure visitors are finding the freshest, most relevant content for their needs.
Digital marketing provides businesses with incredibly flexible opportunities for continuous growth — but it’s up to you to take advantage of them.
I’m ready to try digital marketing. Now what?
If you’re already doing digital marketing, you’re likely reaching some segments of your audience online. No doubt you can think of some areas of your strategy that could use a little improvement, though.
That’s why we created a step-by-step guide to help you build a digital marketing strategy that’s truly effective, whether you’re a complete beginner or have a little more experience.
Next, let’s look at some examples of digital marketing that will be sure to inspire you.
1. Lego’s Rebuild the World Campaign
This is a great example of a digital marketing campaign because it says something about the brand. In this campaign, Lego takes a stance on important global issues as a way to connect with its audience.
Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to discuss global issues and show alignment with their customers in that way. The major play of this campaign is to help share the brand’s story and messaging.
Given that 82% of customers shop from brands that share their values, this was a good move for the toy brand.
2. Dove’s Reverse Selfie Campaign
As we continue to learn how social media affects children, especially young girls, Dove decided to send a message. The Reverse Selfie campaign shows the reverse of what a teen girl did to prepare for a selfie and photoshop the picture. The purpose is to increase awareness of how social media can negatively impact self-esteem.
This is an excellent example of what marketing content can look like when you know your audience intimately. By knowing its audience of real women, many of them parents, Dove was able to bring light to an often overlooked consequence of the growth of social media.
3. Jennifer Lopez’s #InTheMorningChallenge
In this social media campaign, Jennifer Lopez created a dance challenge to promote her new song. With this challenge, fans would do the same dance in their pajamas and in dress up clothes.
This was a successful social media campaign as the video had over 16 million views and over 5,000 posts.
Using social media is a great way to engage your audience and get them to participate with your brand one on one.
4. Always’ #DayoftheGirl Campaign
This is another digital campaign focused on emotional marketing. With this campaign, Always asked their own employees what tips they would give to girls. The women offer their valuable insight in a way meant to inspire everyone for International Day of the Girl, an international holiday that occurs annually in October.
Again, this isn’t a campaign where the product is mentioned much, but that isn’t the point. The point of this digital campaign was to inspire its audience. With that message, they could reach even more people, increase brand awareness, and show their audience that the brand aligns with their values.
Now we’ll look at some examples of different types of digital marketing.
5. Topicals – Email Marketing
Topicals, a skincare company, uses email marketing as part of a digital marketing strategy. The image below displays a marketing email that advertises a subscribe and save deal, where people get 20% off refills if they choose to subscribe.
6. Ashley White – Affiliate Marketing
Ashley White is an esthetician who uses affiliate marketing. In her Twitter profile, she includes a link to a personal Linktree page where she shares referral codes and discounts for people that shop with her codes and links.
As she markets herself as an ambassador for these companies, the businesses generate brand awareness as someone visiting her Linktree might be inspired to try a new brand (and an influencer recommendation can make this inspiration even more powerful).
7. Samsonite – Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is a great example of digital marketing, where brands bid on keywords and showcase ads for their products in SERPs when someone queries a related keyword.
The image below is an example from Samsonite, where a query for the word “luggage” surfaces various luggage options from known brands that have created ads to feature their products front and center in search results.
8. Yes Williamsburg – Sponsored Ad
Yes Williamsburg uses native advertising within its Instagram feed to share a paid sponsorship with a local Brooklyn business. The Reel is tagged as a paid partnership, but it appears organically in a users feed like a standard post. The ad is also in line with Yes Williamsbug’s usual content of sharing information about unique local businesses for people to try.
9. HubSpot Blog – Content Offers
Content offers are a form of digital marketing where businesses share helpful content with site visitors that it knows will benefit them. For example, the HubSpot Blog often features content offers and learning material for people to learn more about the blog topic.
For its blog post 11 Marketing Strategies for Black Owned Businesses, readers that want to know more about developing a marketing strategy can download an ebook for further learning.
10. For Keeps Bookstore – Local Business SEO
A search engine optimization strategy for many local businesses is an optimized Google My Business profile to appear in local search results when people look for products or services related to what you offer.
For Keeps Bookstore, a local bookstore in Atlanta, GA, has optimized its Google My Business profile for local SEO so it appears in queries for “atlanta bookstore.”
Integrate Digital Marketing Into Your Strategy
Any opportunity where you can connect to your audience is an opportunity to convert a lead or acquire a customer. Digital marketing creates so many more of those opportunities by allowing you to reach prospective buyers through a wide variety of channels. Whether it’s social media platforms, websites, text messages, or any online medium, it’s an invaluable way to promote your business, service, or product.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in September 2019, but was updated for comprehensiveness.
The 2 Simple & Straightforward Methods for Market Sizing Your Business
When you’re considering a new venture, one of the first things you should do is determine whether there is a valuable market for it.
Imagine putting in months of hard work to realize that there are only 100 people in the U.S. who will potentially buy your product. Knowing this early on will enable you to make educated business decisions and decide what’s worth pursuing.
Discover the methods to calculate your market size and accurately measure your business’ revenue potential.
There are several reasons why every business should spend time sizing its market:
It helps you determine if it’s a worthy investment – Say you have a great idea for a product but there are currently only 100 people who would buy it. From there, you can decide if that population size is worth the cost of manufacturing, production, distribution, and more for your product.
It helps you estimate maximum total profit – If you know how many people your business has the potential to reach, you can estimate how much revenue you can generate. This is valuable for both business owners as well as investors.
Who you’re marketing to and what their needs are – No business can succeed without marketing. Knowing your market size is the first step in understanding your target market and their needs.
Market Sizing Methods
Top Down Approach
The first is a top-down approach, in which you start by looking at the market as a whole, from a bird’s eye view, then refine it to get an accurate market size. That would look like starting from your total addressable market and filtering from there.
Market Sizing Example
Let’s say you want to launch a wine company. First, you’d want to determine how many liquor stores are in the United States — this helps you figure out the total market to which you could theoretically sell your product.
After your research, you discover there are 50,000 liquor stores in the United States. Of that total list, you only want to sell to the New England area — including Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island.
You determine your target market includes the 1,000 liquor stores in the New England area. From here, you conduct research and speak with alcohol distributors to determine there’s a roughly 40% success rate for wine distribution.
Using this as an example, we’d calculate the market size using the following formula:
1,000 liquor stores x 40% = 400 liquor stores
Then, if you assume each liquor store will result in $20,000, you can figure out potential revenue using the following formula:
400 liquor stores x $20,000 = $8,000,000
This means you stand to make $8 million if you penetrate 40% of the total market in the New England area.
A bottom-up approach is the exact opposite – starting small and working your way outward.
This looks like first identifying the number of units you can expect to sell then considering how many sales you anticipate from each buyer and finally the average price per unit.
Market Sizing Example
Using the same wine example – Say you found recent data showing that the average cost of a wine bottle in New England is $10. A survey shows that the average consumer buys one bottle of wine a week, or 48 bottles a year. This means that the average consumer spends $480 per year on wine.
Next, you discover that the number of consumers (or households) you can expect to reach in the New England area is 16,000.
As a result, your market size is 480 x 16,000 = $8,000,000.
It’s important to note that both methods ignore the existence of competitors, customer churn rate, and other factors that impact sales. With this in mind, you’ll want to remain conservative when estimating how much of the market size you’ll win and use this as a starting point.
How to Leverage Your Market Size
You have your estimated market size — now what?
Market size helps your business answer the following questions:
How much potential revenue can we earn from this particular market? In other words, is it even worth our time and energy?
Is the market big enough to interest us?
Is the market growing? Will there still be opportunities to earn revenue from this market in 3, 5, 10 years?
Market size is a critical number to know when you’re looking for funding. Investors are going to need to know how much money they have the potential to make from a given market. Additionally, it’s vital to recognize whether the potential revenue you can make outweighs your business’ costs.
Once you have market size, you’ll also want to consider how saturated the market already is with your competitors’ products.
Ultimately, you can’t capture the total addressable market (TAM) — some of those people will choose competitors’ products over yours. So you’ll need to determine whether you have a shot at earning enough consumers out of the TAM to make this a worthwhile venture.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
The 6 Stages of the Product Life Cycle
When I was 12 years old, I used to be confused about my cousin’s CD collection. Why have CDs when I could go on iTunes and listen to all my favorite songs? This is a perfect example of a product life cycle (PLC) in action.
No one wants their product to become “obsolete” and reach the end of its product life cycle. That’s why it’s important to understand what stage your product is in so you can make better marketing and business decisions.
Below, we’ll learn about the product life cycle inside and out. If you’re in a pinch, use the links below to jump straight to what you need:
What is the product life cycle?
Breaking Down the Product Life Cycle Theory
What are the stages of the product life cycle?
Product Life Cycle Examples
International Product Life Cycle
When to Use the Product Life Cycle
In the marketing industry, the typical depiction of the product life cycle only has four main stages — Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline. At HubSpot, we agree that these are vital for a product, but the two stages “Development” and “Decline” aren’t nearly covered enough.
As marketers, it’s important to understand how your tactics and strategies change depending on the stage your product is in. Let’s break down each of the six stages of the product life cycle.
Breaking Down the Product Life Cycle Theory
In the late ‘60s, Harvard Business School professor Raymond Vernon developed this marketing theory in response to an economic model that failed to account for trends present in international trade – that’s why it was originally called the international product life cycle theory.
It stated that products developed in an international market had three phases:
Here’s a quick breakdown of his theory.
Vernon theorized a new product would perform best in its country of origin to keep manufacturing and production costs low. Once the product gained demand, companies could begin exporting to other countries and continue building local production plants in each new location.
Having these local plants would offer the flexibility to make changes to the product without incurring huge costs.
The standardized phase would involve an influx of competitors, which would lead the company to focus on driving down production and manufacturing costs to remain competitive. As the market becomes saturated and a new product gets introduced, the company loses its relevance in its home country and shifts gears to create something new, with the cycle beginning again.
Since then, the product life cycle theory has evolved to focus less on geography and more on marketing. Let’s dive into it next.
You can use this template to map out your own product’s life cycle phases.
Download the Free Product Life Cycle Template
The development stage of the product life cycle is the research phase before a product is introduced to the marketplace. This is when companies bring in investors, develop prototypes, test product effectiveness, and strategize their launch.
In this stage, companies typically spend a lot of money without bringing in any revenue because the product isn’t being sold yet.
This phase can last for a long time, depending on the complexity of the product, how new it is, and the competition. For a completely new product, the development stage is particularly difficult because the first pioneer of a product isn’t always as successful as later iterations.
Development Stage Marketing Strategy
While marketing typically begins in the introduction stage, you can begin to build “buzz” around your product by securing the endorsement of established voices in the industry.
You can also publish early (and favorable) consumer research or testimonials. Your marketing goal during this stage is to build upon your brand awareness and establish yourself as an innovative company.
The introduction stage happens when a product is launched in the marketplace. This is when marketing teams begin building product awareness and targeting potential customers. Typically, when a product is introduced, sales are low and demand builds slowly.
In this phase, marketers focus on advertising and marketing campaigns. They also work on testing distribution channels and building product and brand awareness.
Introduction Stage Marketing Strategy
This is where the fun begins. Now that the product is launched, you can actually promote it using inbound marketing and content marketing.
Education is vital in this stage. If your marketing strategies are successful, the product goes into the next stage — growth.
During the growth stage, consumers have accepted the product in the market and customers are beginning to truly buy in. That means demand and profits are growing, hopefully at a steadily rapid pace.
The growth stage is when the market for the product is expanding and competition begins developing. Potential competitors will see your success and will want in.
Growth Stage Marketing Strategy
During this phase, marketing campaigns often shift from getting customers’ buy-in to establishing a brand presence so consumers choose them over developing competitors. Additionally, as companies grow, they’ll begin to open new distribution channels and add more features and support services. In your strategy, you’ll advertise these as well.
The maturity stage is when the sales begin to level off from the rapid growth period. At this point, companies begin to reduce their prices so they can stay competitive amongst the growing competition.
This is the phase where a company begins to become more efficient and learns from the mistakes made in the introduction and growth stages. Marketing campaigns are typically focused on differentiation rather than awareness. This means that product features might be enhanced, prices might be lowered, and distribution becomes more intensive.
During the maturity stage, products begin to enter the most profitable stage. The cost of production declines while the sales are increasing.
Maturity Stage Marketing Strategy
When your product has become a mature offering, you may feel like you’re “sailing by” because sales are steady and the product has been established. But this is where it’s critical to establish yourself as a leader and differentiate your brand.
Continuously improve upon the product as adoption grows, and let consumers know in your marketing strategy that the product they love is better than it was before. This will protect you during the next stage — saturation.
During the product saturation stage, competitors have begun to take a portion of the market and products will experience neither growth nor decline in sales.
Typically, this is the point when most consumers are using a product, but there are many competing companies. At this point, you want your product to become the brand preference so you don’t enter the decline stage.
Saturation Stage Marketing Strategy
When the market has become saturated, you’ll need to focus on differentiation in features, brand awareness, price, and customer service. Competition is highest at this stage, so it’s critical to leave no doubt regarding the superiority of your product.
If innovation at the product level isn’t possible (because the product only needs minor tweaks at this point), then invest in your customer service and use customer testimonials in your marketing.
Unfortunately, if your product doesn’t become the preferred brand in a marketplace, you’ll typically experience a decline. Sales will decrease during the heightened competition, which is hard to overcome.
Additionally, new trends emerge as time goes on, just like the CD example I mentioned earlier. If a company is at this stage, it’ll either discontinue its product, sell the company, or innovate and iterate on its product in some way.
Decline Stage Marketing Strategy
While companies would want to avoid the decline stage, sometimes there’s no helping it — especially if the entire market reached a decline. In your marketing strategy, you can emphasize the superiority of your solution to successfully get out of this stage.
To extend the product life cycle, successful companies can also implement new advertising strategies, reduce prices, add new features to increase their value proposition, explore new markets, or adjust brand packaging.
The best companies will usually have products at several points in the product life cycle at any given time. Some companies look to other countries to begin the cycle anew.
Now that we’ve gone through stages, let’s review some real-life examples of them in action.
Let’s follow the product life cycle of popular products that have since reached the decline stage.
1. The Typewriter
The typewriter was the first mechanical writing tool — a worthy successor to pen and paper. Ultimately, however, other technologies gained traction and replaced it.
Development: Before the first commercial typewriter was introduced to the market, the overall idea had been developed for centuries, beginning in 1575.
Introduction: In the late 1800s, the first commercial typewriters were introduced.
Growth: The typewriter quickly became an indispensable tool for all forms of writing, becoming widely used in offices, businesses, and private homes.
Maturity: Typewriters were in the maturity phase for nearly 80 years, because this was the preferred product for typing communications up until the 1980s.
Saturation: During the saturation stage, typewriters began to face fierce competition with computers in the 1990s.
Decline: Overall, the typewriter couldn’t withstand the competition of new emerging technologies, and eventually the product was discontinued.
Skipping forward to the 21st century, we see the rise and fall of Vine, a short-form video-sharing app that was the source for many memes at its peak but eventually declined due to other platforms.
Development: Vine was founded in June 2012 and mainly competed with Instagram.
Introduction: The app was introduced to the public in 2013. Its differentiating factor was its short-form video format — users had only seven seconds to film something that was hilarious, absurd, or a mixture of both.
Growth: Only two years after its release, Vine had over 200 million active users. Its popularity led to the advent of the phrase “Do it for the Vine.”
Maturity: Because it was only in the market for a few years, Vine never reached the maturity stage. While adoption was high, it was still a fairly new app.
Saturation: Vine competed in an already saturated market. Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube were the pre-eminent names in their category, and Vine soon started to decline in use.
Decline: When Musical.ly was introduced, Vine lost a large amount of its user base and shut down. It was succeeded by Byte, a similar short-form video-sharing platform, but none of these have been able to surpass Tik Tok, which launched months after Vine’s end in 2016.
3. Cable TV
Remember the days of switching TV channels to find what to watch? I do — and they feel distinctly like something of the past. While cable TV is still around, it’s safe to say that it’s nearing the decline stage.
Development: Cable TV was developed in the first half of the twentieth century. John Walson has been credited with its invention.
Introduction: The first commercial television system was introduced in 1950, and by 1962, the technology saw the first hints of growth.
Growth: After a decades-long freeze on cable TV’s development (due to regulatory restrictions), the technology began gaining traction, and by 1980, more than 15 million households had cable.
Maturity: Cable TV matured around the 1990s. Around seven in ten households had cable.
Saturation: The start of the 21st century saw an oversaturation of this technology, and it also started to compete with other modern developments such as on-demand services and high-definition TV (HDTV). While the internet was still in its nascent stages, it would soon gain on cable TV as well.
Decline: From 2015 onwards, cable TV experienced a marked decline. Online video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have taken precedence — and this trend is set to continue.
4. Floppy Disk
This relic was once a popular and convenient way to store and share data between computers. I barely understood what they were growing up, and it astounds me to think of the very existence of cloud data sharing and other mass memory storage means.
Development: The first floppy disk was developed in 1970 by IBM engineers. It was an 8-inch flexible magnetic disk in a square case with 2MB storage capacity.
Introduction: It was introduced in 1971 and largely became known as the only way to transfer or store data.
Growth: The floppy disk was majorly used in the 1980s-1990s.
Maturity: Sold well in the market during the 1990s. Improving with time, it could hold 200MB of storage.
Saturation: Major competitors emerged at the beginning of the 21st century. The invention of USB cables, external hard disks, and CDs gave people options to store their data.
Decline: The floppy disk faced a major decline up to Hewlett-Packard stopping production for the disk in 2009. The storage capacity for other products in the market grew to be more efficient.
Not all products need to face the decline stage. Companies can extend the product life cycle with new iterations and stay afloat as long as they have several products at various points of the product life cycle.
International Product Life Cycle
The international product life cycle (IPL) is the cycle a product goes through in international markets. As products begin to mature and companies want to avoid the decline stage, they’ll typically begin to explore new markets globally.
When products reach mass production, manufacturing and production shift to other countries as well.
The international product life cycle stages are identical to that of a normal product life cycle. The development stage looks different, however, because local customs and regulations can affect how long it takes to bring the product to a new marketplace.
However, once you lay the groundwork in a new marketplace, your competitors will be sure to follow, and the life cycle stages will continue up until saturation and eventually decline. Your option is to either expand into another market or learn from prior mistakes and innovate before the decline stage rolls around.
Next, we’ll look at when you should use the product life cycle.
When to Use the Product Life Cycle
Businesses use the product life cycle to achieve the following:
Establish competitive authority. If your product is new and recently introduced to the market, you can advertise it as a new and improved alternative to an existing product. If the product is established, you can vouch for its long history of use in your branding.
Decide on a pricing strategy. Depending on the life cycle stage your product is in, you’ll choose how to price the product. A new product may be priced lower to entice more buyers, while a product in the growth stage can be priced higher.
Create a marketing strategy. Your product life cycle stage will determine which strategy to pursue. Maturity and audience knowledgeability play a big role in the type of content you publish on your site and social media profiles.
Respond before the product begins its decline. There’s no worse feeling than watching your product slowly become obsolete or be displaced by a competing product. By keeping the life cycle stages in mind, you can create a strategy that keeps you ahead of the curve as you reach the saturation and decline stages.
The product life cycle benefits businesses because they can shift their wording and positioning to best market the product at the stage it is in. If your product has recently been introduced and you try to market it as a long-established solution, consumers will see right through it and trust you less as a result.
Keep Your Product’s Life Cycle in Mind
Whether you’re developing a brand new product or working with a mature, well-established brand, you can use the product life cycle stages as a guide for your marketing campaigns.
Each stage will dictate how you inform your audience about the product, how you position your brand in the marketplace, and how you decide to move forward after the decline stage.
By keeping your product’s life cycle in mind, you can invest in better marketing campaigns that result in a higher ROI.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.