Soft launch, hard landing

Soft launch, hard landing


In a competitive legal services sector, the solutions you're selling need active marketing to get noticed, says Douglas McPherson

A phrase I seem to hear increasingly frequently is ‘soft launch’. New websites ‘go live with a soft launch’, new products ‘just have a soft launch’, and new events seem to ‘kick off with a soft launch’.

But although the phrase is turning up in conversations with increasing regularity – or should that be alacrity – I don’t really understand what it’s trying to say, or, indeed, particularly care for it.

When I started studying marketing (and I’ll admit quickly that the year in question started with a one and two nines), I don’t remember any coverage being given to the soft launch in lectures or in text books. It was a while ago, but I simply don’t believe things have changed all that much.

What I do remember being taught about was how to maximise impact, how to make a splash, how to catch/hold/use attention, how to cause a reaction, and how to generate engagement and make the next steps as easy as possible for the consumer.

I certainly don’t remember the lecture where we were advised to do the minimum then sit back and wait for things to happen. This is what, in my opinion at least, the soft launch boils down to: write some copy, tweet it once or twice, then sit back and wait for the switchboard and email servers to melt.

Sorry to burst the collective bubble of the soft launch brigade, but this simply isn’t going to happen.

Obviously many of the tools the legal profession has at hand in 2016 are different to what they were way back when I started. Sure, there were no PCs back then never mind e-marketing, social media, or smart phones. The objectives, however, were exactly the same: to package and price a product for specific target markets then cause enough of a stir in those target markets to generate awareness, interest, and ultimately the desire to buy.

If you are going to create the required level of awareness, interest, and desire in any market – not least in today’s crowded and competitive legal market – then any launch of anything new needs to be planned to the nth degree ahead of the agreed launch date to give it the best possible chance of creating the splash it will need to in order to succeed.

You need to map out a number of factors:

  • What do you have? What benefits are you going to articulate? How are you going to structure that message?

  • How will you get that message out? What will the advanced marketing look like? What will the teasers be? How will you create advanced interest?

  • Practically, how will all of that work? What will the launch look like? What will be emailed? What press coverage will you garner? Will there be a launch event or launch events? Where will those events be? And when? Who are you going to invite? How will you use social media?

  • How will you create engagement (and effect purchase)? What are your calls to action going to be in? Why should people respond to your marketing? What’s in it for them to take the next step?

  • How are you going to keep the buzz going? Will you send out regular or sporadic updates? How are you going to court ‘word of mouth’ advertising? How do you get clients/contacts/targets to drop your new idea into the conversations they’re having with their clients/contacts/targets?

None of this is in any way ‘soft’. When you add all of this together you have an extremely ‘hard’ plan made up of clear, measurable objectives, and that is essential. While hard is obviously the antonym to soft, it is also a synonym for tough, focused, effective, and robust, all of which are properties every marketing campaign should possess.

Moreover, if you walk yourself through these five steps when you have a launch to plan, you will have a clear chain of events you can follow to ensure the product or service you are launching looks right, says the right things, and hits the right people in the right way. You’ll have a campaign that will impact on your market, make a splash, catch the attention of the right clients or targets, cause a reaction, and generate engagement.

If you don’t capture your targets’ attention, reaction, and engagement, it is always going to be very difficult to motivate people to purchase.

Douglas McPherson is a director at 10 ½ Boots