Product Launch Advice #4: How close together can my launches be?

(The series continues! Catch up with part one, part two and part three.)

How close together can your launches be? The answer to this depends on the kind of question you’re asking. Are you asking how often you can release a new product, or are you asking how often you can launch?

(We can even make it more complicated and include re-releases of existing programs or products, and even standard promotions where nothing new is released.)

Basically, the answer isn’t complex, but it is very dependent on the context of what you’re referring to when you say “launch.”

If you’re asking about a new product launch, then …

I wouldn’t do it more than every three months. Launch is intensive, and part of why it attracts attention – and subsequently interest, desire, and action – is because it is unusual, special, noticeable.

If you’re constantly launching, there is no status quo to which your audience can acclimate. There is no “normal,” so there can’t be a “better than normal.”

So I’d say no more than once every three months.

You could do closer than that, but you’d have to have a very good reason – generally something that is forced by something of a timely nature, such as a holiday/seasonal launch that only makes sense to launch at a specific time. (Note: “I’m broke now!” does not count as timely.)

If you’re asking about the release of a new product, then …

Releases are different from launches, because the objective is to just roll out the product on principle so that it can start selling from that point on, which is different than a concerted effort to draw attention to your Really Big Thing that you want people to buy right now.

So for releases, I don’t know, no more than once a month?

It depends what the product is, how much it costs, and how invested you are in initial sales numbers.

If you’re trying to fill your store because you want to make your real money from the products over time, or in time for next year’s Black Friday, or because you’re looking to sell the business and want it to look fleshed out? Then it doesn’t matter. Just keep the spectacle quotient a little on the lower end of the spectrum or you’re running into list burnout territory.

If you’re looking at releases coming thick and fast, you might want to keep it very low key. This is a casual mention that the product is coming made in the context of another blog post or email or podcast, for example, and then one dedicated email at release.

Mention it a few more times in passing to increase product exposure, but not more than that. “Oh my God, I’m so sick of hearing about this damn thing” is really not what we want here.

Now, a few words about your marketing or promotion calendar …

If you’re looking at a promotion calendar, rather than a launch calendar, and you’re including every promotion you run, that’s a third issue.

(If you’re unsure of the distinction between a promotion and a launch, try this on for size. A launch is when Apple introduces the iPad Air. A promotion is when the Apple Store has a sale.)

How often you can run a promotion depends on a few things.

1. What’s your relationship like with your list?

The more personally connected they feel to you, the less often you can promote. Big or impersonal or nameless businesses can have a sale a week. Your favorite mommy blogger? Not so much.

Now, size isn’t the issue here. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking.) Bigger businesses aren’t able to promote to their audiences more than a general blogger because they’re bigger – they’re able to do it because their relationship is mainly built on the foundations of commerce.

So, if that mommy blogger was running a class a month, she could potentially pull off a more frequent rate of promotion because people would see her primarily as a consistent seller of classes, who happens to blog. So she can kind of break the rules, because she sells stuff all the time, and that’s her relationship with her list.

But if that’s not your relationship with your list, you can’t do the same. Your promotions should be more spread out.

2. How often do you communicate with your list?

With a few exceptions, the more often you communicate, the more often you can promote. You just have to keep an eye on the intensity at which you’re running your promotion.

If you mail every day and have a week-long promotion once a month, you’re going to want to go lighter on the increase in intensity. If you mail every week and have the same week-long promotion once a month, you can up the intensity a little more.

(The exception are businesses that don’t focus on content, and if the promotion is low key. If you only send a monthly newsletter, sure, have a promotion in each one, like a feature of the month thing.)

3. How accustomed is your list to commerce?

If your list is not used to you selling things very much at all, launching more frequently can lead to significant unsubscribes if you start doing it all of a sudden.

This is where a lot of warm-up comes in handy to re-orient your list, to get them used to the fact that You Actually Sell Stuff On A Regular Basis.

Drop some product mentions into blog posts and emails, pop a few more ads for your own things up on your site, make your store more prominent, add a few links to products in the welcome message for new subscribers.

Then again, you can take the approach of culling your list hard and fast. Switching to a heavier promotion and launch cycle goes ahead and gets all non-buyers and non-potential buyers off your list fast, and creates a “new normal” within a month or two for existing subscribers. New subscribers will also know exactly how you run things as they come onto the list. If that’s the direction you want to go in, there’s merit to ripping off the Band-aid.

4. How fast is your list growing?

Can you replace names faster than you lose them? If you run a promotion and lose 300 subscribers on average, but you’re pulling in 50 new people a week, then you’re only looking at six weeks to get back to baseline.

But if you’re only pulling in 5 new people a week, you might need to pay closer attention to how your unsubscribes affect the size of your list. You might be burning your list faster than you can replace the people who are leaving. Do the math, and see what will work for you.

You can read more about unsubscribes and why you don’t need to worry too much about them in our article How To Email Your List.

In general, how fast your list is growing is a much bigger concern than how closely together you can space your launches and promotions. So if you’ve got a list growth issue, put more focus on that because that’s a problem that isn’t going away on it’s own.

Here’s a rule of thumb that can help you time your launches.

The short answer that works for 80% of ittybiz owners – promote no more than six times a year, launch no more than four times a year. Three is better.

These are inclusive, by the way. If you run six promotions in a given year, three or four of them can be launches. This should keep you from over-promoting to your list.

This is part four of our launch advice series. Stay tuned for part five.

Tomorrow we’re going to answer the question “How much money will my launch make?” Keep an eye on the blog or sign up for The Letter and we’ll email you when new posts are out.

Naomi writes more things like this in The Letter. Get it for free today. (It also comes with free marketing courses. You can’t move for free here.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.