By Mark Evans

For startups, product launches are like the Super Bowl.

They’re major events that involve a lot of planning and huge expectations. Startups fervently dream about attracting coverage in high-profile publications such as TechCrunch and Mashable. The spotlight will encourage a wave of people to discover and enthusiastically embrace the startup’s product. And everyone will live happily ever after.

product launchesThe problem with this scenario is it usually doesn’t materialize.

All the work invested by startup for a launch fails to produce tangible results. The launch receives no coverage, and fails to resonate with potential customers. The result: dashed hopes and disappointment.

It raises this question: Do product launches by startups make sense, or are they a waste time?

If you take a pragmatic approach, product launches are a terrible idea. They consume too much time and energy, which is better spent on things like making sales calls or creating value-added content.

As well, product launches can demoralize a startup when nothing happens. They send a strong signal that no one cares. The last thing a startup needs is discouragement.

Instead of a pinning their dreams on a successful product launch, startups should focus on sales and marketing tactics with better ROI. These activities are less flashy as a launch but they are more effective. It’s grunt work such as networking at conferences, nurturing relationships with the media and connecting with customers.

Of course, these things aren’t as sexy as a product launches. It explains why many startups love product launches even though they’re not healthy activities. It’s like eating donuts – they’re not good for you but a delicious, irresistible pleasure.

The biggest problem with product launches is most of them aren’t compelling or even interesting.

While a startup’s product may have value, it is not unique enough to attract coverage. Hundreds, if not thousands, of startups launch products every day so the competition is fierce.

Unless a startup has raised a lot of money, involves well-known entrepreneurs or created something unique, it is not going to generate buzz. It means a startup’s press release or well-crafted emails to reporters and bloggers will quietly disappear into the ether.

This is the harsh reality.

Startups must recognize that successful launches like Mailbox are lottery wins. They rarely happen but, nevertheless, seduce startups with their potential. It is human nature at work. By default, most entrepreneurs are optimists so they truly believe their product launches will work despite the odds.

Here’s my advice for startups when it comes to product launches: Think long and hard about how much you want to invest in a venture that fails most of time.

For startups hell bent on doing a product launch, my next post will explore the different ingredients for success.

For more thoughts on product launches, check out this post by Nathan Barry, who talks about three key elements: audience, excitement and urgency.

For startups looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical services – core messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies and content creation.