Got launches down? Science says you’re wrong.
When I was 19, like many 19-year-old girls, I had an unhealthy attachment to my boyfriend. It was a long-distance relationship and I was petrified that he was going to find someone else and forget about me. So, in response, I called him, texted him, and sent him AIM messages (remember those?) incessantly. If I stayed top of mind, maybe he wouldn’t forget me.
He was an engineering major at Penn State, involved in many clubs and organizations, and an extremely hard worker. This all meant he had a lot of legitimate reasons to be unavailable. One night in particular, I *needed* to talk to him, but he had a big test early the next day, so insisted we skip our nightly phone call.
This reasonable request set off my insecurities. I couldn’t sleep. I was sure that he was done with me. The next night, after the test was safely behind him and he’d celebrated with his friends, he called me. He was so happy. He thought he’d done well and he wanted to share the moment with me, someone he cared for deeply.
But I, too much in my own head — and still feeling hurt and rejected — lashed out.
“Oh, so now you have time for me. That’s nice.”
Being the good guy that he was, he apologized. He did everything he could to solve the problem that he couldn’t understand. But I was relentless. Night after night, I’d answer the phone sarcastically, “Are you sure you have time for me tonight, or are you too busy?”
I pulled away and avoided his calls, trying to make him feel what I’d felt. And eventually, he got tired of it. And we broke up.
I was the sole cause of the thing I feared the most.
Human behavior like this has fascinated me for many years. Why do people do what they do? Why do we do what we know we shouldn’t? Why do we destroy what is good?
An obsession with behavioral psychology is a trait shared by of many people who work in marketing, and especially copywriters. Understanding why is at the core of what we do.
But the amazing thing about human behavior is that even when you understand the underlying mechanisms that control human actions, you still fall prey to them. You can’t stop fight or flight. You can’t help but feel jealous when someone you perceive as less competent than you gets more success. You can study and study and you’ll still have blind spots.
In fact, the more you think you know, the more you may overlook your own issues.
And a series of scientific studies, summarized in the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review, highlights how this can happen in the most successful product launches. The studies found that experienced companies are very likely to take shortcuts in their launches because they “have the process down.”
Assumptions lead to decisions like:
- Skipping extra team training because they’ve been through this before.
- Doing only surface level market research because it’s the same market as last year.
- Using old processes and systems for new techniques.
- Copying other companies’ strategies without having a real process in place to evaluate it’s relevance, effectiveness, and especially profitability.
After all, you’ve had success in the past, your team has 2 or 3 or more of these under their belt, and the market is the same as it’s always been. Sounds like a good system to me!
One CEO described previous launch success as a “trap”:
“We, as a company, had unwittingly fallen into a common trap. We expected things to go well simply because they usually did. We were not alert enough to the things that could now go wrong with our original approach or to what would be required for us to continue to dominate in the future. Because our innovation process worked 90% of the time, we were not prepared for the 10% of the time when it could falter.”
So what’s the solution to this massive blind spot? According to the research, creating and iterating a launch process to respond to issues as they come up is critical.
“Launches take a toll on many parts of a company, from design and development to manufacturing and marketing….The study puts a spotlight on the importance of process research in launching products, not just in developing them.”
Put another way, launch development is just as important as product development. In fact, it’s the difference between successful, high-growth companies and the ones that limp by launch-to-launch.
“Our study highlights that even if two firms appear similar in their strategic position- for example, having similar product portfolio, they may have gone through very different strategies in terms of “processes”, which may results in differed market values. “
“Although extant literature looks at a variety of factors that affect new product performance, the importance of the process has not received light in marketing literature. Our study shows the importance of process characteristics for the performance of new products. Our results caution that in addition to the factors that are found to affect new product performance, process characteristics significantly affect firm value. Our results are managerially relevant and are economically significant as well.”
So what does that mean for you? Researchers found that system and process training and improvement had to become part of the company culture around launches. While most companies focus solely on market and product research, the best also put a huge focus on system research.
But systems training is not easy to find, which is why we created Launch Management Academy. We took systems from project management best practices, the military, and disaster response organizations and married them with cutting edge online marketing tactics… and then, put them together in a 3-day live intensive designed for CEOs, project managers, and marketing teams.
It’s the only event of its kind. You can find out more here.
In business, you already know you can’t rest on your laurels. And now science has backed that fact. A successful launch, or even a series of successful launches doesn’t guarantee future success.
The teams at the top that intend to stay there reflect on how to innovate, readjust, and respond to the future.