This is part 4 in my blog post series “From 0 to 10,000 customers”, documenting everything I did to grow my first eCommerce business. If you’re new here, take a look at the whole series or start with Part 1: How I started my eCommerce business.

Launch products and do it easily.

That’s not me. I don’t have the depth of experience to have the product launch process perfected.

But I have brought two products to market. I’ve also spent a lot of time building and deploying marketing campaigns.

What I’ve learnt from countless hours in the trenches is this –

To launch products, you need three factors executed brilliantly.

Sounds easy, right?

Let’s take a look what those three factors are

  1. Validation from your customer that they want your product;
  2. Great forecasting to ensure you manage your time, revenue and inventory properly; and
  3. Marketing campaigns designed to drive sales of the product swiftly.

Still sound easy? I hope so but if not, that’s what I’m going to cover in today’s post.

Let’s start with the first step.

#1 Ask your customers what they want from you

Right from the start of Trefiel, we were talking to our customers in as many ways as we possibly could. We used –

  • Structured survey forms that took anywhere from 3-15 minutes to complete;
  • Post-purchase funnels to ensure customer’s reviews are collected as often as possible;
  • Social media, such as post comments or direct responses to collect information.

Here’s an example of some of the questions we asked in our structured survey form –

Essentially, we had a continuous feedback loop with our customers from day one to closed.

In fact, almost everything we did in our business was driven by our customer’s requests. They asked for specific giveaways and subscription box gifts. So we delivered them.

We asked our customers what they’d like us to do next wherever possible. Then, we delivered when we could as often as we could.

That’s how you establish trust with the people who buy your product.

Most don’t realise that our subscription box, The Pamper Club, was a customer request too. They were living hints in our surveys and on social media posts that we noticed.

By hints, I mean they were showing us how they used our product and where we could provide a better service.

We recognised an opportunity to improve our product offering based on our customer actions and feedback.

Thus, we began the process of creating a subscription box centred around our masks. This would later become very difficult to work around, but I’ll talk about that in a future post.

We came to the end of January in 2016 with our first version of our subscription box product, The Pamper Club MVP –

Our customers liked the product enough to subscribe, but they had feedback. A lot of it was negative.

How to handle negative customer feedback

I’m always surprised by posts I see in business communities regarding negative feedback. So often, business owners come in hot and strong, ranting about the injustice of the feedback.

If that’s you, you have it all wrong.

Negative feedback is the best type of feedback you can receive.

When you receive negative feedback, it’s driven from a place of dissatisfaction. It’s the most honest feedback you’ll receive. It can drive immense and positive change in your business.

That’s the way I see it at least.

How we used negative feedback to improve our subscription box

We took what our customers said and we improved The Pamper Club.

We didn’t achieve the scale of other popular boxes, like Birchbox and Loot Crate. But we did have some standout metrics that a lot of subscription boxes never see.

Most subscription boxes have a few cohorts within their subscribers –

  • Subscribers who are only interested in trying your product and will stay on for 1 month.
  • Subscribers who like the product and stay on for 3-4 months.
  • Subscribers who love the product and stay on for 9 months or longer.

Our business had a skew towards subscribers who stayed on for extended periods of time. A handful of subscribers were a part of The Pamper Club for the entirety of its life.

Why did our customers stay subscribed for so long?

Our investment in our community as a long-term strategy (using Snapchat), was one of the best actions I’ve taken for my business.

  1. It showed our customers a very real and raw side of the business; and
  2. It opened a direct and personal communication channel between our customers and us.

I also believe our perspective on customer feedback – good or bad – played a huge role. Not to mention the quality of our product.

Would you like to learn more about building a subscription box business?

I was interviewed by The Subscription Accelerator on how to build a successful subscription box. You can listen to the full interview by clicking the button below.

Listen to the interview

How do you start asking for customer feedback?

If you’ve never asked your customer for feedback before, I know it can feel like a daunting task.

Where do you begin?
What questions do you ask?
How do you collect information that you can actually use in your business?

I like to approach customer feedback by breaking my questions into three categories.

  1. Future of the business – eg. what you would like from us?
  2. Understanding your customer – eg. what don’t we know about you?
  3. Understanding your customer and your product together – eg. How do you use our product?

Those categories should give you a broad selection of answers, to begin with.

How I use questions to gain relevant customer feedback

The questions I ask depend on what’s happening under the hood of my business.

  • If my business is looking for growth opportunities, I use a combination of all three.
  • If my business is improving internal processes, I focus on understanding the customer.
  • If we’re launching a product, I focus on understanding my customer and my new product together.

This is going to change the way you speak with your customers

If you’re still stuck for ideas, I’ve put together a simple, 3-page guide on asking the questions that give you useful answers.

I want the guide

Customer feedback is important, but it’s not the only part you need to get right. Nor is a subscription box the only product you can launch.

Our next major product launch in Trefiel was adding three masks to create a 4-mask range.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Damn, that new packaging is sexy.”

It sure as hell beats our blue packaging monstrosity which I showed you in my post on wholesaling.

Moving from “blue packaging disaster” to “sleek and sexy rebrand” may seem like a natural choice to make. But it was actually a point of contention amongst our customers.

A percentage of the customers who completed our packaging survey wanted us to stay the same.

So what do you do when this happens?

What to do when you disagree with your customer feedback

I’ll talk more about this in the branding post, but know that you don’t always have to listen to your customers. This was one of those cases for a few reasons:

  1. We had to do this redesign so our product would sell better in retail stores;
  2. We needed to rebrand to be taken seriously by retailers and consumers;
  3. We’d already invested significant time and money into developing the packaging; and
  4. We knew in our heart that this was the right move for the company;

Launching the 4-mask range was our biggest project yet and had the most riding on it.

Which is why step two in a successful product launch is just as important as the first.

#2 Manage your resources properly by forecasting

Our wholesalers, subscribers and customers were relying on our product being in stock. This meant we had to time everything perfectly with our product launch.

Not to mention, there were more moving parts to this project than we’d ever had to deal with before.

We were –

  • Working with our design agency to re-design our packaging (you’ll meet the team behind Trefiel’s packaging in an upcoming post);
  • Working closely with our manufacturers to perfect formulas, print new packaging and ship product before we ran out; and
  • Onboarding new team members and creating new roles as quickly as we could to handle the growth we were experiencing.

That’s why knowing how to forecast and prioritise your projects is a vital skill as a business owner.

How to forecast as you launch products

To help with this part, I’ve asked my good friend Shaun Stubley from Air Accounting, Australia’s food & beverage accountants, to give his four best tips for forecasting properly.

Regardless of your natural skillset or interests, forecasting is a skill worth learning for any business owner.

It’s something that I’ve put a lot of time into developing since closing Trefiel, to grow my new businesses.

If you’re not a number’s person, don’t worry.

Having a great accountant helps, but if you’re not in the position to hire a CFO or accountant for your business, this blog post will help you start.

If launching products only involved customer conversations and inventory projection, there’d be more successful companies. Alas, there’s a final component that is critical to your success.

#3 Deploy strategic & creative marketing campaigns

The last step in successfully launching products is having a kickass marketing campaign.

I have a full blog post planned to dive into everything we did for Trefiel coming out soon. But in this post, I’ll share some of the important lessons I’ve learnt about marketing new products.

1. Use extra incentives to purchase

You need more than the product itself to make it exciting to your customers. Extra incentives to purchase work and we used these to generate tens of thousands of dollars in sales for Trefiel

2. Go hard on the launch

Go hard on a launch. You only have one shot to leverage the excitement of a new product. This is a sales push first and foremost, then a service to your customers.

3. Launch your product in relation to seasonal trends

This is particularly important for eCommerce businesses, where the post-Christmas slump can quarter your revenue, even with new product launches. Every time we gave our product launches context in the year, our launches went better. Look for big seasonal events like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Black Friday and of course, step things up coming into the last 6 months of the year.

Timing is just as important as providing an incentive to purchase, so plan your launches to maximise seasonal holidays and shopping trends.

Let’s pause here

Right about the time we were growing our product range, we also had to grow our team.

Up until this point, it had been myself, my business partner and our incredible virtual assistant running the entire show. Unfortunately, at this stage, I hadn’t worked out how to effectively prioritise my projects so while we were hustling to launch products, we were also trying to hire a team to fit.

Thankfully, we were meticulous with documenting the underside of our business which made the hiring and delegating process somewhat easier, but probably no less stressful.

The investment into our standard operating procedures and templates was without a doubt one of the best uses of our time.

Not only were we able to delegate major tasks in our business, it helped us:

  1. Streamline the business; and
  2. Run a physical product business while living overseas in beautiful Bali and snowy Berlin.

But more on that in next month’s post.

Want to learn more?

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There are 13 posts planned out – from starting an eCommerce business to influencer marketing, brandingwholesalehiringfiring, customer retention, shipping and the mistakes I made while growing my own eCommerce business.