Launching a new product can be a nerve-wracking proposition. As well as the amount of plates that need to be kept spinning on the product development itself, businesses are faced with the problem of getting customers to care about the upcoming product. The games industry is an excellent example of how to do this well.
Games companies have been using product communities to build pre-launch buzz since time immemorial. It’s hard to argue with their results, the industry produced over $45 billion in 2014, and has been on a steady upwards trend since its inception. Product communities are considered a no brainer for AAA games companies, the idea of launching a product without one would be considered absurd.
Businesses outside of the games industry shouldn’t ignore this trend. Regardless of your industry, a product community can be the secret weapon that makes your product launch a success:
How a Community Helps Your Pre-Launch
Building Crowdfunding Support
Far before a product launch is feasible, a customer community can be instrumental in securing funding. The games industry has seen huge success with this approach, funding huge titles such as:
- Double Fine Adventure ($3,336,371 dollars raised)
- Shadowrun Returns ($1,836,447)
- Pillars of Eternity ($3,986,929)
- TUG by Nerd Kingdom ($293,184 dollars raised)
Customer communities have been crucial to these companies. Excitement and buzz spread out from their forums into other communities, giving rise to the kind of viral success that makes for a great crowdfunding campaign. Outside of the video games industry, companies like Pebble are seeing fantastic results by leveraging their customer community to crowdfund.
Creating Advocacy and Buzz
There’s so much noise on the internet that getting the attention of your audience isn’t enough. You need to retain it. If your prospective customers have a place to hang out with each other, you’re much more likely to keep them interested in your product until the launch. Community members are all potential customers, and the more they interact with each other (and you) the more likely they are to convert. A customer community allows you to stay at the front of your customer’s minds and the strong social bonds they build give them more reason to invest time and money in your brand.
Building strong relationships with your customers is crucial to your pre-launch marketing. Your community members are your strongest advocates and prospective customers are much more likely to trust their word than that of your marketing team.
Identify Power Users for Focused Testing
There’s no question that the fans in your community are going to be the most passionate. Their very presence is a sign of that. The games industry uses its biggest fans to beta test their products. The fans get a feeling of elite status and the chance to contribute their thoughts on the product, as well as a first look at new content. The development team get a free source of feedback and can identify pain points and problems ahead of release.
Use this in your own product development. Your community is a fantastic resource for testing your products, and being part of a focus group reinforces their bonds with your brand. Contributing to your products helps your community to feel like a part of the process, which feeds into the marketing benefits we’ve already mentioned.
A Product Community Keeps Momentum High for Your Launch
Getting customers excited for an upcoming product isn’t enough any more. There are too many options, too many different things fighting for their attention. Once a customer is attracted, you need to keep them engaged. There’s no better way to do that than a customer community. If your customers don’t have a place to talk with each other about your products, they’ll simply drift off and find something more interesting to look at. By the time your product launches, it might be too late.