The difference between a soft launch and a hard launch

In business, the terms ‘soft launch’ and ‘hard launch’ refer to two different techniques for introducing a new product or service to the market.  A soft launch is less aggressive, as the name indicates, where as a hard launch is louder with the goal of generating buzz.

A soft launch is a technique that introduces a product into the market quietly without drawing too much attention to it. This is a more gradual technique which is particularly good for startups releasing a beta version, minimum viable product, or are otherwise lacking features they intend to add.  A soft launch refers to releasing a product/service to a closed audience as well as a public launch accompanied by little to no marketing.

A hard launch is great for creating excitement and getting your product or service into the hands of a large number of people.  A hard launch builds anticipation through things such as countdowns, previews, etc.  Hard launches often require a marketing budget.

There is no little to no talk of a ‘medium launch’ as this half-way approach tend to fail to achieve the goals of soft and hard launches rather than obtaining the best of both worlds.

Why do a soft launch?

Soft launches are particularly good for:

  • Small teams and first-time entrepreneurs
  • Testing the viability of a product
  • Refining features with a small audience
  • Gaining valuable feedback
  • Focusing on product development
  • Determine price points
  • A/B testing different features
  • Helps you determine how much of a marketing investment you actually need to put into future marketing.

When to do a hard launch?

A hard launch is best reserved for those who meet the following criteria:

  • When you’re sure you can deliver on time and to a large audience.
  • Your server is reliable.
  • You’ve gotten rid of all the bugs and other problems
  • You’re a big company with a bold new product/feature
  • You have a marketing budget and a good idea of where and where not to spend it
  • You have successfully been able to build anticipation in your target market.

A soft launch is often followed by a hard launch, as a properly executed soft launch prepares a product and team for a hard launch.  A soft launch is more consistent with the concept of a lean development and has become a popular approach for release, particularly among technology startups.

Cahoots recently soft launched cahoots.com.  We launched a minimum viable product, which is lacking many of the features we will be releasing over the next two months.  We did a soft launch to help us learn about our product, improve it, and test it’s viability.

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