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.