Five Mistakes That Can Doom Your New Product

For months, you’ve planned and longed for this day–the day you reveal your exciting new product. You’ve given it a catchy name and sparkling branding. You’ve invested heavily in sales brochures, ad campaigns, and a new page on your website. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the project. Every detail is finally perfect, and everyone in your company is tingling with confidence. 

But as the days and then weeks go by, the silence is deafening. Few calls, fewer sales, and everyone in your company is tingling with apprehension.

What went wrong? Shouldn’t a great product sell itself? According to the Harvard Business School, 75% and 95% of new products (consumer packaged goods) launched this year will fail. If new products sold themselves, this percentage would be far lower.

Developing a new product or starting a new business is more complex than having a great idea. It requires research and an intimate understanding of the target market, competitors, and your company. 

The road to a successful company or product launch is not straight. Many well-worn trails branch from the road to success. Choose one of these side trails, and your product and business will become mired in the weeds.

Following are five mistakes we can easily make when launching a new product or business.

Mistake 1: Inadequate market research

Failing to learn about the customer

We tend to believe that our great product will mostly sell itself. We think that if we tell customers that our product exists, they will understand its advantages and immediately purchase it. 

This false assumption comes from thinking that the customer thinks, acts, and believes like we do. For example, some business owners are thrifty people who like to save money and get good deals. We assume that our customers will not be willing to pay more for our product than we would be willing to pay. This is not necessarily true.

No customer is exactly like you. Not even your brother shops exactly like you. He may share some of your tastes and values but not all of them. The same is true of your customers.

Sometimes, it feels like customers live in a different universe because they look at things so differently. Some common areas of difference between you and your customers include the following:

  • The value of time
  • The value of quality
  • The value of beauty
  • The value of security
  • Level of education
  • Worldview
  • Culture and subculture

We waste a lot of time when we do not understand the customer. We may make mistakes like the following: 

  • We invest in creating features customers don’t value.
  • We miss opportunities to add value because we don’t know what customers want or need.
  • We assume we know what is best because we are passionate about the product or service.
  • We miscommunicate more frequently.
  • We are unable to design and deliver a great customer experience.

No, we cannot know everything. Yes, every business needs to make assumptions or educated guesses. But to avoid being hurt by false assumptions, test whether your key assumptions are accurate. Here are some ways to test your key assumptions: 

  1. Have conversations with actual customers. 
  2. Continually solicit customer feedback.
  3. Learn how they think and what they are looking for. 
  4. Research the market and the competition. 
  5. Try a product trial or a test case. Launch a prototype or beta version of your product to catch weaknesses. Improve your offering based on feedback.
  6. Teach your employees to initiate conversations with clients and learn about their needs.

Don’t make the same mistake as the inventors of Segway. Originally designed to be a fuel-efficient alternative to commuting by car, the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter became essentially a novelty ride for tourists. Why did the $100 million investment fail to pay off? Company researchers didn’t understand that many users would find the Segway too awkward to park, too heavy to take into their apartments, and too confusing to integrate into downtown traffic.

Five mistakes that will kill sales of your new product

Mistake 2: Insufficient product differentiation

Targeting too broad a market

Imagine that we are starting a shoe company. To keep things simple, we decide to make a single shoe to sell to anyone. We design it to fit average people the world over.

How will we create this amazing shoe? We’ll start with polling and data to learn the average shoe size, the most popular color, the favorite style, and the preferred shoe material. We’ll blend the three most popular styles with the three most favored materials in one average size for our world-dominating shoe.

Why are you shaking your head? Won’t our new shoe break sales records? We wouldn’t even wear this shoe ourselves. And yet, in more minor ways, we attempt to design products with broad appeal and satisfy very few.

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin writes, “Find the market niche first, then create the remarkable product—not the other way around.” Instead of designing something for everyone, focus on a select group of customers and create a solution that fits them perfectly.

Failing to articulate why the customer should buy from you

Many small businesses fail to give their customers a compelling reason to choose their products over their competitors. A clear, unique selling proposition (USP) is critical to help your company and products attract customers in a competitive marketplace.

Bland messaging about great products, competitive prices, or excellent service causes you to blend with your competitors and be easily overlooked.

  • “We carry top-quality products.” Can you prove it?
  • “We offer the best pricing.” Can you win a price war?
  • “We provide great customer service.” Should customers expect anything less?
  • “We are a fourth-generation company doing business since 1927.” Who cares?

What makes your business different from similar businesses? What difference in company DNA makes your company stand out? Here are some questions that will guide you in discovering your USP.

  • What problem do you solve for customers that competitors don’t? 
  • What unique value do you provide?
  • What is exclusive or unusual about your product?
  • How do you make your customers’ lives easier or better?
  • Why do customers choose you over other options?

Once you have defined your USP, incorporate it into your brand messaging and marketing materials. Highlight what differentiates your product from all similar products. A robust USP is vital for sales success.

Copying your competition

When launching into business, you might feel there is nothing new to do or create. This thinking may lead you to copy what you have seen someone else in your community doing.

Copying someone else is easy. That’s why it’s appealing. Perhaps you plan to modify the product to distinguish it from your competitor’s product, but this is not enough.

It’s not fair to the other person to mimic their product. If you are considering this approach, ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone else did to me what I am planning to do to them?”

So what should you do instead? 

  1. Explore another niche. What types of customers are underserved in your market?
  2. Perhaps you could tackle the same problem from a different angle by creating a solution that doesn’t yet exist, at least in your industry.
  3. Innovate to fill gaps in your competitors’ offering lineup.
  4. Look for a new problem to solve, which means an opportunity for a new product. Examine frustrations in your life that you can solve with a product or service.
  5. Consider moving to another geographic area to start your business.

Market differentiation clarifies the choice in your customers’ minds and gives them a reason to do business with you.

Mistake 3: Ineffective marketing and messaging

Devaluing marketing

Most of us tend to avoid things we don’t understand. We tend to focus on the things that are familiar to us.

Many people in business know how to make a product or deliver a service. They may even be passionate about it. But do they know how to create a system that consistently collects orders? Uncertainty about how to create an order-generating system too often leads to slow or sporadic sales.

The following question reveals a fundamental difference in how business owners view marketing: “Do I see the cost of sales and marketing systems as an expense or an investment?”

While it’s true that the bank won’t loan money to a small business against a box of brochures or a logo, your marketing efforts are an asset, just like a machine in your shop. Marketing expenses are an investment in your company’s health and should provide a good return on investment.

Haphazard marketing strategy

As you know, just pouring money into sales and marketing doesn’t guarantee that loyal customers will suddenly appear. You can haphazardly throw cash into a marketing money pit or craft a thoughtful strategy based on research and best practices. Guess which has a greater chance of filling your production capacity?

Formulating a clear marketing strategy is essential to establishing and growing your business. Recent data shows that only half of small businesses have a clearly defined marketing plan. Without intentional messaging and marketing, you will find difficulty generating leads and closing sales.

Focus on the most effective channels to reach your target audience. Your marketing plan will also help maximize your marketing budget and achieve the best return on your investment. The effort you invest in strategic marketing will pay dividends with more robust lead acquisition, customer retention, and referrals.

Failing to live up to brand promise

A clear, consistent brand message is integral for business success. Inconsistent brand messaging sends mixed signals that confuse customers. 

With thoughtful, cohesive messaging, businesses tell their unique story and make meaningful connections with customers. The net result? Brand recognition and brand loyalty for sustainable growth.

More important than telling a brand message is living it. If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, promise it. If you promise it, fulfill it. Poor sales could result from a disconnect between what you promised and what the customer experienced. 

Take the case of Kellogg’s Breakfast Mates. Kellogg Company advertised Breakfast Mates as the snack solution for children when their parents weren’t home to serve them. In reality, the milk, cereal, and spoons came in packaging that most children found unfriendly. Do you wonder why sales of Breakfast Mates were disappointing?

Mistake 4: Poor product positioning

Adopting a poor pricing strategy

For nineteen years, Walmart’s slogan was “Always Low Prices.” Should you also adopt a low-price strategy? After all, Walmart dominates supermarket retailers, and who doesn’t like to save money?

Pricing is more complex than this simplistic approach. What if your potential customers are looking for the best, not the cheapest? What if low prices communicate low quality and turn customers away? Don’t assume low prices automatically result in higher sales or sufficient profits.

Misunderstanding how to price products has been the downfall of many businesses. If you only use a cost-plus pricing strategy, learn other pricing models like value-added pricing. Ask questions to determine how much your prospective customers are willing to pay for the value you provide.

In his book The Personal MBA, Josh Kauffman highlights the value of knowing several pricing methods. He writes, “Use the other methods as a baseline, but focus on discovering how much your offer is worth to the party you hope to sell it to, then set your price appropriately.”

Be sure to calculate the true cost of your product. This cost includes research and development, overhead, marketing, manufacturing, and delivery.

Failing to communicate the value of your product

Once you have identified the product’s target market segment and understood its unique selling points, tailor your marketing strategy to position the product in the minds of potential customers.

Do your customers understand the quality and value of your product? Train your salespeople to explain the value propositions of your products and services to prospects. Complement your pricing strategy with a concerted effort to communicate your product’s true value to the customer so they will gladly pull out their wallets to exchange money for this value.

Mistake 5: Inflexibility

Inflexible customer service

Poor customer service may result from a lack of thought. More often, the selfishness of inflexibility creates a lackluster customer experience. We do business in a way that is comfortable for us. If a customer needs something outside our comfort zone, we naturally resist.

Poor customer service can destroy your business reputation, especially during a new product rollout. Unhappy customers won’t buy from you again, won’t recommend your product or company, and may leave negative reviews that sour other customers.

Common customer service complaints include:

  • Delayed response to inquiries
  • Uninterested or rude staff
  • Unclear pricing and hidden fees
  • Not following up on complaints
  • Insufficient product stock

Build relationships with your customers. Respond promptly. Go the extra mile. Fulfill the Golden Rule. Take care of your customers because it is the right thing to do. Peripheral rewards include repeat clients, referrals, and sales growth.

Unwillingness to adapt 

Customer needs are continually changing. Businesses need to adapt constantly to stay competitive. Failure to innovate turns away customers and eventually dooms your business to failure. Kodak discovered this when they underestimated the digital photography revolution and suffered financially.

Small businesses don’t generally need immediate, revolutionary change. Communicate with your customers. Identify their pain points and address those issues. Survey your clients to understand evolving needs and preferences. Keep an eye on new products or services from your competitors. Make innovation and improvement a regular part of your company operations. Don’t just pull it off the shelf when it’s time to create a unique product. Adaptability means survivability for small businesses.


By now, you may be feeling apprehensive or overwhelmed by the thought of rolling out a new product or starting a new business. Don’t become paralyzed! Rather, understanding these pitfalls and how to avoid them will give you a solid foundation for growing your business through new or improved products and services. Evaluate your plans, products, and prices to stay on the road to success.

About the Author: Lyndon Martin is Rosewood’s Messaging Director. He collaborated with the Messaging Team and the Sales Team to create this article. Contact Lyndon and the Rosewood team at