Software product release during the pandemic: how to adjust your go-to-market strategy

As the COVID-19 epidemic broke out, a fair share of companies was at different stages of new software product release. For the first several months, most of them had been lying low, putting any planned launches on halt. Yet today, as the initial uncertainty and panic have subdued, and companies are resuming their working routine, there’s a question of whether it is wise to finish what was started and put the shelved software out on the market. 

One thing is clear — the pre-pandemic approach to product releases is no longer good enough. The new normal we find ourselves in today requires new ways of building customer connections, crafting marketing materials, and promoting on social media, to name but a few. Let’s explore how you can modify your go-to-market strategy to fit the current context to make certain your new product release will not flop.

Reevaluate your opportunities

Begin with taking a hard, honest look at the software you intend to put on the market and ask yourself: how can my product be useful to customers during these hard times? Do not feel outright disheartened if your tool doesn’t fall into telemedicine, ecommerce, or team collaboration categories, the demand for which has skyrocketed for obvious reasons.

During the lockdown, people around the world are actively exploring new opportunities for entertainment and personal development as well as reimagining common pastimes to fit in with the new way of living. All you need is to tailor your product’s benefits to the reshaped consumer needs. This will call for a do-over of your pre-pandemic market research with the focus on the sentiment permeating your target audience.

Photography app VSCO sets the example of proper positioning with the launch of its new “Montage” feature. In their release announcement, the company emphasized how disconnected people became due to the imposed social distancing and offered their new visual tool as a way to relieve the stress of isolation.   

Still, it is worth noting that not all products will prove relevant or appropriate. In such a case, it’s better to postpone the launch than take a chance to release it and face a lack of interest or even a public backlash because of your insensibility.   

Make your communication tone-smart

In a crisis like this, it would be easier for a brand to turn a blind eye to the sensitive subject of the COVID-19 outbreak and simply leave it out of your brand communication. Yet, a supportive and empathic acknowledgement of the situation is a core consumer expectation today.

According to Statista’s global survey, clients are unforgiving to brands’ failure to address the pandemic properly, with the whopping 76% of consumers in China, 27% in the US, and 16% in Germany who convinced acquaintances against doing business with miscommunicating companies.

This is what you can do to properly align the tone and content of your promotional materials to the current context.

Translate your brand values

First of all, acknowledge the situation in your message and express empathy with the hardships your audience may be experiencing. At the same time, keep it succinct to avoid annoying or distressing the customers who have been hearing this subject addressed countless times in official statements, news, and brand materials.

Instead, emphasize your sense of responsibility and your efforts to assist customers. When outlining your products’ benefits, tone down your content from outright promotional to value-driven. 

Alter your visuals

Also, make sure to address your promotional imagery before the release. In the times of social distancing and travel restrictions, any depictions of social gatherings, from offices and public venues to gyms and cafes, become a serious brand positioning blunder. If you have such visuals on your website or social media accounts published before the pandemic, it isn’t necessary to strip them down. Yet for your new product release, it is highly advisable to opt for imagery that doesn't emphasize physical contact.     

Ensure cultural sensitivity

If you plan a multi-country release, you may also want to review your application’s content and navigational elements for words and phrases that become faux pas in the light of current events. The expressions innocent enough before, like “killer deal”, “go viral”, “spread the word”, and so on, now will be met with hostility.

As the virus’s impact varies from country to country, the best of all would be to take a granular approach and analyze your content in the context of each nation separately, seeking out off-putting phrases. We at a1qa suggest following up your efforts with localization QA and testing to ensure that your revision did not cause any formatting disturbances, GUI disruptions, or functionality glitches.

Avoid stirring unease

The pandemic became the source of ongoing emotional distress for millions of people, so take care not to invoke additional fear and panic with your content. To ensure this, avoid overly emotional, over-the-top language when you bring up the subject of COVID-19. Refrain from giving your audience any recommendations that are beyond your competence and rely on credible statistics or news sources. Last but not least, do not exploit the pandemic as the product’s selling point. As stated in Kantar's COVID-19 Barometer study, 75% of the respondents consider this a serious misstep on a brand’s part.     

Plug in social media

Today, social media see unprecedented gains in use and engagement metrics. The lockdown and physical distancing have made social media not only the platform for staying connected, entertainment, and self-expression, but also a real-time news source and a conversation channel. The dramatic spike opens the door for companies to improve on their product and brand awareness.

Meanwhile, the crisis has altered user’s expectations regarding social media promotion, with some previously acceptable strategies becoming a no-go in the public eye. Consider the following steps to freshen up your SMM and keep your campaign relevant to the current agenda.

Give your consumers a voice

If user-generated content wasn’t part of your marketing handbook before, now it is high time you give the stage to your customers. In the time of uncertainty, people are more likely to trust other consumers just like them with their genuine opinions, rather than brands with perfect photos and vague descriptions.

By doing as little as showcasing authentic reviews or as much as launching a full-blown UGC campaign, you also prioritize the importance of customers’ judgement for your work and your willingness to hear their opinions. However, if you choose to pursue this path, it is vital to learn how to handle negative reviews and criticism properly.   

Turn to influencer marketing

With people increasingly flocking to social media, relying on a social media influencer to endorse your new product is one of the most effective marketing strategies. An influencer, who is constantly engaging and conversing with their audience, generates more trust: their authenticity plays well with the pandemic-induced need for honesty.

When looking for the right person to become your product’s mouthpiece, pay attention to the influencer’s content quality, knowledge of the industry, way of connecting with the audience, and storytelling abilities. When discussing partnership details, share your ideas but give the influencer creative freedom — if scripted by a brand representative, their product review will look feigned and pushy.  

Support the cause

At this challenging time, people are increasingly pinning their hopes on brands to be altruistic. The previously mentioned Kantar's COVID-19 Barometer study reports that consumers do not mind advertising campaigns as long as brands make a positive contribution to the society. To this end, if you have not already taken any support actions, it will be wise to do it to accompany your product release.

For one thing, your brand can contribute to the fight against the pandemic by donating a share of the new product’s profits to healthcare organizations or collaborating with your local charity. Another viable option is corporate volunteering, where you can help vulnerable social groups in your community. Your team can also offer expertise to organizations that develop COVID-19 associated technologies.  

Beyond this, you can follow the example of brands that stepped up with the initiatives supporting their customers through these times. Some offered flexible payment options or opened up free access to their premium content, while others launched special features to entertain their users or support their educational and fitness efforts.

Bottom line

Despite the current turbulence, there is still a place to run a business, come up with innovations, and prove valuable to your customers. The pandemic and nearly-global lockdown have brought about a significant shift in consumption patterns, but at the same time created demand for digital entertainment, education, and personal development that need to be covered by new software products. 

Meanwhile, consumers expect transparent, genuine communication and a community-minded position from brands, and can be extremely critical of those who fail to hit the right note. Therefore, this time gives brands the opportunity to not only win new customers but also to build trust and demonstrate goodwill through a mindful and emphatic marketing campaign. 

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