How to Launch a Startup Successfully: Soft vs. Hard Launch Differences

When launching a new product into the market, there are two strategies that product managers and marketers can use. You can either opt for a soft launch, which is when you introduce the product to the market in a discreet manner and to a small and targeted audience. Or, you can opt to launch the product with a hard launch, making a large entrance and utilizing excitement to spread product awareness, quickly. As with all marketing strategies, each has its own pros and cons and scenarios in which one strategy will be better over the other. 

What Are the Pros & Cons of a Soft Launch & a Hard Launch? 

Soft Launch Positives

  • You can gradually present your product to an audience while maintaining full control of the release platforms and who can access the software/application. This works well if you want to monitor the behavior of real users, gain tractions, or scale slowly step by step. 
  • You can receive quick feedback from users and tweak the product application quickly and immediately. This works very well for products that haven’t quite found their fit in the market, as you can fine tune the details or pivot as needed. 
  • You can segment your users within a closed environment via a limited launch into specific geographical areas. Customers are always happy to experience a new product before a global launch. 
  • You can fine tune your user interface, optimize your core features, and spark up expectations. 
  • It takes less time to see results which allows you to gauge your customers’ reaction. The first initial data that you gather is critical in the success of your product as it determines your next steps. 

The cons with a soft launch is that it can have a lot of overhead as you will need a substantial budget to cover all expenses while you are gaining customer feedback and fine tuning your application. This means you will need to cover development costs, hosting fees, the initial marketing, and the cost of submitting your product to market.

Hard Launch Positives

  • Since you already have a finished product, customers are more likely to pick it up knowing that they are getting everything that it offers. This allows you to get a faster return on investment and potentially a higher customer engagement rate. 
  • A hard launch puts you into the market without competitors. Even if any information is leaked about your product prior to launch, it will take your competitors a significant amount of time to replicate you and catch up. This gives you market advantage. 
  • You have complete control over the marketing of your product. Why? You have the time to pre-plan your marketing strategy based and target precisely who your product fits. 
  • Launching hard into the market is a big event. The anticipation of a big launch reveal creates mystery and buzz around your product. This works in your favor as it generates hype and interest. 

The cons of a hard launch are that it is more expensive as you will need to reach a wider audience through multiple channels and place more capital into advertising resources to receive a quick return on investment. Your product will also be harder to tweak and making changes will be more expensive on a finished product. Finally, your audience will have higher expectations due to the buildup of interest that your product has created. 

When to Choose a Soft Launch Over a Hard Launch and Vice Versa? 

Contrary to popular belief, not all products need to be launched in a grand and boisterous way. A product can benefit from a soft launch if you are a small team and are in the market for the first time, require time to test the viability of your product, or you need to refine your product’s features by utilizing feedback from a small target audience. Beyond this, a product is well suited to a soft launch if you need to check price acceptance, need to test features, or need to test how much marketing is required to get your audience to engage with you.

On the other hand, you should go all in with a hard launch if you are 100% sure you can deliver your product on time, you have a product that is stable and reliable on all fronts, and you have eliminated all critical bugs and issues. When you are a large and trusted company, hard launches work well, especially if you have a detailed marketing plan and you have created enough “buzz” or “hype” around the product.