You only get one chance at a first impression. Clichés are cliché for a reason. When launching a new product, the consumers’ first experience can make or break the launch result. Luckily, brands can get consumers involved in the launch process earlier than ever to lower the risk and increase the success of new innovations.

Co-innovate new products

Consumers know what they want, even before it’s available. Trends in their feedback reveal ideas for new products, new features, and new designs. Trends in their negative sentiments can even inspire innovations before consumers even know they want them. And asking consumers about their needs directly can be the best way to inspire your research and development teams, and takes much of the risk out of launching something new.

3M invited teachers active in their social communities to an online focus group, to discuss their classroom needs. The conversations inspired reusable tape strips – an original product with demonstrated need.

Beta test pre-launch

Another way to lower the risk in product launches is to test the product with select groups of consumers. Letting consumers use the product in a structured in-house focus group can produce insights, but the results are biased by the inauthentic setting. Instead, let your select consumers test the product in the real world, using it as a real user would. Sending samples to highly-engaged consumers and inviting their feedback reveals whether the product does what it claims, what consumers most like about it, any confusion in proper use, etc.

Feedback showed that consumers were using Rubbermaid’s Produce Saver containers improperly. The product helps keep whole, uncut produce fresher longer. But consumers were storing pre-cut fruits and veggies, which still rotted at the same rate – improper use that a pre-launch sampling group could’ve revealed even sooner. Using the feedback, Rubbermaid changed the product packaging to make proper use more clear, improving future consumers’ experiences.

Inspire authentic launch marketing

What do those beta testers say is best about your new product? Use that praise in your launch marketing, echoing authentic sentiments to ring true to new consumers. Back it up with real consumer feedback – possibly even using direct review snippets in ads, as hair care brand Lexxus did in launching their new ProMend split-end system.

Or, try flipping the logic on its head: what don’t consumers like about other companies’ products? Samsung used real tweets about the iPhone 5 to inspire their new marketing campaign – poking fun at the long lines, new connector ports, and other changes real consumers complained about on Twitter.

Encourage immediate conversations to build interest

Getting people chatting about your new product online and off will boost your launch success, so give people a reason to talk. Taco Bell encouraged social posts around the launch of their new Doritos Locos Taco, and made those talkers feel special by featuring them. The fast food chain featured tweets with the hashtag #DoritosLocosTaco on their food packaging, and even created a TV commercial using photos of the taco on Instagram taken by real customers.

Act fast on opportunities to improve the first experience

Encouraging immediate conversations lets you find trends in initial feedback – and may reveal opportunities to improve the product nigh immediately. When Dominos launched their new chicken line, ads and product packaging encouraged consumers to instantly rate the chicken on the brand site. Early reviews showed customers complaining about pieces of chicken that were too small. Corporate marketing teams immediately instructed all franchises to toss pieces of chicken smaller than a certain size – changing the product in the first 24 hours of launch, and ensuring a great experience for new consumers.

Get consumers involved in your product launches as early as possible, from ideation to marketing and finally launch. Let them introduce you to new consumers to craft that winning first impression.