PR agencies and investors constantly wrestle with the question of when to announce a new company or a new product. Going public too long before product actually ships and you run the risk of peaking too soon – getting editors, analysts and customers jazzed about your product, only to have them lose interest (or dismiss it as vaporware) if development is delayed. Announce too late and you run the risk a competitor will steal your thunder or capture a dominant share of the market while you’re squeezing out the final bug or adding that final “must-have” function.

I recently sat in on a new virtualization-related product briefing that was going like a dream. The spokespeople were articulate and passionate, and had clearly thought about the problems they were trying to solve. The company’s technology not only sounded unique and elegant, but also addressed a very real and specific customer need.

Then I asked about customers.

As it turned out, the company was pre-briefing me for a product “announcement” the following week, but the product wouldn’t even be going into beta until after the product announcement. Not only didn’t they have a paying customer to tell me if the product worked as advertised, they couldn’t even give me someone who had played with pre-release code.

All of which left me, as we hung up, feeling considerably more skeptical about the company and its technology – not the sense you want to leave an editor or analyst with. My recommendation: Wait to announce until you have at least two beta customers who can back up your story by confirming they have a need for the product and are at least hopeful it will work. After all, only when you’re as big as, say, Microsoft can you preannounce products by years and get away with it.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

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