For manufacturers, distributors and VARs, launching a new product or line of products is typically complex and multi-faceted. It is therefore critically important to “get it right” and not waste valuable time and resources.
For B2Bs, the cost of launching a new product can be huge—often involving many departments such as R & D, engineering, purchasing, operations, management, sales and marketing—to say nothing of the executive oversight required.
It may seem obvious that before embarking on such an expensive undertaking, it’s crucial to first test its viability. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For instance, companies who have only a vague idea of who their target audience is end up missing opportunities and wasting money.
Successful product launches are the result of a clear-cut strategy and integrated process that relies heavily on market research and the resolving of up-front issues. Below are four steps to help ensure your industrial company’s new product launch meets expectations.
1. Do the Market Research
Some companies are so captivated by their own product ideas and innovations that they fail to do their market research and due diligence or they ignore what it reveals. When considering if you should bring a new product on-board, the following need to be analyzed:
- Market Demand – Conducting a survey of your customers and industry colleagues is an excellent way to explore the market potential of a new product. If applicable, be sure to also talk to your R&D people and find out where the idea came from.
- Competition – A SWOT analysis of your product and market (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) will help to better evaluate your product’s positioning in the market and identify hidden opportunities to gain a distinctive positioning of its own.
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – What are the product’s features and benefits that separate it from competitors (e.g. lowest cost, highest quality, technological advancements or first of its kind).
- Competitive Analysis – Identify the top 5-10 direct and indirect competitive products and their companies. Prepare rebuttals to their USPs and their Features, Advantages and Benefits (FAB).
- Pricing and ROI – What is the ideal price point of your new product and your expected return? Do you need to scale pricing as it gains acceptance?
2. Test Your Product
Once you’ve decided that the product you want to develop or distribute has real value, it’s time to test it prior to take-off. One of the goals of a product launch is to bring about early customer acceptance, followed by timely adoption. To achieve this, make the product available to key influencers such as favorite customers, industry opinion leaders and editors of trade publications. Obtain buy-in and get them to test your product and offer feedback. Then answer these questions:
- Does the product do what it is supposed to do?
- Does it fill the need it is attempting to address?
- What valuable criticisms, reactions and comments did you get?
- How does it compare to competitive products?
If your product falls significantly short, you may need to invest more time in development. Alternatively, there are times when an early launch of a product with minimum viability will help you get valuable data on what your customers really need. Remember: the objective should be continuous improvement, not perfection out of the gate.
3. Implement the “3Rs”
To drive-in qualified leads, a successful sales strategy needs the following 3Rs:
- Right Market – Be sure to develop unique customer profiles based on your market research and testing. This will properly define your prospects so that you’re delivering your message to the correct audience.
- Right Message – Craft a value proposition by drawing attention to key customer benefits and then develop a consistent theme. Focus on the various buyer profiles you’ve identified, but be aware that they move through a natural buying cycle. Use awareness contentearly on and persuasive content
- Right Channels – It is important to select the optimal media blend for your company’s specific situation and product. Examples include print and trade show collateral, articles, customer seminars, website retooling, microsites, PPC ads, How-to videos, news releases, white papers, email marketing, social media and webinars.
Lastly, as you roll out your product, be sure to keep producing fresh content such as announcements outlining novel product uses, new customer testimonials or details about how the product benefits specific buyer personas.
4. Measure and Refine
Once your product launch is underway, you need to gauge results. You’ll want to make regular measurements that track progress week-by-week or month-by-month, depending on the pace of the product rollout. Split your measurements by channel so you know which are driving the most leads and sales. Use your analytics data to measure website visitors, page views, social shares and other important metrics in order to help you refine your campaigns.
There is no guarantee that any specific product launch will translate into success in the marketplace. In fact, there have been some epic failures; just ask Coca Cola.
However, with proper planning, execution and follow-up, you and your customers stand a good chance of having a successful and rewarding product launch experience. Prepare for liftoff!
Want to know more? Be sure to download our e-guide and visit our website at www.moresalesusa.com.