Let’s do launch

Accessibility to real-time information as it unfolds has dramatically changed the landscape of business-to-business marketing. Launching a new product or service without taking advantage of the power of information technology can be a disastrous recipe.

Developing a new product/service without a strategic marketing plan in place is like the club without the sandwich, the macaroni without the cheese, the peanut butter without the jelly.

The key ingredients are integration and execution.

Get it while it’s hot!

Introducing the world’s most innovative, cost-effective, relevant new product/ service won’t positively impact your organization’s bottom line without developing and implementing effective marketing and communications plans.

What’s the difference you ask? While the communications plan is part of a strategic marketing plan, the latter defines your business and financial objectives, what the product and/or service is, to whom, how and where it will be sold, and at what price. A communications plan spells out the mediums and methods you will use when launching your new product/service. It answers the question ‘how will you get the word out?’.

The successful launch boils down to getting the right message to the right people at the right time. A new and improved rotisserie grill probably won’t be heating up sales if it’s launched to vegetarians in November.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

If your organization hasn’t developed a comprehensive marketing strategy prior to or along with the development of your new product/service, it’s time to compile or obtain the critical information that will help you devise a winning strategy.

Ok, so what’s critical? Let’s start with research: Before you even begin to develop a marketing program, enough analysis and thought should have been given to the ‘voice, needs, and wants of your target market.’ All this will help you establish objectives, and define benchmark measurements for your launch plans.

The other basic thing is your database. Do you have one? If yes, who’s on your list? What information is included with each record? More importantly, when was the last time you updated and reviewed your list?

While thousands of entries in a database may sound impressive, accuracy is more important than quantity. If your prospect database hasn’t been updated for the past six months, your database may now be stale. Contact lists degrade a few percent points each month.

This is all assuming that your list represents the audience for the product/service you are launching. If you need to reach additional market segments, then a new list needs to be procured and/or developed. More about database development in our GORP section.

Get fresh with your prospects

Information needs to be verified frequently. Make sure you have the right names, spellings, titles, street and email addresses, etc. It can take some effort, but updating your list just before launching your product is critical. Your concerted efforts with every other aspect of the product launch will be wasted if you don’t reach the right people. Besides, a confirmation call can become a timely ‘sales’ call.

Rather than waste resources on disinterested or unqualified prospects, be sure to target the right industries, the right tiers in each industry, and the appropriate people (i.e., decision-makers, influencers) in each organization.

The more you know about the market segments you’re targeting, the more pertinent you can be with your brand positioning and marketing strategy. You might choose to segment your market even further and, from there, modify your message slightly for each segment.

Ahhh, segmentation! The process of dividing your market and grouping distinct individuals or organizations that share the same characteristics to ‘personalize your message’ can be laborious but definitely worth the effort.

Engineers may not react to a message crafted for CFOs. Engineers respond to solutions-oriented messages, while CFOs respond to offers that have a positive impact on the bottom line. Get the picture? Segment your database, and develop relevant value propositions for at least three of your major markets. Make sure your ‘offers’ make sense to each segment and that they fit your business goals. Your marketing plan must also contain a process where sales team members can effectively follow up leads to shorten the sales cycle.

‘Pâté de foie gras’ sounds more appetizing than ‘livers of fattened geese’

Brand identity and positioning are critical ingredients in the successful new-product launch. Once you’ve conceived potential ideas for a brand identity, you’ll want to be able to answer most or all of these questions in the affirmative: Does the name help differentiate this new brand from the competition? Is the name trademarkable? Is the URL available? Are the name and visual identity (logo) unique and memorable? Does the name relate to your other products/services or your company? Does a brand message/positioning statement exist? An effective message/statement sets the tone and should be expanded upon and proven throughout the marketing communications.

You sell or I sell?

Once you have developed the brand strategy, the next step is to identify the best sales route. If you already have an in-house sales team, will selling this product/service be complementary to what they currently offer to existing clients and prospects?

If you do not have a sales team and new to direct sales, careful consideration must be given when exploring various sales channels—do you go direct? Hire an independent rep firm? Explore sales partnerships? Or, a combination of these? There are pros and cons to each channel that must be evaluated thoroughly.

Establish a balanced diet

Implementing an integrated, cross-supporting marketing communication campaign is key to the success of your product launch. Your new product/service will require a combination of tactics. It’s unlikely that the use of one medium alone will generate significant leads. The right media mix will help you build awareness and trust, and convince prospects that this product will address their specific needs. Launching your new product/service combining offline and online marketing communications campaign is your best bet for a successful go-to-market strategy. It is also important to consider aligning online activities with your business objectives.

Different mediums typically yield different results:

Targeted direct mail gets your audiences’ attention (assuming you use creative direct mail pieces and not slapped-together junk mail). If the number of prospects allows (hundreds vs. thousands), consider a dimensional package, which can not only increase your response rate, but will likely make a stronger impression and be passed on by recipients’ to others in the organization. Such packages are often kept and are ongoing reminders of your company, product, and service.

Email/web landing page whets your audiences’ appetites for your upcoming launch. Email messages provide your prospects with convenient links to a landing page specific to the new-product/service offering. These mediums are an easy way for recipients to respond. When you have segmented your market, it is then easier to develop a targeted email campaign that will produce a higher conversion rate. Also, these mediums can be tracked, and intelligence can be gathered for sales & marketing to act upon.

Your website should provide your audiences with an immediate, positive first impression. They should be able to pre-qualify your company/product/service before they contact you. Your website allows your visitors to experience content to the fullest extent, so take advantage of it: make it more interactive and user-friendly.

Once you have defined the right profile for your prospects database, created your website, and launched your first direct marketing campaign, studying the results will provide your sales force the intelligence about who to follow up first and what to say. Email + web analytics can take your promotions to the next level. You can go beyond the basic clicks and hits by evaluating multi-touch best practices and establishing systems that will serve as a benchmark for the next round of your campaign.

Trade show activities result in visibility and make a tangible impression about your company and product. Show your prospects, up close and in person, the benefits of your new product/service. Along with a dynamic exhibit, offer demonstrations, forums, etc. Be sure to capture complete data from your visitors so they can be qualified and added to your direct marketing list.

A literature system should be designed to be flexible for various audiences and venues. Variations can be designed for event hand outs, leave-behinds for sales calls, inquiries, follow-up, etc.

The content of these documents may be oriented toward brand positioning (corporate, product and/or service), feature/benefit, technical, industry education, testimonial, and case study examples.

The ‘system’ may be designed to be combined as a complete ‘booklet’ or as individual stand-alone pieces. The individual pieces could be collected in a ‘holding device’ such as a custom-designed folder or a unique binder. If there is an opportunity to make multiple presentations, the pieces could be introduced successively.

Generally speaking, the copy in your literature should be on the light side and easy to peruse. The main objective is to provide an overview of your company and its offerings. Drive your audience to your website to get the rest of the story.

Deep and broad website content enhances search engine optimization and encourages visitors to return to your site. Unlike literature, you know when a customer or prospect is at your site, what captures his or her interest, when he or she returns, etc. You won’t be able to glean this ‘intelligence’ with your literature. Think of your lit as a stepping stone to building greater awareness.

Publicity, via news releases, press kits, or media events generates credibility and brand awareness. Build rapport with editors and position your company as an authority in your industry.

A newsletter is a great warming device to keep your company and new product/service fresh in the minds of your potential customers. Collect success stories/case studies periodically. Disseminate this information via email, post to your website and/or publish a reader-friendly newsletter that features these compelling stories. This will greatly increase the chance that when the prospects are ready, they will think of your company’s product/service first.

Advertising builds general brand awareness and can familiarize the audience with your company and/or product/service benefits.

When all is said and done, you need a plan, and you need to effectively execute it. A poorly executed marketing campaign may cost you the ‘life’ of your new product.

Call Borns, without reservations

Borns can spice up your new-product/service launch and positively impact sales. We help clients define objectives, strategy, and tactics, and build a campaign around them. Borns’ expertise encompasses market planning, branding and positioning, developing marketing communications plans and tactics, and guiding each and every step of the launch program.

We create the process and tools that get your prospects’ attention, build awareness, differentiate your entity/product/service, integrate your sales & marketing efforts, and entice your audience to respond. Please contact Randy Borns at randy@borns.com.

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How to claim a bigger piece of the pie:

1. Devise a strategic marketing plan based on research, competitive analysis, forecasting, window of opportunity, introduction phases, lead times, etc.

2. Identify your target market(s), segmenting by industry, tiers, titles, etc.

3. Determine the market position desired

4. Build, enhance, or confirm your database

5. Develop or revitalize your brand identity

6. Plan and develop tactics for reaching your target market(s)

7. Implement an inward marketing process to educate your internal staff, sales force, and dealer/distributor network so that all know the brand strategy and are prepared to promote it

8. Release the promotion to your target audience (option: start with a smaller, controlled release to allow for feedback and possibly tweaking your message)

9. Set up a leads management process to keep an eye on prospects, measure effectiveness of various tactics, and understand sales cycles

10. Have your sales force follow up with prospects

11. Keep prospects ‘warm’, and prove the viability of the product/service by communicating success stories/case studies