Few company events are more critical than launching new products and services. Many firms just go through the motions during product launches, repeating the same worn-out formulas they've always used-but every product launch is an opportunity to turn a new page in your company history, and it can make the difference between rags and riches.
Any new product can be directed toward an existing market (a set of known prospects and customers) or it can tackle new markets. But when introducing a new product or service, you need to innovate, going beyond what has been done in the past. You have a choice-let your product get lost in the noise or launch it differently.
The introduction of a new product requires a major launch effort if your company is marketing a new family of products (or services) towards a new target market-a different class of user or a different application emphasis than you have worked with before. You might also be trying to revitalize sales of an existing product or service, which requires a launch to sustain revenues, attract new customers, and ward off competitors.
In either scenario, avoid limiting the product launch campaign to a single, big-bang event with no plan for follow-up. You are positioning the product for its life cycle. Successful product introductions are company-wide events. They must be the focus of your entire organization.
Setting the Stage for a Product Launch
Long before product launch happens, you need to spend time on pre-launch activities that build the opportunity base. This pre-launch research will provide insights on the validity of the product, the features it needs, pricing and packaging considerations, and so on. Think in terms of projected revenue (at 12 to 18 months after launch, for starters), the profits you will need to break even, and the potential return on your investment.
Front-end research and analysis is the process of gaining insight and collecting data that will shape the product launch campaign. You are not simply collecting information, but interpreting it. Avoid focusing simply on the launch – consider the product life-cycle in your planning. Chances are, the data you gather to support your launch campaign may be a year or more old by the time the actual product hits the market. In the words of the Great One – Hockey Legend Wayne Gretzky, make sure you are going where the puck will be, not where it is. Otherwise, your launch campaign may miss the mark.
Elements to research during data collection
– Competition for your product or service
– Potential customers' buying influences and attitudes
– Market readiness and demand for your product
– Key applications, features and advantages (from the customer's viewpoint)
– Service and support components your product will include
– Packaging considerations
– State of the economy – by Industry Sector, Area or Region
– Regulatory changes in your Industry
– Technological considerations (current and future)
Developing the Right Concept for Your Product
Creativity is essential to a product launch-but balance it with the sobering thought that the concept you choose will be critical to launching a product that must generate revenue. Avoid the temptation to be clever in your campaign-it could lose the audience, diminish your credibility or worse, be a source of entertainment.
A good theme for a product launch campaign focuses on the problem solved, not merely the product's use. Just as important as choosing the right concept is selecting the right launch vehicles for your campaign. Consider media and PR, direct-response pieces, catalogs, e-mail communiqués, Web site promotions, industry guides, e-casts, and telemarketing. The vehicles you choose will depend on what works in your specific business and what your appetite and budget can tolerate.
Choosing Your Message
The essence of your whole campaign will be its message. The right message captures your audience's attention, explains your new product or service, distinguishes it from its competition, creates action, and has the ability to perpetuate the theme of the campaign (for the product's intended life). Themed campaigns tend to do better than product-focused ones. They can also be perpetuated for a longer life.
Your message must be expressed in the attitude, tone, and language of your intended customer. It must also speak to your product, and your product alone. Put your message through the logo test. If you can replace your company logo with your competitor's logo, and the campaign message still makes sense, go back to the drawing board. Work at it until you get it right.
While You Are Waiting
While campaign materials are being produced, you can be readying your company for the formal launch. Use this time to talk to media sources, investors, and other interested parties. Create a written campaign action plan that describes key tasks you must complete, target dates for their completion, the resources you require, and how you will measure your progress.
Promote and publish early-stage successes for your new product frequently. Whenever you can demonstrate customer acceptance for the new product, it will breed confidence with your Target Audience including your internal company employees.
After the Launch
Done correctly, the work you put into developing a successful product launch will stay with your product for its entire sales life. But when the product reaches maturity, you may need to revisit this process, innovating new uses for the product, repackaging it, adding value, finding a different distribution mechanism, introducing new incentives, and so on to ensure that it continues to generate revenue.
Once you have mastered the process of a successful product launch, you can extend the marketability of any product and give it new life.
Your launch methodology can make or break you in the competitive business jungle.
Is your launch method keeping pace?
Are you confident that your upcoming launch is positioned for success?
Performance Marketing Group