B2B product companies have to move quickly to innovate and release new offerings to remain viable and sustain growth. All too often, B2B companies rely too heavily on their sales channels to launch their products. Because we are always connected to the Internet, your sales prospects have access to a wealth of information making the traditional sales journey less relevant. Your marketing team now has a greater responsibility than ever in driving success of a new product launch.
In today’s digital world, prospects are taking themselves through 60%-70% of the sales process without ever contacting a sales representative. This means that the Customer Decision Journey has significantly changed and marketing now must take ownership of driving awareness, generating high-quality leads, and impacting direct sales.
According to Harvard Business Review, an astounding 60% of new products never launch in their respective markets. Another shocking statistic is out of the 40% of new products that do make it to market, only 60% of those will generate commercially viable revenue. That translates into 76 out of every 100 new products that never generate justifiable revenue. While many of the reasons for failure results from poor product planning during the R&D process, much of the downfall is because of inadequate product launch planning and execution.
This is the first article in a two-part series to help provide advice to CEO’s and marketing leaders on the steps you should take in creating a successful B2B product launch plan. This article focuses on Gathering Strategic Insights. The second article will focus on Designing and Executing a Product Launch Plan.
PART 1: GATHERING STRATEGIC INSIGHTS
Does this sound familiar? My marketing team has developed sales tools, trained our sales reps, included the new product in our catalog, and sent a few emails introducing the product to our marketing list. They’ve even posted a product announcement on our social media channels. Does this also sound familiar? It’s sales responsibility to generate revenue, not marketing.
All too often, marketing follows the same product launch process year after year without much success. Gathering strategic insights before developing a product launch plan will increase the chances of hitting revenue targets. Following these five steps for Strategic Insights gathering will feed directly into designing and executing a successful Product Launch Plan.
Define Your Target Customer and Their Needs
We’ve all heard the phrase, “you can’t be everything to everyone”. This is especially true when designing a product launch plan. Your product is meant to solve specific problems for specific types of customers. Starting with a clear understanding of what problems your new product solves is equally as important as defining who your target customers are. In reality, you can’t identify the customer problems, without knowing who your target customers are. Many product launches fall short of success because they speak only of product features, rather than focus on the problems your product solves. When you have a deep understanding of who your target customers are and their needs, a powerful content strategy can be designed throughout the entire launch.
Map the Customer Decision Journey – Replicate on Your Website
Your Customer Decision Journey is the process your prospects take in making a decision to buy or not to buy your product. The journey begins once awareness occurs of your new product (we’ll cover generating awareness in the second article). Once you have an understanding of the Customer Decision Journey, create a map of it and indicate what critical information about your offering is needed to help them move through each phase of the journey. Your company website will likely be the first place a prospect will go to start their decision journey. Use your website to digitally replicate the Customer Decision Journey and provide the necessary product information, testimonials, user testing data, video demonstrations, etc. to help them move to a buying decision or wanting to speak to a sales representative.
Clearly identifying the customer needs that your new product was designed for doesn’t mean that you won’t face competitive pressures. B2B companies very often scan the market and closely compare competitive offerings before making a buying decision. In addition, your sales representatives need to be prepared to address competitive alignment with their prospects. Creating a feature-by-feature comparison is valuable, however, take this a step further. Align your competitive comparison directly to the customer problems your product solves and show how your offering provides an increase in value over competitive products.
Product Launch vs. Product Release
Get a jump on generating awareness and revenue by timing your product launch before the product is available to the market. This is especially valuable if the Customer Decision Journey is long. It’s important to distinguish “launch” vs. “release” to your internal teams. “Launch” refers to when you will begin communicating your new product to the market, while “release” is the date in which the new product will be available to customers. Work closely with your R&D team so that you are clear when the product will be released, and identify an appropriate date that you’ll launch the product. You might want to start your marketing campaigns with teasers that limit the information about the product, but excites the market that something new is coming that addresses their needs. Keep in mind that your competitors will be watching. Monitor them closely for any changes in their messaging, new product releases, or negative campaigns against your announcements.
In an effort to generate revenue quickly, you may want to consider a special pre-release price of your new product. A pre-release price could come in many different forms. You may consider a straight discount, or a value-added promotion where you sell you new offering at the regular price, but include a complementary product at a reduced price. This increases the value of the sale and also provides a compelling offer for customers. If you are launching a SaaS product that is subscription-based, you could offer a two-year subscription at a reduced price to lock customers into a longer purchase term. The key to any pre-release pricing offer is to show a comparison to the regular price and use a deadline date of the special offer to install a sense of urgency on ordering.
The formula for any successful product launch is the gathering of these key strategic insights before creating your tactical plan and developing your launch campaigns. Understand your customers, their needs, map the customer decision journey, the timing of your launch, and a craft a pricing strategy that will entice customers to buy early will all impact the design of your launch plan. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, Designing and Executing a Product Launch Plan. That article will provide valuable areas of focus on when crafting a launch plan.