Product launch is the most critical and vulnerable point of the product development process. Unfortunately, a lot of companies don't understand the importance of product launch. And they end up with product failures as a result. Business-to-business (B2B) companies in particular are guilty of this. They will often spend millions developing a new product - and then ignore or skip the importance of a formal product launch process - which leaves them with big R&D expenses, and little new revenue to show for it.
That's bad for business, because the way a product launches has a major impact on whether it succeeds or fails. In many cases, the product launch is just as important as the product itself. A poor product launch will leave customers confused or totally uninformed, which results in low sales. On the other hand, a successful product launch will produce new and happy customers, more sales and a product that has momentum.
Here's how to give your product launch the importance it deserves. Follow these 6 steps to success.
1. Clear Positioning and Messaging
The number one mistake that B2B companies make in product launch (and marketing in general) is that they don't spend much time thinking about positioning and messaging. Maybe marketing seems too 'fluffy' to them. But good positioning and messaging is far from fluffy - it's what makes or breaks success.
The majority of B2B companies have messages that are generic and vague. Things like, "We have a long history", "We focus on innovation", "We’re reliable", or "We provide excellent customer service".
Statements like those have no impact whatsoever. Any business can make similar claims. And in the absence of any proof of your innovation and customer service, prospects are left feeling unimpressed.
A more effective approach when launching a new product is to use messages that are specific and objective. Provide proof of your claims to customers. For example:
- This product improves performance by 19% as certified by (whoever is relevant in your industry)
- This product won three awards from the new product research council
- This product reduces maintenance costs by 13%
The right messaging when launching a product will shape the way customers evaluate the product against competitors - and their incumbent solution. This is the most important step in successful product launch. Customers tend to use the products that are most relevant to their needs, so the right message at the right time will help your product resonate in their minds, and generate early interest and sales that will lead to traction. And that will give your new product a fighting chance in the market.
Here are a few tips on the process to develop a compelling marketing message.
2. Realistic and Clear Launch Goals
The second most common mistake that B2B companies make when it comes to product launch is to have unrealistic expectations. Or no expectations at all.
Defining goals for your product launch will help you determine the marketing methods you will use, and how much you'll spend. Product launch involves raising awareness of the product or service, generating leads, and nurturing deals. Your launch plan should include some sales and marketing tools and tactics to do each of these things.
Be conservative about how quickly you expect to see results. Business-to-business buyers are CAUTIOUS. They don't want to be the first to try something (and fail). It usually takes years for B2B products to gain traction in a market. Don't expect to have customers knocking down your door within 3 - 6 months, you'll be sadly disappointed if you do.
3. The Right Timing
Effective timing of a product launch is important for attracting customers and gaining momentum with your product in the market. Launch your product during a window of time with the most opportunity. This means that your product should launch when there is the most need for its features.
As well, time your product launch according to your competitors. Decide whether or not you want to be the first-mover to beat, or next-to-market in order to improve upon what's already there. If you're going up against an 800-lb industry gorilla, will you be drowned out by all of their marketing if you're launching a product at the same time? It might make more sense to beat them, or enter a quarter later.
4. A Sober Second Thought
One of the keys to product launch success actually happens long before the launch. It happens during the product development process and is the step of confirming that there is a real market opportunity for what you plan to create.
Too many inventors find out after years of hard work and expense that no one really wants or needs what they've created. This is a critically important step in product launch, and while you'll be sorely tempted to skip it - you'll be richly rewarded if you don't.
it may not be exciting, but take some time before you invest in developing a product to evaluate the market opportunity. Consider these factors during your product development process:
- Audience – What needs do your target customers have? Is your product solving a real and present problem that they have?
- Competition – Consider any competition that is currently in the same market space that you plan to enter. An established company with a mature product will make the market harder to enter.
- Finances – make sure you understand the financial landscape of your product from development to distribution and make sure that you do not price yourself out of the market.
In order to know how the market will respond to your product or how successful it can be, make sure to do some testing. You can do this by using a customer advisory board, a testing group or focus groups. Tests will give you insight and data to help you make product improvements - before the product hits the market.
Testing will also help you develop compelling messages about the product. Users will tell you exactly why they like the product, and those insights often lead to bang-on marketing messages that will make your product launch resonate with buyers. See point #1 above - testing is a key input to good messaging and is vitally important in a successful product launch.
Last but not least, even though you've tested your product prior to launch, it's equally important to collect customer feedback after launch. This will allow you to make improvements in the second wave of production, which will result in a better product, better customer satisfaction, and growing sales.
Successful B2B companies have learned that a structured product launch process makes a major contribution to the success of their new products and services. By adding these elements to your next product or service development process, you'll be on the way to successfully bringing your product or service to market. For more help, use Hubspot's 18 step guide to creating a successful product launch.