We’ve been planning a new product launch here at Upp B2B HQ for the best part of the last six months. A launch to push out a new ‘packaged’ offer for one of our core business areas which we hope will fill a gap in the market and which will resonate with b2b marketers and business-owners alike. As a team we’re excited as we’ve mused, discussed, challenged and deliberated over every aspect of our new product based on some sound insight and market research.
It’s been a real labour of love. So much so that we’ve probably dragged our heels a bit, in our efforts to ‘perfect’ the end product before we release it on its way to market. As we’re all first and foremost marketers at heart, our marketing and launch strategy has been central to our plotting and planning from the very outset. However, this got me thinking about how many b2b businesses approach their product and service launches from this same perspective.
According to recent research by the CBI, 60–70% of new product launches in the UK fail. A harsh statistic that even the most entrepreneurial of businesses must stop and consider when looking to invest time, money and resources in new ventures. From my reading, it would appear that the biggest problem driving this statistic is a lack of preparation for the promotion phase. As companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products and services, they can often put off the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game, causing shortcuts and badly informed marketing decisions.
Another key reason for product launches failing in my opinion, is that often when a new product or service defines a new market category, it can require major investment of time and resources in educating consumers which it often doesn’t get. The fact is, that no matter how great a new solution you have created, if the people you want to buy it don’t quickly grasp how to use the product to serve their needs then it’s never going to take flight.
Similarly, no matter how revolutionary you believe your product or service is, if there’s no clear market for it, your sales will flat line, and quickly. So don’t gloss over the basics at the early stage of product development i.e. who will buy this product and at what price? How big is the potential market and is it big enough for us to make a good profit margin? Thinking these essentials through early on will pay dividends enabling you to shape your go to market strategy with confidence.
But it’s not all doom and gloom of course – companies who develop a great new product or service which addresses a new, growing or changing market need can go on to be overnight masters of their own universe. But to achieve this, what do you need to keep front of mind when the lightbulb moment strikes for you or one of your colleagues?
Top ten tips when launching new b2b products and services
1. In your own mind think about your product launch as a process rather than as an individual momentous ‘event’ i.e. a set date when said product or service will be cast out into the world for the first time. The best new product launches aren’t always ‘big bang’ – soft launches can be just as effective, if not more so in the longer term.
2. When it comes to new product and service launches timing can be everything and can sometimes be the difference between success and failure. The timing of your launch may be dictated by a set deadline or event, but even so you should always think about what’s going on in the wider world. Key holiday times, religious festivals, year-end or year start, the wrong season (where there’s a seasonal bias to your offer) are examples of a few timing issues you need to be aware of before pressing the green button.
3. Don’t be afraid to make changes as you go – this isn’t a sign of failure of getting your product right in the first place – it’s just natural evolution as part of your ‘real’ market testing. The same applies to the marketing of your new product. You may not get the early results you forecast for a multitude of reasons, but where something you put faith in really isn’t working be bold and rethink.
4. Get your new product or service into the hands and heads of as many important influencers as you can in the early stages of your market launch – friendly customers and clients, intermediaries and potential channel partners or even industry bloggers and PRs. By encouraging these people to ‘trial’ what you have to offer and to spread the word on your behalf, you can gauge initial market reaction and get some early free publicity.
5. Offer limited free product or service trials to carefully selected prospects on the basis that they can then act as a case study or testimonial if they like what you have to offer. You can then also encourage uptake following the trial by offering a too good to refuse incentive for their first order or early months of use.
6. Don’t forget your most important new product launch audience – your internal one. If your own employees aren’t fully briefed on your new offer and how it fits in the market, then how will they be able to deal with questions from potential customers? Get your own team excited about the launch and maybe even incentivise them all to play a part in driving early interest – it’s not just your sales team you need on board to make a product launch a success, so think wider.
7. Get your customer value proposition nailed early in the process of product or service development and make sure it’s clear to understand when you launch to market. If you’re confused about the exact benefits of your offer, or if you’re not sure what compelling ‘value’ your product or service will deliver to the market you’re looking to target, then maybe your idea isn’t as strong as you think. So stop and rethink.
8. Give your product or service a strong visual identity but don’t let this overshadow the product promise. If your product looks great it may enjoy early sales success, but if it doesn’t deliver on expectations this will be short-lived. However tempting it is to over-inflate your product or service in your ‘packaging’ this is a sure fire way to set your audience up for disappointment.
9. Ensure all your new product or service ‘touch points’ are well thought through and set up to convert inbound enquiries. It’s no good having an all-singing, all-dancing PR or advertising campaign as part of your launch plan, if your website home page isn’t clearly signposting where inbound enquirers can find out more about your new offer. You may have a well-structured landing page to manage enquiries from direct mail or advertising, but don’t assume that all enquirers will remember the URL. It’s more likely they’ll recall your company name and visit your main web home page as their first port of call. So make sure they can quickly and easily find your new product offer if it’s sitting alongside other more established offers.
10. Above all remember to K-I-S-S (Keep It Simple, Stupid) when it comes to your initial launch. You will have lived and breathed this new product or service for some time, so you’ll understand everything there is to know about it; every nuance; every small flaw; and every benefit you believe it offers. When you push your product out to market, this will likely be the first time your audience has come into contact with your offer, so, any initial promotions need to keep this front of mind. If you over complicate the technical aspects of the product early in the engagement cycle for example, you could lose orders before they’re even placed. Similarly, presenting a premature list of terms and conditions could turn a customer off when their interest is just registering…so save this for down the line when you’re about to sign them up.
Launching new products and services is the lifeblood of many successful b2b businesses, which continually look for new ways to innovate in line with changing market demands. Those who come up with new original ideas aren’t however always the best people in the team to shape the go to market strategy, as being too close can sometimes create blind spots about product or service flaws which others may more easily pick up on. So involve marketers in your new product or service development early in the process we’re hard-wired to challenge, question and think buyer first.
An alert marketing brain will question everything from market research influencing product design, to price point, target audience segmentation and planned promotional spend to achieve the desired results, so use us marketers as an early sounding board, we may just be the difference between success and failure.