Does your 2014 marketing plan include a major product launch?
2014 is just around the corner, and your B2B company has an ambitious marketing strategy for the year, which includes the launch of new products that are poised to become significant revenue streams for the company. You are tasked with developing product launch plans that will deliver results. No problem, right? Errr…
Product launches are a massive undertaking. All too often they are rushed by aggressive timelines. Unsurprisingly, it is common to cut corners in the race to launch day. Whatever short cuts you consider, be sure not skip these three steps:
1. Create a calendar.
Timing will affect your results! This step will spare you from making costly and embarrassing mistakes. Plot all launches for the year on a calendar to ensure the timing takes into consideration key events like tradeshows, slow and busy times for your company and industry, and public holidays. Also, consider the availability of your team and key vendors to ensure you will have the resources you need. Later, you’ll use this calendar to set the detailed workback schedule for each launch. Both the annual calendar and detailed workback should be shared with all others involved in the launch.
2. Establish a strategy.
Well designed, clever campaigns can miss the mark, partially or wholly, if they are not born out of strategy. Do not trust your product’s entry to the market to your graphic designer. The direction (not to be confused with execution like design or copy writing) must come from you.
Before you begin creative work, document your strategy—one that considers buyers, competitors, challenges to overcome and advantages playing in your favour. Once you have internal buy-in, share the strategy with key vendors and colleagues involved in the launch to ensure everyone works from the same point of view. This may sound unnecessary, or conversely, daunting, but it will give you the best shot at a campaign that resonates with buyers.
3. Determine and articulate the “so what”
The “so what”, also known as point of difference or value proposition, should inform your positioning, key messages and collateral. This part of marketing strategy has been around since the 1950s when the market became flooded with competing products. Given how long this has been in practice and what a difference it makes, it is shocking how many B2B companies skip this work. Because it is crucial, I’m making it a stand-alone “must do” step.
Buyers are busy, so you must be clear about what makes your product better than competitors’ products. But before you put your ideas in print, be sure to validate them with customers and prospects. At Mezzanine we’ve witnessed dozens of instances when clients felt sure they knew their buyer and that their points would be sticky, but when we asked those buyers how they felt about the “so what” we learned the points did not resonate with them. Avoid this pitfall by testing ideas and assumptions using surveys or interviews—a quick and inexpensive way to get customer and prospect input.
Think of these steps as the foundation under a skyscraper. Skipping them, or doing a haphazard job, means your product launch will be built on uncertain ground. With your calendar, strategy and “so what” points in hand, you are in a good position to plan tactics, events and develop creative for your launches.
To learn more about strategic marketing planning, download the executive guide featuring practical tips for success from 65 CMOs.