Most new product launches fail. One big, and unnecessary reason is focusing too much on the product or service offering and not focusing enough on how the thing will be brought to market.
New! New! New!
How often have you heard this presented as though “new” were a compelling reason to pay attention to a category, product, process or service? The sad fact of most new things, unfortunately, is that they are not going to work out in the marketplace, as Schneider and Hall point out in an article aptly titled, “Why Most Product Launches Fail.” One major reason is that while the engineering and techie types may have been laboring away at improving the features or attributes of an offering, they postpone the work of marketing till really late in the launch process.
I see this all the time in my own sector with book authors– they think that writing a book is the hard part, failing to realize that the marketing of the book basically begins from the moment that you have the idea for what the book could be about. So here are a few ideas for things not to overlook when you are putting together a plan to launch something new into the world.
Factor #1: A well-defined target audience
This might sound obvious, but a lot of marketing dollars are wasted because it isn’t entirely clear what specific target market you are trying to reach. A closely connected question is what it is you want the members of that target audience to do. An awful lot of people emphasize things like “likes” “follows” and “re-posts” without drawing any connection whatsoever to the behavior they are really interested in, which is turning that potential customer into an actual customer.
If you have done a good job of defining the potential customers’ “jobs to be done,” you are ahead of the game. Once you are clear on the problem you are solving, try to put a name to the customer persona, the circumstances in which they have the need, and when they are most likely to be looking for a solution. You want to be “present” at those moments.
For instance, a huge trend that is reportedly “taking the West Coast by storm” is the replacement of beer, wine and other drinks with vodka, soda and some form of natural flavoring. One very successful new entrant in this growing market is Nütrl Vodka Soda. Because the target audience was very broad – basically anyone who likes to drink alcohol – they had to be very smart about positioning the product and helping people understand its benefits. So they ran a series of clever ads featuring attractive people “breaking up” with other drinks positioned during sporting events and other live programming.
In one, an attractive woman tells the viewer “you’re sweet…I’m just not really looking for sweet.” In another, a young man insists that “I’ll always love you, but sometimes, I need something …. Different.” The two ads encourage viewers to visit the URL’s breakupwithcoolers.com and breakupwithbeer.com respectively. Very clever and very effective!
With respect to the call to action, a gold star example would be the way trading app Robinhood built its opt-in list. In the run-up to the launch of the app, they invited people to gain invitation-only access to its private beta. But (interesting catch), they didn’t get to try to product right away. Not at all, instead, visitors responding to the marketing message “$0 commission stock trading. Stop paying up to $10 for every trade” were shown a thank you page with their position on the waiting list. They were also offered the opportunity to move up the list more rapidly if they invited friends and family to join! Robinhood enthusiasts invited everybody they’d ever met to jump the queue.
Factor #2: Targeted content and an editorial calendar
Once you know your target audience and the way in which your offering solves a job to be done for them, creating the content that delivers the message comes next. If your offerings are relevant to holidays or other events, you’ll certainly want to create content that reflects that. If you are solving a specific type of problem, make sure what you are solving is clear. If there are particular events that are meaningful to your target audience, you would certainly want to tie in to those. Content calendars can be simple spreadsheet tools or more elaborate purpose-built software. This article has great resources.
The launch of Kpop foods is an interesting story about having an attractive story and telling it well. Theo Lee and and Mike Kim were both Korean-American students when they conceived of the idea of bringing Korean food – and more importantly – Korean lifestyle values -- to the U. S. market. They launched their product with a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of becoming the “Red Bull of Korean Food – combining mainstream culture, art, music and food. The two, students at UCLA at the time they began the project, got lots of advice on their launch video and found an ingenious way to demonstrate their initial product – Kpop sauce. They bought bento-box sized soy sauce containers in the shape of little pigs, filled it with their product and used this relatively inexpensive way to build up their followers.
Unlike the broad audience for vodka and soda drinks, the Kpop targets were much more likely to spend their time on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram. The founders built a simple website on Shopify, eventually fulfilled their Kickstarter commitments and began to try to sell in earnest. While early efforts cost more per customer acquisition than they had planned, they were eventually enrolled in the “Fulfillment by Amazon” program and that is when sales took off. Subsequent efforts have largely focused on connecting with Korean restaurants and suppliers and with influential YouTube stars, such as Greg Mrvich who runs a website called “Ballistic BBQ.” The company’s growth has been impressive – it grosses over $5 million in sales according to one financial source.
Factor #3: Don’t forget the follow through
OK, you’ve got some interested people following your content, expressing an interest in your offer and otherwise somehow engaged, at least initially. Don’t stop there!
Audiences today want to engage with brands and those they do business with. They want to converse on social media. They want to be part of something – so make sure that you are not just drawing them in, think of it as building a relationship. But, hey, at the end of the day you do want to draw paying customers into your universe as well as those who represent mostly chatter.
So, you probably want to further categorize those people in your target audience in some meaningful way that will target your follow up and future relationship with them. You might have users you send content to regularly, for free. You might have contacts who are important influencers. You might have contacts who, with the right nurturing, could become buyers. It’s useful, therefore, once you have someone in your universe to group them according to what they are looking for and what they might do for you. That in turn will shape what kind of follow up is necessary.
It’s also valuable to recognize that people have different preferences for how you might follow up with them. Some are all email, all the time. Some like to engage on platforms like LinkedIn. And others like – wait for it – an actual phone call, like a real person’s voice!
The follow-up meetings can be, as well, an opportunity to both get something valuable (information from the contact about their needs and intentions) and also to offer advice (as well known entrepreneur Steve Blank suggests).
It’s wise to have a planned approach to following up on leads, a status report for each lead generated and a clear idea of the next step with the lead set up in advance. You want to make sure that all the resources you spent on the marketing plan actually delivers customers!
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