Christine Wetzler originally wrote this article for Entrepreneur.
You can view it on their website here.
How to Execute A Successful Product Launch in a Competitive Industry
Bringing a new product to market in an industry already full of innovation is intimidating, but that doesn’t automatically mean you won’t break through. These recommendations will give your product the best shot at finding a loud and clear voice.
Bringing any kind of new product to market requires a different approach for every industry, target customer and even location you need to enter. Occasionally, new products are so novel that they automatically stand out without much marketing help. But if you are launching a specialized version of a product that already kind of exists, maintaining a strict focus on your target customer and doing everything you can to speak to them personally about your differentiators will help you break through.
Otherwise, going head-to-head with existing products on a national or global stage will make it harder. Your messages are more likely to get overshadowed.
The first recommendation is to limit your initial outreach to a small target audience. Second, put on your digital marketer hat and start thinking like a growth marketer.
After the pandemic, we see in a recent study that B2B buyers now purchase 67% of their products online. It’s up to suppliers to deliver the best product presentation online. You’ll notice that this includes user experience. B2B companies can no longer get away with being a few steps behind B2C with their digital marketing and creative skills.
But don’t get too confident B2C marketers! You’re just as susceptible to missteps in this process. One of the biggest that everyone can relate to is live streams. They are fun to think about and plan, but they offer zero customer interaction. Afterward, you’re left with the same activity and audience. Think about it — you can’t capture, engage or keep talking to participants. You’re better off doing anything else.
This doesn’t have to happen. Digital tools are easy to get and use. There are very few barriers to providing every buyer with easy access to your product. Further, if you do it right, they will also take action and be loyal customers.
To get to this sweet spot, it is essential to know how to use digital and credibility-building tools to generate awareness and quality leads. Here are a few broad strokes on how to get started launching a product.
1. Plan and prepare
Launching a product will always require months of advance preparation. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people leave marketing until the last minute.
Prepare a plan to make the product known to the target audience. At a minimum, decide what success looks like, who will manage which activities and how much you want to spend.
Because leaders often want to sell the product as quickly as possible, they can leave behind the best opportunities to educate customers. They can’t see the forest through the trees. So they ‘launch,’ but customers don’t know and understand what the product is about – and then the launch fails or performs weakly without a concrete reason.
With a well-developed communications plan, you can respond to market needs effectively and measure each step you take.
You may also need to utilize various channels, like social media influencers, magazine editors, content creators or the local media. You may try several different iterations of the same approach to see what works best. That’s why this planning can take months.
When we worked with a small publicly traded company within the coal production industry, we focused not only on its marketing efforts but also on public and investor relations. We did this within its home state since it already housed much of the company’s small market.
Our efforts increased awareness and routinely had the company mentioned among the largest in the industry — despite being one of the smallest. It was less expensive and draining for us to focus our efforts on the state level than on Wall Street, and we got much better results.
Planning is key. Setting goals, preparing the launch with several backup options, organizing a crisis response strategy and approaching customer questions and concerns must be done well in advance. You can more personally find and fix places that need refinements in a smaller environment.
2. Study the competition
The benefit of starting in such a small capacity is that you can easily search who your closest competitors are and what they offer that you don’t and vice versa while staying under the (proverbial) radar. You can also look at larger competitors and replicate their success at a smaller level. It’s cheaper to run ads or use brand sponsorships locally than at the national level.
Thankfully, there has been a decline in this trend in recent years, but many businesses tend still focus less on marketing than they do on direct sales. Even with that being the case, less than 5% of B2B content marketers focus on bottom-of-the-funnel content. This means there’s a huge information gap regarding white papers, testimonials, and case studies that you can use to your advantage if you use digital marketing strategies.
For B2C marketers, this weakness exists too for brands that are not great at tracking how users progress through their websites. This is where content can still save you by offering social proof and other upsells and cross-sells at the funnel drop-off.
Since we’re talking about product launching, you can’t always start with ‘proof’ content. But starting in a smaller environment allows you more personal access to your customer base to quickly capture this kind of content. As soon as you get the first sales, ask for those testimonials, reviews and case studies and collect that precious content that will make you stand out when you scale bigger.
When we worked with the launch of an oval-shaped fire extinguisher that fit within a standard wall, we had a tightly controlled and competitive sector where no one had innovated since the early stages of extinguisher technology.
This gave us fertile ground not only to introduce new messaging but to use digital and other modern tactics that the rest of the industry had not used. They didn’t have to until another brand came along and upset the apple cart!
While respecting regulations and taking advantage of the radical design of the product, we generated powerful content marketing strategies aimed at retailers struggling with ADA compliance and the space occupied by fire extinguishers.
Since we first applied our marketing strategies, the brand made a lucrative exit and now has a market share that previously seemed impossible to reach.
3. Digital marketing is a must
It’s worth saying again that no brand can get away without digital marketing and an emphasis, no – an intense focus – on user experience.
Creating educational content, FAQ pages, webinars, and press coverage will provide better leads. This is also the best long-term way to nurture and attract.
Start with owned content to earn content from third parties as soon as possible. Once you achieve this valuable third-party credibility, amplify it with the digital tools mentioned above. Examples include giving your constituents a clear value proposition through social media, educational articles, landing pages, webinars and email — get creative and personalized.
And that targeting is crucial. Most buyers deal with different issues and responsibilities while wading through multiple messages about products. This is when using digital marketing and lead-tracking tools becomes critical. Tools we’ve all heard of, like HubSpot, Mailchimp and Yoast, help you localize and target small audiences so they can receive your message.
If used strategically, these and other similar tools will become the cornerstone of your strategy because they allow you to evaluate the performance of the content you create and each lead within the customer journey. All this helps you to know how to speak to your audience in a tailored way. Keep your strategy simple and tap into critical thinking skills to launch your next product fearlessly.