As companies gear up to launch new products, the biggest competitor they will face is the customer’s motivation to ‘change’ to a new product or service. With the abundance of product and service offers now in the market and presented to customers each and every week, customers have developed a culture of status quo.
This status quo is impacting companies to the point that the number of failed product launches has increased tenfold in the last five to eight years. Companies will often continue with the existing products without recognising the pain points or motivations to purchase. The more complex the new purchase, the more likely they will continue with the status quo as an avoidance of the effort of change.
Customers make decisions on products based on the specific challenges they experience in their business. The issue now is those challenges need to escalate to a much higher level before they engage in the buying process to resolve the problem. The urgency to purchase is often stimulated by the degree of pain they are suffering, but more importantly, the awareness of solutions with low barriers to implementation.
For the potential customer, there is a simple change and a complex change. The simple change is a product that will have no adverse impact on them if it is a poor decision, and the users will adopt the new products quickly. This is typically a price-based sale on simple items like office supplies.
A complex change is one where other stakeholders in the business are affected by the new product choice, and all their needs must be met. These changes are now typically only made when a number of stakeholders lobby for change and an individual or committee is set with the task of finding solutions.
A salesperson arriving timely to that process is highly unlikely unless they were invited as the company responds to marketing.
Alternatively, they have invested considerable time and effort in getting to know the business and created irritation to the stakeholders that became the catalyst for looking at the new products.
The traditional method of taking new products to market
The conventional process applied by businesses is a new product is designed or sourced with the potential to fill a gap in the market or create the next generation of products. There may have been, or should have been, market research conducted on the potential market, price positioning, target audience, and acceptance of the product.
This information is often done too quickly and subjectively as people attempt to rush a product to market. The foundations are wrong, and testing is inadequate. Marketing departments author content based on the perceived need of the customers and focus heavily on features and benefits selling tactics.
The collateral is written based on where they see gaps in the market or points of difference in the product over the competitors. For internal stakeholders, reading the collateral, the offer looks solid. They are sold on their offer.
The sales department is then expected to take this information to the market, and the company’s expectation is that sales will steadily flow as customers are introduced to the new offer.
The process is flawed, and the measure can be the number of products that have been launched in your company and failed to achieve anywhere near projected revenues. The number of products can stack up over time.
When you launch new products, what are the root causes of failure?
Product launches fail to generate revenue when salespeople are not involved in messaging development during pre-launch preparations. This occurs when there is no sales council, and there is no relationship between sales and marketing.
When messaging is developed in isolation by the marketing department, it is not compelling enough to get your customers to act.
Salespeople are best trained to learn the language that will develop the strongest messaging for customers. They are the people that can discover the right stories and messages that assist prospects to answer “Why change?” and this stimulates underlying demand while leading to forecasted revenue growth.
How to succeed when you launch new products
For a successful product launch, it is imperative that there is a sales council. A council made up of sales managers, assuming your managers are competent sellers active in the market. They spend time in the field learning from the customers what will stimulate them to change.
That information is collated and tested in a sales process to test if it resonates with target customers and what changes or tweaks need to be made. It is investigative work – not selling. It is discovering the messaging and what will create the urgency for a customer to change products.
Marketing will develop a market strategy based on marketing research, which becomes the basis of the marketing plan and a subset of marketing campaigns.
The sales council works with the marketing team to ensure the messaging that you train your sales team with is the same messaging that they are using in outbound marketing and collateral or whatever means you are communicating to the market.
From this point, marketing can start planning launch dates and a launch plan for landing pages on websites, blog posts, and how they will build buzz on social media around the new product launch.
Come launch day, the next challenge is to have the broader sales team stay on message. As the sales team sets out to sell the product, they will find new and different ways to position the product and adjust the messaging to get to a better close rate. That is fine if it stays consistent with the higher-level brand strategy.
Some may discover a new message that can be added or one that needs to be replaced as the customer audience broadens. Refinement is part of the ongoing process, and reviews must be done to keep the messages strong in changing markets.
The problem you must avoid is message distortion. You find you have twenty different messages in the market as the sales team puts their twist on how to present the product. The salespeople are going off the brand strategy, and customers are buying the product for different reasons, which may lead to customer dissatisfaction. This often happens when salespeople are chasing sales numbers and become a little too liberal in their commentary with customers.
Sales leaders must bring those salespeople back into line and keep them on message. You may find, too, that salespeople are not sharing their successes. The stories motivated other customers to make the purchase and led the way for fewer certain customers to buy.
Customers often realise that changing what they are doing today is necessary, but they worry about how hard it is going to be, the cost and risk of it, and their chance of success. Stories about somebody else who was in a similar situation used your products to get to a better outcome, and were successful; that is going to give them more confidence than they should as well.
Compelling messaging is mission critical. Without it, sales people will struggle to sell the new product.
If you have got a message that works, a formula that works, there’s no reason why you cannot keep using it unless the market changes.
Many companies understood their customer’s needs; they had a great solutions and great messaging. Then other products came out that met the need better. It was not that they were not solving the right problem, it was not that the sales team did not have the right messaging, it is message became less credible because other companies were doing it better. Without adjustment to the messaging, product sales will fall away.
Messaging developed and tested by sales will define the success of your next product launch as they answer the customer’s challenge of ‘why change.’
To discuss how to take your next product to market, please contact the office, and we can work with you to ensure it is successful.
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You may also be interested in reading these articles:
- When New Product Launches Fail
- Why Brand Positioning Matters
- Companies Entering New Markets Successfully
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