Marketing a New Product Launch: the State of Mind that You Need
They say marketing (and sales) are all the same across industries and markets. If you are good at marketing footwear, you know how to do the same for cars or technology. If you have marketed ERP systems, you can do a great job marketing a mobile app. It may be so. The knowledge (both theoretical and empiric) that we gather throughout our professional life is a string of unique experiences, trials and errors, learning-by-doing that never repeat. And this is particularly true when you try to dive into the cold, vast, unfamiliar abyss of new product launches. In my professional life as a marketer, I have done quite a few of these. With a hand on my heart, I can say that each one was unique and sorts of unpredictable.
Is marketing a new product black magic then? Not necessarily. There are just tons of variables that you cannot simply all take into account. I came up with just a few things to consider when marketing a new product depending on the brand equity, resources, and processes you can rely on (And I’m curious to learn from your experience, what else you can add to that list?):
A new product launch in the context of a product family under the umbrella of a (somewhat) recognizable brand
Regardless of whether you are trying to diversify, enter new markets or tap into an identified need that no one else is covering, you should ask the below questions to map out your marketing plan:
- Can I exploit our brand equity? Do we want “product NEW” to be associated with it? If not, why not?
- Can I leverage the existing user database and communities to get a foot in the door and increase adoption?
- Can I count on any of the proven marketing channels?
- How can I leverage the shared (company) resource – think data analysts and researchers, analytics tools, demand generation and social media teams, to ramp up quicker?
- How do I incentivize the sales team to focus on my product?
- Can I somehow leverage the network of existing partners?
All in all, think in the direction of how to utilize, leverage, and get the best out of the resources, people, processes, and intangible assets that the company already has under its belt.
A startup that revolves around a brand-new product concept
From my own experience, this is where real marketers are born. It is the real battlefield where you test ideas and see if they get off the ground. Arm up with lots of energy, the nerve to experiment and fail many times before (if at all) you feel the right approach. It is a tabula rasa. A few tips to get you started:
- Obsess about defining the target persona(s) and their understanding of the minimal
- Challenge everything. Yes, content marketing has been the new king for almost a couple of decades now, but do you really think your target persona has the time to read blogs or watch videos? If not, how do they get informed? How do you reach them?
- You can rely on anyone but yourself (and the team if you are lucky!).
- In a startup, you wear lots of hats to be able to do your job. Do not shy away from tasks that do not quite fit in your job description. Define the sales cycle, sales process, and approach to understand how you will be marketing your new product. The sales approach is pre-defining your marketing venues.
- Measure and adjust. Be always data-driven, but even more so in this setup. Many times you would be taking the wrong way, you’d better know it early.
- A new product concept (especially in the software world) may not necessarily fall within a well-defined product category or a market niche. Do not forget you will need to do a lot of education to precede brand awareness and lead generation. It is on the table for all business stakeholders to define the market and competition as best they can – this will make your job easier.
Turning services into products
Again, far from a no-brainer, but at least there is a foundation a marketer can step on to strategize and execute a marketing plan:
- Take off your services hat and put on the productizing one. When conceptualizing a new product, services companies have the unique advantage of having already tested the product idea (in the form of delivered services) and defined there would be a market for it. Ensure that the market is big enough.
- Do not fall into the “our product is unique; there’s no such market yet, we need to define it” trap. Most often than not, your target persona is already trying to solve that problem. Find out how.
- Do not jump straight to demand generation. Thought leadership campaigns can help you create awareness, strong brand equity, and share of mind. They will eventually lead to demand generation, but the first and foremost goal should be to help the buyer persona get to know about you and to educate them about their problems and how you can help them solve them.
- Step on the brand equity that you already have.
- Again, leverage existing channels and internal resources as best you can.
- Instill trust and credibility – leverage your existing services clients to publish testimonials and case studies.
Finally, a few random tips on how to stay sane while trying to follow your North Star (regardless of your current environment and situation). Some of these tips are derived from personal experience, while others have been given by people far wiser and experienced than me:
- Iterate often. Do not draft target persona documents and perfectly aligned marketing plans that will never see real-life.
- Experiment. Different channels, different positioning, different creative. Ditch what does not work and continue until you find D channel.
- Measure everything. Do not forget, as marketers, we do not just own the marketing domain KPIs. How do people use the product? Do they convert to paying customers? Do they churn and why? – are some of the real questions that you should be looking to answer. The answers to those questions will signal whether we have defined our target persona well, have brought in quality leads, etc.
Take pride in the little wins. Do not forget – bringing a new product to market is one of the toughest jobs a marketer can take on.