Put the target audience first when going to market with a new product or re-launch, and let them identify themselves, says Kerry Talbot-Jones, marketing manager at Modulift.
Launching or re-launching a product is often a complex process involving lots of research and development, multiple departments, and a great deal of investment. While it's often over-complicated, as we'll explore, my intent here isn't to dumb it down. Rather, I'll outline how over two decades as a vendor of some description have taught me that the revenue and profits a product generates are merely a consequence of its being, not its purpose. And that realisation in itself greatly simplifies the marketing process.
'Launch' is a big word in the marketers' handbook and 're-launch' is, inescapably, even bigger. Try using neither next time you're involved in putting a product to market. Instead, look at the audience and the productivity, safety, and / or cost efficiency benefits the item presents. That way it's easier not to become bound by certain connotations. Launches feel like they should follow countdowns and start with a blast of fire and smoke. That's not always the case.
My own journey has taken me from sales into marketing and onto the heavily regulated insurance industry. Roles in construction, then lighting design and manufacturing followed, meaning product launches have been commonplace in my life for as long as I can remember.
Good and bad—I've learnt from them all.
Cart before the horse
My kind of product launch is one that puts the customer—consumer, distributor, reseller, user, whoever—first. Let their requirements shape the marketing campaign. I remain in the early days of life in the lifting equipment industry but it's already apparent to me that finding a market for a new product, component, or enhancement is vitally important to success, just as it has been everywhere else I've worked.
Too often a product loses its way from being a good idea, conceptualised at the coalface, and becomes a commercialised pseudo version that's been finalised with profit given priority over practicality and, moreover, the customer. Related to that, some marketing teams feel pressured to contribute to growth, so they build up a product, promote it too widely, and encourage engineers to design in parts that only add redundancy and weight to an item.
Many readers of this blog have probably heard a CEO whisper to the marketing boss how much they need a product to fly to hit the target for the quarter, while the CFO delights in the possible margins they will be able to capture in the spreadsheet. It's a backward, shortsighted mindset.
Does the market need or want the product?
How big is the marketplace and what demand can it sustain?
How many purchasing decision makers really need to be influenced?
Is a massive branding exercise going to be lost at sea?
Consider the benefits of a softer approach, which is a particularly powerful strategy in a component centric market, like the one my company finds itself in below-the-hook. Take a lifting frame, for example: great for loads that have more than two lifting points and / or when headroom is limited. Then there are additional components that can enhance the product with six, eight, or 10 points of lift. This is huge for existing and prospective customers but a full-on marketing campaign to the entire lifting industry would result in wasted budget and a lack of clarity in message.
Such product enhancement isn't about making the manufacturer a quick buck, but it will add tremendous value for the supply chain and that in turn is worth something far greater.
An integrated marketing campaign might be the way forward. Put simply that means that within a larger commercial profile, there are smaller initiatives that, while consistent with the branding and overall ethos of a company, are not about driving double-digit growth overnight or delivering huge ROI on marketing spend in isolation.
There is room within such campaigns to present a product as a helpful solution to an audience. Imagine the long-term benefits if a company has trust and appreciation from those they're trying to sell to. Going to a marketplace without expecting to come out with full pockets demonstrates great commitment.
A more gentle approach—call it a soft launch if you want to—also affords a company time to react to initial feedback and build a marketing strategy as they go. Why commit to a massive advertisement campaign highlighting five key product features if a more subliminal, dialogue-driven path could yield greater intelligence? Feedback could be so that one capability in particular aligns with a trend, development in standardisation, or uptake of equipment in a certain industry sector. The tactic might lead to a grander launch and that's ok too, but it'll have more chance of success.
Fact is, marketplaces evolve. Furthermore, they can have short memories. It's worth revisiting an audience with a product or enhancement, particularly if it has arrived at a different point on its cycle or an earlier launch didn't go as well as planned. Perhaps a new marketing team feels they can better point out key elements of a product than their predecessors.
I am fortunate to have arrived at a company with an incredibly strong brand and market presence. I'm not suggesting that was achieved or maintained without shouting from the odd rooftop. My point really is that it's about finding a time and a place for it. Branding and corporate identity is key to the success of an integrated marketing campaign but in isolation it can lack penetration. There's room for sharper instruments in a marketer's toolkit.
Where will you gently place your next product?