Guest post by Eleanor Hecks.
For any business, launching new products is vital for long-term success. But launching and marketing a new B2B product is difficult. Today’s market is highly competitive, so it’s essential to come out of the gates with something superior to and more enticing than the competition.
The best way to overcome these obstacles (and any others you may encounter) is to put together a solid launch plan or a checklist that can help you achieve a successful launch. Here’s an actionable eight-step process that can help you achieve a successful new B2B product launch.
Research Your Target Audience
As early in the new product development process as possible, you’ll need to define who the product is for. What will they be using your product for? What problems or questions will it answer? Why would they continue using your product over the alternatives?
Some things to think about when researching your product audience and creating your B2B buyer persona include:
- What is the primary age and demographic?
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- What kinds of businesses are they, and do they belong to a single field or many?
- How do they feel about your current offerings?
- What are they looking for in a new product? New features? New integrations?
- What’s their ideal price point or budget?
There are many tools at your disposal to help, such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Social Mention, Answer the Public, and more.
This phase may take the longest, but if you do enough research, the insights you’ll gain are well worth the investment. It can help you shape your marketing efforts, product updates and revisions, and gauge market sentiment, among other important details.
Research Your Competition
Find comparable competitors who are already successful in the market, and dig into their launch journey. How did they start, and how long did it take them to see profit? What kinds of unique moves did they make? What social platforms are they using?
The goal is to understand not just their strengths, but their weaknesses as well, which you can apply to your own strategies. Take some time to look at customer feedback, too, such as reviews and troubleshooting communities. If you can identify pain points customers are having, and fix them in your own product, you’ll be more likely to convert some of those clients to your brand.
Among the characteristics you should learn about competitors are:
- Company name and affiliates
- Current geographic location or hub
- Advertising strategies
- Web and social presence
- SEO/keyword standing
- Target customers and satisfaction
- Unique selling propositions (USPs)
- Weaknesses and strengths
- Product and service offerings
- Upcoming product launches
This is not a comprehensive list, and there may be other aspects that are important for you to know. Competitive intelligence tools can help you perform this research more efficiently and comprehensively.
Define Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
The attributes that make your product unique and desirable comprise your unique selling proposition or USP. Your USP is what helps your company stand out, and what will bring new customers over to your side from a competitor’s.
Having your USP documented is also necessary for launching and marketing your new product. You know what to talk about and what to share with potential customers. Here are some ways to evaluate and define your USP:
- What are the top three benefits? Think about what your product offers that will be most beneficial to your audience. List them, then rank them by order of importance.
- Consider everything that makes your product unique. What features do you offer that competitors do not? What does your team bring to the product or service? Think about your brand, your vendors, and everything else.
- What will your product solve? What pain points will your service address? How are you going to help your target audience, and why would they care?
- Build your USP. After putting together the information above, you can build your core USP messaging. The goal is to be succinct yet bold. You want your claims and your messages to be bold and captivating (and also provable).
Create Your Marketing Collateral
Once you’ve defined your audience and your messaging (your USP), it’s time to build your marketing strategy. This is where you’ll lay out detailed plans for your marketing channels and content. Your marketing collateral is one of the key building blocks in your strategy.
For example, your company website is a vital asset, and generally one of the most important elements in your campaign. It’s where you funnel potential customers to learn more about your business and products, and where they reach out for a quote, demo, or consultation. All of the content needed to support your new product offering should be in place, and other related content updated accordingly, before launching your new product and marketing efforts.
Additional pieces of marketing collateral you should have ready to go include:
- Your website navigation and product page(s)
- Marketing copy for social media, digital ads, etc.
- Social media pages or communities (for your product)
- Business cards and sell sheets
- News and blog posts
- Print ads (if applicable)
It’s critical to get all of your ducks in a row before the launch so the rollout goes as smoothly as possible. This is also the time to take high-quality, professional photos of your product. You can either find a photography expert in-house or hire someone who really knows what they’re doing. Either way, you’ll want to get some suitable photos for product pages and descriptions, marketing materials, and other uses.
Test Your Product
By this point, your product should be close to launch, which means it’s ready for trial. Compile a list of testers who will give you an unbiased opinion. Give them ample time to test the product, find any problems, and form an opinion. Collect feedback and use this to improve the product or make changes where necessary.
You may need to have multiple trials, depending on how much you adapt or update the product. Once you’re confident it’s ready for market, it’s time to put together a true launch strategy.
Build Your Launch Strategy
Before executing the launch, set your launch date, and then schedule everything that needs to happen and content that needs to be developed in order to meet that date. Make sure everyone involved—from engineering and supply chain planning to production, accounting, sales, and (of course) marketing knows the date and understands their responsibilities.
Think about when you’re going to launch and how you’re going to do it. Will initial sales be available online only? Will you be launching at a popular trade show? Will only registered users and businesses be allowed to purchase your first offerings? If you have limited availability, how will you notify customers when more are ready? These are all elements to plan and consider.
Market the Release
Hyping the product is a huge part of a successful launch. It’s why you see so many advertisements for certain products leading up to their debut. Brands buy ad space to build exposure and awareness for their products or services so the launch is more impactful.
You don’t necessarily have to take the same approach, but you do need to market the release of your product so people know it’s coming. Some of the more common channels you can use are:
- Social media
- Press releases
- Media coverage
- Webinars and interviews
- Online influencers
- Forums and online communities
- Email marketing
- Print advertising
It’s best to diversify your efforts so you reach a much wider audience.
Launch Your Product
Finally, it’s time to launch your product. But realize that it doesn’t stop there. You may experience technical issues shortly after launch, like your website going down. You need to have teams at the ready to deal with these potential problems.
Moreover, you need to be ready to provide support to your customers, as you’ll likely see a huge influx of customer service requests after the product is launched. Pay attention to what people are having the most trouble with, as that can show you what to update for the next product iteration or software release.
Be sure to collect important stats about the launch and share those with your customers and the world. You can reveal total sales, revenue (possibly), and various other metrics on your company website.
Ready to Launch Your Product?
Launching a new B2B product is a major undertaking, and the planning needed to get there is challenging. What’s more, after the product launches, nothing stops. You need to continue revising the product, marketing it, monitoring customer feedback, and keeping an eye on the competition. Just stay vigilant!
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.