Quick Checklist for a Product Launch

One of the most important and stressful responsibilities for a marketing team is supporting a new product launch. Everyone is excited about the upcoming product. Your colleagues and managers are hoping for a big impact. The whole company is looking at their marketing to create a buzz at launch time.

Obviously, the worst possible thing would be to send a product off into the market and hear nothing but crickets in return. The old adage that if you build it they will come is just not true. If you build it, you’ve got to promote it. You’ve got to construct that launch pad by beginning your marketing push early, months ahead of time.

Follow this checklist to give your new product the exciting launch it deserves.

Assemble the team

When we talk about team, we mean everyone you need to interact with in order to successfully launch the product. The list can be long: engineers, developers, subject matter experts, product managers, sales team, customer service, and even customers themselves. Most of them will only play a peripheral role in the product launch, but you must line up your resources and know who to go to for everything you need.

Clarify product positioning

With clear and specific product positioning, all other messaging flows. That means having a detailed positioning statement that describes the target audience, the problem they face, and how your product helps solve that problem. This statement can help guide your team to success.

Especially with the initial launch, you might want to keep the target audience narrow. If not, you should have a positioning statement for each audience segment you plan to market to. If you’re trying to be everything to everybody so as not to miss a single potential customer, you can end up appearing watered down and your messaging becomes vague and uncompelling. Keep the presentation specific to reach the respective customer base.

Write (and keep writing) an FAQ

An FAQ answers all potential questions customers might have about the new product: launch dates, key features and benefits, upgrade and support policies, and more. This is a living document that you can update and revise as you go.

You may need two or even three slightly different FAQs: for customers, channel partners/distributors, and internal. Adding multiple FAQs – or even just more sections to a single FAQ page – can help ensure that your customer has a thorough understanding of what you have to offer.

Solicit endorsements

If your product has a beta program you should arrange to get endorsements and testimonials from early customers. It’s best if you can bake this right into the beta program. You’ll need these quotes to produce press releases and other marketing content.

Tease your audience

Announcement comes prior to the actual launch date. Start putting messages on your website or in your emails letting your audience know that a new product is coming. Create a dedicated page on your site where interested visitors can request more information about the new product. Make sure there is enough detail so you can reach your target audience, but not so much that they have no reason to check back later. Getting all the information at once can potentially overwhelm the customer. Anticipation is a very effective way to create buzz for a product.

Create content

You’ll support the product launch with a variety of content for your defined audiences. Make a list of all content you will use—articles, white papers, data sheets, webinars, videos, blog, and social media posts—determine how each will be used and begin the process of content creation. Create a plan for when to release each piece of content. Do you want to stagger the release of your content? Do you want to put everything out there at once? Decisions like this can create a streamlined campaign.

Meet the press

Prepare a press release announcing your new product and distribute it over the newswire and individually to any editors or reporters you have working relationships with. Ideally, the press release will contain quotes from beta customers as well as from leaders within your own company.

Determine special offers

Working with product managers and your sales team, you can develop any special offers or incentives around purchasing the new product. If you do decide on special offers, work these into your campaign materials. These generally take time to settle on since they involve number crunching and analytics to determine viable offers and pricing discounts.

Create campaigns

Putting together integrated, multi-channel, goal-specific campaigns will be the bulk of your work. This large effort requires careful coordination, the ability to tap various creative and content resources, audience analysis, working with media partners, budgeting, and more. This effort results in less stress for your team overall. A well-planned campaign ensures consistent content across the board.

You might be planning a multi-touch email campaign to your own list and a newsletter/banner advertising campaign to reach a target audience in your industry. You might support those campaigns with content offers such as articles, webinars, or videos. You might create shareable content such as blog posts and social media posts. You need to have landing pages and contact forms tested and ready for action.

By the time the day comes that your company is ready to accept an order for a new product, your launch campaigns should already be out the door. It’s challenging to launch a new product, but if you plan ahead, you can avoid last-minute chaos and increase the likelihood of achieving launch goals.

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New Research Shows Engineers Under Increasing Pressure

The pace of engineering is accelerating, designs are becoming more complex at the same time that design cycles are shrinking, and time-to-market pressures are increasing. If that sounds like a challenging work environment, welcome to the life of today’s engineer.

These are just a few of the key takeaways gleaned from new research conducted by IHS Engineering360 and presented in the new, complimentary research report The Pulse of Engineering: The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today.

pulse of engineering
Survey of engineers finds a strong pulse of engineering but reveals key challenges including resource constraints, accelerated pace of work, increasingly complex designs and more.

Pressure and risk were among several recurring themes noted by the 2,162 engineers and technical professionals who responded to the survey. Consider some of the other findings:

  • Forty-six percent of engineers are working on more projects than they were two years ago.
  • Fifty-seven percent are being required to do more with less.
  • Fifty-five percent said the number of competitors is growing.
  • The majority are facing budget constraints (60 percent) and time constraints (69 percent).

What will be the result of all these pressures? For one, engineers should be granted superhuman status for shouldering the load—55 percent said they frequently or always meet launch dates and product quality standards. On the more sobering side, these conditions may be cause for concern: 44 percent said the pressure to meet deadlines and cut costs is putting product quality at risk.

What does this all mean for the industrial marketer? These results, the conclusions we can draw from them and our recommendations based on what engineers are telling us can help inform your marketing strategy.

How do your products/services help your customers – the engineers and technical professionals that responded to this survey – do more with less, shorten design cycles, or meet performance targets?

Industrial marketers can make valuable use of this data by creating buyer personas that describe your various types of customers, their motivations and the problems they face. Messaging based on buyer personas will resonate more deeply with your target audience.

Knowledge Management is an Issue

A significant percentage of the engineering workforce is aging or on the move. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they could retire in the next five years. Thirty-one percent said they were only slightly likely or not at all likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. In many cases, when these employees leave, institutional knowledge goes with them.

Forty percent said their companies lose specialized knowledge and expertise faster than they gain it. Yet only 43 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, manage or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

Industrial marketers have a great opportunity to step in and help fill the knowledge void as well as build customer satisfaction and loyalty by producing trusted, reliable technical content that helps engineers do their jobs more effectively. Your customers will turn to you for authoritative knowledge and you will become an essential resource to these companies.

Environmental Sustainability is Important

Another theme arising from the survey is the importance of environmental sustainability. Seventy-six percent said designing/developing environmentally sustainable products was important to their companies. Fifty-five percent said that environmental/sustainability pressures on products/designs have increased over the past two years. In addition, the majority of engineers said that the number of environmental/sustainability regulations, regulatory complexity and frequency of regulatory changes have all increased.

If your products are energy efficient, help reduce energy consumption or are made from safe or recyclable materials, make sure you get that message out to your target audience. The same is true with messaging around other trends reported in the survey, such as engineers being strapped to do more with fewer resources while having to meet aggressive launch dates.

Take advantage of these trends in your marketing. How can your products reduce time to market for engineers? Improve productivity? Save time and resources?

Performance is Measured by Customer Satisfaction

Having satisfied customers was the most often cited objective used to measure a team or department’s performance, chosen by 60 percent of respondents. Product quality – a key aspect of customer satisfaction – placed second among performance objectives (57 percent), followed by launch dates (45 percent).
Engineers are doing a good job living up to performance expectations: 75 percent said they frequently met customer service and satisfaction targets. It appears that the desire to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction permeates all corners of an organization. Even for engineers, the customer is king.

Download the Research Report

Download your complimentary copy of The Pulse of Engineering: The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today. This research report profiles the respondents and analyzes and presents results of the survey. It also offers recommendations to industrial marketers to help them better understand their target audience, strengthen relationships with customers and position their products to align more closely with industry trends.

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What do you think of these findings? Any surprises? Or what you expected from your audience? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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Three Ways to Simplify Your Marketing Message

One challenge of marketing industrial products and services is that they tend to be complex. They have specialized uses. They’re packed with specifications. They lug around a long list of features and functions. But just because your products are complex doesn’t mean your message should be. In fact, your message can’t be complex if you want to engage customers and prospects.

But too many companies create complex messaging. It’s easy to understand why. You’re so close to your products, you know them so well, that they may seem simple to you. You can end up thinking that if you can understand the complexity, others can too. But they can’t. And they don’t want to. Even though you may be speaking to an engineering and technical audience, your customers and prospects are people, and people everywhere are burdened by too much complexity, too much noise, and not enough time to get everything done. Which means a complex marketing message is going to be ignored or rejected.

You need to simplify your message, especially early in the buy cycle when your goal is to create engagement opportunities with customers and prospects. Later in the buy cycle, when customer and prospects are comparing and evaluating products, is the more appropriate time to dive deeper in specifications and technical functions of your products.

Here are three ways to help you simplify.

1. Focus on customer problems
Rather than promoting detailed features and specs of your products, or their innovative design, or their quality manufacturing, talk about high-level benefits such as the problems your products solve. Keep in mind that the number-one and perhaps only reason a customer would be interested in your products and services is if they can help solve a problem. Talk about problems solved: such as circuit failure, valve leakage, or whatever is appropriate. That’s what will get their attention.

Also, when engineers begin their search for products and services, they may not know what type of product they need. Their search terms might be centered on words that relate to the problem they’re facing, not the products they’re looking for. Use those words, and your products will be easier to find.

2. Reduce the noise level
Noise is everywhere. Take a look at your own inbox and see all the irrelevant emails. Or the white papers, websites or articles that use three paragraphs when a sentence or two will make the point. Look at your own marketing materials.

Are you guilty?

This noise is blocking your message and needs to be eliminated. The best way to do this is to focus on a single message: the biggest problem your product solves or its number-one business benefit. Even if your product has more than one use, focus on its most important one. That gives you a chance to get noticed. If you try to make everything important, then nothing stands out, and no one will pay attention.

Keeping your message short is harder than making it long. Using fewer words (and images) to get your point across means that each word (or image) must be selected carefully and have a purpose. It might be wise to use professional copywriters who can communicate clearly and succinctly. There’s a famous quote from Mark Twain where he apologizes to a friend for writing him such a long letter, but he didn’t have the time to write a shorter one. So you’ll need to take that extra time; it will be worth it.

3. Communicate in stages
The biggest contributor leading to complexity of messaging is when you try to communicate everything at once, and in doing so end up communicating nothing. But if you start with the high-level message and remove noise, you’ll communicate clearly and can get the attention of your customers and prospects. Once you are engaged with them, you can communicate more detail as your prospect reaches the consideration stage of their buy cycle and wants more information. This is the key: you give them more when they want more, and not before.

As your prospect reaches the point where they are perhaps comparing your products against those of a competitor, it is time to offer detailed specifications, other uses for the product that your customer many not know about, the precision manufacturing process that ensures such high quality, the brand attributes that make your company the right choice, etc. Because now customers are ready for this information. Now they need it to make a decision.

These three guidelines can help you simplify and clarify your messaging. Apply them not only in marketing industrial products and services, but whenever you need to communicate.

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Do you market complex products or services? How have you simplified your message? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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