How to Use Internal Communication to Avoid Common Product Launch Traps

Posted by Michele Nichols on Fri, Mar 24, 2017

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New product launch is risky, even for established companies with a defined product development and product launch process. In our work with high tech B2B companies, we’ve noticed a few places where companies often stumble.

Here are three traps to look out for, and ways to avoid them:

 

Trap 1: Treating Productizing like a Side Project

Over the years, we’ve worked with many services companies looking to launch a product, as well as manufacturers who are moving from custom OEM work into their own product lines. Working on other peoples’ products is these businesses’ bread and butter; their own product development and product launch come last, slowing time to market and reducing their competitive edge. This approach can also be a bit of a slush fund over time, causing significant budget overruns.

How to avoid the trap:

  • Assign it a project code and owner—someone who’s accountable for the budget, timeline, and outcomes, and an internal “customer” they’re responsible to.
  • Bring in outside guidance. If you haven’t launched a product before, the right consultant can help to set gates, milestones, and KPIs.
  • You may be excited about the product—but your customer isn’t yet. Don’t get hung up in the features, or too married to your perception of needed product capabilities. Design for objective and frequent customer feedback.

Trap 2: Lack of Sales and Marketing Alignment

Even in times of “business as usual,” lack of sales and marketing alignment can leave 10% of revenue on the table. In new product launch, mixed messages and lack of a cohesive product launch plan can cause outright product launch failure. Symptoms include: lack of clarity in whom to sell to, disagreements on the definition of a qualified lead, lower-than-expected conversion rates, and finger-pointing (Marketing: “Why aren’t you closing leads?” Sales: “We need better leads.”)

How to avoid the trap:  

  • Craft the plan together. Work with sales, marketing, and customer service to determine product positioning and set the product launch roadmap.
  • Set a “contract” for what is expected from both marketing and sales, and decide what criteria is used for a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead.
  • Integrate platforms. We’re big proponents of the Hubspot inbound marketing platform and HubSpot CRM—not just for inbound leads, but all leads. There is so much insight to be gained from the prospect’s behavior before they engage with sales.

Trap 3: The Soft Launch

A deliberate soft launch can be a smart strategy. One nanotech company did a pilot test in several markets. With a concerted and measurable sales and marketing plan, they soft launched, testing to see where they held the strongest competitive advantage, before completing a formal launch in viable markets.

On the other hand, a soft launch by default, due to lack of budget, resources and planning, is not a decision—it’s a common trap. Many companies that approach us for product launch support tell us, “Well, we sort of launched this product. Sales are lagging behind expectation, and now we need to make a concerted effort.”

Whether you’re still in the planning stages or have already fallen in the “soft launch” trap, there are actions you can take to help.

How to avoid the trap:

  • Work together to develop your product launch roadmap.
  • Create a formal launch event, whether it’s a product unveiling at an important trade show or your headquarters, or a social media event. It’s not too late.
  • Decide who, when, and how go/no-go decisions are made.

Looking for more on how to coordinate a successful internal communications plan for product launch? Download our Product Launch Guide.

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Topics: Internal Communication, Product Launch