Effective product launches and rebrands are thoroughly planned out according to specific timelines – the best time to announce the name, events with the biggest audiences, tactics that get the most traffic. It's rare that product launch planning has a contingency plan for a global pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has created significant shifts in business environments and has spurred important questions. What does a product launch look like in 2020? Should one even happen? Despite the difficult questions, the current global crisis does present some interesting advantages with its changing business circumstances:
- Adjusted timelines can be beneficial to project completion dates
- Customers are open to a more personal approach
- People are looking for good news
- Your competitors might be "waiting it out"
So, how do you still make the most out of a strategic plan that can no longer be applied as planned?
3 Strategic Adjustments to the Go-to-Market Plan
Rethink Conferences and Trade Shows.
Globally, trade shows and events have been cancelled, creating a sales challenge for many companies. A U.S. laser diode manufacturer had plans to make new product and capabilities announcements at one of the major defense trade shows this year. It was also a key event for networking and business meetings. When the trade show was cancelled, the company had to find an alternative way to still share their latest developments with customers and prospects, so they turned the trade show into a self-hosted virtual conference.
Moving to an online forum still allowed for business opportunities and some semblance of normal business practice during uncertain circumstances. Because the original event is so well known, the organization kept a few aspects of the show the same, tailoring to attendee familiarity:
- Date: The virtual conference was held the same week that was planned for the live show.
- Locale: The team set their screen backgrounds to feature the event’s host city and used similar imagery in promotional designs.
- Theme: They pushed forward similar presentations that they had scheduled for the conference, with the added benefit of being the attendees' singular focus.
Though they did not have the same in-person interactions, the laser diode manufacturer was able to make the conference more personal and still present the products and capabilities they would have at the in-person show.
Strengthen Your Brand Online.
Rebranding usually concludes in a big reveal of the changes. For a veterinary drug manufacturer, the big reveal was a brand-new website and all new trade show branding. The cancellation of the show took away one of the biggest opportunities for the company to make a splash with their new brand backed by familiar faces. Though the altered timeline worked to the benefit of the website build, they needed a new strategy for building brand awareness.
The usual channels for branding announcements were still used – social media, press releases, ads – but making sure there was a significant online presence became even more important to the rebrand launch. The cancellation of the show and other COVID-19 circumstances provided unique online content opportunities. Industry publications and associations started highlighting the impact of coronavirus on the veterinary market and the manufacturer became one of the top sources for video content on the subject, which turned into key opportunities for building awareness around their brand:
- Featured videos on industry sites and their own
- Key messaging opportunities from company leadership
- Article and editorials in industry publications
Build Pre-Launch Product Awareness.
Uncertain timelines and circumstances make for similarly uncertain product launches – business meetings cannot happen as planned, demos can’t be done in person, supply chains may be altered. Launching a product during a global crisis is not what everyone plans for, but it can still be done. The shifted timelines and cancelled events due to COVID-19 could potentially benefit product launches. Too often companies launch new products without a cohesive plan in place or before the product is fully ready because they want to hit the timing of market demand or they plan announcements to coincide with major industry events. By not rushing to meet these deadlines, product launches could become more effective.
A leading manufacturer in high-pressure pumps and gas boosters launched breakthrough compression technology earlier this year and was preparing for another major launch from their hydrogen team in the spring. When the cancellations and shutdowns hit, their tactics and timelines had to shift. By focusing on stronger pre-launch activities, the manufacturer is building a solid prospect database and product awareness. A few ways they are accomplishing this:
- Sharing the product name sooner
- Hosting virtual presentations and webinars that were originally planned for trade shows
- Creating a variety of marketing assets that can be used across channels
What does your product timeline look like in 2020?
Request our Product Launch Roundtable on demand. This hour-long session hosts a discussion between product managers on pivot-points and plan adjustments to cope with a 2020 launch.
About Launch Team, Inc.
We are a multi-dimensional, highly focused marketing firm that has helped companies in technical and engineering-driven industries succeed. We've been doing this for over 30 years, increasing and improving our offerings along the way. Our team's backgrounds include optics, chemistry, and biology paired with a core business and marketing focus. This allows our team a unique understanding of your business, the decision makers you work with, and the engineers who will evaluate your solution.