Getting The Most Out Of Your New Product Introductions
Dave Brock, Partners In EXCELLENCE
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The company is introducing a new product. Everyone is
excited; developers have poured their hearts and souls into development, sales is excited
about something new to talk to their customers about, executive management has high
expectations of revenue and profit contributions from the product. Everything looks
Three months later, the picture is very different. Sales people are not
selling the product with the same vigor, orders are not coming in as expected. Developers
are blaming sales people for the lack of success. Sales people are saying the product does
not meet the customer requirements. Executives are conducting countless reviews to
determine what the problem is. More fingers are being pointed than you can count! If it
was a very high visibility product introduction, the companys stock is taking a
beating and the press and analysts are predicting failure.
While the picture we have painted may be extreme, it is not that
unusual. Let us look at some data first:
- An ongoing study conducted by PDMA shows that over 40% of product introductions are
- Older studies cited by Advertising Age claim 80% of product introductions in 1990 were
failures. This is up from 70% between 1960-90.
- An article in management accounting magazine estimates that 46% of the money spent by
companies on the conception, development, and launch of new products is spent on losers.
Frightening isnt it!! There are many reasons that new product
introductions fail. Some of these failures are the result of not doing the right homework
in the definition and development phases of the product development cycle. But lets
focus on a few things that can be done to maximize the impact of well defined and executed
products at introduction.
Our process for introducing products to our customers and the sales
force is usually backward. Usually we focus on the product features, functions, and
capabilities. Our advertising, press releases and collateral trumpet breakthrough
technologies, innovative features and other capabilities. We declare the superiority of
those features to those offered by our competition. Often we generate a feature checklist,
showing our product with more features, functions, bells, whistles, better feeds and
speeds than our competition.
The truth is, our customers do not care about how wonderful our
products are! They do not care about features, functions, feeds and speeds! They only want
solutions to their business problems.
We need to change our focus to the customer. We need to address the
benefits the customer will get from the implementation of the product. We need to talk to
the problems it solves for the customer. We need to identify how this product will create
new opportunities for our customers to grow their businesses. This subtle shift in
perspective has a dramatic impact on our success in presenting new products to customers.
Benefits and Value Count, Not Features
It sounds so simple, but we rarely see this done. How do we start to
shift our focus to the customer and the benefits they will receive as a result of our
Step 1: We need to identify our target markets and
- What are the characteristics of the customers that are likely to have the problems that
this product solves?
- Who in the customer is likely to be the problem owner?
- How do we determine whether they are really having the problems that this product
- We need to identify, explicitly, markets or customers that are not good fits for our
Step 2: We need to be able to answer the following
- How will implementation of the product help the customer grow their revenue or
- How will the product help the customer realize new opportunities to better serve their
- How will purchase of the product help the customer improve productivity, reduce cycle
time, or reduce costs?
- How will the product help the customer in attracting new customers or retaining current
- How will the product help the customer improve quality, customer or employee
Until we can answer these questions, we do not know the problems or
opportunities the customer faces and how we can help the customer address them.
Step 3: We must be able to differentiate ourselves
from other alternatives available to the customer:
- What makes our solution different from similar products? This needs to be answered in
terms of benefits to the customer, not features of the product.
- What other alternatives does the customer have? There may be other solutions to the
problem or the customer can choose to do nothing.
- What is the impact of our solution in helping the customer solve their problems or
address new opportunities? We must create a compelling argument that demonstrates the
benefits the customer will achieve through the implementation of our products. Quantifying
the responses to the questions in Step 2 can help us develop that justification.
- How, specifically, do we deliver superior value to the customer in solving their
In selling any product, whether new or old, if we cannot demonstrate
the differentiated value that our solutions offer, we are wasting our time and that of our
High Impact Product Introduction Programs
Now that we have addressed some basic issues, what are some of the
things that we can do to maximize the impact of the new product launches.
Marketing needs to do the following:
- Create awareness in the target customer sets about the solution. Marketing, advertising
and PR campaigns that focus on benefits and solving problems, not trumpeting features.
They need to generate interest with the right markets and target customers.
- Provide brochures and collateral that communicate how the product helps solve problems,
not focusing on features and capabilities.
- Provide case studies for both the sales people and customers that demonstrate the
benefits customers receive in implementing the new solution. These case studies should
present real data demonstrating the impact of the solution.
- Focus training less on reiterating product features, functions, feeds and speeds, but on
the application of the product in solving customer business problems.
- Train the sales people in how to identify target customers and problem owners. Show them
how to identify and qualify customers who are likely to have problems that we can solve
with our new product.
- Guide the sales people, specifically, in what questions they need to ask to determine if
the customer has the problems that your new solution addresses. Further training them in
how to identify the impact of these problems on their businesses. (The SPIN questioning
approach developed by Neil Rackham is particularly effective in helping the sales person
with these questions.)
- Train the sales people in developing a differentiated value proposition that addresses
the specific issues the customer faces, using their numbers and terms.
Sales needs to support the launch by doing the following:
Go to the introduction training meetings with a pre-identified target list of customers.
These should be based on criteria developed by marketing and published before the launch
At the meeting, focus on understanding how the product helps customers improve their
businesses. Prioritize learning benefits over features. |
At the introduction meeting, develop specific plans to introduce the product to these
pre-identified customers. Determine who you will see, what you will do, and the desired
outcomes of each meeting with these target customers. |
Leave the meeting with documented sales strategies for introducing the new product to
the right customers. |
At the meeting, with the help of marketing, begin to develop differentiated value
propositions targeted to each customer. Naturally, only a beginning step, specific value
propositions will be based on the results of discovery calls made by the sales people.
Leave the meetings with specific 30-60-90 goals for introducing the new solution to
targeted customers. Make sure these goals are in sync with the expectations of management.
These goals become the road map for the sales person in maximizing the impact of the
launch and accelerating the results produced. |
Sales, marketing, and executive management needs to do the following:
- Clearly communicate expectations, priorities, and objectives for the launch. Without
strong and visible leadership from executive management, the sales organization has not
clear direction or goals for incorporating the product into their current territory plans.
- Reinforce the focus on benefits not features. Dont talk about how great the
product will be in supporting the goals of the company, but rather focus on how great your
solutions will be in helping your customers achieve their business goals. Nothing can be
more damaging to a well executed launch than a companys senior executives continuing
to focus on products in their internal and external communications.
- At the meeting, rather than have company executives talk about how great this new
product is, consider having a key customer talk about how the product will help them
achieve the goals they have for their company.
- Establish and track 30-60-90 goals, supporting those developed by the sales people. Use
these goals to monitor the effectiveness of the launch, to identify and fix problems
early. Often management sets sales and order goals. However, these may not be appropriate,
[particularly for solutions having long sales cycles. Management needs to identify leading
indicators to assure the launch is on target and sales and order goals will be met.
There is no magic to maximizing the impact and effectiveness of new
product launches. It starts with the company doing its homework in the definition and
development phases. At launch, it continues with marketing, sales and management focusing
on customer needs and how the product helps the customer achieve their business goals.
Regardless of how great our new products are, if they do not help our
customers solve their problems in a superior fashion, all the wonderful features,
functions, bells and whistles will not produce the results we seek with the new product.
Partners In EXCELLENCE
provides many training programs addressing product launches and
introductions. Additionally, Partners In EXCELLENCE can develop and
deliver your new product training to your people, channel partners and
customer. For information on the
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