Question: Name one key thing that is often overlooked in the flurry of product launch planning? Answer: Message mapping, the important process of aligning content with where a customer is positioned within the buying cycle.
The buying cycle has been described several ways but, generally speaking, it involves these stages:
- Awareness and determination of need;
- Consideration of options and choices;
- Intention and decision to buy;
- Purchase decision.
Messages that have been mapped to customers in the Stage 2 are especially important. Messaging that is engaging and persuasive can fuel their decision, converting them from being just a “tire-kicker” to an actual buyer.
Compelling content and the messages it conveys connect with prospects in a highly personal way. It goes beyond simply working with a general customer persona to creating a more intimate relationship anchored in the buyer’s journey. It resonates at a deep level, enabling further engagement, paving the way to a broad product launch success.
Structuring Your Launch
Because a product launch involves dozens of moving parts, sharp leaders understand the importance of creating order out of what appears to be chaos. You can quickly achieve this by approaching the launch as having three primary stages.
The pre-launch stage encompasses all the key actions and deliverables that need to be ready before the actual launch. At this point, you are essentially building a demand generation engine. It includes building awareness and anticipation with everything from email marketing to social selling to website improvements and media announcements. At this stage you should know how to bring a new visitor to your website and begin converting that visitor into a paying customer.
Activities at this stage also can include such things as:
- Writing a sales page;
- Partnering with affiliates to support the launch;
- Creating a hot list of potential buyers;
- Connecting with influencers and thought leaders;
- Building a buzz with advertising;
- Planning a launch event.
Because this stage of the pre-launch process is when all the planning and strategizing are done, you’d be wise to give it several months of planning.
The Reveal Day is the day your launch goes live. Leading up to this you’ve assembled a powerful ignition. For example, sales promotions are cued up, media announcements go live, special events are scheduled to begin, and your pipeline of content is ready to go. There are dozens of ways to make a splash; imagine creative ways to make yours.
Post-launch activities could be a series of social media or emails that draw attention to the launch. Or it could be creating new assets such as case studies and blogs. It must include collecting data and feedback on how the launch was received, then taking appropriate actions for continuous improvement.
During this stage you’ll want to create a sequence of follow-up emails that checks in with customers to make sure they are happy with their purchase, plus an offer of support so that they get the most out of their investment.
Successful, highly integrated launches continually are reinforced after the launch and rely on the demand generation engine you have so carefully built. Your new product or service has been under development for months, perhaps years, so leverage this stage as a golden opportunity to build your brand.
Use a Playbook
An implementation playbook defines the go-to-market business goals the launch team has been chartered to achieve. It lays out the “run rules” that govern launch implementation, including action plans that have been agreed to. For example, how do you hand off a hot lead from marketing to sales? If a sales rep wants to contact prospects who downloaded a whitepaper, what is the best practice for doing so?
A great playbook describes in detail the communications strategy for involving all stakeholders before, during, and after the launch. It’s also a first step towards sales enablement, a tool to help marketing and sales stay in step. In great launches, customer-facing sellers will have participated to some degree in creating the launch plan, but chances are they are only part of your selling team. Your playbook should be embraced across all sales and marketing divisions, laying out procedures for everyone to follow, including channel partners.
Product launches require a super-charged effort to build a powerful demand generation engine. Armed with a load of customer data mined from many different sources, successful companies have a deep, strategic understanding of the marketplace and the challenges at hand. While a product launch is not easy, when done right it pays huge dividends as a true revenue driver.
At Forward Vision, our experts use the “Start Right – Finish Well” launch management process as a proven methodology to give new products the lift they need. Watch our webinar to learn more.