Product Launch 30 Day Plan – Week 2

30 Product Launch Plan - Week 2

In Week 1 of the Product Launch 30 Day Plan the focus was on the most basic product launch information. In Week 2 you will gather more information, assess your organization’s strengths/weaknesses, and organize a cross functional launch team.

After Week 1 you have the following completed:

  • Defined product launch goals
  • Established product launch priority
  • Refined target market segments
  • Chosen product launch strategies to support the launch goals

I suggest you complete the these deliverables before continuing Week 2’s assignment. It’s OK if it takes longer than a week to complete Week 1’s deliverables. It’s better to complete the deliverables from beginning to end before continuing with Week 2 of Product Launch 30 Day Plan.

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Crafting a demo that sells

Demo 700 x 400Everyone wants a product demo that is so compelling buyers jump out of their seats to buy. Unfortunately that scenario rarely happens. In today’s buying environment a demo may meet two buyer needs. The first is to show the product is real and is consistent with the buyer’s needs. The second is to provide proof the product can deliver what the buyer expects. You may need different approaches to please both needs.

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Product Launch 30 Day Plan – Week 1

Product Launch 30 Day Plan

Plan 700 x 400

The purpose of the Product Launch 30 Day Plan is to provide a starting point for Launch seminar attendees to get started planning a product launch. Think of it like a Quick Start Guide that is designed to get customers up and running quickly, and to help put into action what was learned in the Launch seminar.

I like to think of it like cooking. When you attend the Launch seminar, you learn about the cooking tools and the ingredients. The next step is to prepare a meal and for that you need a recipe. Think of the Product Launch 30 Day Plan as a recipe. The recipe will need to (and should) be adjusted to suit your tastes.

Don’t think of the Product Launch 30 Day Plan as an absolute. Think of it like a guide that’s intended to provide the insight and foundation for your successful product launch. Every organization is different and every market segment has its idiosyncrasies that have to be factored into the Product Launch 30 Day Plan.

Good luck, think about the ‘big picture’, and have fun!

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Why references, reviews, and referrals matter

Why references, reviews, and referrals matter

Today you will get a request from a member of your sales team for a ‘reference’. An individual who is using your product today, likes it, and is willing to say nice things about it to other people who have not yet bought.

Why are references, reviews, and referrals so important?

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A product launch is a campaign

Normandy Landing

kam-peyn

Campaign: “a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purpose”

Given the above definition of a campaign, it’s easy to understand how a product launch fits nicely into that definition. Unfortunately many product launches don’t follow that definition. You want your product launch to be aggressive, where aggressive equates to selling more stuff more quickly. Does your product launch wind up being a whimper that doesn’t produce anywhere close to the results expected? Wait. What is expected?

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Are You Listening to Learn or Listening to Sell?

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You want a better understanding of the markets you serve. You want to identify new markets. You want to identify new, innovative solutions that can vault your career and the fortunes of your company. Are you using your best listening skills?

Too often you have your Listening to Sell filter on and miss important insights. The Listening to Sell filter discards information that isn’t relevant to selling efforts. You hear only what you need to move the sale forward.

Listening to Learn is filterless. It’s an activity with no agenda; no preconceived notions. It is almost childlike in the wonderment of learning something new, something you never knew before. It opens your mind up to seeing problems in a whole new light. You see things differently.  The problems identified could lead to new markets, new solutions, and new growth opportunities.

It’s unreliable to expect your salespeople to identify the next product and the next market because they Listen to Sell. It’s not a surprise and it’s not a criticism. It’s a fact. It’s how we expect them to perform and it’s how they are compensated.

Someone in your organization needs to practice Listening to Learn. Who does this today? How can you engage more resources to practice Listening to Learn?

photo credit: in_times_of_profound_change_ via photopin (license)

The One-Trick Pony Launch

The product launch worked so well last time so why not do the same exact things again? There is just this one, small, really important detail. Do you know why it worked so well?

Maybe it was the right product at the right time that solved the right problem.

Maybe it was really good execution.

Maybe it was dumb luck.

Maybe it was something else.

It’s easy to repeat what you’ve done before but hard to replicate the success. It takes work, a good strategy, and knowledge of the market.

Hubris runs rampant when the first product launch succeeds. You feel invincible; anything you do from here forward is going to be a winner.

And then the second launch flops. You convince yourself it must be a fluke, an anomaly, an outlier. It could happen to anyone. You shrug it off and move on.

And the third launch flops. Hmmm. It can’t be the product or the strategy. Must be the execution. Identify and punish the guilty.

After the next flop the blame storming meetings consume the agenda.

Know the market. Understand the problem. Solve it. Launch with the right strategy for the right reasons. Define the parameters of a successful launch. Execute and measure.

The 70% Solution

There are basically two kinds of software companies. One provides as complete a solution as possible (a product) and the other is essentially a services company that combines some software that requires services to complete the solution. Sometimes this is referred to as a 70% Solution. The two approaches can be profitable. The big differences between the two approaches are operational business models, the ease of growing, and margin.

Strategies

With a complete solution, the strategy is to identify a problem or need, and build a complete software solution that requires very little dependency on additional services to make the solution complete for a market of buyers. Ideally no services are needed.

With a 70% solution, the strategy is for the software to be a tool that drives services revenue. The software needs to be complete enough in the buyer’s eyes, but still require services to take it from a 70% solution to a 100% solution.

Needs Identification

With a complete solution, needs are identified through market sensing activities. Needs are identified, clarified, validated, and quantified. Then the solution is created. Every capability built into the solution is evaluated on the basis that it satisfies a broader market need.

With a 70% solution, needs are driven by sales opportunities. Each sales opportunity is likely to have unique requirements. Some are handled in the field by the services team. Others require development effort to add features to the software. Every capability built into the software is evaluated on whether it can satisfy one customer’s needs.

Development Considerations

With a complete solution, the development team builds software that ensures it can scale to a large customer base and is supportable without the need of a field services team.

With a 70% solution, the development team has license to take shortcuts knowing there is a services team in the field that can take the ball from the 30 yard line and carry it into the end zone (apologies for the American Football reference… please substitute your sports metaphor).

Here’s where complexity and technical debt begin to creep in. With a 70% solution, field customization of the delivered solution is inevitable in order to satisfy the needs of individual customers. Strict standards and guidelines can be instituted to ensure that field-initiated customization is contained. This – hopefully – should make it easier to upgrade customers to future versions of the software. But when under pressure in the field to deliver a solution to a customer where revenue is on the line, sometimes guidelines and standards are ignored.

Over time field customization becomes a significant technical challenge for the development team. In an effort to keep all customers happy, innovation is gradually compromised as every incremental improvement must be scrutinized to have the least amount of negative impact.

Scaling the Business

The challenge with the 70% Solution for software is scaling the business.

The 70% Solution requires adding people (labor) to grow revenue. People are needed to deliver the final 30%. There is a one-to-one relationship with revenue and labor.

With a software product scaling is easier. More people may be needed but the one-to-one relationship between labor and revenue doesn’t exist. There is less constraint to growth while at a much higher margin. It’s one of the key drivers why the software business so appealing.

Making the Transition

If you are in a business that wants to make the transition from a 70% Solution to a complete product, you will face interesting challenges. Some will be easy, and some not so easy. In a future blog post I’ll explore some of the challenges you should expect to experience, resistance you’ll encounter, and what you should do to ease the transition.

It Starts with a Conversation

Successful products have something in common. They satisfy a need. They do a few things exceedingly well. People like them so much they tell others.

We often think that a successful product starts with an idea. An idea so amazing it will change everything. But the idea is just the spark. The spark begins to smolder after we start having a conversation. A conversation with real people, in a real market, with real needs.

As we interact with the market and learn, the smolder becomes a flame. We learn more. We refine. We get more feedback. We discover which fuel makes the flame grow. The flame grows to become a forest fire. Nothing can put it out now.

Without a conversation, the spark is vulnerable. Just a little rain and it’s snuffed out.

Get out of your office. Have a conversation. Don’t let your idea become vulnerable. Build a fire that’s unstoppable.

A Product Launch “Is He Cheating on Me” Quiz

Product Launch Quiz

Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net image by David Castillo Dominici

It’s a new year. The first quarter is a time for launching new products and expectations are high. Launching a product successfully is hard work. And what I mean by ‘successful’ is that it meets or exceed goals that have been defined for a successful launch. The launch goal could be revenue, it could be market share, it could be changing perception in the market about your company.

A successful product launch could be a game changer for the company and for you. Often (as in 95% of product launches fail) we discover the launch problem after it’s introduced to the market. In our eagerness to get to market quickly, shortcuts are taken. In some cases shortcuts that shouldn’t be taken.

Cosmopolitan magazine regularly has a quiz to help their readers sort out important life issues like “Is he cheating on me?”. I thought we could borrow the quiz approach and apply it to launching products to see how prepared you are for your next product launch.

Each of the questions in the quiz is designed to help you think through a product launch across the entire spectrum of new product introduction. Each question has a score from 1 to 5. 1 is the lowest and 5 the highest. Give some thought to each question before answering. Look at each answer and choose the one that best matches your current situation. At the end of the quiz we’ll add up your score to see how you did. Good luck!

How important is the need the product addresses?

  1. We’re not really sure but at the Powerpoint level it’s very compelling.
  2. Our Sales Team said if we built it they could sell tons of it.
  3. I read an article/industry analyst write-up that described how big the problem is/is going to be.
  4. There is clear evidence of an active and vibrant market buying now.
  5. There is a huge demand and we’ve validated it with market research.

How large is the population of buyers that want to address the need right now?

  1. We’ve spoken with one customer and they liked it. We assumed everybody needs it too.
  2. We have a new person we hired with a lot of experience in this area and he says that the population of potential buyers is huge.
  3. We are using industry analyst projections on the size of the market.
  4. Preliminary market research has indicated the market is large. We haven’t validated this research but there is enough evidence to believe it’s large enough to make it worthwhile.
  5. The population is humongous and demand is growing. Too big to get my head around. We’ve validated the market size through market research.

How well defined is the target market segment for this product launch?

  1. We expect the marketing team to figure this out for us.
  2. We have a sales team that sells into a target market now. That’s a good start, right?
  3. An executive who formerly worked in this industry assures us she can provide all the information we need about where to focus.
  4. We stumbled across a need in what appears to be a good target market and have observed a pattern after visiting a few customers.
  5. Over the entire population of potential buyers, we’ve identified a target market segment that has the highest need, and we’ve validated it with market research.

Was this product designed for a single customer or for a market of buyers?

  1. Our development team built it on their own and now the company expects us to launch it.
  2. We designed it for a big customer with lots of money to spend.
  3. We spoke with the sales team and they gave us a list of the most important features.
  4. We met with a few of our best customers. They love the idea and have given us a set of requirements.
  5. We designed it for a market of buyers to address a specific set of needs. We’re only adding features which we would be the most useful for the most buyers to fill a broad need.

How well do you know the buyers for this product?

  1. Why should we worry about this? Isn’t this something our sales team will do?
  2. We spoke to Bob, he’s our best customer. Every buyer is just like Bob.
  3. We met with an industry analyst and she told us everything we need to know about the buyers.
  4. We’ve met with some contacts from a few of our customers and from that experience we think we know who the buyers are for this product.
  5. We’ve conducted market research to understand who will be involved in making a buying decision for our product. No research is perfect but we believe we have a really good understanding of how this product will be bought.

How well do you know how buyers in the target market segment will make a buying decision?

  1. The product is so awesome it will sell itself. Duh.
  2. We’ll let the sales team figure that out. Not our job.
  3. We hired some new salespeople from a competitor that’s already selling into this market. They’ve shared their experience with us.
  4. We’ve met with 6 of our customers and from that interaction we think we know how a buying decision is made.
  5. We’ve conducted market research to understand how people making a buying decision. Not only do we know who is involved, but we when they get involved, what information they need, and what they care most about.

How did you do? Add up the score from each question to get your total. The max you can get is 30.

If you scored a 30, congratulations! You’ve identified a need and validated that it is worthwhile from a business standpoint. You’ve built a product that addresses the essential needs of a target market segment. You know the buyers and how they buy. You are focused. You’ve done the work to minimize business risk. Great job.

If you scored less than 30, don’t panic, but take notice. For every point below 30 there is an increase in business risk. The less market evidence available for making a business decision, the higher the likelihood of failure.

Notice the sequencing of the answers. An answer of 5 is always validated with research. An answer of 1 means you have no data, no facts (you are ‘winging it’). In between is a spectrum of insight, gradually increasing. The more you know, the lower the risk.

Let me know what you think about the quiz! What was your score?