For any venture, the launch of its product or service into the market is one of the most exciting and thrilling moments in their venture’s lifecycle. It is also one of the most nerve wracking and intense processes. This blog explores the phases of market launch and how they come together to successfully enable a venture to introduce its product into the market.
The key element to remember about a market launch is that it is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done activity. Because of the vast array of media and content and the sheer amount of information flowing to your potential customers, breaking through the noise will require consistency over time. This process culminates with you establishing a consistent sales run-rate in the market. For more information on landing your first customer, read my blog on that topic here.
Identify Your Target Market
Who is your target customer for this market launch? Failure to correctly understand and identify your target
customer results in wasted dollars, time and resources chasing a customer segment that ultimately has no interest in your product.
The first step toward understanding and identifying your target buyer and customer is answering the following questions clearly, concisely and effectively.
- What are the challenges, in terms of their current process, that your product will help solve for these buyers?
- What is the value proposition of your product and how does that compare to the customer’s and buyer’s pain and need?
- What does your product cost versus the competition?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of the buyer and key decision maker(s) who will potentially be purchasing your product or service?
- In which types of companies, industries and verticals should you look to target this buyer?
- Where geographically should you focus your efforts to find these buyers and how does that affect the sales cycle?
- How does the buying cycle work for this kind of buyer and what is their process?
- How can this buyer be approached and who is involved in the decision making process for the purchase of your product?
Once you’ve answered these questions, and perhaps some of your own, you’ll be in a good position to identify your target customer. If you want more information on finding the customers who will be most interested in your products or services, read my blog on that topic here.
Locate Your Target Customers
Now that you’ve identified your target market, the objective is to get out in front of those potential customers and show them your solution. Create an opportunity to sell to them whenever the opportunity presents itself. When you’re thinking about how to market to your customers, think about some of the mechanisms by which you identified the customer in the first place.
Some places to do that include trade publications, industry events and other vertically and horizontally aligned organizations, publications and other community-affiliated approaches to help you identify your target customers. It is these same channels that you will want to leverage to begin introducing your product or service to your potential customers.
To drive purchase behavior, you have to engage in a clear and consistent campaign of influence and exposure that is designed to give the customer the background knowledge and information necessary for them to make a purchase decision. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, seize the opportunity and make the deal with them.
Get the Word Out and Generate Demand
Your marketing campaign will need to include all of the various channels open to you in the market today –
this often referred to as an omni-channel approach. This includes the more traditional forms of marketing like advertising in print, and more contemporary methods like social media messaging and engagement.
Perhaps there might be an opportunity for your product to feature in a product review in a key publication. Or, if you’re working with analysts, consider giving them a briefing about your product and how it outshines the competition.
The keys to a successful marketing approach are clarity, consistency, persistence and pervasiveness. Your marketing campaign needs to have great simplicity and clarity in communication to your customers. It needs to “connect the dots” for how the customer’s pain and needs are readily and easily solved by your product and service. Next the campaign needs to consistently communicate that same message. If you vary your message, then you run the risk of confusing your customer or worse yet, not even breaking through the noise in the market.
Persistence in market means you need to keep at your marketing and messaging endlessly. At times, it may seem like there should be a logical end point to your marketing efforts, but remember that Coca Cola, Apple and Nike continue to market well after they have established brands and products in the market. Market, relentlessly and consistently my friends!
Finally, you want to be everywhere that your customer is. This is known as pervasiveness. Customers rarely make a purchase decision based on one interaction, and often not even a few interactions. In fact, research indicates that it may take up to 10 or more interactions with your brand or product to convince the customer to make a purchase decision and follow through by buying your product or service.
Engage in Unexpected Marketing Methods
Another aspect of being pervasive is to investigate and engage in unusual, unpredictable marketing forums, approaches or strategies. Often the more unconventional or unique you can be in your approach, the more likely you are to be noticed and be remembered. This recognition helps build confidence when you pursue them for a sale later.
However, remember that you don’t want to damage your brand or product when you think of these unconventional marketing tactics – after all, having them remember your product only with the footnote that they’d never want to buy it is ultimately a self-defeating effort. Remember to always stay true to your brand. Stay tuned for a future blog detailing the key elements in a marketing campaign that you’ll want to think about as you go to market with your products and services.
Let the Selling Begin!
This next step involves the old-fashioned salesmen approach of pursuing your customers in the market.
This involves reaching out to customers, making an introduction and getting in front of them with the product. If you’ve read my blog on acquiring your first customer, you will want to apply this approach en masse and scale. This represents the pursuit part of the product launch.
Your sales team will identify specific buyers at various customers that you should pursue. Modern social media channels allow the sales team to find out background information on these buyers. Armed with this information, the sales team is ready to approach these customers and propose your solution.
Of course, its always best to get a warm introduction and often some of the marketing tactics noted in the earlier section are designed to do exactly that. For example, your team might have gathered the target buyers information from a trade show or a marketing campaign, making an approach easier and more welcome.
Often its just a matter of picking up the phone and calling the client to establish a connection. Most sales professionals will tell you that breaking through the noise and making a connection with the customer and truly engaging them is often the most difficult part of any sales process. There are plenty of books and approaches out there to help you achieve this objective. Working with your own networks, partnerships and connections is the best and easiest way to get through to your target buyer.
Incidentally, I highly recommend that you hire your sales team with that same approach in mind. You want your team to have a broad base of experience with the customers you want to sell to and, preferably, have a significant book of business that they can come to the table with to enable and facilitate the sales process. Keep an eye out for a future blog post of mine that will give you even more details and specifics on the pursuit stage and how organizations can excel at connecting with their clients and making their pitch.
Closing the deal
The final step of launching the product is focused on all of the mechanics associated with making the prospect into a client. In the simplest case, it may involve a straight forward transaction. However, in my experience with Fortune 1000 clients, straight-forward is more the exception than the rule.
There are often a substantial number of official formalities and hoops one needs to jump through to close the deal. This can be a very dangerous time for a venture. I’ve seen far too many deals fall apart at this stage. Just because your venture was told that they’d “won” the RFP or the selection process or the vendor had decided to give you the business, it doesn’t mean you you can do a happy dance just yet. Remember this its not over, until its over. There are various aspects of closing the deal that depend upon the client, the situation and the product all falling into place. Be prepared for the long haul!
Normally there are also other players involved in this part of the sales cycle as well – procurement is brought into the loop and legal is also engaged – compliance, IT and other key stakeholders may be looped in as well. With all of these players and their specific roles and parts, you can easily see how a “won” deal can quickly become lost in the shuffle and end up being a “loss” at the end of the day. The key thing to remember about navigating the closing part of this phase is to be persistent and never, ever leave anything to stew or allow the process to slow down before signatures.
Beware of the Month-Long Close Process!
Generally speaking, nothing good ever comes from a month long sales close process that involves all of the
folks listed above. There is too much time for someone in the mix to find an objection, and for that objection to grow in severity to the point that it kills the deal. After all, what you’re usually proposing is a change of some sort and the enemy of change is the status quo.
The status quo is that path of least resistance and, when you’re engaged in the close part of market launch, you need to ensure that you monitor this process from end to end. Don’t allow anything to get stuck along the way. Do what is necessary to bring the deal to a successful close. Make sure all of the key stakeholders are satisfied and continually provided with all of the items they’re looking for to get their sign-off on the deal.
Let me repeat that. Make sure all stakeholders sign-off on the deal! This will make them feel like true partners and make it far less likely that they will raise a concern later that throws the deal off track. Never, ever rest until the ink is dry on the contract, and, even then, don’t let your guard down for a moment, because the next phase is the implementation phase! Candidly it never ends.
Congratulations, with a contract in hand you’ve now successfully navigated the market launch phase of building a venture. But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. Now with a customer in hand you need to have the customer success organization ready to engage because that is the final stage of the venture lifecycle.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Please let me know your comments, questions, feedback and insights below or feel free to email me directly here. Please Read and Share all my blogs at LeadingVentures.com.
About this blog – The goal of this blog is to share my experiences, to capture and reveal valuable insights, and to draw from my serial entrepreneur-ship through 7 ventures over the past 20 years. I have encountered many impressive entrepreneurs along the way and I hope to share our collective experience with you to help teach and perhaps motivate you to launch your own B2B or B2C enterprise.
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