In late September of 2015, Apple announced that it sold more than 13 million iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models — just three days after launch! You could argue that Apple is the long-reigning king of B2C product launches. But in the B2B space, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Most B2B product launches barely see a blip on the sales radar, much to the chagrin of stakeholders. It’s no secret that for both B2C and B2B companies, product launches “fail” because there simply isn’t a plan in place. Instead, there were implicit expectations from stakeholders, with visions of Apple-like hype and press, who just assumed that everyone should (and would) want your new product!
If the B2B product you are launching is meeting a real market need and product development is on schedule (big assumptions to be sure) then launch time should be an exciting time to build momentum in your company and in the market. That kind of energy is contingent on having a well-conceived plan in place.
We are big fans of the Pragmatic Marketing framework and frequently use that (and other “secret” sources) as a basis for our work. Here’s how we approach it, and how you can frame your next launch.
The Objective of a Product Launch Plan
The objective of a product launch plan is simple: sales velocity and momentum! A new product launch can be rocket fuel for your sales pipeline, both in renewals for existing customers and share-of-wallet for net-new business. But only with the right ingredients.
Turn your product launch toward your customers, speak to their needs and problems, show how your product solves real market problems, and set real and measurable launch goals to measure the success of your product launch.
There are two types of product launches we encounter most often. They look like this:
1. The Existing Customer Launch
Called the “Migration Launch” in Pragmatic terms, this launch plan is for your current clients. The objectives here:
- Keep your existing customers with you (and potentially upgrade them)
- Reduce the attractiveness of alternatives from competitors
- Dislodge or disrupt the competition who are knocking on your customers’ door
The key: In your product development, constantly ask yourself, “How do we keep the migration from old to new as cost effective and hassle-free as possible?” Failure to do so equals loss of existing customer base.
Your goals: Look at setting some hard numbers around how many customers you want to upgrade in a certain amount of time (upgrade X% of client base in next Y months). This should coincide with your sundown plan for your “old” product. You probably don’t want two products running simultaneously for very long.
2. New Customer Launch
Called the Share-of-Wallet Launch, this is where the fun begins (not that your current customers aren’t fun). The opportunity here is two fold: cold or dead leads that know you, and net-new prospects that have never heard of you — until now! The objectives here:
- Greater brand awareness through marketing and PR efforts around launch time
- An increase in product demos and trials (if you have them)
- Increase in product sales to new clients
The key: Let marketing do their jobs. They are responsible for paving the runway for sales momentum. Pay-per-click, content, email, collateral pieces all blitzed around a launch date will give you that momentum.
Your goals: Simple. New sales. Look at your existing sales goals and factor in realistic increases for the months preceding the launch date. Your momentum is highest in the months right after launch date. Capitalize on it!
Okay, so now the foundations of your launch plan are laid. There are two other components to unpack: launch readiness and your “runway” or timeline. Both are imperative to a successful product launch. We’ll look at the first one, launch readiness, in our next post in this three-part series. Stay tuned!