In the world of consumer goods, the harder you work, the better your product launch. Makes sense, right? You might assume that the same principle also holds true for B2B product launches…but if so, you’d be wrong. In fact, if your product launches aren’t delivering exciting results, there’s a good chance you’re working too hard.
It’s true: The B2C product launch equation goes out the window with B2B product launches. Compared to end consumers, your B2B buyers are more insightful, interested, rational, and fewer in number. If you don’t put them to work and take advantage of their clear-headed wisdom from start to finish, chances are you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and effort, and your new product launch won’t be what it could be.
In fact, my proprietary B2B product development process—New Product Blueprinting—is built on a similar partner-with-your-prospect principle. But while it deeply involves the potential customer in “early stage marketing,” that’s only part of the story. Your prospects should play a vital role in every stage of your product launch marketing process.
In today’s world, most B2B transactions occur when the customer finds the supplier—not the other way around. So, to a large extent, you can throw the aggressive product pitch out the window and, instead, focus your efforts on making it easy for prospects to find you, learn about your product, do business with you, and eventually help spread the word about your company.
From 12 New Rules of B2B Product Launch, here are three ways to start putting prospects to work for you:
Tip #1: Be Findable. Think less about helping your sales reps convince prospects. Think more about helping prospects find your product when they are ready. Research by MarketingSherpa (www.marketingsherpa.com) shows that customers now find suppliers—not the other way around—in 80% of B2B transactions.
B2B buyers like to research, analyze, and make rational group decisions. You can either make their job difficult or easy by how you choose to conduct your product launch. Easy looks like this: Your B2B prospect does a Google search using his favorite keyword, and a top hit has some content he finds interesting…which happens to be linked to your website.
To make this work, you have to be accessible and interesting. Send out news releases full of content that will appeal to readers (and editors) of online magazines, journals, and blogs. Include both a link to your website and the keywords your prospects will likely use in their Google searches. When prospects search, they’ll find articles that lead them to your website. If your website is packed with interesting presentations, videos, comparisons, and so forth, they could spend an hour doing the work your sales reps normally do.
Tip #2: Stimulate “Word of Mouth.” A kind word about your product launch from a trusted colleague or expert will be far more convincing than a spiel from your sales rep. Consider these six approaches from my e-book:
• Identify and promote to industry thought leaders. Send product launch information to VIP editors and bloggers.
• Promote to people already in groups—for example, trade shows and conferences—so they can discuss your product.
• Seek opinions from industry experts: Commission lab tests, seek evaluations, create advisory panels.
• Gain testimonials from respected early adopters. Get advance samples in the hands of willing customers.
• Locate the key decision influencers at prospect companies and build relationships with them.
• Make it easy for these decision influencers to tell their colleagues about your product with leave-behind presentations and sales aids, e-mails with links to interesting videos, and newsletters and other literature rich in content.
Tip #3: Use Their Hot Buttons. You don’t have to blindly choose your new product launch message and media mix, and then cross your fingers and hope for the best. You can and should let your prospects help you! To get the message right, I recommend uncovering customers’ hot buttons during the same “voice-of-the-customer” interviews you (hopefully) used to help design your new product.
Then, shamelessly use their specific language in your advertising copy—for example, as keywords to attract their Google searches. In fact, my company, AIM, has B2B interviewing software that lets you data-mine customer comments for this exact purpose. And while you’re studying prospects’ language to design your product launch, ask them this simple question as well: “How does your company learn about new ideas?” This will help you understand the media preferences—trade shows, seminars, websites, e-mail, and so on.—of your target market so you can optimize your media mix.
If you just put prospects to work with these three steps, will you have a great new product launch? Nope. There’s still plenty of work left for you and your hardworking sales force. But it sure makes sense to let prospects carry much of the load. And here’s the really good news: When you put your B2B prospects to work, they actually like it.
Basically, you’re making it easy for them to do what they naturally do. They’re going to research new ideas. They’re going to share their opinions with colleagues. And they’re going to give advice to suppliers clever enough to ask for it. Bottom line: You’ll have a much better product launch when you recognize that your B2B prospects are willing and able to help you with it.