8 Critical Steps to Ensure a Successful New Product, Service Launch
Next time you’re on an airplane, waiting to takeoff, you can be confident that your pilot is going through a pre- flight checklist to ensure all is set for a successful flight. While s/he has flown perhaps hundreds of times before, that does not excuse them from a pre-flight check. The FAA requires it, their employer requires it and professionally they require it of themselves.
If you apply that same discipline to each new marketing campaign, you can be confident, barring any unforeseen turbulence, your marketing flight will reward you with a successfully landing.
1) CONDUCT A SWOTT ANALYSIS OF THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE YOU WISH TO LAUNCH. Take a cold, hard look at the product or service you want to take to market via a SWOTT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats and Trends analysis. Carefully analyze how your product or service stacks up in each of these categories. Be honest in that evaluation and do it together with your best thinkers who will be honest with themselves and you so that you have an objective evaluation. The results are always a great reality check and a critical step to help you think through how the offering needs to be positioned.
Depending on what you’re offering, articulating the strengths and opportunities could be challenging in the mortgage industry where some products and services are quite homogenous. But surely, you are launching the product or service because you believe you have something better or can provide it in a better way than your competition. Therefore, being able to identify how you’re offering is better because it fits better than others with a current or foreseeable trend could be a key component to its success.
2) IDENTIFY THE CORE COMPONENT OF YOUR CAMPAIGN. While it may seem obvious, narrowly define what exactly you are marketing and focus exclusively on that component. People can remember one message very well, they do alright with 2 but once you try to insert 3 or more messages into a campaign they will lose focus and not really understand what exactly you’re trying to market.
Attempting to focus on too many messages at a time is common, especially when developing the ad component of the campaign where grabbing attention to begin with is always a challenge. If you’re offering has multi-faceted benefits however, it may make sense to think in terms of a series…a series of print ads, banner ads, direct mailers,etc. in order to communicate the full depth of the offering you have in mind. Each part of the series should have a common theme.
3) TRANSLATE THAT CORE TO A BENEFIT. Mortgage companies don’t buy loan origination software rather they buy efficiency, streamlined lending operations, process simplification and reliability to name a few. Real estate agents that refer their buyers aren’t “buying” a lender because they offer a low rate or loan programs, rather they’re “buying” peace of mind, reliability…they trust that lender to get the job done well because of what it means to their own personal brands and certainly their income.
Translate your core component to a benefit and focus your messaging on that benefit….not the feature. You will be making it much easier for your prospect to understand why they want and perhaps need your new offering.
4) MAKE SURE YOUR BENEFIT IS UNIQUE AND CAN BE PROVEN. Of course, when you developed the offering you wish to take to market, you recognized the benefit of that offering otherwise you wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble, right? However, now you have to communicate that benefit in a way that your target audience can easily grasp so they can quickly understand how your offering is different than that of a competitor.
Accordingly, at this stage it’s critical that you identify top competitors with similar offerings and gather as much intel as you can about how they’re “selling” it. For example, they may be making claims that they can’t or don’t back up with any proof. You may catch them making overstatements in their marketing online and offline. Or, better yet, they may be purposely avoiding or twisting specific messaging because they know the shortcomings of what they offer which your offering may actually solve. They may even be using language that makes it sound as if they have the same thing you do, except for one little thing that you know makes all the difference! This is where you come in. This is where getting the message right can make all the difference.
If your mortgage app is better, your compliance technology is more thorough, your underwriting process is faster, your pricing engine is more accurate, and on and on, then you know what they say…the proof is in the pudding, right? I know that sounds cliché, but clichés are just that for a reason…there’s wisdom in them. So, you might consider a “soft launch” to allow you to collect data on end user satisfaction. Don’t think this only works for business-to-business offerings, it can certainly work for direct to consumer as well. You might collect this data in testimonials (written and video) and also develop a case study or two. Now you have the proof that what you offer is great and solves a problem others don’t.
5) NARROWLY PROFILE WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO BUY FROM YOU. Create a demographic profile of who you wish to market to. Age, sex, income, geographic location, credit range and more if B2C. If B2B consider type of business, size of business (gross sales/origination volume, number of employees) title of person you need to reach, geographic location and more. If you’re using a list service however, be careful not to make the criteria so tight that the output is too small. Despite many claims, list data is not entirely accurate and missing data in some areas can cause certain leads to be excluded from the final output.
Also consider what keeps your ideal prospect awake at night…know their biggest concerns so you can speak to them. Identify all the characteristics you can of your ideal target to ensure you don’t waste effort with too many marginal prospects.
6) SELECT THE BEST COMMUNICATION VEHICLE(S). Today there are a panoply of options that need to be prioritized and coordinated to effectively reach your prospects, from the traditional to the more contemporary channels. Developing the right communications mix is critical to maximize ROI. Here is where your effort in profiling really pays off. A multi-touch approach makes for a well-rounded campaign and gets the job done. However, overdoing it will just cut into your profits…so striking the right balance and knowing where to be and how much emphasis to place on each communications channel is important to optimize the campaign. For example, what should your flight schedule look like? Do you need to have an ad in each key publication every time it comes out for the next year? Surely you don’t. Coming into the market strong makes sense, but a well balanced approach and activity schedule will avoid diminishing returns.
Also, don’t forget to feature your offering prominently on your website. You might also consider building a landing page as well which can help with campaign tracking.
7) TEST YOUR CREATIVE AGAIN AND AGAIN. This is especially necessary if you’re launching something that you expect to have mass appeal. Testing your creative and other aspects of your mailers, broadcast and internet marketing efforts is a necessity to discover what’s going to work best and drive the highest ROI. Consider testing with a small audience first or even conducting an online or in-person focus group or survey before rolling out. Current technology provides many ways to test and get killer feedback!
8) DON’T FORGET THE METRICS. You’re putting a lot of time and money into your campaign so be sure you define exactly what success means to you and you know how you’re going to measure it. It is easier now than it ever has been before. Leveraging technology to measure the effectiveness of billboards, television ads, radio ads and more is much easier than it used to be. To measure online and content marketing programs, you can measure email opens, click-through rates and form conversions by time of day and day of week, increased website traffic and more. You can even measure the effectiveness of awareness campaigns with benchmark studies and brand campaigns with perception studies.
Most anything can be measured. What you measure, how you measure it and goal-setting should all be part of the strategy. The data you gather is critical to success and allows you to make changes as necessary on the fly especially where broadcast and the internet is concerned.
That’s it, follow this “pre-flight” checklist and your campaign has a great chance of success. As you launch it, watch how it reacts in “real-time” by determining which components are working best. Then be prepared to make changes to maximize its success.
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