New Product Channel Sales Introductions – An Accessible and Comprehensive System for Partners

Companies are experiencing New Product Introductions (NPIs) much more frequently today. Product life cycles continue to shorten and the cycle time from development to introduction is decreasing as well, even for equipment manufacturers. Product introductions used to be sequentially managed, step-by-step, from design to manufacturing to marketing. But with the constant pressure to release new products to remain competitive, the process had sped up. Technology now allows for the simultaneous development and coordination of new products, encompassing all departments, including design, engineering, manufacturing, accounting, marketing and sales. Today’s reality? More sophisticated products are being launched, more frequently, with diminishing “first mover advantage” in the marketplace.

Many product launches succeed in this environment for sure. However, many fail. One research study suggests an overarching reason for this failure:

“The biggest problem we’ve encountered is lack of preparation: companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game.” (Why Most Product Launches Fail, Joan Schneider and Julie Hall, Harvard Business Review, April 2011)

This lack of market readiness can be intensified when a company markets its products through a dealer or channel network. If you’re ready but your dealers aren’t, your product launch will fail. (For simplicity, I use the term “dealer” to encompass all different kinds of channel partners including distributors, dealers, VARs, resellers, etc.)

Today, more and more companies are using Partner Relationship Management (PRM) systems to steer new product introductions to (and through) their dealer network. A PRM system is web-based channel management software that unifies all facets of managing a dealer network into a single partner portal. Using training/certification, marketing communications, collaboration, and dealer readiness tools, manufacturers can provide an accessible yet comprehensive system so their dealers are ready and excited when new products are introduced into the marketplace.

Are Your Dealers Really Trained?
If people are not educated about a product, they won’t believe in it, and they won’t be committed to selling it. Sales people like to sell what they’re used to selling – usually the old product. Launching new product training through a partner portal can offer the most effective way to quickly train and generate a sales person’s interest. Once features and benefits are learned, sales people can more easily become excited and committed.

Dealer sales person training is key. Train them immediately at product launch, so they are already prepared when their customers get the news. Help the dealer principals accomplish this as efficiently and effectively as possible – don’t make the exercise a time-consuming, take-forever task. Give sales people a certification goal to entice them to achieve. And provide them a reward and recognize them for their success. A PRM system can manage this sales enablement for a company and its channel partners.

Are Your Marketing Materials Readily Available?
You can spend vast sums on brochures, press releases and product information bulletins, but if they cannot be found they become useless. Your dealers must be able to easily access and download the exact information they need to help you market your new product at the exact point in time that they need that information. A Content Management platform integrated into the PRM system provides an efficient process for discovery and delivery of new product marketing materials. Give your dealers what they need when they need it, thus making it easier for them to sell it, while improving your ROI.

What is the Reaction to Your Product Launch?
Getting early feedback from dealers and customers is vital to gauge the success of the product and its launch, and to make mid-course directional changes if needed. Peer-to-peer, ask-the-expert, blogs and other social media platforms are now great ways to both receive important feedback, and to embed best practices across the dealer network. A PRM system that incorporates these kinds of activities can help manufacturers understand what is happening in their dealer channel, and take advantage of the excitement created by the new product launch itself.

Most companies today create a new product website for the general public to drive demand. That makes sense. Now, more and more manufacturers have learned that creating ‘internal’ portals using their PRM system to create a ‘campus’ or virtual meeting center focused on preparing and galvanizing dealers to support the product launch and drive customer demand in an integrated way leads to much greater profitable sales results. These centers focus the information and extend the awareness, preparedness to support, knowledge and excitement of the new product launch further than was possible before.

Is Your Channel Ready for Your Product Launch?
You can’t manage if you can’t measure. When your boss asks you if your dealers are ready to effectively sell and service your product, the answer, “yes they are – trust me,” is not going to cut it. These days, you must have the metrics to prove it. With a PRM solution including performance measurement tools, dealer management is easier. A company can establish a performance standard, measure against it and support their partners in achieving it. Sophisticated technology-enabled tools using dashboards and reports-on-the-fly allow a company to measure many of the critical elements of a product launch with a holistic basis of objective data. Certifications, meeting and webinar attendance, Market Development Fund (MDF) allocations, lead status, order analysis, and more can all be a part of a real-time performance standard that today’s PRM systems enable.

Avoid a “Bad” Product Launch in Your Channel
Most companies in today’s unforgiving market cannot afford a “bad” product launch. What is the cost if your partners are not ready to market your new product? Too many managers lose sight of lost sales, wasted marketing funds, sluggish demand and channel conflict. If the new product is replacing an older, successful product that is a significant part of the company’s business, product launch failure is not an option.

Companies today are using technology to extend the reach of their new product launch budget. PRM systems, built with the right tools and accompanied with the right strategy, can greatly increase the chance of marketing success of a product launch in the channel. If you make it easier for your dealers to work with you and to get the information they need, New Product Introductions can be launched smoothly and effectively.

New Product Scorecard For Effective Development And Launch

A product is considered new if it entirely opens up a new market, replaces an existing product or significantly broadens the market for the said existing product. Old products may be considered new when introduced to a new market, newly packaged or is marketed in a different approach.

Some new product sources include academic institutions, acquisition, competition, customers, external investors and internal product development. Development and launch of new products can be very expensive and risky. In fact it is generally said to be riskier than market development or penetration. A way to make sure that the money used in developing new products does not go to waste or to reduce flops in new product launches is to adopt the new product development process.

This process constitutes generation of ideas, selection of new ideas, development and testing of concepts, business analysis, marketing strategy and many others. Planning and measuring of the new product’s success may be done against how it performs at various stages of the product life cycle – that is if the company uses this control method over the products’ progress. Important stages to consider when it comes to new product launch are the introduction, growth and maturity. The company, however, can choose other indicators as well.

For instance, indicators such as revenue from new product sales, cash flow and profit margin will indicate the performance of a new product from the financial standpoint. New products, however, are usually subject to loss at the introductory stage due to inadequate demand, research and development costs, high fixed costs and others. This must be taken into account when establishing objectives and gauging results.

Also, market share growth serves as a positive success indicator although this may not apply to all products or markets. For instance, there are some niche products or a specific product that is new and needs to open its own market.

Internal perspective indicators constitute indicators that show how the processes within the company affect the new product’s success in terms of development and launch. These indicators are budget and schedule compliance, new product development evaluation, marketing mix and occurrence of shortages or excess of new products and resources. Going beyond the budget or schedule or regular shortages show that something could be wrong in the company’s operations, which may lead to failure in new product development and launch.

Moreover, frequent evaluation of the new product development process and the marketing mix quality can help boost company expertise as well as identify changes or modifications that can be established to improve product performance as well as the company’s performance overall.

The next set of indicators shows how new product launch can affect the situation in the company. Additionally, customer perspective indicators include repurchase rate, number of complaints and customer awareness of new products. Development and production of new products usually require new skills, which could be through training. Employee participation in new product development is also similarly important as well. In addition, evaluation and analysis of every launch is essential in order to achieve company expertise in launching new products.

Marketing a New Product

Marketing a new product can be difficult. There are press releases to write, Internet marketing strategies to research, and a host of other things to consider when marketing a new product. Collective buying is a great way to tell people about your product and generate sales. It’s no secret people love a good deal. In fact, people who love to shop sometimes buy things they don’t need, just to take advantage of a good deal.

Offer a Good Deal

Collective buying websites like Living Social and Groupon are becoming an increasingly popular option. These sites give customers special prices for products, services and even travel packages. Members of these sites can opt-in to email alerts or download a mobile application that will notify them of deals they may be interested in based on their preferences.

Marketing a new product using these sites may cost you, but it is also an opportunity to show customers what you’re worth at little risk to them. When your product is featured on a group-buying site, all of the site’s users in your specified area are notified. Customers who may not generally be interested in your product might come across it when checking their email online or scrolling through their smart phone.

Word of Mouth

Group deals have the added benefit of encouraging word of your product on the streets. A college student, for example, is scanning through her phone and sees an advert for your custom-made ties. She decides to try your product out, since Father’s Day is approaching and you’re offering $50 worth of ties for $25. When she receives the product, she is impressed and tells her friends about your website. If two of her friends purchase ties for $50, you’ve made a $75 profit. Your satisfied customer has taken some of the legwork out of your internet marketing campaign.

Deals typically have a timeline, which puts members under pressure to buy. These sites also offer clients the chance to get their deal free of charge, if a certain number of their friends purchase the product during the promotion. Advertisements are equipped with social buttons so individuals can share your deal via text message, social media and email. When marketing a new product, social media is vital. With collective buying, your customers have an incentive to do some of that social media promotion for you.

Product Placement

Product placement is also an important part of marketing a new product. Group selling allows you to customize your offer by market. In markets that tend to spend more, using the above example it might be better to run a Buy 3 Ties, Get Tie Free promotion. This way, customers still get a deal, but you get a higher profit. For example, if ties are $50 each, it only cost you $50 to make $150. This way you can earn more than the previous approach before the customer even shares your deal online.

Marketing a new product using group buying sites is a great option for growing your profits and customer base. Take this approach and save on pulling together a marketing team, writing a press release or manually promoting your product online. Try it out and be amazed by the outcomes.