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.

Relevance of Identifying New Product Metrics

Launching a new product amidst a very competitive business industry is a very challenging feat. To help ensure success, relevant new product metrics would have to be determined.

Launching a new product to the market is a big gamble on the part of a manufacturer or distributor. This is so because substantial investment would have to be spent in marketing and advertising this new item. This activity is very crucial as this is how prospective clients or target customers are informed about the product.

Without these promotional activities, it would be very difficult, or impossible even, to create demand for the product once it hits the stores and other retail outlets. Likewise, these promotional activities would also have to be done in a regular basis to maintain customer demand especially in the early stages of product distribution.

These days, new products are introduced either as a brand extension or a product extension. Brand extension, also called as brand stretching, is a well-used marketing strategy wherein the company uses an existing brand to market a new product that is usually belonging to another product category. This is usually done by companies to use sustained brand equity or a brand’s long-term sustainability and net worth to their advantage.

The effectiveness of brand extension however, depends on how consumers strongly relate to the values and goals of certain brands. In the 1990s, it was revealed that about 81% of the new products in the market were launched through this strategy. This was seen as an effective way of reducing financial risk resulting for promotional activities as well as improving the perception of consumers on core brand value. Nevertheless, companies that use brand extension as a strategy should still be focused on the successful launch and promotion of new product as this may also potentially damage brand equity or lower the value of core brand.

A new product may also be launched as a product extension. This marketing strategy paves way for the introduction of a new product serving another market segment but is closely associated with an existing product. In short, it is a new version of the parent product. Several firms have taken on this strategy to take advantage of brand awareness and brand loyalty. Normally, consumers are likely to buy a new product if it carries with it a brand name that they trust. Among the companies that have successfully implemented this is Coke when it launched its Diet Coke product.

Unfortunately, brand extension or product extension is not a recourse that all companies can use. Many companies have had to start from scratch as they come up with new and innovative products to offer the public. For these companies, it is mandatory that their managers should come up with new product metrics that they can use to assess how well the product is doing in terms of sales and market reach. In addition, these metrics will provide an accurate information support that managers can use as basis for their future actions regarding their new product offering.

What Are the Steps of New Product Development Testing?

When software programmers develop a new product, it has to be tested before it can be used in real-time applications. The testing process is not only essential to ensure the program runs smoothly, but also to check if it satisfies all the criteria and requirements requested by the customer. A reliable test run in different environments will help in further research and also to improve the performance of the product.

Moreover, it will also help build confidence and trust on the product. There are different types of software testing modules such as iterative model, waterfall model and v model.

Stage 1

The first step of a new product development testing cycle is planning or requirement gathering. All the stake holders of the software product, from the designers and developers to the managers and users come together to discuss the various requirements of the product testing. Based on the input from all the stake holders of the product, a requirement document should be prepared for reference. Application development companies generally have a separate QA team that will identify the different types of tests that need to be performed. The team will also collate all the details, create the test environment and list the various elements that need to be tested.

Stage 2

The second stage involves the design and development of a test case. From software to hardware, all the requirements for the testing process are clearly specified in this stage.

Stage 3

The third stage of the new product development testing is the coding process where the actual program is developed.

Stage 4

The next stage of the cycle is the actual testing. Application development companies make use of different testing techniques such as system testing, integration testing, development testing, A/B testing, concurrent testing and more to check the various parameters of the product.

Stage 5

It is the deployment stage when the product is given to the customer for use in real time application.

Stage 6

When the program is being used by the customer, some problems may crop up. These problems should be sorted out on a need basis. It is the final stage of the testing. This stage can also be used to determine new techniques that can be used to improve the program and enhance its performance.

New product development testing allows application development companies to set and maintain high standards for their products. The test results should be carefully recorded and maintained, and they will come in helpful while developing other products.