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Saturday, July 28, 2007

How Not to Launch a New Product

If you've built a better mousetrap and plan to introduce it into this tidalwave of new products, it is more critical than ever to carefully plan and execute your launch using a strategic approach.

Here are seven classic mistakes companies make when developing new product launch campaigns. Avoiding these pitfalls will greatly increase your odds of success:

Mistake #1: Don't plan the launch until right before the release date


Nothing is more disheartening to a PR or marketing consultant than to have a client call and say, "We have a great new product ready to launch next month. Can you develop a plan by next week?"

Sadly, this happens all too often. Companies spend months—even years—developing a new product only to think about creating the launch plan as the product is rolling off the assembly line.

In a market where over 33,000 new consumer products goods were launched last year, you need a truly outstanding launch strategy to entice consumers to buy your new product. That's not something you can create overnight, so start your launch campaign planning early. If possible, begin launch planning when the product gets the "go" sign from management. That way, you'll have the same amount of time to plan and execute your launch as your production team has to manufacture the product.

Mistake #2: Carve your launch plan in stone

Few new product introductions go exactly according to plan. Snafus occur. Distribution gets delayed. Be sure to build flexibility into your launch plan. Always ask the unpopular question, "What if the launch date gets delayed?"

Keep the launch team in daily communication with the people who are manufacturing and shipping the product so the launch campaign calendar can stay in sync with the shipping date and eventual availability of the product at retail. There is no use implementing a launch campaign touting a product that won't be on the shelves for another month due to production delays.

Mistake #3: Put the head honcho in charge of the launch

Brand managers or product managers are best suited to take primary responsibility for the launch process—not senior personnel whose multiple and competing duties can impair focus and tactical expertise. The involvement and support of the CEO, president and other senior leaders are critical to the success of a launch, but not on a daily basis.

These individuals should be kept in the loop so they can make key decisions when needed and ensure that adequate financial and human resources are being allocated to the effort. But the day-to-day leadership for the launch initiative should come from someone whose sole focus is on making the launch a success.

Mistake #4: Don't educate employees until after the news breaks elsewhere


Your employees are your most important word-of-mouth brand ambassadors. Educate them about the launch plan and prepare them to talk about the product with their family and friends so they can begin to build the buzz.

It's important to enroll these "passionistas" in your launch strategy so they can reinforce what is going to be said when the product is introduced in the trade, business and consumer press.

Mistake #5: Use the same forms of media you've always used


The number of potential media outlets that can talk about your new product grows daily. Don't just dig out the same media list you used for your last launch. There are 6,200 magazines and 240 television stations available today, with hundreds more being introduced each year. There are multiple publications and channels that cover every topic.

Get up-to-the-minute information on each media outlet to make sure its audience is your audience. Don't overlook Internet media outlets that might not have existed when you executed previous launches. And don't forget foreign-language publications and channels, especially if your product appeals to ethnic groups.

Today, the fastest growing demographic in America is the Hispanic population; take advantage of this group's love for news and programming by contacting the publications and stations that cater to this important audience.

Mistake #6: Pour all your resources into "push" strategies

According to findings in the Schneider/Boston University New Product Launch Report, a joint academic research study that examined how marketers launch new products, how you spend your launch budget is as important to success as allocating a healthy budget at the outset. Among the launches studied, those that used a "push" strategy that says "put it on the shelf and they will come" were far less effective than "pull" strategies that drove consumers into stores looking for the new product.

While trade advertising is certainly important, particularly during the sell-in phase, using a significant portion of your overall launch budget on consumer-oriented marketing initiatives will increase your odds of success.

Mistake #7: Skip the crisis plan


The number of things that can go wrong when a new product hits the market is limitless. Brainstorm all potential pitfalls to ensure your plan provides remedies for what might go wrong. Develop a crisis plan that outlines what the team would do in case of a crisis, like a recall or food contamination.

It's always better to have a crisis plan in place rather than trying to create one while facing a major issue that could tarnish your brand.

by Joan Schneider
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Marketing Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign for a product launch. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

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