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Sunday, May 27, 2012

CEC Insider » <b>Product Launch</b> Planning: Questions You Must Ask

B2B product launches don’t usually involve viral videos or mainstream media buzz, but that doesn’t make them any less complex than their B2C counterparts. In fact, B2B product launches are becoming more and more difficult as customers now rely heavily on third-party recommendations and wait until much later in the purchase decision process to engage with sales reps.

Pushing awareness of a new product is no longer enough to prepare customers for sales calls. We need to look deeper into customer challenges and motivations, and consider how to use what we learn to move customers toward the purchase decision.

Progressive companies are rethinking their approach to product launch and positioning products as unexpected solutions to business challenges their customers are experiencing. This insight was first uncovered by researchers in our sister programs the Marketing Leadership Council and Sales Executive Council.

This approach, called Commercial Teaching, allows companies to catch customers’ attention and prime customers to take action by placing their business needs at the center of launch communications. Rather than provide information about product features so customers can spot the opportunities the product provides for their business, Commercial Teaching focuses on providing customers insight about an unexpected solution to their business challenge that the product is uniquely suited to achieve.

Building launch communications from commercial teaching insight drives demand for new products and creates urgency to purchase. Communicators are already adept at extracting information from R&D teams, but this approach creates a framework for honing in on the most compelling product narrative for maximizing the effectiveness of product launch messages and collateral.

A successful commercial teaching narrative breaks down into three stages, designed to lead customers to your product within the context of their business needs:

1. Start with a Known Customer Problem
Begin with a well-known business challenge that grabs customers’ attention and builds credibility for your messages.
Example: Critical care patients commonly face complications which can be deadly or have long-lasting implications.

2. Present an Unexpected Solution
Then, encourage customers to take action by outlining an unexpected, novel solution.
Example: Getting patients mobile sooner decreases hospital stays and improves outcomes.

3. Lead to Your Product’s Unique Strength
Capture commercial impact by presenting your product as the best means of achieving the solution.
Example: Portfolio of products that offer a safe path through stages of mobility while enhancing outcomes for patients.

Result: Increased likelihood of purchase
Customers’ heightened desire to act to achieve the solution is translated to desire to purchase your product.

What You Need to Do

To make this shift, communicators need to reorient upfront information gathering during launch preparation around the three elements of a commercial teaching narrative. Asking business partners targeted questions during the planning stage of a launch enables you to push beyond product features and focus on customers and their challenges.

We’ve created a template which you can use to guide information-gathering conversations with the product team, discuss product positioning with marketing and sales, and structure Comms team brainstorms and planning.

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