The make-or-break window of opportunity for product launch success is narrowing and becoming more challenging each year. This is at least partly attributable to the massive growth in digital media outlets and the constantly shrinking attention span of today’s over-stimulated customers.
It’s no surprise, then, that out of the thousands of new products launched every year, 95% will fail, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, as reported by Inc. magazine. And while poor concepts and badly designed products may account for some of these failures, oftentimes the failure is fueled by weak product launches that lack the ability to resonate with target audiences and establish a strong differentiation.
To navigate the challenges that can damage the success of product launches, the core reasons why clients don’t buy a new product must first be identified. By identifying and examining these core obstacles in the order of their typical occurrence, it’s then possible to reverse-engineer a methodology that will help improve new-product launch success.
By taking on this examination effort, we have identified four key hurdles to successful product launches—and developed some strategies and insights that may assist in overcoming these hurdles.
Hurdle No. 1: No Interest
Lack of interest is the first, most important reason customers don’t buy a new product and simply ignore the offer. They learn about the new product online, receive emails about it or see it at a tradeshow, but they simply don’t seem to notice it—at least, not enough to make it a priority to examine further.
This is unsurprising. People are busy, have reduced attention spans and are bombarded daily with ads and messages. So, how do you cut through the clutter and catch their attention? The answer is simple, if counterintuitive: Stop talking about your product. Instead, start talking about the problem your product solves.
To accomplish this, you must thoroughly examine the question, “Why do our customers need our product?” Customers care about solving their problems and, moreover, the more intense the problem, they more motivated they are to solve it. Urgent problems are likely keeping them up at night. If you have a solution that addresses the critical issues that keep customers awake, you’re going to more readily gain their attention.
Hurdle No. 2: No Difference
After successfully capturing your customers’ attention by focusing on their key problems, the next hurdle you face is the “no difference” hurdle. This is when customers notice your offer and understand the problem you solve … but also know of other, similar companies that claim to solve the same problem. Bombarded with sales information by competing companies, the customer eventually becomes indifferent to these offers and simply ignores them all. Or, they may choose to focus solely on price to drive purchases, bringing profit margins farther down.
How can you avoid this and stay ahead of the competition? Even better, how can you make the competition irrelevant? The answer here is, rather than focusing on why you are better, create your own category with messages that express why you are first. You can achieve this by developing a unique value proposition, which works because customers focus less on what is better and more on what is new. This concept is best illustrated with an example from the consumer marketplace, although it applies equally to B2B technology companies.
Hurdle No. 3: Lack of Trust
With the ability to capture customer attention and make the competition less relevant, you’re at the halfway point to product-launch success. The third hurdle to jump: lack of trust. Customers may understand the problem you solve and why you’re unique, but they don’t act because they simply don’t believe in the offer. This hurdle is probably the most important. Anyone can make a promise, but no one purchases without trusting the product. Moreover, in this age of fake news and skepticism, it takes a lot of work to successfully earn the customer’s trust.
To build trust and establish credibility, B2B companies must teach. They must provide valuable information and confidently educate uninformed prospects. Show prospects that you understand their problem better than anyone and educate them about the ways your company can solve their urgent problems. Also highlight why your company can be a resource when future problems arise. This is particularly effective because teaching forms a bond with the audience; it builds trust and establishes your credibility.
Hurdle No. 4: Inaction
The last major hurdle to product-launch success is inaction. After all the efforts you’ve put forward, the last thing you want is for customers to remain passive. But how do you get clients to act and take the first steps toward you?
At this point, the education strategy addressed in Hurdle No. 3 becomes doubly useful. Along with helping build trust and establishing credibility, it also provides a user-friendly offer. By educating customers about their problem before promoting the product, you’ve made it easier for customers to take that first step. Learning something requires much less commitment by the customer—typically just a name and email address rather than a meeting or full-blown demonstration (both of which can be intimidating and uncomfortable). This strategy allows people to move at their own pace and progress gradually on their journey as they evolve from prospects into customers.
The Path to a Successful Launch
The last thing product professionals need is another hurdle in their race toward product launch success. The insights offered here are designed to assist B2B companies in bringing their products to market success. Look for our article in the Spring issue of The Pragmatic magazine later this month—in it, we’ll provide a more detailed methodology you can apply to your product launches to help avoid these core hurdles. The article also includes detailed, real-world examples and critical questions to guide your product launches.
About the Authors
Etienne Fiset and Stéphanie Labrecque are co-founders of Inspira Strategies Inc. You can connect with Etienne or connect with Stéphanie, both on LinkedIn. Rod Griffith is co-founder and Chief Client Officer of MarketReach Inc. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.