In a previous Four Questions Answered, we asked Launch Marketing executive team members top-of-mind questions about executing a successful go-to-market strategy. Since then, COVID-19 has compelled restructuring in many B2B organizations and marketing teams’ approaches and strategies for the foreseeable future. While the strategies previously discussed are still very much applicable and should be considered prior to any B2B product launch, businesses may find themselves feeling more apprehensive than ever to push a new product or service into a market that feels unstable or unpredictable.
To help your business gain confidence and focus on the future (which can and should include offering new products and services), Launch Marketing executive team members Shawna Boyce (Executive Director, Accounts and Operations), Jeff Raymond (Executive Director, Client Engagements), and Christa Tuttle (Founder and CEO) discuss key ways to support a B2B product launch or service launch when your organization may be feeling less than confident about bringing these offerings to market.
1. Why is it important that B2B organizations continue to offer new products and services?
Jeff: It’s important for all organizations, regardless of industry or offering to continue to present new products and services. Organizations shouldn’t “rest on their laurels” but instead need to think with the mindset that Peter Drucker advocates of “innovate or die.” History shows it over and over. For instance, Blockbuster was late to innovate and fell in the wake of digital streaming’s while Netflix was clearly focused on bringing it to the masses. Organizations must listen to and anticipate the needs of audiences to not only stay afloat but to, more importantly, succeed and thrive. That means new products and innovations that support those needs.
Shawna: Be sure that you are thinking strategically about what products or services you’re offering. Given the current climate, be particularly critical in ensuring that your offering is relevant and needed by your audience. You should continue to offer new products and services, but not in a way that is panicked or feels as though you’re putting something out into the market just so you have something on the market. Still take the time to research and invest in a product that is not just of the “here and now” circumstances but makes sense being integrated into your entire product catalog.
Christa: Even if the demand doesn’t feel as high right now as you may like it to be, now is still the perfect time to start crafting and building a product or service that is innovative for the researched and forecasted future. Your competition still exists regardless of the current circumstances, so it’s important to be thinking critically about what your organization can do that others can’t when it comes to offering a product or service that makes sense for the evolving needs of your audience.
2. What factors should be considered when creating your goals for a B2B product launch during volatile times?
Jeff: “Volatile” is the key word in this question. It’s much different for us to compare 2018 vs. 2019 to 2019 vs. 2020 considering all of the tumultuous and unexpected changes that have shaped 2020. When there’s volatility introduced, your goals should match this volatility. Ask yourself, are these the right goals given the new normal? If your goal for this year was to increase the amount of in-person implementations or increase the amount of in-person meetings done by your sales team, it would make sense that you adjust or reassess these goals for 2020, so that you can focus your energy on goals that are more aligned for the current situation. Make sure you have a lot of intention around your goals for the year. Don’t just launch and move on but instead be methodical and careful about the goals you set for the remainder of this year and into 2021.
Shawna: It’s also important to evaluate the goals of your competition or what kind of pace other organizations are adopting during this time. Are they being more aggressive or are they leaning away from more aggressive marketing or sales tactics? Monitor the standard and tone that the industry is setting with audiences, while still making sure any updates you make in your goals aligns with your organization and its core values.
Christa: Leaders sometimes create goals based on what they have done before. In example, saying, “We’ll do what we did last year but increase by X percent.” I agree that volatile times require thinking outside the box and being innovative with your goals. Cookie cutter goals can be harmful in that they don’t reflect the current situation or the new demands your organization will have to meet in light of updated buyer needs and expectations. It also doesn’t mean you can’t still hit your X percent growth goals either – what it does mean is to get there, the organization will have to do things differently than they have before.
3. What are some of the best ways for organizations to gauge the need or desire for their product?
Jeff: It is always valuable for organizations to closely examine their prospect and customer feedback loops to help determine need/desire for a product and it can also give great insight into determining if additional channels are needed. The new environment that prospects and clients are operating in has a much stronger emphasis on virtual. Many businesses with an in-person model are finding that they need to pivot their focus to online channels. But be careful to create new channels only if you can fully support them.
Shawna: While conferences were certainly a big lead generator and way to test a product or service in-person historically, they are not currently an option to gauge thoughts or reactions to an offering in real-time. It’s still important, however, to assess interest in a product and you can do this through conferences that have moved online. Participating or hosting virtual events can offer much of the same benefits as in-person conferences or tradeshows. In fact, it can be easier to administer surveys and follow ups when attendees are already providing information online and connecting via virtual channels.
Christa: Not only can the virtual world be a good setting to engage with new or prospective clients, you can also interact and survey current clients online. This may mean that many organizations will have to boost their customer experience side. Asking the right questions either via more personal Zoom meetings or email marketing campaigns can allow you to understand current client interest. Buyers who have already signed on to work with your organization and use your products or services can be some of the most forthcoming and honest feedback you will receive.
4. How are promotional tactics changing for products or services launching during these periods?
Jeff: One of the biggest factors to consider is where your audience has historically been on the spectrum of online versus offline marketing compared to where they are now. The predominant swing to virtual across industries means that promotional tactics may need to be adjusted to fit this more virtual world. Look for ways to improve your website, email marketing, and all your digital channels.
Shawna: With many in-person events moving online, some of those key marketing initiatives that have been around for many years are getting revamped in a positive way that will shape marketing now and in the future. Presentations, press releases and webinars are just a few of the promotional tactics that have been boosted in the virtual world and will only continue to benefit from the increase in exposure and the adjustments and modifications that will be made as a result.
Christa: This period is causing organizations to be more creative. The big unveil that used to come with launches will still exist but requires adaption. Do you send out an interesting mailer or create an online presence that creates excitement and energy? On the messaging side, assess how you should adjust frequency and depth of communications. Now is the time to not only revamp and test out different tactics but to see what works and incorporate this into your entire marketing strategy going forward.
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