Releasing a new product can be exciting. After spending months or even years researching, engineering, and designing a new product for your customers, seeing it all come to fruition gives a profound sense of satisfaction. However, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your product is rolled out correctly and in a way that allows for maximum exposure to your customers. Julie Schessler, Product Manager at Centria, discusses important tactics to keep in mind as you conduct a product roll-out and go-to-market strategy.
When starting the process of releasing a new product, it is important to look at your current product line from the perspective of your customer and develop solutions from there. Schessler says “It really starts at the development stage where we say, ‘What do our customers need?’ And that can be based on market availability of products or what competitors are offering.” While there are plenty of other new products that do not come from customer needs, research, and development (R&D) plays a vital role as well. Your R&D team can look for trends in the marketplace and find areas where you can expand your business.
Now that you have created your new product, how do you sell it to your customer base? “Consider things like ‘What are the key points of the product? What are the strengths? How does it match up against what is currently in the marketplace? If there is no competition, we want to make sure our customers know that it is a unique product,” Schessler says. If you do not know the answers to the questions, you may simply ask your customers about their needs to find out what may be missing from your product line.
Communication plays a significant role in the sale of your products. Your customers want to know everything about the product before deciding if it is right for them. “When we begin drafting the go-to-market strategy, we ask ourselves, ‘How do we want to present the new product to our audience, and what are the key elements they need to know?’ Then we begin drafting documentation, which would be any content that goes on the website, from tech data sheets, guide specifications, engineering drawings, etc.,” Schessler says. Essentially, you want to give customers everything they need to specify the product. You will want to add all the latest information to your website, since that is where your customer will go if they cannot contact your business outside of operating hours. It is better to have too much information, rather than too little. “You can really get into trouble when you aren’t able to help someone with one of your products, so you always want to make sure you have enough information to avoid that situation,” Schessler says. If your customer knows what is available prior to specification, you can potentially avoid issues moving forward.
So now that you have created your new product and the current sales materials, it is time to go to market! Aside from uploading the product information to your website, you will want to advertise your new product. “We do social media posts, paid advertising, email blasts, public relations, and trade shows to make sure our customers are aware that something new is out there,” Schessler says. In addition to traditional marketing, trade shows are an excellent way to show current customers your new product and build relationships with potential customers. By including samples and marketing collateral in your trade show event you give customers a first-hand look at what you have to offer and supply more information or answer questions on the spot.
After you have completed the sale of your new product, you should stay connected with your customers to ensure they have everything they need. “After we have launched the product we want to know, ‘Is this what you asked for? Are there limitations that we need to tweak? Is this product meeting your needs?’” Schessler says. Product development is a process, and when a product is launched it does not necessarily mean the development on that product is over. You can always revisit a product to make improvements if it does not meet your customers’ expectations the first time around.
“We often roll products out in phases as availability allows. Recently, we expanded an existing product, our Versawall insulated metal panels, to include new options. The old Versawall included embossed panels with a planked or striated profile. The first expansion came with Versawall V+, which included a smooth substrate for flat and planked profiles. As tooling became available after the fact, we added 4” smooth panels and a smooth striated profile,” Schessler says. It is common to implement a phased launch, so you can quickly get your products in the hands of your customers, while still completing the testing needed to ensure quality and performance of the products.
In the end, you are the expert when it comes to your products. But, by giving customers the tools they need to succeed increases trust in your company and gives them a reason to keep buying your products. Your customer wants to know you are available to answer any questions, supply more information, or listen to their feedback. Schessler says, “We’re here to partner with our customers. We do not operate independently, and neither do they – we need each other.”