Category Archives: New Product/Service Development

Are You Ready for Launch? A Checklist for Success

I haven’t posted a new article for a while as I’ve been super busy launching my first video game app Cavity Dragons, designed to motivate kids to brush their teeth. I co-founded my business Gooseling, Inc. with my sister and fellow Mompreneur Vicky Keston to teach children social and life skills through Gooseling Logovideo games with the on-the-go convenience of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. So I thought what better topic to share here then tips based on my experiences launching new products and services.

When you’re getting ready to launch a major new product or service whether through a start up or established business, making sure you have thought carefully through the various aspects will prepare you for the busy whirlwind to come – and most importantly for success.

Here is a checklist of the key issues to make sure you have covered before you officially launch:

Your unique message and brand.  How will you differentiate your product from the competition? What is the branding and feeling you want to paint paletteevoke? What need does it fill? How does this messaging fit with your organization’s overall brand and messaging? Plan and articulate the messaging and make sure everyone has it to ensure cohesive, strong communications.

Your potential customer’s needs and wants. How you will reach them and why should they buy/use your product?

Review the resources, people, and skills needed to ensure a smooth launch.

Your publicity, marketing, and social media tactics which flow from your overall business and marketing strategy. What are the communication outlets (including the social media sites/communities) and tactics you have decided will have the best impact to meet your goals? How will you use content marketing – providing truly useful information – to help solve your customers’ problems and answer their potential questions that will help build your brand and business? For example, my sister and I started a parenting blog at gooseling.com/blog to provide useful information and advice on a wide variety of parenting issues in an effort to help parents, teachers, and practitioners while also building trust and our community.

Predict potential problems or issues that might arise and how you will handle them. We want to think everything will run smoothly, but in our question markimperfect world it is most likely that you’ll encounter some glitches. Watching for possible pain points and thinking about how and who might handle them will help you respond quickly if something does go wrong in the busy midst of launch. What are likely questions or issues might customers might have? Envision each step of the process from attracting their interest through serving their needs throughout the sales and service process.

Customer service, fulfillment and operations processes. Make sure all processes of who will do what are clearly articulated. You might think it should be obvious but in my experience surprises can arise when we assume everyone knows what their role is and it hasn’t been talked through. Visually mapping out the processes from when a customer inquires through completion of an order or delivery of a service labeled with the names of individuals or teams who will handle each step can help avoid last minute glitches.

How will you measure success? Sales and revenue are obvious , but are there other measures that will be important to show whether you are reaching your goals? For example, if you are a small start up with no name recognition building that reputation can take some time, so having some measures around chart baraudience engagement could be pivotal. If you are a larger, well established company you might have other related goals for your product launch such as how it helps sales in an ancillary product line or in addressing a concern customers have expressed in the past that you will want to measure response to.

Be flexible and prepared to change your marketing plan or other key strategies based on market response and the results you see.

Keep some work balance among key players to avoid burnout during the busy long days of launch. It’s an exciting but stressful time that usually involves crazy long hours, some time for rest and staying healthy is important.

Make sure you have a solid business plan, marketing plan, contracts, legal (including copyright/trademark issues), and other business aspects nailed down.

Plan how you’ll share the key documents like the marketing plan and task list and keep each other posted on progress and the sales and audience response.

What have you found most important in launching your new products or services?

Is Solving Your Customers’ Problems the Focus of Your Products & Services?

Are you solving problems for your customers, clients, and members or focusing on your organization’s needs instead?

While it can be tempting to wax poetically about how wonderful our products, services, and organizations are, our customers, clients, and members care about what they need, not what we have to offer. What are they worrying about? What aggravates them? How can we make their lives easier? Save them time and money?

Genie's magic lampKeeping up with what your customers want and need and how your organization can solve their problems is pivotal to success. What that answer is inevitably changes over time. That’s why evolving offerings and services continuously to meet changing needs that you regularly gauge is so critical. And letting go of what isn’t resonating anymore.

Once you have found great solutions to your customers’ needs then it becomes much easier to use clear consistent messaging and engaging story telling to spread the word about the benefits of your products and services.  Which kinds of customer problems you are going to solve flows from your mission and what you hopefully have already identified as your organization’s unique competitive advantage.

No matter how zippy or eye catching our slogan or graphics, if we are not taking care of what our customers need, someone else will inevitably step in who will.  What steps are you taking to solve your customer’s problems and communicate what you are doing to help them?

 

Embracing and Anticipating Change Critical to Ongoing Success

Today change is the only constant. The world is in perpetual motion just as most of us are. If we are too distracted by the endless day-to-day tasks to keep an eye on the whole picture we can lose sight of critical trends, technologies, and changes that will affect our future.

changing colors of leaves in a group of autumn treesWhat are the trends and issues that most impact your profession, industry, organization, and customers? What are the best sources for not only tracking but anticipating the changes that will affect your organization and ultimately your career? Are you reserving some time for reflection about these issues?

Continuously seek opportunities to learn, read, and talk to customers and key influencers in your field. Watch what both thought leaders and up and coming dynamic newcomers in your profession and industry are saying and doing.

Embrace with enthusiasm that change is an ongoing part of the fabric of our lives. Change is constantly unfolding around us whether we like it or not. So finding excitement and natural optimism in the opportunities that change can bring to our careers and businesses will surely be more satisfying than worrying about negative aspects of having to learn new things or resisting letting go of aspects of your business or products that are no longer successful. None of us want to be a case example of the alternative (aka Borders and Blockbusters).

Over the generations, it is the people who have embraced the new technologies of the Thomas Edisons and Alexander Graham Bells who have truly impacted their worlds. It is the unique thinkers like Warren Buffet who recognize the paradigm breaking technologies to invest in or capitalize on for their world. We like to say that things are changing more than ever today. While the speed of change has increased, dramatic change has affected most every generation. Think how the world felt before and after electricity, the telephone, and indoor plumbing.

What new ideas and strategies can you find in the demographic, technology, and social changes you see happening in your slice of the world that can drive new business? How can you use what you are learning to anticipate your customers, members, or clients’ needs and problems and solve them? What will solve their problems and wow them will undoubtedly be different next year than what it was last year.  Are you staying on top of the curve to anticipate those needs?

Understanding Customer Needs Key to New Product Development

The best new products and services fulfill an unmet need of a specific segment of customers, developed based on robust knowledge and understanding of their motivations, daily lives, and problems. But what is the best way to achieve it?

Market research, regular conversations, and listening to customers is pivotal, so that you know them as well as possible. However, many experts caution about asking customers what new products or services they would like you to develop. The problem with basing new product development on customer input is customers might not be able to envision the truly blue sky possibilities.

As Henry Ford said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have told me, ‘a faster horse.” It is doubtful that any customer would have thought in 1991 to ask for a product like the MP3 player to be developed.

That is why many successful organizations observe their customers in action. For example, an association taking field trips to shadow members in their professional day-to-day roles, or consumer products companies watching customers accomplishing a task like doing laundry to see the real problems they are coping with in action.

Use observation to truly understand your customers’ daily lives and problems rather than relying on asking them survey questions like which of the following products would you be interested in. Many popular next generation new products like the Swiffer were developed with this principle and by carefully studying and replicating the problem the customer was coping with (in this case how to make mopping dirt and messes easy).

Testing and focus groups are commonly used to refine ideas and products. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” as Steve Jobs is credited with saying.