Where are we in the Beginners Guide?
The next donut in the BrainKraft Product Launch Framework is Launch Plan. It’s a big topic that is an entire book by itself. I will stay grounded in the purpose of this article series - it’s a beginner's guide, not an everything you ever wanted to know guide.
You’ve gathered information about the market. You have an understanding of the advantages that to leverage and the obstacles to overcome. You’ve analyzed customer and competitor information and you’re now ready to plan how to achieve your launch objectives.
In this article, you see how the work completed connects to developing a launch strategy. This donut is light on tactics. It becomes more evident as you flow through the BrainKraft Product Launch Framework. When you understand the ‘why’, the ‘how’ becomes intuitively more evident.
You want to find the shortest path to achieve your launch objectives, using the least amount of resources, as fast as possible. Sometimes the answer is obvious and doesn’t need thought. A structured process is helpful in defining a winning launch strategy.
So far you’ve looked at market segments through the lens of demand, growth, and alignment with your organization’s business strategy. It’s a great starting point. Now, you want to analyze each market segment on a more practical level. It's a process of identifying market segments with the best opportunity to achieve your launch objectives.
Weeding out undesirable market segments can be hard to do. Everyone has a favorite driven by conventional wisdom and intuition. You want to add as much quantitative analysis to the intuition as you can.
A common question I get asked is "Why didn’t you analyze market segments in more detail in the Segments donut?". It’s a good question. The reason is you didn’t have enough information to make a fair comparison of market segments. There is a tendency to discount big obstacles. To inflate small advantages and dismiss as difficult the ability to overcome obstacles.
This isn’t a hard process and can go fast - if you’ve done the work in the previous donuts of the Framework. Incomplete work is easy to spot. You find it difficult to answer the questions in the sections below (or find yourself guessing).
The Product Launch Risk Matrix helps inform the level of risk you will encounter. Lower risk launches don’t need the rigor that higher risk launches need.
How Compelling is the Need to Solve the Problem?
Is the problem compelling to potential customers in the market segment? How urgent are potential customers to want to solve the problem?
On the surface, the problem may appear to exist for a large population of potential customers. But the number of them motivated enough to do something about the problem may be much smaller.
A more compelling potential customer has less need for education on the problem. For you the benefit is it streamlines marketing and sales readiness efforts.
Quantify the importance of a problem through interviews, surveys, and available industry research. Balance what you collect to find a middle ground.
Score market segments higher with a higher compelling reason to act. None, low, medium, and high are enough for this exercise.
Will Potential Customers be Able to Find Your Product?
Can potential customers find your product? If not, what is the effort to develop enough visibility to attract their attention?
Most customers discover products by web search and word of mouth. In one market segment, you may have great organic search rankings. In other market segments, you need to build up your content and search rankings.
Score market segments higher when search visibility or word of mouth is higher. Score the level of effort to earn higher ranking search and word of mouth. Your marketing team can provide guidance on the level of difficulty.
Also, look for points of leverage. Can you establish a partnership that opens access to potential customers?
Why Would Potential Customers Consider Your Product?
Do you have the authority and reputation that potential customers expect? If not, what is the effort to establish the authority and reputation?
If you don’t have the authority, do you have a reputation you can leverage?
Authority and reputation are key buying criteria in some market segments. Sometimes you can leverage the authority and reputation your company has in one market segment (or product category) to enter into a new one.
When Honda decided to enter the luxury car market they made an important strategic decision. They didn’t have the authority or reputation in luxury cars. But they did have a reputation for building quality, reliable, and economical cars. Honda customers valued Honda vehicles. So Honda leveraged the good reputation they established by building Honda cars to start a new car brand: Acura.
The good news is that if you don’t have the authority or reputation you have three options. First, you can build it organically. Second, you could buy a company that has it. Third, you could partner with someone that has it (point of leverage). I find that partnering is a great option when there isn’t time to build organically and there isn’t money to buy another company.
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Do You Have the Ability to Compete?
Do your sales channels have experience selling to potential customers in the market segment?
Assuming you have a great product the next thing to consider is your team’s ability to compete. It’s one thing to have the ability to sell, but the ability to compete is at a completely different level.
Every market segment works a little differently. Knowing those differences can help your marketing team and sales team successfully compete. It’s more than calling on a different prospect. It’s understanding how things work in a market segment full of potential customers.
Never assume the way it works in one market segment is the same for all market segments. You’ll spend a lot of money, commit a lot of resources, and get nothing in return.
Can you describe the problem the way potential customers in the market segment describe their problem?
Does your sales team have experience selling to potential customers in the market segment?
Does your marketing team have experience promoting products in the market segment?
Do your marketing and sales teams understand the buying criteria of each customer archetype (buyer persona)?
Has your team mapped the Buyer Journey in the market segment? Do they know the acceptance criteria of each stage in the Buyer Journey?
Do You Have the Ability to Deliver?
Does your organization have the ability to deliver your product to potential customers in the market segment?
Your organization can be successful at selling your product. Great. But can you deliver the product now that it’s sold?
I read about an organization that breeds mice for research laboratories. The leader of the sales team was under tremendous pressure to increase revenue. The company had been successful selling in its domestic market but wanted to expand.
The sales leader decided a logical next step would be to start selling in a handful of countries outside the domestic market. She hired salespeople and set up offices. And then it all hit a wall.
As it turns out, selling lab mice is regulated. Each country has its own set of regulations. Assuming the regulatory requirements were satisfied, there was another hurdle: getting the mice to customers.
Lab mice ship in special packaging. They can survive in the packaging for several days before they die. So… the sales team could sell a deal, but they couldn’t deliver a deal because the product would spoil before arrival.
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Do You Have the Ability to Support?
Now that your product is selling and can be delivered, can customers get the support they need to be successful with your product?
This category of analyzing a market segment may not be an issue for most organizations. But it could mean the difference between short-term success and long-term failure.
Customers in some market segments need less support while customers in other market segments need a lot of support. High support demands can eliminate a market segment with a compelling need and a willingness to spend money.
Advantages and Obstacles
In this article, I took a deeper dive into advantages and obstacles. My goal is to get you to think about what you need to build a launch strategy. It takes hard work and relentless execution to pull off a successful product launch.
But I hope you recognize that obstacles are not insurmountable and advantages are not absolute. Choosing the easy path isn’t always the right decision. Choosing the hard path isn’t either. It’s about understanding what’s available to you, what’s not, and how to direct it in the right way to be successful.
Strategy - a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result
It takes a realistic picture of the launch environment to develop a winning launch strategy.
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Market Challenger or Market Leader?
One more thing to consider. Are you the market challenger or the market leader in your product launch story? Your place in a market segment shapes your launch strategy.
A Market Challenger is new to a market segment (or new to a product category). The Leader has the leading market share. In a mature market, this is easy to identify. Market leaders and market challengers in an emerging market change often until one emerges as the clear leader.
I’ll give you two beginner plays for Market Challengers: Assassination and Stealth.
In the Assassination play, you pick one competitor in a market segment and beat them. Don’t try to go after every competitor. Go after one competitor. I like to identify a weaker competitor, not the market leader. Crush them into submission and don’t be quiet about it.
In the Stealth play, you pick off competitors by focusing on weaknesses they are unable or unwilling to defend. You quietly tiptoe around your competitors stealing business away from them. All the while you are building a customer base, a following, authority, and a reputation.
A Market Leader is either growing or defending market share. Growth comes through increasing market share or increasing demand for every competitor in the market.
I offer two beginner plays for Market Leaders: Breakaway and Conversion.
In a Breakaway launch play, you want to create distance from your competitors. This play works when you have a leadership position and want to accelerate it.
A Conversion launch play, is defensive. It’s the scenario where you have market leadership and are launching an updated version of your product. The changes are significant and can negatively impact a large number of customers.
Failure to smoothly and successfully convert customers to a new version of your product could be fatal. It requires a lot of planning, testing, expectation setting, and coordination. We cover this play in more detail in the BrainKraft Product Launch Boot Camp.
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Revisit and Adjust
The BrainKraft Product Launch Framework is designed with interlocking circles (we call them donuts) for a reason. Something learned in one donut can result in a change to a previous donut. Reflect on that now. Has your thinking changed?
Has an understanding of the launch environment disclosed new obstacles? Unrecognized advantages? Insurmountable gaps? Launch objectives that are too optimistic? Too pessimistic?
Initial assumptions are validated or eliminated. Now is the time to reset - before resources are committed.
I have been in a situation where no matter how we viewed the information, the launch team could not see a path to achieving the launch objectives. It’s stressful and unpleasant when a group of smart people can’t solve this puzzle. But it happens. Sometimes you have to deliver the bad news and hit the reset button.
A product, no matter how well designed and engineered, will not succeed without a compelling need for it.
Revisit your launch objectives. Revisit your customer profiles. Revisit your market segments, competitors, positioning, advantages, and obstacles. Adjustments now can make the difference between product launch success or product launch failure.