Six Rules for Announcing "Solutions" in Today's Communications
"In the world we live in, somewhere between 80 percent and 95 percent of new product introductions fail. It’s not that hard to postulate that you must do virtually everything right to successfully launch new products." Jack Gordon, CEO of AcuPOLL Research Inc
One of the greatest challenges solution providers face is how to package and present their new offerings in a way that will generate interest from the media. Historically, the media has tended to focus on products rather than services or solutions. In fact, many reporters react negatively to the term “solutions.” But that mentality is changing due to the shift in the overall technology market over the past three to four years.
The transition to cloud computing and managed services is redefining the perception of what constitutes a product. These environments foster a climate of continuous development. Fixes and enhancements are added every day. The era of major version revisions with long development and beta test cycles is on the way out. That means the old approach to launching a product is dying with it.
Further complicating this dynamic is the impact of social media. These channels not only provide new avenues to communicate with customers, but they also offer a new means for gathering intelligence on what customers are saying about you and your services and how they share that with their network. To sum it up, launching products has changed dramatically and there is no single formula for how it should be done.
Nevertheless, there are still some fundamental best practices that should be considered in any product launch effort:
1. Give it time to develop – Too often companies rush product or service announcements out the door. Sometimes you just have to go with a date that is given to you based on other business drivers, but to get the maximum impact of an announcement, it should still be planned well in advance to ensure that it takes takes into account several concerns, including:
- Is the positioning and messaging well defined and differentiated?
- Do we have customers to use as reference to support it?
- Do we have all the content and social media channels aligned for maximum SEO and impact?
- Should we take an exclusive approach -- pre-brief a select group of publications under NDA, or should it be released to the broader media in general?
- Do we have industry analyst support for the announcement?
- Should it be timed to coincide with our avoid an industry event or competitive development?
- Does the sales team have the tools they need to promote it directly to their customers and prospects?
- Do we have our lead tracking and measurement programs in place to assess the impact of the launch?
2. Ensure content is optimized to extend reach and life – The days of relying primarily on a press release to be the basis for a product introduction are long gone. Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines have changed how people find information. To that end, ensuring that your announcements leverage the latest SEO techniques is essential. Additionally, new forms of digital content – images, infographics and video – add extra juice to product announcements that can grab attention and increase their likelihood of being shared through social networks.
3. Synchronize all your distribution channels – It is still a fundamental business practice to use the wire services for press release distribution. They’ve all done a nice job adapting to the new opportunities available to use rich content and social media, and they offer great services to get the most exposure for your announcements.
But they are just the start.
You must do all you can to strategically leverage relevant social media channels – such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin – in order to extend your reach and speak directly with customers and prospects.
4. Talking to whom, why and when – One of the negative ramifications of the digital and social revolution is that good old fashioned face-to-face conversations between companies and the media has taken a back seat. There are fewer print publications with smaller staffs. These editors and reporters are pressed for time and the competition for column inches is fierce.
This means you must do a better job researching and targeting these individuals and crafting a story around your product announcement that will appeal to them and their readership. This may also mean dealing with someone on an exclusive basis in order to get that high-profile story. You may have to consider the tradeoffs between securing one piece of great coverage versus getting a few smaller mentions.
In all cases, you must think about the date and timing of the announcement, ensuring that you are hitting the news cycle at the time that works best for the media, such as Mondays and Tuesdays and never on a Friday. One final important point is that spokespeople must be flexible to talk to the media when they are ready, not vice versa.
5. Prove the point – As stated previously, third-party references are still essential to any successful product launch. Without the customer and analyst reference, most media will not cover a new product or service announcement. They get so many of those types of announcements, that to them they are just marketing noise.
6. Track, measure and merchandize the heck out of that coverage – Once a piece of coverage hits, it’s important to take that and push it out through social media channels and other tools to communicate with customers and staff worldwide. The more that coverage is shared the greater the return on that product launch effort.
Closing this loop and measuring the impact of the product launch will identify those strategies and tactics that worked best, how it positively impacted the business, and areas for future improvements.
When you think about it, in some ways, it might actually be easier to launch a new solution today. Certainly there are more avenues to get the word out. What’s much tougher is actually connecting with the people who you want to hear it.
What other best practices do you follow to get someone’s ear?