In our last post, we focused on how things would change for your brand in 2020.
Now the time is here to start launching all your key initiatives for the year. Trade shows, sales kickoffs, and dealer conventions are upon us and it is time to show them your new stuff.
How has this gone in the past? Have all the launches been successful, or have you had to go back and figure out why your new programs never got of the starting line? The struggles often come from the inability to achieve internal brand alignment around the new initiatives. There are some key things to remember if you want to get all your audiences on the same page and make the year all your new programs take flight, and stay in the air, successfully.
Understanding Internal Alignment
I’m sure the new products, services and programs you are launching are great. However, you probably need to get your frontline teams – sales, channel sales reps, customer service, etc. – on board if you’re going to achieve your goals.
To gain support from these key audiences, start by recognizing that you are asking them to talk about something new and different. The more products and services a company launches, the harder it is to gain adoption and internal alignment. Evaluate how much of a change your are asking your people to make. Be honest. Is it a simple add-on to an existing product line, or a completely new line of business? The more change, the harder it will be to get them to shift their behavior and integrate new offerings.
Your Marketing Launch is the Start, Not the End
No matter how big of a change you are asking your people to make, the launch itself can’t be viewed as the finish line. Most marketers are hustling just to get their new products to market. But, just because the launch seems like the end of the journey for marketing and product teams, it is just the beginning for your key audiences.
Think about your sales team or your sales channel partners. You need them to carry the message and tell a story that will win over customers. Your kickoff presentation might be great, but it is not enough to get them to digest all the information, internalize it and go out and tell it confidently.
They need the message to be reinforced. They need to practice telling the story before they can deliver the type of customer experience you envisioned. Marketers need to recognize this and look at the launch in phases, not a single moment. Focus on what you want your sales team to do first. What simple action can they take that will help them build their comfort level and confidence in talking about the new offering? Be clear about the starting point so your teams don’t all pick a different approach. It is impossible to get everyone on the same page from day one, so don’t try. Most internal product launches fail because people don’t know where to start.
Front-line Teams: Refine, Refine, Refine
If you’ve armed your teams with a logical starting point and they are out there having conversations, you now can have something to improve upon. Gather feedback from your front-line teams as frequently as possible. How are their conversations are going? Where are they struggling? Where does the conversation get too complex for their comfort? This information is what you need to know how to help them reach the next milestone with the new offering, and gets you even closer to alignment.
Set aside resources to support them along this journey. This might include a “rapid response” inbox for questions, additional materials to fill in gaps as they emerge or regular contact with subject matter experts. Remember, you are asking them to change. Change takes time, and if your representatives feel like they have support available and someone is listening, they are much more willing to try.
Plan Ahead To Avoid A Relaunch
Successful launches are like good golf swings (or tennis, baseball, etc.) – it’s all about the follow through. Marketers need to treat launches like a process, not an event. It is hard to get employees and customers to adopt new things. It takes time. Acknowledging this reality up front is critical and smart marketers will have a plan that extends well beyond launch to help their people build confidence and improve their ability to tell the story. The alternative is to wait for your people to struggle and start planning for the “relaunch”.