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Originally Published as a post in Forbes Magazine’s web site. Written by Linda Murphy
As an inventor, manufacturer or importer, you’ve got a great idea for a new product that should be in every home. Now what?
“Build it and they will come” only works in the movies. A successful new product launch requires specific steps from concept and design, to branding and marketing, to business development and sales and, finally, to revenue and profit.
Here’s how to get your “next best thing” into stores.
Branding, Design And Creative Strategy
Creative strategy is vital to a product launch and sales success. Potential customers develop an immediate perception of your product simply by its name and how it looks. First impressions mean everything, so the words and visuals must be spot-on from the start, including the product itself, logo, packaging and marketing collateral, from advertisements to websites to signage and more.
Colors and fonts can evoke different thoughts and emotions (good and bad) in consumers. Blue conjures up trust; red, boldness; white, fresh and pure. Scrolling fonts convey sophistication; angular ones evoke formality .
It’s clear to see that many factors contribute to the perception of a product, so it is advisable to work with a graphic designer who understands not only the aesthetic importance of marketing collateral, but also the resulting effect on consumer behavior at retail. Cohesiveness across all public-facing messaging instills brand familiarity and loyalty, so having one design team for all creative projects is advisable.
Design To Sales
The fusion between design and sales is undeniable. Just as a design strategy needs to be fresh and creative, so does a sales strategy. An inventor myself, I’ve developed strong relationships with retailers and know what they want. The sales methodology my team created and utilizes has been tested and proven. How do we do it, and how can you do it, too? Here are some tips:
• Hit the ground running, and launch on all fronts quickly: Research. Start personalized dialogues, and build relationships with buyers. Schedule meetings. Request invitations to present products, and prepare materials for the presentation.
• Do your due diligence. For retailers to be responsive, you need to respect them and not waste their time. Walk through their stores; study their corporate strategy, and identify appropriate personnel. Draft an appropriate hit list of key accounts whose white space and strategy fit your products. “What’s in it for the retailer?” should be the vital question you ask and answer.
• Everyone wants their invention associated with the biggest names in shopping. But don’t limit your efforts to only traditional retailers. Consider the audience most interested in your product, and identify specialty catalogs or websites that cater just to them. Approach distributors to use their networks while continuously “selling” to create demand.
• Keep in mind that retail is constantly changing — be prepared for it.
• Amazon is a unique case. Success from the site requires more than throwing up a product page. Partner with an expert who knows the ins and outs of Amazon: how to craft product pages that don’t get lost in the sea of sellers, and how to use Amazon advertising and other techniques to garner visibility and drive sales.
• Think about sales in terms of short term and long term. In the short term, look to build an online presence, replicating on other dot-coms — such as walmart.com, homedepot.com, target.com, etc. — what you’ve achieved on Amazon. There’s no better marketplace, especially if you can sell directly through retailers as a preferred partner. Once you’ve established a sales history, you’ll start to generate short-term income, and recurring revenue will start to churn, with good results that can be brought to new retailers’ attention. Be flexible with your strategy, however — so getting a no means changing your tactics until you get a yes!
The Purchase Order Is Only The Beginning
Getting products on store shelves is only step No. 1. Staying there is the heart of business development.
Engage in product launch marketing services to keep the momentum and continue to generate sales and keep products in the news. If advertising alone generated the stellar results all entrepreneurs dream of, everyone would have a Super Bowl commercial.
Many companies, however, overspend on wasted advertising that doesn’t generate results. A sensible mix of advertising, public relations and other marketing initiatives generates awareness, keeps products top of mind, compels consumers to purchase and instills brand loyalty.
Digital advertising is the way of the future — and the present. Compare analytics (costs, click-through rates, audience, etc.), strategically aligning products with those that offer the best opportunities for positive ROI.
Every product, service, entrepreneur and inventor has a story to tell. Tell that story through public relations (PR) to help spur sales.
PR is third-party validation. Instead of you telling the world how great your new product is, someone is championing it for you, providing objectivity that advertising lacks.
• Influencers (think Oprah) have a much bigger audience than you. One word from them, and suddenly, your product is known by millions around the globe.
• Different types of media appeal to different demographics. Newspapers, magazines, television, radio, blogs — which is your targeted audience consuming?
• Trade media is a qualifier for businesses whose products are primarily business-to-business (B2B).
• PR taps into current trends, news stories or holidays, such as gift guides.
• Show expertise by securing a company or employee profile in business media.
• Show off your “trophy case” by entering national awards competitions that recognize excellence in relevant categories.
• Every media hit gives you an opportunity to follow up with a potential buyer and share the excitement and validation of new successes.
Introduce your products to a large number of buyers at once at trade shows. But setting up a table and sign and waiting for buyers and media to come to you won’t cut it. Actively seek out face-to-face meetings, even before the show starts. Give as much attention to your booth as you would an ad. Again, first impressions count!