A product rollout is mostly tactical in nature and is focused primarily on internal readiness — your ability to successfully market, sell, implement and support a new product. A product launch is the execution of a marketing communications plan designed to call the markets attention to your value proposition. A successful rollout is the key to a successful launch.
Rollout and launch are often used synonymously when in fact, they are very different initiatives that serve different purposes. To that end, a successful rollout sets the stage for a killer marketing launch.
In addition to a great product, here are three things that should be at the top of your list for every major readiness and rollout effort. Do them well and you’ll have a great foundation for a marketing launch.
- Customers (more than 1)
The only reason you’ve enhanced a product or built a new product is because there is a pressing need in the market to solve specific problems on a broad scale. If this is the case, you should have customers clamoring for whatever you’re building long before it’s finished, even if you’re not the first to market. Sign them up and build a backlog for when the product is complete. It energizes your organization to know demand is strong. The ideal early adopters for a new product are the organizations you involve early on to validate your requirements and design.
- Sales Success Stories (at least 1)
If your sales team isn’t excited about new offerings you’re doomed! Most sales people have no issue selling something before its time if it secures a win. Take full advantage of this mentality but just make sure they set proper expectations on functionality and delivery. It only takes one salesperson to see the new offering as something that helped beat a competitor or contribute to a larger sale and you’ve got great momentum. Turn this story into an internal marketing campaign targeted to the rest of the sales force. The sales success story creates great mind share needed to get new products off to a fast start.
- Well Trained Sales, Services and Support Personnel
Many great products fail due to poor sales or lack of measurable customer success. Both are equally important. Unfortunately, most rollouts focus only on the sales and marketing aspects. Over time the lack of customer success discourages sales people from selling a product due to unhappy customers and a lack of good reference accounts. Internal training programs, project plans for customer implementations, customer and internal training programs, and technical support processes should be part of every major rollout to complement the sales and marketing activities. Collectively, these components greatly improve your chances of success on all fronts.
The Two Rs of Every Product Rollout That Make for a Successful Launch
The barometer of success for any product rollout boils down to two things: Sales REVENUE and customer REFERENCES. Strong revenue means you’ve got the right product and a sales force that loves to sell it. Customer references mean your product is solving critical problems and customers are realizing measurable benefit. Collectively the two Rs spell success and everyone loves a success story.
A successful rollout sets the table for a great marketing launch. Financial analysts, industry analysts, strategic partners, and other market influencers love to tell success stories. Do your best to make sure they’re telling your story.