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SPS Task 3 - Tips and Traps

Product Brief

You have already completed many parts of the overall strategy for the company and your product, including estimating the market size, evaluating the competitive landscape, and identifying potential partners and alliances to help you succeed. With these results in mind, you will now have to make a series of tactical decisions that implement the strategy.

  •         Do a quick SWOT and PEST analysis to help you see where you stand as a company, and what external factors are likely to have the strongest impact on your business and tactics.
  •         Identify the most significant features, advantages, and benefits of your product. Why should someone even spend time evaluating it, let alone spending money on it? Create a set of bullet points (5 or fewer) for each of these categories. These will be used in the Product Brief.
  •         Sharpen your definition of your target customer. Just as you used scenarios to identify users, apply a similar process to identify the target customer(s). You will often find that there is more than one target customer, such as an executive who is licensing your product for a business unit and an individual manager who intends to personally use it. Even broad-based consumer products have a specific target customer, such as women from 18-29. You will need this definition to identify some of your marketing programs.
  •         Craft an "elevator pitch" that summarizes your selling proposition: no more than 3 sentences, light on buzzwords, that is intended to get your audience interested in what you have to offer (or to let you rule them out if they are not a good prospect). If you can also create a tag line, e.g., "Developing software leaders", that can be useful for helping prospective customers remember you.
  •         Use all of this information to position your product in the marketplace. Positioning lets you quickly define yourself both in positive terms, e.g., better communication among your sales team members, and competitively, e.g., greatest scalability for large customers. In many cases, it is the basis by which someone can differentiate your product from others in the market. Your positioning reflects the message that you want to leave with everyone who hears about the company and its product(s). All of your marketing programs should work together to reinforce your positioning. Use the 280 Group's product positioning document to organize your information.
  •        The Product Brief is a short document, one to two pages, that presents the main features of your product and its value proposition. The Product Brief incorporates the advantages, benefits, and positioning message. The primary audience for this document is your target customer. The Product Brief is customer-facing, so it should be written in terms that are meaningful to the customer's requirements and pain points. The goal of the document is to get the reader to take some action, such as contacting the company, viewing a demo, signing up for a trial account, or downloading additional documentation or white papers. The Product Brief is a fundamental part of your sales effort, so you should plan to have it available as a web page, a PDF version of the printed document, and perhaps even a printed document.

Marketing Programs

Marketing programs include all of the activities that you perform to generate awareness. You can separate them into online and offline programs, and also into outbound and inbound marketing programs. Examples of online programs include your web presence (including web site analytics), Email campaigns, company (or partner) webinars on the product, participation in Google AdWords, social networking, real-time feeds (Twitter), and a Search Engine Optimization program aimed at improving the standing of selected search terms in search engine results. Offline programs include exhibiting at a trade show, developing printed materials, and meeting with industry analysts and journalists. You should read about the difference between outbound and inbound marketing on the Hubspot blog. You can follow their online course to become certified on inbound marketing.

Marketing programs can be very expensive, so you have to spend money carefully and make subsequent investments primarily on those programs that give you a proven return, with a small amount set aside for new options. You should think about how best to find people who are most likely to be interested in the product. They are most likely to be your initial customers, to spend time helping you refine the product, and to be quotable references that you can use to attract other prospective customers. Beyond your current customers, though, you want to use your target customer profile very accurately so that you can focus your marketing programs accordingly. You can often get some good ideas from your competitors.

Allocation of marketing resources is a big challenge. Identify the top ten elements of your online and offline marketing program, e.g., product website, trade shows, etc., and allocate a percentage of your marketing budget to each of them. You might want to leave 10% or so unallocated so that you can make quick additions or changes without having to request additional funds. Having done that, you should create a marketing budget around these programs, extending until two quarters after the product has been released. Keep in mind that you will have some one-time costs associated with the web site development and the product launch. For purposes of this Task, you can simply allocate $25K to each of those one time items.

Don't forget "guerrilla marketing". You can post on blogs, add links in your email signature, and offer to give talks at industry events, trade shows, and other professional meetings. There are lots of Meetup groups and other similar meetings. In San Francisco, these include SFbeta and SFNewTech, as well as many others where you can try out your pitch to a friendly audience. Make sure that everyone in your company understands the product basics, including positioning, and is able to deliver the elevator pitch. You can never tell who they might meet.

Make sure to leave some money for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing program. One key aspect is to evaluate traffic to your website. A good starting point is Google Analytics and the additional Resources (pull-down menu) on that page. Make sure to check out the YouTube channel on Google Analytics, perhaps starting with this introduction among the hundreds there. Website analytics is closely related to Search Engine Optimization. The attached paper, "How to Implement SEO to Improve Search Traffic" is a good starting point, but you should also follow the links at the end of the paper to see many more resources organized by HubSpot. An introduction to marketing analytics from Hubspot is attached to this page.

Companies such as Eloqua and Marketo offer tools to evaluate the traffic to your website. Marketo's high-level overviews, "The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics"; and "The Definitive Guide to Social Marketing", are attached to this page. If you rely on social media for getting the word out, you can use Salesforce.com's Radian6 to track the social conversations about your product and brand.

How are you going to attract people to your product when it is available? Companies often plan launch events where their executives can meet with industry analysts and journalists in the hopes of obtaining favorable coverage of the product and the company. Alternatively, they plan a [more expensive] press tour where they meet one-on-one with a selected set of such analysts and journalists. In either case, the meetings serve as the starting point in building relationships with key influencers who can help spread the word about the company and its products. In some cases, the launch is done at an industry event, such as DEMO or an event sponsored by TechCrunch or Dealmaker Media, where you compete for a slot to be seen alongside other newly launched products. Journalists and analysts will often want to speak to customers rather than to company executives as a way to obtain a more balanced view on the product. If you point them to your existing customers, make sure that they understand the message that you are trying to convey.

You also want to make sure that all of your materials build on your competitive positioning. This article by Tom Mohr from the CEO Quest site has some valuable ideas.

The press release announcing the product is the central document of your product launch. It's different from the Product Brief because it is likely to be read by people who are unfamiliar with the problem that you are addressing. So the headline should emphasize what is new and interesting about the product, with the article containing a description of product features with relevant quotations from a senior executive and from a customer. You can work from the attached template. The 280 Group has produced a Product Launch Plan Budget spreadsheet that covers a broad range of possible launch expenses. While their spreadsheet covers many more items than you will use, it provides a good sense of the possibilities. In addition, you will want to have methods in place to assess your online marketing programs. Be careful to avoid the most common product launch mistakes. Also, NPD Solutions has produced a useful product launch checklist.