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What’s Your [Product] Story? Take the First Step Toward New Product Launch Success

A few weeks ago, TAG Marketing Society hosted a panel on “Sales and Marketing Alignment.” If you’ve ever worked in sales or marketing for a B2B organization, then you already understand the friction that often exists between the two camps. In the past, while marketing typically owned brand and marcomm, sales owned the rest of the customer touchpoints. So when sales asked for a new pitch deck or brochure, marketing delivered.

 

Times…they are a’changing.

The emergence of the digital buyer and increasing importance of personalization and data-driven decision-making has moved strategic marketing far beyond branding, sales enablement and communications. In fact, driving innovation, building new capabilities, achieving meaningful differentiation, and meeting
evolving customer needs are the most frequently cited priorities.

As such, never has the alignment between sales and marketing been so critical to business success, especially when it comes to a new product launch.

Why?

Successful product launches share 3 core characteristics:

  1. Simplicity in the story
  2. Clarity in the go-to-market strategy
  3. Alignment across systems (people, process and technologies)

Let’s begin the story:

Story:

As Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP, has said at a conference, “Big, large, glass buildings do not buy software. People do.” That’s why understanding the voice of the customer is critical to your success vs. product-selling or solution-selling.

Like the overall new product launch, it’s critical that the story also shares these 3 critical characteristics: simplicity, clarity and alignment.

Simplicity:

Making the story simple begins with a unified focus on the customer’s desired business outcomes. If you don’t know who your target buyer is, then this is the stage to find out.

Feedback from the field is critical at this stage. Which are customers/prospects will benefit the most with your solution? What outcomes are they trying to achieve – and what are the requisite challenges to achieving the desired outcome?

The sales force often speaks directly to customers and prospects, so their feedback is critical to shaping the story. At the same time, product marketers should survey prospects and customers to gain a more in-depth perspective, if the product development team has not already done so.

Clarity:

The most compelling stories begin by reminding your audience of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way. Next, set up a conflict that needs to be resolved. Think about the structure of your favorite #TEDTalk.

According to the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, creating tension can convince the audience to “adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be” (hopefully to adopt your solution).

It’s also important to structure the story like a narrative, with a beginning, middle, and an end. In so doing, you’ll create a message that’s easy to digest, remember, and retell. And like any good narrative, make your target buyer the hero, the champion, and position your product as the part of the supporting cast to helping the hero achieve success.

Alignment:

The story must be aligned internally and externally. We’ve all been in situations where marketing pushes one story through marketing channels while sales is telling another story in their prospecting and first touch meetings. This creates confusion in the marketplace and often disrupts, slows or even unravels the buyer’s journey.

Sometimes the message may shift, depending on the target buyer and the channel being used to reach him or her. As a result, it’s important to map the story to the channel and the buyer. This helps shape your Go-To-Market strategy, which I’ll discuss in the next post.

In the meantime, what organizational challenges does your team face when launching a new product? Please feel free to post comments here or share with your peers as a way to #StayTopRight.

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