I was inspired by reading this post by David Olson from the Product Development and Management Association blog. David lists fifteen principles for successful new consumer product marketing. I've worked exclusively in business products and services in my career, so David's post caused me to consider what a complementary list for business products would look like.
I only had enough energy for five principles. I'm sure there are others... weigh in, please!
- Talk about the benefits--not the technology. The job of marketing is to decrease the emotional distance between the prospect and the product, to bring the prospect near enough that sales can close the deal. Jabbering on about technology at the expense of concrete business benefits increases that distance.
- Realize that all products have faults--you're just more aware of your own. I recall a sleepless night before a big trade show, with the glow from my demo monitor creeping under the door to the adjacent room, where I went over and over the many faults with my product and how poorly it would demo compared to the competition, which of course was perfect. I was wrong on both counts. The demo went fine, and, lo and behold, the competition had problems too--which we learned in time how to capitalize on.
- The sale is only the beginning. Most business products require extensive after-sales support, and almost always form a platform for add-on sales. Be ready for both. In particular, make sure you have a good business model for making money on after-sales support, the revenue from which often far exceeds the initial purchase price. (Harvard Business Review--subscription required--had a really good article on this topic recently.) Do this job right, and your product can make a ton of money over its life-cycle, and last longer than you ever anticipated in your business plan. Screw up (I speak from experience), and you can find that sales are something you dread, not welcome.
- References are the coin of the realm. Most business purchases, rather than being positive, uplifting experiences, are filled with dread and risk on the part of the buyer. (See a prior post on this topic.) The best way to make a buyer feel comfortable with your product is to have an array of stories of how it has helped companies like his/hers--preferably delivered and endorsed by the customer directly.
- Make the product easy to sell. Don't skimp on training. Develop high-quality marketing materials. Invest in high-quality sales support staff. Do your homework on pricing, competition, etc. Eliminate complexity whenever possible. Solicit input from key salespeople for product packaging, positioning, etc. And, if you want to use indirect channels, an easier-to-sell product will capture more of the channel's mindshare and incent them to promote it to their customer base.
marketing, product development, innovation