Successful product rollouts are largely a matter of execution. You can have the greatest widget in the world but if you blow the rollout, no o will know about it; no one will understand how to sell it; and no one will buy your widget. CPQ can help you launch new products more effectively and in less time.
Today, product success is frequently determined by who gets to market first. Getting to market first means getting to market without stumbling or missing important items along the way.
Product launches are complex events that involve lots of moving parts, events and people. If you search “product launch” or “product rollout,” you will find many articles that list specific things you must do or have in order to ensure a successful launch.
After reading through a number of these pieces, I felt they spend too much time on high-level strategic and tactical issues. I want to talk about the nuts and bolts of your product rollout process and how technology like CPQ can smooth the way for your product launch.
Here are some key specific needs and actions.
New Product Launch: Start with Basic Information
To frame our conversation, let’s borrow something from the world of journalism. The five Ws include: Who, What, When, Where and Why. If your start with these elements, your rollout project will be off to a successful launch.
If you use project-planning software, this initial step will help you organize your basic inputs to ensure that the resulting plan you develop is built on a strong foundation.
As we move through each section, we will look at how CPQ and CRM can play a crucial role in helping sellers address all of the issues that must be addressed during the launch.
Let’s take a look.
WHO – Product launches require communication with many groups of people who play a role in the launch. Messaging and information must be isolated and packaged for each group.
- Sales reps
- Support assets and back-office personnel
- Industry analyst community
CRM systems are useful in identifying specific prospects via demographic information. CPQ, along with your customer information system, will help you identify existing customers that represent possible buyers based on what products they already have and the problems they are trying to solve.
Internally, sales reps, support personnel and back-office personnel all have unique informational requirements that must be addressed prior to releasing the new product.
Marketing will need to facilitate an introduction of the new product with any industry analysts or professional groups who are interested in the product or the markets that the product addresses.
WHAT – What kind of information needs to be communicated? Product information must be disseminated to anyone involved in the sale and support of the product. Most of this information falls into one of three categories.
- Product technical data
- Product marketing data
- Product pricing
CPQ systems require individual part data, along with any dependencies such as pre-req or co-req products, functional information and detailed pricing data.
Scripting related to the sale of the product is created and used to help the buyer and the seller isolate specific requirements and corresponding product features that satisfy those needs.
Marketing information is used to design collateral materials and online assets needed to deliver messaging and functional data about the product to prospects.
Pricing information is needed by virtually everyone. CPQ systems need a specific list price for each deliverable part, package and bundle. The list price is used to drive promotional discounts, national account and GSA discounts, as well as pricing in other currencies and international markets.
WHEN – Product launches need to identify specific target dates for a variety of milestones encountered along the way. Along with specific dates, typical turnaround times for certain actions will need to be established as well.
- New-product announcement date
- Product availability date
- Internal training schedules and dates
- Order turnaround times
- Implementation schedules
All back-office systems will require go-live date triggers that will allow the product to be ordered. CPQ systems need to know when the product can be spec’d out and ordered, as well as when the customer can expect delivery.
Support personnel and implementation teams need to be notified regarding when they will be responsible for implementation projects and supporting the installed product.
Customers, especially those with pending orders, need to know when the product can be ordered and when it can be shipped. CRM systems can help identify and isolate customers with immediate needs that relate to the new product.
WHERE – Products may be physically shipped to the customers who are acquiring them, or they may be delivered virtually via online resources as part of a cloud-based service. Regardless, inventory has to be maintained and ready for shipment.
Product distribution plans that involve international shipments must coordinate with production facilities either domestic or abroad to ensure rapid responses to market demand.
Third-party distribution channels that ship product from their own facilities will need product on hand to ship.
CPQ and order-management systems need to be tuned to all of these variables in order to handle the efficient processing of any product ordered.
WHY – The why is messaging. Why do people want this product? Why does it fill a market need? Why is it better than competitive solutions?
All of the “why” information should be defined and validated prior to moving forward with any other aspects of product development.
Successful product launches kick off new products and ensure that their initial trajectory is one that delivers sales quickly and allows those sales to be processed efficiently by the seller. Properly executed, the product launch ensures that all who are involved with that new product will be successful.
The seller will understand how to sell the product, process orders for it, install it and help the customer maximize its value.
CPQ and other systems can rapidly advance the go-live date by incorporating much of the esoteric knowledge required to sell the new product. Sales reps do not need to memorize product codes, prices, selling rules or other variables. New reps can sell complex products with the most minimal product training.
The buyer can confidently order the product knowing that it will address their needs and mitigate the issues they are confronting.