We all know the old philosophy question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it did it still make a sound?” Regardless of where you come out on the question, if you’re a technology marketer about to bring a new product out the answer is a resounding “NO.” Back in the day a launch was pretty straightforward, varying only by scale: put out a press release, get your media prepped, coordinate your advertising, mailings and coordinate customer updates, tradeshows, collateral. There were natural gathering points for announcements and people waited eagerly to see what was new and exciting.
That was then.
Now, a marketer has to cut through the fog of information, find the audience hiding inside, and figure out how to get the attention of the attention-challenged long enough for it to register in their consciousness. In a few hundred words I can’t guide you through the intricacies of building out a multi-channel launch plan but I can share what I’ve learned to help you off in the right direction: First, know your target and why they will care.
Second, know your space. That is, don’t make people work at understanding where your product fits. This is not the time to create a market—that comes later with the analysts, press, broader marketing activities. Find the world the product lives in and place it at the top of the heap. Tout its value and advantages over others in the space.
Third, find out “where they live.” That still means knowing what your targets read, where they go for information, what events they attend, but it also now means what blogs they read, who they follow on Twitter, who they know and what groups they participate in on LinkedIn among others.
Fourth, message frequently—but more briefly– adjust your message to your different audiences, and invite dialog. Product launches today are not the one way flow of the past; it can’t be a fire hose of information because people won’t stay still long enough to get soaked. Use social media liberally, but don’t use it rashly. There’s a fine but definite line between social media spam and real announcements. There have been enough books and seminars built on the topic that I won’t even attempt to educate on that topic, but I will urge you to either hire an expert, learn from an expert, or leave it to an expert.
Fifth, work out early looks by journalists, bloggers, even analysts. Most can be trusted to keep your confidentiality if there’s a time sensitivity to the launch. Otherwise, letting them leak out a first look can start generating buzz for you ahead of your own efforts. And, if they don’t like what they see that informs you how you need to proceed BEFORE you launch and someone seagulls on you.
Sixth, email isn’t a dirty word. Used well it’s still a key vehicle for reaching large numbers of targeted potential customers, and new product introductions rank high on the list of things interested parties will open an email to learn about. And stick with it. With spam rules in mind, work your lists and database thoughtfully. And as an aside, don’t be shy about cleaning your list up. It’s false comfort to have a 20k database of names, 15k of whom have never opened a thing you’ve sent them or about which you know very little if anything. Better to have a clean, targeted database of 5k interested parties to which you can add more. Don’t worry about opt-outs either: they’re telling you they’re not interested in what you’re telling them, so save yourself the trouble.
Seventh, wherever possible, use whatever customer information you can. Whether it’s an anonymized case study or a full-fledged testimonial, or even a single quote from a beta customer, that adds dramatic credibility to your efforts. If they’ll talk to the press or analysts, all the better. If they’ll appear on your behalf at an event, better still. Regardless of how much or how little, find someone other than your own people who will say something about what you’ve brought out to market.
Finally, keep it fresh by tying the launch into the larger business or technology issues the product serves. Share information with your targets, involve them, even passively, in your community building. Familiarity breeds interest (another old saw notwithstanding), and the more you wrap around the product through its launch period and beyond, the more noise that tree will make when it falls.
Alan E. Gold is the Chief Marketing Officer at TradeStone Software, Inc. Follow him on twitter @alanegold or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him on skype by his handle: alan.gold