Friday, November 09, 2007

How to Successfully Launch B2B Products and Services

A new survey produced by Schneider Associates and the Center for Business Innovation at Babson College details some very interesting findings on what makes for a successful B2B product or service launch. The free report, entitled Business-to-Business Launch Survey, profiles the ten key lessons B2B companies can use to improve their odds for launch success. The study investigated effective product and service launches to help B2B product and service managers improve their launch practices and success rate.

Among the most interesting findings in the study (and keep in mind, these are the successful launches):
  • Just 22% of B2B services companies and 37% of product vendors followed a formal, documented launch process—though another third of each group said they used "a general, undocumented repeatable process."

  • Planning most commonly started anywhere from three to 12 months before launch—though nearly 40% of B2B product companies didn't get started until within three months of the planned launch. Correspondingly, about 30% of respondents said they would change launch timing for their next release.

  • Product companies were four times more likely than service firms to use an outside PR firm to assist with their launch. Not surprisingly then, nearly 30% of service launchers expressed an interest in improving their PR campaigns, compared to about half that percentage for product firms.

  • Roughly a quarter of respondents—the largest group—considered their launch process "complete" once the first commercial sale was made. Another 20% placed called the process complete six months after the first sale, while about 10% said the launch process continued through the first year after initial sales.

  • Astoundingly, a third of respondents hadn't established a specific launch budget, and 18% didn't even know if there had been a budget established! In addition, 42% of B2B product companies didn't know the percentage of their overall marketing departmental budget was dedicated to launch activities.

  • Among the companies that did set a launch budget, more than half established this budget during the product or service development phase.

  • Just 16% of B2B service providers used an external PR, advertising or digital agency as part of the launch process; 40% of product companies included outside firms.

  • While a number of metrics were used to measure launch success, "achieving sales targets" was by far the most common measure, cited by nearly 60% of service providers and 70% of product companies.

  • "Sales force preparation" was identified as the most important contributing factor to launch success, followed by word-of-mouth and online campaigns. Word-of-mouth promotion was fostered by press releases and articles, webinars, and customer seminars and testimonials. Nearly half "were happy with their Internet-based activities."

  • Three things you probably didn't need a survey to tell you: 1) nearly 40% of respondents (the largest single group) said that if they could change one thing next time around, they'd want a bigger budget. 2) "Launch delays are almost inevitable." 3) New-to-the-world products and services have greater launch impact than line extensions, upgrades or copy-cat offerings.

There's lots more. To improve the success of your next B2B service or product launch, check out this study. Finally (being an agency type) my favorite quote from the report:

"Having the right marketing professionals participate in designing your launch from the start is critical. It's worth noting that nearly all the factors B2B launchers in our survey chose as being most important to their success are best handled by a marketing communications firm."


Contact Mike Bannan:

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