The Challenges of Product Rollouts
In today’s fast-moving marketplace, a stream of newly introduced products is the norm. Along with a bevy of “next-gen” product improvements and special promotions, they seem to be happening all the time.
How are companies managing these rollouts on the sales side? Consumer products pose certain challenges. Case in point: Despite the marketing push for various iPhone products, most people would have great difficulty explaining the differences between the iPhone 11, XR, XS and XS-Max models.
A similar dynamic is happening in the B-to-B world as well. A recent survey of 250 senior marketing professionals at mid- and large-sized companies found that half of them introduce new products on a quarterly basis. And special product promotions are happening even more frequently than that.
Beyond the fact that such a calendar makes things incredibly busy for marketing teams, it has impact elsewhere in the company as well, such as the pressure it puts on the frontline sales teams.
If there are just 90 days between rollouts, those personnel don’t have much time to absorb information and communicate properly with prospective customers before the next big initiative comes along. Becoming familiar with a steady stream of new products and promotions can feel like an overwhelming endeavor to even the most motivated frontline employees. In the process, the great benefits story they’re supposed to be sharing may get lost.
But there are ways to calibrate your rollout strategies and tactics to get the biggest bang for the buck. Here are several:
Segment your internal audience
Not every buyer is equally receptive to the same sales messages … and neither are your frontline reps. “One-size- fits-all” training rarely works well – giving too much information to some people while neglecting important content that others should know. Think about how people in different roles engage with your customers, and provide relevant information that’s the most useful to them in those roles.
Avoid information overload
Most new product rollouts err on the side of providing more information and training than people can absorb. Usually “less
is more.” Provide the most basic information first – then feed a little more at a time, as needed.
Ask for feedback
The information you provide to your sales reps is designed for their benefit, so don’t distribute new materials without first running it by a smaller group. Ask for opinions about the messaging, what’s working, and what isn’t clear – and then adjust where needed. This will lead to better engagement when you roll out the full program.
Consider the method of delivery
Distributing a product rollout memo or uploading some documents to the company Intranet may seem sufficient, but is probably a fool’s errand. Information will have more impact if it gets people’s attention. Consider tools such as short videos featuring team members acting out different scenarios. If timing and cost justify, hold in-person meetings with reps to give them hands-on interaction with the product.
One other thing: Often, frontline employees are the only personal interaction a customer will ever have with your company, which makes them among your most valuable assets. Take care to introduce products and promotions the right way, and it will pay off not only in sales performance, but also in positive brand perception.