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Power up your product launches with a Voice of Industry

Many B2B companies focus their activities on that most holy of events, the product launch. The entire company tends to run like mad toward each launch just as small boys playing football all swarm around the ball, leaving the remainder of the playing field practically empty. It’s a costly affair, and one upon which the company’s sales and organizational energy can be highly dependent. But this kind of traditional, explosive product launch is quickly becoming a dinosaur.

Even today, most B2B companies treat each new product introduction as a separate, high-cost activity.

With the arrival of the new breed of B2B buyer—one who is far more online-oriented and gathers a larger proportion of his or her decision-support information from sources other than the manufacturer—things have definitely changed. Today, by leveraging existing online B2B buyer forums—or better still, by owning and operating online Voice of Industry platforms where your prospects and customers can conduct their discussions—there is a great opportunity both to magnify the impact of product launches and reduce the cost per launch.

Take the extreme case of Apple, for example. There are so many conversations going on about the company and its products, many of them in Apple-specific forums (both official and unofficial), that all it takes is for a senior company executive to write one sentence in a blog announcing an upcoming press conference and the message will spread like wildfire, with customers speculating on possible product enhancements and desperately eager to find out more. Could Dell do the same? Or any of Apple’s other competitors?

 Companies that have built up a significant online presence require fewer resources to achieve the same impact when releasing new products.

Of course, Apple’s market buzz machine has been built up over many years and is also the result of an impressive legacy of product innovation. But B2B companies of lesser fame can still achieve significant gains by actively building their own online Voice of Industry sites and adding fuel to the conversations among their prospects and customers.

What if your company were to do something similar—or put more effort into the buzz generation activities you may already be doing? What effect might it have to set up one or more industry-specific communities complete with regular newsletters? Of course, there are initial planning and setup costs that, for most companies, will be significantly larger than the resources required for a single product launch. Thereafter, however, ongoing operating costs should be relatively contained.

After initial setup costs, the operating costs of working with a Voice of Industry are relatively contained.

Over time, as the numbers of prospects, customers and other industry players flourish in your Three Voices™ “ecosystem”, you will start to see returns on your investment that quickly surpass the initial costs of the project. And you are likely to discover that your close contact with potential buyers results not only in better product launches, but also in more customer-focused product development and faster access to and incorporation of vital market feedback.

As your Voice of Industry and Voice of Customer activities grow, a no-cost component begins to appear, enabling your company to extract greater ROI from its investments.

Working this way is not a matter of whether to change your marketing approach to product launches and many other marketing activities, but when to do it. And that allows you to choose whether to be the first in your industry to move or to make your move later, hoping to benefit from the first mover’s mistakes.

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Jonathan Winch

I’m Jonathan Winch, partner at cylindr and BBN International and a B2B marketing enthusiast. I've participated as a strategic and creative resource in the marketing and communication sphere for over 25 years, making contributions to the strategies and communications of companies of all sizes, the best known of which include Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Danisco, GN ReSound, Hempel, Nokia Siemens Networks, LEGO, Coloplast, and Johnson & Johnson. My mission? To help B2B companies make the most of the value they create for the world. My hobby: Nutritional science, particularly sports nutrition.