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Ready to Launch!

A Starter’s Guide to Launching that New Initiative

At Rocket Scale, I work with companies of all sizes and at all stages but one question I constantly get that is common to them all is: “I am ready to launch, how can I make sure it’s a successful blast-off.” That launch might be a new product being introduced. It might be a new geography that is being opened, or it might be a new market segment. Regardless of what or where you are launching, the fundamentals of go-to-market will always apply. Consider this your Ready to Launch Starter Guide to generate demand, create pipeline and drive B2B sales for a new initiative. For a more advanced description of B2B go-to-market strategy, check out the Rocket Scale GTM Framework.

So how do you successfully launch something new? You have to nail the go-to-market basics.

And by basics, I mean the Who, Where, and Why of GTM. Who will buy your product? Where can you find them? How do you reach them? Why will they care? If you start with this, and nail each of these topics, your new initiative will be well on its way to exit velocity. Let's make it happen!

Who will buy your product?

The first thing you need to figure out is who is going to buy your product. This fundamental step, which seems so obvious, is often skipped by those rushing products to market. Don’t be that person. This is a critical step - maybe the most critical step because it will direct all your future sales and marketing efforts. So take time to identify your target personas. Exactly what title(s) are you going after? Map out a typical buying process and identify all the potential players involved because the person you start with might not be the person who can sign the deal. Most B2B purchases are group efforts by teams of people representing different functions. Identify influencers and decision-makers. Figure out who to start with, who else to engage, and who you need to close a sale. You may want to map the buyer’s journey, or path a typical sale will take inside an account. And focus on key players and potential roadblocks that can stall momentum.

Also identify what kinds of companies you are going after including company size (Enterprise, Mid-Market, or SMB), industry, and geographic region. If your answer is “all of them,” your chance of success will be very small.

“Everyone” is not a target market!

Not sure which to choose? See my posts on choosing the Enterprise, and the SMB markets to see which is the best fit.

Consider which company characteristics you are looking for. Early adopters, price-conscious companies, companies that consider your area strategic and want to be leaders in their field, or just be good enough to get by. Segment the market because, for example, all mid-sized tech companies, or large manufacturing companies are not the same and likely have different strategies that may affect your product area.

I recently performed a segmentation analysis for an analytics company with a fairly complex product. We determined that only customers with an in-house data science team could appreciate and realize value from their product. These were mostly larger, well-staffed companies. No sense wasting time trying to sell smaller companies without a data science team on board. This greatly narrowed our focus and improved our hit-rate. This seems like super basic stuff but carefully figure out who will buy your product and you’ll waste less time and money, and your sales and marketing programs will be much more effective.

Not sure where to start? Let the past help to guide you: look at who has already purchased your product. Talk to those customers and understand why they bought your product vs. others and what is different about them compared to other companies. Then look for more companies and personas just like them.

This might seem like a huge amount of work, and it is, but it will pay off. Too many sales and marketing execs short-change carefully identifying their target and launch spray and pray campaigns to a broad audiences that waste a huge amount of time and money. You are better than that!

Where Are Your Prospects?

Now that you know which personas you are targeting, and what kinds of companies they work for, the next step is to figure out where to find them. You want to be as targeted and specific as possible in locating them but you also want to find a lot of them so you can scale rapidly.

The good news is, practically anything they do will leave a trail that will lead you to them. You just need to figure out their behavior.

Do they attend certain tradeshows or conferences? Which social channels do they use? Which industry websites do they visit? Which analysts do they listen to? Which domain experts or industry experts do they follow? Which blogs or podcasts do they turn to? What are their hot topics or areas of interest and where can these be found? Are there professional groups or associations that can be leveraged? Are there data sources that can isolate the personas and company types?

Get to know your prospect inside and out and all the activities they participate in, and that will help you figure out how to reach them.

By the way, the best prospects are the ones that are looking for you already. Make sure your SEO strategy and website are fully up-to-date for your new products and target prospects.

It may take some trial and error to identify the mother lode of your prospects so run smaller test campaigns to see what works before you start spending the big bucks. Again the most common mistake here is to cast a super wide net and hope your target prospects get scooped up. More often than not, that doesn’t happen and you are right back where you should have started: taking the time to find out where they are. Again, look to your closed accounts and late-stage prospects and figure out where they came from, and double-down there.

How To Reach Them?

Now that you know who you are looking for and where to find them, how do you reach them? Email? Digital? Social? Events? Cold calls from an SDR team? Account Based Marketing? All the above? The only way to figure out which channels are most effective in reaching your target prospects is to test, test, test, and see which channels work the best. Again start with small dollars so you don’t waste a big budget on channels that might not work. Do some analysis and put together your best hypothesis on what should work. But realize that it is only a starting point and needs to be tested before betting big dollars on it.

The market is so crowded with noise right now so whatever works will likely be highly personalized and multi-channel. And remember that many channels like Retargeting, Display, and Advertising are often secondary channels in terms of response: they will lift performance on other channels like your website and email without showing much response themselves. But if you turn them off, your overall response might decline. Understand your optimal channel mix to get the best return on your investment. Ideally your website should become a major driver of leads. It is operating 24x7, is relatively cheap compared to other channels and should clearly state your value proposition. If you can get prospects there, have good content and effective calls to action, they should convert in high numbers.

Account based marketing (ABM) is a new term for an old approach: targeting specific accounts with a multi-channel campaign. Selecting a few accounts that would be highly lucrative and focusing sales and marketing on them with multiple channels can be very effective. But make sure that your target list is not too big. One company told me they had 20,000 target accounts in their ABM program! That’s not really targeting and won’t allow you to focus sales and marketing resources. Also make sure your ABM program is consistent with accounts you have identified as good prospects. Many ABM programs can mistakenly target the biggest accounts they would like to close, regardless of need or fit for their solution.

B2B purchase intent data can also help to identify prospects already in the market for your type of solution based on their web activity, content downloads and other activity. Often part of an ABM program, this field is evolving rapidly and company coverage can be spotty. Make sure the intent data covers your product area, and targeted company size and geography.

Don’t underestimate the power of personalization. The market is super-crowded right now with every vendor automating the delivery of calls, emails and texts. It has created a very noisy market and you need to do something different to stand out. Personalization, especially multi-channel personalization will greatly improve your response. And think out of the box. A hand-written note, personally dropping off a gift or bottle of wine, or a small VIP gathering with a domain expert can help you stand out above the noise.

The Hook

Regardless of how you reach your prospects, you need a really good hook or offer to get them interested enough to engage in large numbers. Particularly when your solution is new and your company is not well known. The offer could be a free trial or a free version they can use. Or maybe a special price, or another product bundled in. It can be a valuable research report that could educate them about this area, or some time with a domain expert. It should be something that gets them to move and take action. Its not always price. Remember in B2B sales, customers are not spending their own money. Being 10% or 20% cheaper than the competition may not move the needle. Also you want them to engage now, as opposed to waiting until next month or next year, so something time-sensitive or in limited quantities often works well.

I ran marketing for a cloud communications company, and as a promotion for every new user a customer added, we gave the customer a $100 Visa Gift Card. Sales spiked as many customers suddenly needed more users and gift cards were flying out our door! A very simple offer, but it moved the needle big time for us.

Along with the offer, you need a very strong but brief value proposition, explaining

how your solution, and only your solution can help your prospect achieve some significant business goals. Do not confuse this value proposition with a description of all the cool things your product does. Save that for an in-depth product review. This is a business-oriented value proposition that speaks to how you can help their business move forward. Check out this post on Messaging for more on value proposition.

Try some different offers and see what is working and double down on that.

Ready to Launch!

Now that you have completed your pre-launch preparations, you are ready to push the button and launch!

With a good offer and a clear value proposition, delivered through the right mix of channels, to your targeted prospects at select companies most likely to buy your product, your pipeline will start bulging with new opportunities. Start spending small to see what works initially, then invest more in the channels, messages, and offers that show the best returns. From here it’s an on-going process of optimization while you continually test new channels, value props and techniques to engage prospects and move them through the funnel. All the prep work you did on identifying who you are targeting, where to find them and how to engage them will now pay off as your launch gains altitude and momentum. Enjoy the view! You earned it.

Ready for the advanced guide for Go-To-Market strategies? Check out the following series:

Al Campa is Founder and CEO of Rocket Scale, which advises companies on how to accelerate revenue with powerful go-to-market strategies. He can be reached via www.rocketscale.net.

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