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Sunday, November 04, 2007

New report, new best practices. Sorry! New report, SAME best practices.

Huh In my weekly cruise around the trades, I found a new report for BtoB marketers. (You can download it from their pressroom.) Yippie! I love new data and findings.

Unfortunately, I didn't find it new.

This is not a knock on Schneider & Associates, the producers of the report. They did a bang-up job of funding and compiling a free report; I truly mean that.

Plus, their finding are based on the feedback of, as I understand, lots of BtoB marketers. So I guess it's a knock on BtoB marketers. Here's the report summary (and my feedback is below that).

"Based on our survey results, here are our top 10 suggestions about how to improve your chances of B2B launch success:

1. Create a documented launch process.
2. Set a separate launch budget and make sure it is adequate to meet the launch challenges you face.
3. Establish your launch budget as early in the product development phase as possible.
4. Keep your launch budget stable throughout the implementation phase.
5. Determine your launch performance measures before the launch begins.
6. Measure the “right” success metrics.
7. Include the “right” external launch professionals on your team.
8. Fight for bigger budgets.
9. Educate your sales force and other internal audiences about your new product or service. Also focus on distributor, retailer or dealer education.
10. Spend money on word-of-mouth campaigns rather than on advertising."

CK's findings:
#10 (WOM) is the only new one in, like, twenty years (or at least as long as I've been marketing, so 15 years).

#8 (Budgets) is right up my alley--I advise two things on this front to my clients--first, always pad budgets by an extra 15-20% as your boss will always cut. Otherwise they don't feel like they've done their job. So play the chess game and budget accordingly. And, second, always go back to the well (board) and ask for more water (money).

#9 (Internal Buy-In/Internal Communications) is crucial, this internal communications disconnect and marketing and sales being at war is a huge reason for failure. I suggest it be moved up to the top 5.

Not a single best practice...not a single mother lovin' one...mentions the customer. Go ahead, glance back up there to check my math.

While I struggle to say that customer service is our single biggest issue; it's not. It's myopia. How to cure myopia? Stop talking to each other: start talking with and listening to customers every step of the way.

(And not just in focus groups where everyone either agrees with you or gets to decide if the theme should be A or B).

Oh, you say, "But they already did their customer research before they went into launch mode so it's before these practices even apply." Baloney. The thing is, every launch worth the big budgets this report is addressing should be implementing test launches and pre-launches. CPG companies do them all the time, and for decades. So if a BtoC company does this for a $4 food product, why not a BtoB marketer with a $400k product? Especially since they're talking a "new product launch" not just a "new ad campaign."

Seems to me if we keep doing the same thing and expect different results it's a waste of time and budget. (Actually, expecting different results from the same actions is the very definition of "insanity.")

But that's just my opinion as I didn't have a say in these practices. Apparently neither did customers.

PS: Just so I don't sound like I'm all talk and no action, in my plight to get the word out, I'm currently compiling a "10 new best practices" presentation. I assure you, the practices are actually new. And the focus of the piece is putting the market first, the marketer after. Happy to share it. It also features a cute theme--after all, why do "best practices reports" have to be so darn bo-ring?

Update (11.05): Joe Pulizzi has a great assessment (and suggestions) on this list over at his blog here. It's worth checking out as he's far more articulate than I.

Comments

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I know Schneider & Associates; read the owner's book that covers bringing PR thinking early into the product development & launch process. Good writing and insights. Robert G. Cooper though, is the king of customer-centric PD; I'll try and find some nuggets..

You know, I think this is sounding like the NEW B2C -- brand to community ;)
Take a look at this post by Anne Zelenka:
http://gigaom.com/2007/11/05/hivelive/

Now, all we need are some good measurement tools, and we'll all be set!

CK,

It frustrates and confuses me that any list would not have "Educate your sales force and other internal audiences about your new product or service. Also focus on distributor, retailer or dealer education" someplace before the launch. Everything begins and ends with the employees, as they make up the touchpoints and determine execution success for everything a business says and does.

Starbucks is a good example, and there are many, of building brand, marketing, sales and customer experiences from the inside out. In fact, very few dollars are spent externally to market and sell a product when compared with the internal efforts made by great companies.

CK,

You raise a good point, especially with the different avenues available to companies now to speak with their customers. Whether through "traditional" means - enewsletter, customer surveys - or "newer" ways - blogs, social networks - companies have more avenues for creating this conversation.

It's free market research that becomes part of the feedback loop. Without it, we would be creating products that no one wants.

@CeCe: There are none so blind as those that will not see--or listen. Even before 2.0 we needed to listen to customers...this is not new. In fact, it's what marketing is founded upon. So I'm coming at this from a "traditional" mindset but, I just posted on how to "listen" using the new tools (and free market research, as you know, is truly 2.0's value prop for marketers in both b2c and b2b environs). Here's that post: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2007/11/blog_not_so_much_listen_much_1.html

PS: Hope you're well, I'll have my Webinar set for you guys shortly!

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