Sales and Marketing Advice
12 rules for successfully launching a new business initiative
This is a story about launching a new business initiative and how my company moved forward on a fresh training program aimed at a different market segment. We followed our marketing and selling success “rules” for rolling out a new business, product, or service. Yet the response was not what was hoped for. Lackluster might be a better description.
Did the strategy fail?
On the surface the answer would seem to be a resounding “yes”. Even so, our launch was a great success. Say what!
Let me explain.
Many people tend to over-plan and under-execute. When you do that, it becomes too easy to spend more time (and money) tweaking and planning than actually doing. When uncertainty is high, moving quickly when entering a new market is highly desirable. As long as you conduct an ongoing stream of small “tests” that are really low risk experiments. The faster the better.
This is Rule #11. More on Rule #11 later and why it’s a good thing.
Rule #1. We had an idea to serve a different market based on existing programs. Although it was a variation on a current theme, a great deal of work was needed to make it connect with the assumed target audience. Because product / market fit is crucial for success.
Rule #2. So, we set some goals. This included time frames and outcomes. And we asked ourselves what success would look like.
Rule #3. Before going any further, a we did a quick dive into the our perceived market. This is a business-to-business sale, but more than understanding the type of company, we wanted to learn as much as we could about the people behind the purchase. Aside from asking who’s the buyer is, we also dug into why they would buy, and why they might not buy. The more one can define the target, the more likely you’ll hit the bullseye.
A product / market fit appeared likely, but not certain.
Rule #4. Then we quickly laid out an initial strategy along with possible go-to-market actions. Within three day we wrote out a grand plan along with what resources were needed to support the strategy, avoiding the temptation to jump into specific tactics, since strategy always comes before tactics.
Rule #5a. After that, we took a step back and began to focus on the low hanging fruit and pruned back both the strategy for market entry and the offering itself. We did this for two reasons: simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones; and time is money.
Rule #5b. Also known as Occam's razor. Medieval English Franciscan, friar William of Ockham, said when presented with competing actions to solve a problem, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions. This has evolved today into the minimum viable product concept.
Now for the fun part, using Rule #11, the faster is better rule. One of our relationships was with a partner that had “common cause” with our goals. This allowed us to use some of their key resources at no cost and make them immediately available. They’d also help us promote the launch. Plus another partner whose audience was our assumed target was happy to help promote the program too. Fast and cheap — we liked it!
Rule #6. We jumped into minimalist mode. A new website with a handful of pages was quickly created. And, the digital marketing effort only focused on LinkedIn and Twitter where we already have large followings for our other existing market segment. Facebook was added to the mix because we believed our new target buyers hung out there too. Much of the content was repurposed material. Easy peasy.
Rule #7. Also, we spoke to key influencers asking them to help us get the word out. All gladly obliged. Influencer marketing is powerful.
We did everything from start to finish in three months. However, because of the short time frame to launch we skipped some things that would have been nice to have. But that’s part of Rule #11. If you wait until it’s perfect, the market will pass you by.
As an example, it was decided not to offer a lead magnet such as a “free guidebook” and then connect our email service platform to the new website. This would have allowed for a follow-up campaign, yet the reality was that in the short time frame we were shooting for, not may meaningful contacts would have been collected. It was better to use social media and our partners for constant marketing outreach.
Plus, there was the risk we gladly took of using a partner’s location that was far from idea. It was a no-brainer since it was free and we didn’t need to spend time looking for another location. Was there a large enough pool of companies to attract to the inaugural event?
Lastly, we needed to make a decision on the program format early on. Our larger corporate clients tend to like multi-day programs. For the new target companies who are much smaller, we debated between a series of two to three hour sessions spread over two or three months — or a single day session. The need for speed and make decisions fast pushed us to a one day conclave.
More rules to ponder:
Rule #8. It turns out that one of the most valuable asset a business has is a targeted email list.
Rule # 9. Using partners as marketing channels is iffy — they may not get the message right and sell with the intensity you’d like. No one does your marketing and selling as well as you and your team.
Rule #10. We knew going in it wasn’t an ideal location for a couple of reasons, including the proximity to target buyer density was relatively small. Selling is a numbers game even when you target well, and audience reach is critical. The more targeted prospects you reach, the more you’ll sell.
Rule #11 may seem counterproductive and a setup for failure. The truth is that if you wait to make your product and processes perfect, you’ll more than likely dig a deep hole that’s difficult to recover from. You can never get back time, money, and even the spent human capital.
The lesson is don’t spend too much time and money figuring out if this. However, ask tough questions along the way and after your “experiment” to determine if there is a market to pursue. An aha moment may appear that will have you pivoting in a juicy new direction. Or abandon it altogether.
Either way it will be a successful outcome. Too many companies and their leader devote what seems like a lifetime pursuing windmills.
In our case, we learned a lot in in an ultra fast, inexpensive validation cycle. More importantly, we ended up with a new blueprint and foundation to move forward. I can’t give too much away here as to what exactly we did and are actively doing. Let’s just say there was a pivot.
Have a structured method to identify, define and validate your target market and ideal customers. Rules help.
Here’s another rule. hope, a great human attribute. Yet hoping that a detailed and laborious effort will pay off is a gamble. Hope is not a strategy. This is Rule #12.
Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.