As it is quite a challenge to brief marketing communications on a project that is still in the first phase of the development process, and a lot of aspects are still unknown or unclear, some guidance might be helpful.
When you are developing a new product, your focus is first on the technical, financial and commercial feasibility of the project. When all those boxes are ticked, and product development is taking of, it is time to involve the marketing communication responsible as well.
I wrote this post for business owners, product managers and everybody else who needs to brief their marketing communication responsible on a new product.
First of all, I want to briefly explain why it is so important to involve the marcom responsible so early in new product development.
The three main benefits are:
1. Marcom people tend to look very critical at your product proposition, which is a good thing!
2. You are challenged by them on the features and benefits compared to your competition, which is also a good thing!
3. They help you identify when product samples and communication materials are needed in the project planning.
If you like to read more on these benefits, check my blog: ‘3 benefits of involving your communication expert early on in your new tech-oriented, tangible product development’.
I have listed 12 tips that helped me doing this job. Hopefully they will come in handy for you as well.
1. Start with describing the goal of the product.
Try to answer the following questions: What is the target market? What are the sales objectives per country or region? What is the name of the new product? What is the product description?
This information will help your marcom responsible to get a global understanding of the product idea and which market you are targeting.
2. Describe in detail the target audience of your new product.
What level of technical product knowledge does this group have? What is their function in the distribution channel? What is the market approach of this group?
This information will help, in defining which marcom materials are suitable and what the complexity of the content of these materials should be. Of course you can have multiple target groups with a different content strategy.
3. Describe the features and benefits of your new product in comparison with its major competitors.
It shows where you excel over your competitors and this will help you define the unique selling proposition and create a niche for your new product. Your sales people need to be able to advice and convince your customers to buy the new product. They need to understand the features and benefits of your new product very well in order to believe the product proposition.
4. Also list the strengths and weaknesses of your new product.
It will help you in anticipating on the weaknesses from the beginning of the new product development. Does the competition have the same weaknesses? Can you maybe add an extra feature or offer an extra service to overcome a weakness?
5. Create an overview of the product positioning of all your competitors.
When you have an overview of your competitor’s product positioning, it will help you in defining the market gap. When you can define the niche, your new product is targeted at, you can define the right product positioning and main marcom message.
6. Write down the key message.
What is the main message you want to communicate in all your marcom materials? This message should be appealing to your target group, it should trigger them that your new product is the solution to their problem. The key message is very important and your marcom responsible is the best person to help you with that. If there is no marcom responsible available in your organisation, there are a bunch of creative agencies out there to help you.
7. Define the product positioning of your new product within your own product portfolio and against competition.
You will see in one glance whether you have placed your new product at the right market niche compared to your existing product base and compared to competition. This overview should avoid that you are competing against your own products instead of against the competition. Your new product should gain additional turnover instead of cannibalising on the sales of other items in your product portfolio.
8. Add a detailed marcom materials overview.
Add the technical and commercial materials you think are needed to introduce this new product successfully into the market. Think about user manuals, datasheets, quick reference cards, brochures, teaser movies, website, social media campaign and training material. When you create this overview you can better estimate the total marcom budget needed to realise a successful product introduction.
9. Indicate in which countries you are planning to sell this new product and in which languages you need the marcom materials to be available.
The marcom responsible needs to know in which countries the new product will be sold, as the required translations need to be included into the marcom budget. Also consider whether the high costs of translations are justified compared to the estimated sales, you might want to investigate this at the beginning of your project.
As translations and proof reading of these translations take time, you also need to include this in the overall project planning as well.
10. Another important topic to define is the marcom budget that is available for this new product introduction.
Make sure that before the budget rounds take place in your company, you have approval for your new product development projects. Before the start of a new product development, it’s good to know whether this budget is available and assigned to your project. It is a huge commercial risk, when a new great product can’t have a proper product introduction.
11. When reserving a marcom budget, you also need to list the marcom costs that are expected.
You can do estimations with your marcom responsible based on experience from previous projects and by asking for quotes from creative agencies on the creation and translation of marcom materials. The detailed marcom deliverables overview, which I gave you as tip 8 can be used for this:-).
12. Define the marcom planning of this new product introduction.
It is best to align your marcom planning with the overall project planning. In this way you assure that all marcom deliverables are ready in time.
Divide your new product development planning into 5 phases:
I. Fuzzy Idea collection: brainstorm phase, input from market research to come to new ideas.
II. Product concept creation: determine your new product concept.
III. Product Feasibility & Refinement: verify the technical, commercial and financial feasibility of your new product idea.
IV. Product Realisation: develop your new product.
V. Product Launch: start mass production and bring your new product on stock in the warehouse. The new product is now available for sales.
Add an estimated date when you want every phase to be finalized.
Based on these dates you can define the delivery dates of your marcom materials, like major internal and external launch events, trade shows or customers events. You know well in advance when you need commercial samples for trade shows and trainings. With this information, you can plan in more detail with the develop team when product samples need to be available. Also the technical writer, the creative agency and the translation agency can be briefed in more detail.
By splitting up your planning in phases adds structure to everyones daily activities and offers clarity on which phase the new product development is currently in. Add the marcom activities also in the overall new product development planning.
If you need some more background information on how to define and implement these milestones in your project planning, please check out my blog ‘9 steps to create a realistic project planning for tech-oriented tangible product’.
These 12 tips are useful when you are going to brief the marketing communication responsible on your new product. Combine these topics into one document, to keep a good overview for your marcom responsible and yourself :-).
Hope you benefit from the tips, the same way I do!
What are your tips to make your marcom briefing successful?
Leave your tips in the comments!