marketing communication, project management

Ever experienced that product samples and communication materials are missing on crucial moments during the development of your new product? Want to prevent this? Involve the marketing communications responsible much earlier in the process.

It still happens that when a new product development is finished and the new product is ready to be launched, the project team members look at each other and wonder where the brochures are and why there aren’t any product samples for the most important trade show of the year. This is a bit exaggerating maybe, but you get my point.

Sales, engineering, quality, purchasing, product management and of course project management are the obvious disciplines that are automatically involved at the start of new product development. The marketing communications responsible is one of the team members that often pops in much later. But what is the right time to get them involved? And what are the benefits of doing this early?

I am sharing what I have learned from involving the marcom responsible very early in new product development and what the right timing is. 

Here are the 3 main benefits of having the marcom people join early in the development process:

1. They help you identify and fix the availability of product samples and communication materials in the project planning of the new product development. From concept start until product launch, you will see, that in every phase you need to have marcom deliverables available to ensure thorough product development and market introduction.

Already in the first phases in new product development, you are probably asked to show your new product or at least a demo or mock-up sample to customers and internal staff. Below some examples.

  • Samples needed for early market feedback. Think about product samples that you want to show during focus groups with customers in the beginning of the development. To get early feedback if they like how the product works, what their feeling is about the user interface and if they like the look and feel of the product.
  • Trade show samples & brochures might need to be presented at an important trade show, that takes place before the new product is launched. On these events you might need to give data sheets or brochures to customers, as a teaser, to create a buying intention when the product is finally launched.
  • Product training samples for the product manager to use when the internal sales staff is trained on the features and benefits of the new product, how the new product technically works and how it needs to be connected and installed and can interface with other products.
  • Commercial sales samples for the sales staff to show these new items to their customers to explain why they should buy your product.
  • Products to be used for photography by retailers for example. They issue product catalogues which include their product portfolio and need to have your new product in time to be able to take pictures, to have their product catalogue ready at their launch date.

Not only development activities but also these kind of new product introduction activities need to be covered in the development planning.  If you do not take these into account, they will not be available for you at those critical moments and events.

2. You will get a critical look at your product proposition. 

Marcom people will challenge you on your chosen features and benefits. They need to communicate these features and benefits to the market, so they need to understand them well in order to successfully create great materials. Are they unique enough? Is your customer really attracted by them? Are these unique features and benefits you have in mind for your customer, clearly visible on your new product? Do they need a lot of explanation? If yes, it will be a harder sell, than when these features are recognisable at one glance at your new product and can be easily explained by the sales staff, in marcom documentation like brochures, flyers and on the website and social media.

3.  You are challenged to think about the difference in benefits for your direct customer and for the actual user of your product. In some businesses these are the same people, in other businesses it is a different target group.

With the customer in the back of their minds, the marcom responsible will ask you questions to get clear whether there is a good match between your target group and the features and benefits you want to develop and communicate.

Marketing communication is a very important discipline in the brainstorm phase  when it comes to questions like:

  • Who is your target group?
  • Why do your features and benefits appeal to them?
  • Can we reach them directly with our marketing communication?
  • How can we best reach these customers?
  • How are we going to communicate these features to the market?
  • What is the distribution model?

If you get these questions answered in the beginning of your new product development, you can improve your customer requirement specification in time to make sure it appeals to all your customers.

What is the right time during new product development to involve the marcom responsible?

When the new project passes the ‘QG1 milestone: Project approval’ and moves on to the ‘Definition phase’, it is time to involve the marcom responsible.

During the definition phase the product idea is worked out in more detail and needs to pass technical, commercial and financial feasibility studies. At this moment the marcom responsible can mirror you some critical market and communication aspects of the product introduction. This is the right moment for the product manager to act and adjust, if needed, the product specification, proposition and positioning.

Please check my blog post about the different phases in New Product Development, if you like more details on this. It describes the complete New Product Development process and how to implement this process in your organisation.

New product introduction kick-off meeting

To get the marcom responsible on board and well informed, a proper project briefing needs to take place. This can be done by organising a ‘new product introduction kick off meeting’. During this meeting the product manager, project manager, the sales responsible and the marcom responsible get together. The product manager  presents the features and benefits of the new product concept, the project manager shows the project planning and project approach and the sales responsible explains why there is a market for his product and how many items he expects to sell. Together with the marcom responsible, the marcom related affairs that need to be taken care of in this project, can be discussed and embedded into the project.

The marcom responsible is well informed, can ask critical questions and can actively participate during new product development.

Of course lots of tools and deliverables are part of a smooth ‘new product introduction process’. More detailed information on this will be shared with you on my blog in the coming weeks. So follow along and subscribe to my blog so you will not miss any article!

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