Know Thyself (And Thy Product!)

avatar

If you've been to business school, then you've probably heard the term “SWOT Analysis.” It's a tried and true strategic planning technique that is indispensable when determining next steps down a product development path. The SWOT Analysis brings structure and logic to a process that can feel overwhelming due to all the potential variables and data. It's worth revisiting how the SWOT Analysis works on a regular basis. I know it always helps me find my bearings and get grounded before making big decisions about product development. 

The Basics

SWOT is a simple acronym that identifies the four major forces that affect your business and future decisions. Trinity Web Works defines it as “a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture.” Your SWOT Analysis identifies your company’s place in the current market (where you are now) allowing you to plan for future innovation and expansion (where you want to be) while still finding roots in data metrics and figures.

Continue Reading

Begin with the End in Mind: Connecting with the Right People

avatar

So, you've developed a product that you're passionate about. You've worked with the foremost testing labs in your market space to ensure the validity of your product and determine its market fit. You've partnered with an up-and-coming distribution channel that is enthusiastic about your product and eager to add value with front-side services. Now what?

The final piece of your Ideal Launch Scenario puzzle is connecting with the best possible marketing, advertising, public relations, and social media partners to ensure that your ideal launch scenario maximizes your potential for success. These are the partners that can make or break your product's visibility where it really matters — with the end user or customer.

Continue Reading

Begin with the End in Mind: Choosing the Right Distribution Channel

avatar

No matter how fantastic your product is, how rigorously tested and perfectly tuned to a promising segment of the market, it can't succeed unless you get it on the shelves (either physical or virtual). Not just any shelves either — the best shelves possible that will put your product in front of the largest volume of your targeted consumers. It doesn't matter whether you're brick and mortar or an e-commerce company, what you need to achieve your Ideal Launch Scenario as an up-and-coming brand releasing a new product is the best distribution channel you can attract.

As I've established in the first two blogs of this series (where we discussed creating a road map for success and product testing and validation), your product category dictates the strategy to be embraced for getting your product to market. The companies who are the best fit and provide the greatest access to your target market will vary from industry to industry, but the guiding principle remains the same.

Choose the Partner Who Adds Value

Unless you make cheap plastic trinkets, distributing your product at the Dollar Store is obviously not the ideal solution. That's an extreme example, but you'd be surprised how many early stage brands will jump at any opportunity they have to sell their product, no matter how low-end, simply because they're in a rush to put their product in front of consumers. That's a big mistake. Plus, it devalues your product and brand. 

It may take more work and a longer time frame, but it's worth it to land a distribution partner who adds value. There are many ways this can be done. The first concern should be customer service: is this a retailer with a good reputation for keeping their customers happy? Additionally, do they provide tech support (if your product needs it) or warranty or product maintenance services?

A Value-Added Reseller (VAR), as defined in a helpful article on MarketingMO, will bundle your product with services and potentially other related products. They will "work with an end-user to determine the right products and configurations." If your product involves technology, a VAR is a smart choice. Think of the audio or camera retailers who are able to provide front-side services and offer a full suite of auxillary products. That's a value you can't find in an online retailer.

Brick and Mortar vs. E-Commerce

These days, you can find most products both in physical stores and online, either through resellers or a brand's own web-store. While it's a good idea to make your product available in as many places as possible, this isn't true for some high-end or "luxury" products. There is a cache that comes from rarity, and if you think your product may benefit from an ultra-targeted approach, give it a try.

For instance, if you've designed a line of high-end stationary that will gain value through exclusivity, you don't want your potential customers to see your product on Amazon. After all, if anyone can buy it, where's the appeal? Instead, consider targeting high end stationary stores in prime real estate locations. If your brand is available exclusively on Michigan Avenue, Rodeo Drive, or 5th Avenue, your cultural desirability will soar through the roof.

E-commerce can't be ignored. I is especially important for emerging brands. If you've got a new app, you'd better be in the Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market. Amazon is the go-to online retailer for an immense (and constantly expanding) range of products. If your product is crafty or home-made, Etsy is the place for you. The internet offers a wide variety of distribution channels that are already geared towards a specific market demographic, so find yours and get on it! It's easy to get lost online, however, so you'll need a marketing strategy that directs a lot of traffic to your corner of the web.

The Strategy of the Number 3

Most new brands or products don't often have the ability to land in the stores on Michigan Avenue. If your brand is untested, odds are the industry leader doesn’t want your new product on their shelves just yet. When you're vying for the best placement possible, consider the strategy of the number 3.

The Number 1 retailer in your space probably isn't interested and the Number 2 is focused on becoming Number 1. To achieve the best possible advantage, go for Number 3. They're hungry and driving forward rather than resting on an established reputation (just like you!). They also have upward momentum that will carry you along with it. In the same vein, a tried-and-true distribution channel with a new CEO or other high-level executive turnover may be looking to shake things up and provide an opportunity that wouldn't otherwise exist. Keep up with industry news to take advantage of these unique opportunities!

The Bottom Line

Find a well-matched, up-and-coming company or person in your space and pour energy into them! Consider how a partnership can add value to your product, and choose the avenues that will put you in front of your target consumer with the least distractions.

PR and Marketing are the final pieces of the puzzle for your Ideal Launch Scenario, and next week I'll address them in-depth. Meanwhile, tweet @EidsonPartners with your thoughts on choosing the best possible distribution partners.

Begin with the End in Mind: Preparing for Launch

avatar

So, you're ready to launch your product. Or are you? Have you tested your product? With whom? Can you say that it has been validated with your market? These are all critical questions to ask as you prepare for launch. 

If you read last week's blog, you already have a deeper understanding of how to prepare a "Road Map" for the launch of a new product. A strong road map allows you to create goal posts for your progress and stay accountable as you work towards your end goal. Within the frame of a product launch, the end goal is the ideal scenario at the time of launch to maximize the potential for success — a.k.a. your "Ideal Launch Scenario." 

In this week's blog, we'll take an in-depth look at product testing and market validation. To achieve your Ideal Launch Scenario, your product must be pre-tested and validated, both to ensure its viability and to inform your product placement/marketing strategy. Depending on the industry you are working in, there are different companies you will want to select as alpha/beta testers, test labs to analyze the product, and media figures to invite to follow the development process.

Continue Reading

Begin with the End in Mind: The Ideal Launch Scenario

avatar

To "begin with the end in mind" is phrase that always gets my attention and has become a personal motto of sorts. I borrowed it from Dr. Stephen Covey, and I've mentioned it in a past blog post. To me, it's smart and compelling, and is great advice for all areas of our lives. Taking the time to look into the future and specify what success means to us allows us to craft a clear plan towards making our desires a reality.

Continue Reading

Is Your Customer Feedback Working for You?

avatar

Asking for customer feedback is essential to keeping your company in touch with the people who buy your products and services, or may become customers in the future. In our social media age, customer response is easier and cheaper to acquire than ever before (a previous post discussed this in detail). However, simply asking for ideas or level of satisfaction may not be the best way to get the information you need.

With so many opportunities to engage with customers and gather their thoughts and opinions, there are certain pitfalls to be avoided. Not all customer feedback is created equal, so I want to talk about how to maximize the effect of your interactions with customers. In order for feedback to be productive, it's important to keep a few things in mind.

Continue Reading

Survival of the Fittest: How Competition Accelerates Innovation

avatar

We often do our best work in competitive environments – whether we’re racing against our market competition, or competing in internal “innovation contests." Some of history's most important inventions were the products of intense competition. No fewer than 20 people claimed responsibility for the light bulb when Thomas Edison began marketing his invention. The telephone drew on the contributions of at least 10 individuals working over a period of 50 years, even though it is commonly credited to Alexander Graham Bell. This competition helps companies and individual inventors be on top of their game and avoid getting complacent.

Continue Reading