Here is something that product managers and strategic marketers know first-hand: new product introductions and market roll-outs often carry large, and daunting, expectations. A poorly-executed product intro can cost jobs, upward professional mobility, and even millions of dollars and damage to an entire product family’s brand image in the market.

It is fairly common that a new product roll-out is given a target date before the product is ready. But the date still looms, and a marketing plan needs to be put in place rapidly. New product announcements are often made at trade shows or other events. Press releases are distributed. Print buys in trade publications are made.

But, what are the best options for the online component of the plan?

Before outlining the tactics and strategies that often make the most sense, let’s set the stage for the most-common new product intro scenarios:

Traditional goals

  • Generate awareness
  • Create demand
  • Generate quality leads & sales
    • Often, leads may be generated by the product “owner”, but the leads need to be distributed to dealers and channel partners.
      • The additional goal opportunity here is make your resellers happy and re-energize them to sell your entire product line.

Secondary goals

  • Gather market feedback (it’s not too late)
  • Cultivate “unbiased” champions and influencers

Company & product situation

  • The company introducing the product is not a start-up, and has additional products in its portfolio.
  • There is a company website in place, and promotional efforts do not depend on a full redesign and/or redevelopment of the site.
  • A specific action can be defined as the primary success metric of the campaign (e.g. an online form is filled out, e-commerce sale is made, special phone number is called, etc.)

Given that these assumptions are true, an effective prioritization of tactics and strategies is likely to be:

  1. Paid Per Click Advertising (PPC)
  2. Social Media Marketing
  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In addition to the specific tactics listed above, the following activities will be required for a successful marketing effort.

Keyword research

It’s obvious that keyword research is part of any PPC or SEO program, but it is often a piece that is not given a high-enough priority for a social media marketing campaign. You need to know who you are searching for in order to make meaningful connections with people who will not only be potential customers, but also potential product evangelists/champions.

Content development

It’s been said thousands of times before by others more articulate than me, you need content to connect with people.  For new product roll-outs you will need multiple levels of content:

  • Technical specifications for information seekers
  • Benefit statements (by vertical market being targeted) – people need to see quickly why it’s worth their time to listen
  • Entertainment = admittedly, I didn’t want to lead with “Viral Content.”  But there does need to be something in the plan that makes people excited about the new product. Video and images tend to be good vehicles for this.  Show people how powerful your new product is and how it can make a difference to someone, anyone.

Priority one: paid search advertising

Why first priority?

  • Generate leads and sales immediately
  • Show results as quickly as possible
    • Ensure that any funding held in reserve is released for the additional efforts outlined below.
  • Gather Keyword Intelligence to inform SEO & Social Media efforts (not to mention content creation decisions)

Benefits

  • Instant exposure
  • Controlled costs
  • Ability to target specific audiences (through geo-targeting & the selection of keywords)
  • Ability to target & test  hundreds or thousands of keywords
  • Messaging is controlled and can be tested on the fly
  • Traceable ROI
  • Less Content is needed to support the effort

Drawbacks

  • The moment you stop spending, your exposure goes away
  • Less user feedback is gathered than in Social Media

Process

  1. Define target actions and acceptable Cost Per Action
  2. Determine budget
  3. Launch with Google AdWords only to start (for simplicity and approximately 70% of searches occur there).
    1. Set campaigns to target active searchers only by turning off the Content Network.
  4. Create a specific Landing Page, or modify an existing page on the site to conform to Landing Page Best Practices (MarketingSherpa has it boiled down and I made some additional B2B landing page suggestions recently).
  5. Ensure tracking mechanism is in place to identify leads/sales by keyword, even when data is passed through a contact form into a CRM system.
  6. Build campaign (keyword development, write ad copy versions, set bids, etc.) & launch
  7. Test for 90 days
  8. Gather data and analyze results
  9. Feed keyword intelligence (and data about messaging and offers) into Social Media and SEO programs

Second priority – Social Media Marketing

Why second priority?

In terms of timeliness and results, Social Media Marketing lies somewhere between PPC and SEO. While it is slower to start than PPC, you can be sure that you will be able to generate awareness, while SEO never has a guaranteed result (especially for new content and/or a new concept.) Social media for B2B is a balancing act between generating awareness, lead nurturing, and lead generation. If you have pressure behind your product intro efforts, then Social Media Marketing may pose more risk than a PPC campaign.

Purpose

  • Generate awareness
  • Gather feedback
  • Answer questions
  • Connect with influencers (editors, journalists, bloggers, et.)
  • Support existing lead pipeline
    • Find your known, named prospects where you can and engage (don’t stalk)
  • Generate leads and sales
  • Build links to website (lay the groundwork for SEO to come)

Benefits

  • Messaging more likely to be passed around
  • Creates positive impression at a deep, individual-person level
  • Drives traffic to website
  • Very specific audiences can be targeted

Drawbacks

  • Results are typically less traceable than with PPC and SEO
  • Takes time commitment from real people.  You have choices, use internal staff only, outsource the majority of the effort, or use a blended in-house/outsourced solution.
  • Often requires some participation from product/service specialists at the company.  Someone needs to engage in meaningful, and knowledgeable dialog with people in the social communities chosen for the program.

Process

  1. Set high-level goals
  2. Identify audiences
    1. Think about vertical markets, job titles, applications, etc.
  3. Determine appropriate social communities
  4. Identify resources (people)
  5. Create/find Content to support messaging
  6. Establish social profiles
  7. Find individuals to connect with
  8. Communicate, collaborate, message
  9. Gather data and analyze results

Third priority – search  engine optimization

Why third priority?

Simple – search engine optimization takes time to show results and there is never a guarantee of the targeted exposure you need. For a new product introduction/rollout, SEO is a tactic that you do want to employ for long-term results, but it is the tactic you can put on the back burner while you work hard to get your message out quickly and generate awareness and sales.

Purpose

  • Generate relevant website traffic:
    • Generate leads & sales
    • Build brand
  • Be present in search results
    • Build brand
    • Enhance recall of brand, company, and product

Benefits

  • Long-term presence in search engines
  • Organic search results are “trusted”
  • Generates more traffic than PPC
  • Establishes authority when at the top of a search results page

Drawbacks

  • No guaranteed results
  • Takes time
  • Requires high-value content/assets
  • Takes more ongoing effort than many think

Process

  1. Keyword research
  2. Set goals
  3. Conduct site audit
  4. Tackle any technical issues
  5. Tag site
  6. Edit copy
  7. Add new copy
  8. Engage in link building
  9. Analyze
  10. Continue to edit copy, add content, and reach out

Surprise ending

If I were pressed to recommend only one of the three tactics above, I would not go with “paid search advertising.”

Instead, I would opt for Social Media Marketing.

But, going this route would require some things that are very difficult to find in the fast-paced environment of a new product introduction :

  • Time - to seed the market, to engage with people, and time to wait for traceable results.
  • Resources – people at the company who truly have specialized product knowledge to participate in engaging people.
  • Creativity – compelling content that breaks traditional boundaries can make or break a campaign.
  • Risk Tolerance – paid search, when done well, will generate leads and opportunities, even if the ROI isn’t ideal. Social media marketing is betting on real product acceptance by real people, and then figuring out if the increased demand can be credited in a meaningful way to the social media campaign, or whether the demand generated came from the trade shows, print, TV, radio, outdoor, direct mail, and other traditional product launch vehicles.

Understand your goals, priorities, and resources, and then choose your tactics. But, think fast! That product has to go to market whether you’re ready or not.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Search Marketing

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About The Author: is the founder and former president of KoMarketing Associates, LLC, a search engine marketing firm based in Waltham, MA. You can learn more about what he does at www.andykomack.com and can follow him on Twitter at @akomack.

Connect with the author via: Email



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  • http://www.ioninteractive.com allenkristina

    What a great article. Thank you for outlining such an exhaustive plan and providing rational for your points. The only thing I would add is a laser focus on lead generation, because that’s what it is all about for B2B marketing. Even social media can lead to interactions that are focused on capturing the conversion. When we capture leads, we build an audience that we can then drip market to and nurture to — but we have to have the lead first in order to do that

    -Kristina, @ion_interactive

 

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