Monday, January 11, 2010

Company & Product Launch

First I'd like to say welcome to 2010! It's going to be an exciting year with many new ventures at hand. I wish you all a successful, happy and healthy year.

Now let's talk about launching a new company/product. The first and most important part of this to keep in mind is that you only have one chance to launch. That being said it is vital that you spare no effort in finding out exactly what you need to do, when you need to do it, and how THE CONSUMER will view your new product.

One of the biggest reasons people in cycling/multisport create a new company and product is because they want to provide something to the consumer that they believe can be made better, look better, and fill a role better than the next person. Many of these attempts end up falling short because of the incredible amount of detail required to design something that truly fulfills the role more completely and stands out among all the other products competing for that role.

Research the need. Is it possible that this type of product already exists or something very similar? If you believe there is a need, the buck can't stop there. Call retailers nationally, speak with athletes from all corners. Do internet searches. Make room to hire people who can guide you and who have experience in the industry. Perhaps your idea has been selling like hotcakes in Europe and that company is about to launch in the US with full distribution and a huge marketing budget. Can you afford to not research this?

Product Design:
The best type of person needed to create such a product is someone who not only understands technology and design, but has experience with all perspectives from the actual use of the product as an athlete, to construction, through the process of planning how it will be sold. Let's face it, you simply have to know the mind of not only the athlete, but of the athlete as a consumer. That isn't all. You must also know the mind of those who do the buying for the retailers you want your products to be sold through. I've seen many a buyer who has lost the twinkle of excitement in their eye due to the overuse of gimmicks. There is a big difference between gimmicky and hard truth, and a good buyer will know when you have to give a lot of fluff. Make sure your product doesn't need fluff in the design phase, not the often afterthought marketing phase. Marketing must be a part of the whole design, especially when dealing with a highly educated demographic such as triathletes.

When do you launch your product? Do you have someone who can make your product? What is their manufacturing schedule? When do you need samples made? When do you need supporting materials in hand? When will you need to go to production? When will you need to deliver your production to the market? The answers to these questions will vary depending on your market. For instance, products released for triathlon will not meet the same timetables as they would for swimming. The region of release may also vary due to climate. I have listed a few of the questions that need to be answered, and missing any can create as little trouble as a headache, to major problems with your company's sales and credibility.

Make no mistake, having passion for the sport and your product IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE for tons of research and relentless planning/design. Passion IS a huge asset when you know when to separate emotion from what research is telling you and common sense. I've seen glorious passion completely obliterate companies because it was allowed to override good sense, sometimes even from inception.

The larger a company becomes, the harder it seems to keep that passion and vision. When work gets doled out it is often a mistake to hire people who don't share the same passion or knowledge of the sport. I would use the analogy of an actor who just reads a part instead of "being" the part. Trust me, the ultimate success of a product is best served by people who have the passion, not who are just paid to do the work.

Promoting the launch:
A company/product launch can be a complete disaster if you don't have the right connections and relationships in the industry. On your own it can literally take years to develop a network of industry leaders and outlets for media attention. The people who know and accept your product to start with are critical to credibility. Non-competing manufacturers, athletes, product review sites, industry magazines, podcasts, retailers and governing bodies to name a few are all resources which can make your product highly visible and credible very quickly. Again, it's worth it to get help with this from people who have those relationships already in hand, otherwise your grand launch may only fizzle. As with everything else I've spoken about, timing is critical. Winter is not the best time to launch a hydration product, and a triathlon specific transition bag is not best launched at a mountain bike race. I know this sounds a bit dim, but sometimes the mentality is that the more places promoted at, the better. This really isn't the case. Get established in places focused on activities that your product is tied in with.

The bottom line is that there is much more to this than meets the eye. It's no wonder there is such a high failure rate of small businesses. Too often passion crushes good sense, and without a road map and people with the experience on your side you are taking a much greater risk than you need to. Are you risking your credit, your home, your life savings, your family? You have choices.

Best wishes in 2010!

No comments:

Post a Comment