Innovation is perhaps more important than ever in modern business. And, there are examples of its success all around us.
However, big consumer brands don’t have the monopoly on good ideas and innovation is a critical part of the business-to-business (B2B) environment too.
So, if your business is planning to launch something new and unique, how can you use marketing to ensure your innovation is the success you need?
Let’s have a look at some of the top advice and experience we’ve gathered:
Marketing first, development second
As an enthusiastic company, it’s easy to convince yourselves that your proposed new product or service will sell. And beware; regardless of the reality, your friends, colleagues and loved ones will likely to tell you it’s wonderful too!
Whilst it does not pay to be too cynical either, it’s a good idea to conduct some research before you invest time and money in realising your innovation. If you encounter any immovable obstacles, you could end up saving time and money. If your hunch is proven correct, you will likely learn something else of value which you can apply.
Carefully define who your innovation is targeting and put yourselves in their shoes. If you can, conduct some genuine market research by speaking to existing or potential customers but be careful not to encourage them to say what you want to hear. Ultimately, customers will have to embrace your new innovation in the cold light of a busy day…
As well as listing the reasons why your innovation is great, try to analyse the reasons it might face resistance. You can’t please everyone, so having an understanding of any barriers can both help you overcome them and target your product or service at those more likely to buy.
Sell the sizzle, not the steak!
This is a cliché but it’s a valuable one.
Particularly with complex, scientific, financial, engineering or technology-based products and services, we can become fixated on the technical features.
However, the benefits of your product or service will typically be much more compelling, so think of the way you can best communicate them.
Distil down why someone would embrace your new product or service. If you can’t communicate the benefits quickly, succinctly and convincingly, a busy business person may dismiss it.
However revolutionary your innovation, avoid going down the route of ‘doing-down’ the competition. It rarely works in the UK or Europe. Instead, use communications to lead customers to the same conclusion you’ve reached about your new innovation.
As with business-to-business marketing of established products and services, drip marketing is the best weapon for new innovations.
Drip marketing is the continual marketing of a concise message through multiple channels (types) of marketing.
You’re excited by your new development! It has the potential to revolutionise not only your business but how people interact with whatever you deliver. However, humans – and businesses in particular – can be a little more contained in their enthusiasm and take time to embrace change.
Through continual drip marketing, you can build brand awareness until your target customers have the time and requirement to consider your innovation.
AIDA is a simple model which describes the journey your marketing needs to take a customer or business on before they buy.
First, your marketing must grab their ‘Attention’. Next it must pique their ‘Interest’. Finally, it must spark a ‘Desire’ to benefit from your innovation, such that they take ‘Action’ and purchase it.
When planning the marketing mix to launch for your new innovation, it’s important to take this a step at a time.
Initially, your marketing mix needs to create suitable attention – by being seen frequently through a number of marketing channels – and using language and imagery which gains your target audience’s interest.
Sadly, some businesses invest heavily in developing a new product or service, only for it to fail to achieve the sales they need.
It is rarely that the innovation is bad – but they have underestimated the challenge in encouraging enough busy customers to take notice.
With many new consumer products (e.g. food, electronics, cars) it’s not unknown for their marketing budget to be as big – or even bigger – than their development budget.
It’s unlikely this needs to be the case with your innovation but be realistic when setting a marketing budget. In order to realise a return on investment, work out the intensity of marketing you’ll need and the period you’ll need to maintain it before you get meaningful results.
Marketplaces can be frustratingly slow to react to innovation, so air on the side of caution. Sales can be slow at first until enough momentum is gained – then they can come thick and fast!
If your product or service is a genuine overnight success, you’ll be the winner!
Make a plan and stick to it
Marketing is all about feedback – analysing results and listening to potential customers – before evolving your tactics.
A common mistake is to panic if results are not immediate and to prematurely cease or change your marketing.
If you make sound choices when establishing the marketing campaign for your innovative new product or service, have faith in the decisions you made. Only change them when the evidence clearly indicates something can be improved.
Expect the unexpected
However much you might anticipate a particular strength or benefit will be the sources of sales, it could be something else which prompts that final buying decision.
You thought businesses would buy your product because of its outstanding performance but it’s actually the price that clinches the deal. You thought they wanted your service to solve a particular challenge but it’s actually another which you’d barely considered.
Many of the greatest innovations in history – like Coca Cola and the mobile phone – have ended up being used for a purpose quite different to that originally intended!
Protect your innovation
If you’re employing innovation to grow your business – and what you’re offering is unique – it’s important to protect your intellectual property.
You can’t protect an idea – but brands, trademarks, products and processes can often be registered to avoid copycats.
However, ‘It’s the second mouse which gets the cheese’ is a colourful but no less true cliché. Many of the worlds’ most important innovations were not necessarily made successful by their originator – but another company who was more effectively at marketing them!
What is the right marketing mix to launch your innovation?
As with most business-to-business (B2B) marketing, direct marketing can be highly effective. If you know who your likely customers are, then going to them direct through email, mail, social media, telesales and events can be the best introduction.
Both mainstream and sector-specific press and websites love new developments, so content marketing, public relations and social media can be very powerful. Use PR to create a buzz around your new product or service, maybe even before it is launched!
Digital marketing is an important part of any B2B marketing campaign. Again, social media, online advertising and online PR can be highly targeted, putting your new innovation in front of the decision makers you wish to target.
However, despite the prominence of digital marketing, don’t underestimate the impact of something physical too, such as a brochure or flyer. They can be widely retained and actioned.
Likewise, the busiest stands at many commercial and trade events are those launching a new product, service or innovation. A specific launch event can also be a great way to engage existing customers, attract a crowd and create a buzz in the media and online.
Get a full mix of marketing for your innovation
We’re East Anglia’s leading B2B marketing agency, specialising in delivering a full mix of marketing for those who need to engage with businesses and other organisations.
We work with many innovative businesses to launch new products and services and turn them into bottom-line success through effective marketing.
As a full-service agency we can provide as much or as little of your strategic, digital and creative marketing as you need. We can even act as your entire outsourced marketing team.
If you’re planning to launch a new product, service or innovation, get in touch for more support: https://www.fullmixmarketing.co.uk/contact/