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Five ways marketing improves B2B product development and launch success

March 3, 2021

Many B2B companies struggle to innovate successfully. While every failed product launch tells its own sad story, post-mortems often reveal that marketing dropped the ball – or was never invited to the game in the first place.

CEOs everywhere know that innovation is key to competitive advantage. Developing new products, services, and business models leads to higher growth, greater productivity, and better bottom lines. Worldwide spend on innovation tops USD two trillion, and companies typically depend on new products for a quarter of their revenue.  

With so much at stake, it’s surprising how often organisations fail to successfully commercialise their innovations. Estimates vary, but studies reveal that at least 40% of innovation projects go wrong. This dismal success rate probably explains why companies are generally not very confident in their innovation competencies. According to McKinsey, although 80% of execs believe their business models are at risk and 84% see innovation as an essential part of their growth strategy, only 6% are satisfied with their innovation performance.

Successful product launches are no accidents

Waiting until an innovation is ready to launch before involving marketing expertise, including guidance on effective communication, is rarely a good idea. By then, most critical commercialisation decisions have already been made, and opportunities for input on those choices will have been missed.

One key characteristic of successful companies is how they organise product development and launch processes, so they are better able to seize the opportunity for the right input at the right time. Top performers build cross-functional teams that collaborate across expertise and geography to commercialise innovation. The worst – and this includes too many B2B companies – innovate in silos. Fragmented teams are tasked with market segmentation, product development, sales and marketing strategies, and stakeholder communication. Handoffs from one team to the next are clumsy and time-consuming. Marketing is an afterthought rather than an integrated element of every innovation stage.CBC_Five ways marketing improves B2B product_23

B2B decision-makers expect more. They seek partners that offer a more holistic approach to their purchase experience. To meet these needs and outperform competitors, sales, marketing, and engineering must work together to understand and create a more comprehensive approach to their go-to-market strategies.

Another thing that successful innovators do well is understand customer needs and use that understanding in product-development processes. Product development that is informed by the strong voice of the customer, using everything from analysis of user behaviour data to focus groups and even co-creation, is more likely to succeed.

Gathering and leveraging customer insights is a hallmark of marketing-driven companies but not something that characterises many B2B companies. Compared to B2C organisations, B2B marketing departments are often thinner, and innovation teams are more likely to be run by engineering and sales than by marketing.

So, what additional value can marketing provide?

Whether a B2B marketing department is large or small is not critical to innovation success. What does matter is that companies adopt a market-driven approach that puts customer needs front and centre and integrates marketing perspectives throughout the innovation and launch process. They can do this in at least five important ways. 

1. Understand customer needs: Successful innovators excel at customer insight. They understand the pain points underlying customer needs to create products and services that customers actually want. They ask the questions, employ the metrics, and capture the data that enable them to outperform peers in customer acquisition and customer retention. Just as they use customer insight in other business-critical processes, they use it in many ways throughout the product development process, too.

2. Bring down the silos: Companies improve product development processes by integrating the go-to-market strategy into the flesh and bones of innovation. Instead of bringing updated competitive customer insights and value propositions discussions in at the very end, go-to-market innovation incorporates pricing, distribution, and communication options and decisions at every stage of the product development process. Early integration of the teams means faster time-to-market.
 
3. Keep the brand promise: B2B procurement professionals facing complexity and risk must buy into to your brand, not just your latest offering. Thus, new products and services should be launched as strong members of an integrated fleet, not as separate ships. When new products leverage trust in your brand, you make it easier to cross-sell to existing customers and attract new ones.
 
4. Connect with creativity: In most B2B markets, very few products or services are completely unique. That’s why a solid value proposition supported by rigorously prioritised messaging is so important. Good marketers are willing to dig deep into customers and competitors to find what resonates. Great marketers don’t stop there, however. They know that cutting through the clutter to stand out in a world of shrinking attention spans requires creativity, so they go the extra mile to find creative communication that works consistently across all customer touchpoints. Creativity and stories make brands more human, relatable, and trustworthy.
 

5. Measure what matters: The complexity and length of most B2B purchases mean it’s critical to have both a clear destination and well-defined waypoints that indicate whether we’re on track. Customers often take a non-linear path to conversion and interact with many touchpoints on their buying journey. That’s why choosing and using the right metrics is so important. KPIs like traffic, leads, and meetings all matter. So do the triggers that turn MQLs to SQLs. The more specific your goals and metrics, the more likely you will refine your marketing and make a sale.

Your time to shine

Most B2B companies are, of course, built around their products and services, not their marketing departments. The most successful ones, however, know how to integrate these core functions to drive the most effective results at the business end of the sales funnel.

If all this sounds interesting, we can help. For over 40 years, CBC has been working closely with global B2B businesses across a broad range of industries to ensure their new products gain the most engagement and traction possible.

To explore how marketing can better support your strategic ambitions, give Ralph Krøyer, Managing Director of CBC, a call on +45 35 25 01 75 or email him directly at rk@cbc.dk.

 

Topics: Product launch