Wednesday, February 1, 2012

10 Product Launch Tips for the New Year

Retail shelves are always filled with a plethora of products during the holiday season. If you've ever wondered how much of the holiday plays a role in annual sales of a retailer, it's actually when most retailers generate their biggest sales. In fact, about 40% of retail sales are generated during the holiday season.
So you're probably also wondering HOW a manufacturer can effectively get their products into the retail buying cycle so it makes it on time for the holidays.
One of the best strategies to getting products ready for retail is to get your PLANNING done during the fourth quarter.
Manufacturers spend a lot of time in the fourth quarter and the early part of the first quarter preparing for the upcoming year because they understand that planning is critical to the success of a product launch. In the consumer products industry, departments are required to present their plans, including budgets, to management before year end. The product development team prepares a product selection list, marketing creates a marketing plan, and sales a sales plan. These departments must be aware and in agreement with timelines to ensure a smooth product launch.
It is crucial that some initiatives are completed during the fourth quarter. For instance, annual reports and catalogs must be completed so it can be mailed out to investors and customers early enough where it doesn't get stuck with the busy holiday mail and potential weather disruptions. Additionally, sales meetings are usually held in the fourth quarter and a lot of tradeshows take place during the first quarter of the year. Teams need to make sure that product samples with packaging, press kits, sales kits, catalogs and price lists are ready so sales reps have the necessary tools and resources to be able to comfortably manage their meetings and effectively pitch any new product introductions to buyers and customers. These are just some of the many things you need to consider when preparing for a product launch.
To help you with your planning efforts, I've listed 10 product launch tips for you to keep in mind when preparing for the new year.
1. Meet with your team at the end of the year to acknowledge all your hard work. Recognize the challenges, and work it out in your plan for next year to make things better. Most of all, celebrate your successes (and challenges because they are just as important). Throw a holiday party or invite your staff (and partners and vendors) for a fun and rewarding dinner!
2. Acknowledge your customers, vendors and partners by sending them something special, like a holiday greeting card or an e-Card to express your gratitude and well wishes for the new year. Starting the year with good intentions can help develop and harness good relationships. And in business, relationships are a huge key to your success!
3. Make sure to complete your annual plan or set goals for the coming year. Keep them as realistic as possible. I've found that focusing on a few at a time works best. Attempting to do them all at once can be overwhelming and ineffective. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with your plan, hire some help if you can afford it. For entrepreneurs, this can be a difficult choice, but it can actually benefit your bottom line.
4. Whether you're outsourcing some of your workload to a virtual assistant, a marketing agency or sales reps...or perhaps you have an in-house team in place, make sure that you set expectations with them, including yourself! Find a good way to hold everyone accountable for meeting their goals. In my experience, weekly meetings, when moderated well can be extremely effective. If weekly is too restrictive, then maybe do every other week. Regardless, find a way to make sure you hold each other accountable and you are in clear communication with each other at all times.
5. If you plan to launch a new product line, consider exhibiting at tradeshows and expos in your particular industry. Trade organizations usually have a list of shows on their website, or search the internet for listings. If you don't plan to exhibit, at the very least, find a way to be able to attend them. It's a good way to do some research and meet some potential partners.
6. Start finalizing your presentation materials - prototypes or product samples, packaging, catalogs, brochures, sell sheets, price lists, press kits and sales kits. These are all tools necessary for tradeshows and meeting with buyers and retailers.
7. Boutiques and specialty stores start looking at products during the first quarter so add it to your plan to start hitting the pavement early, or better yet as mentioned above, exhibit at gift shows, tradeshow or expos of your particular industry.
8. Most major retailers finalize their holiday selections for the following year towards the end of December - beginning of January. So, just as I mentioned above, make sure you have the necessary tools needed for an effective product presentation.
9. As far as production in China, it is very important to keep in mind that Chinese New Year usually falls during the first two months of the year. Factories all over China close for as long as a month, so your manufacturing efforts can be impacted if you don't account for this on your product launch timeline. Plan accordingly.
10. Use this holiday season to do some market research. Go through articles, magazine and publications that discuss best sellers and items that didn't do so well. Get familiar with your competition, target markets, pricing, retailers that sell and do well with products similar to yours, etc.

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