Sticking With It | Launching New Products

Developing new products is time-consuming and costly. Here is a roadmap for success.

In past articles we have explored different technical aspects of pressure-sensitive adhesives. We have looked at the various markets and key factors related to developing or selecting products for end-use application. Today we will shift our focus to successful product introduction. Developing new products is time-consuming and costly; we want to ensure the commercial success of the hard-working R&D team!

Any successful new product development needs a cross-functional team to guide the project from its inception. A silo approach—that is, let the scientists do their thing, sales do theirs, etc.—results in miscommunication and disconnects. Once sales and marketing identify an area where a new product may be needed, or the R&D team comes up with a technical innovation, a team to guide development should be formed. The core team should include the R&D personnel who will lead development, technical service, marketing and sales. If there is the potential that new manufacturing processes or raw materials to make the product will be required, the team should be extended to include the appropriate manufacturing or procurement personnel. Many companies use software with templates and a defined approach.

The initial team meeting to begin the project should include consideration of questions such as these:

  • Which current products have been tested? Where is the gap?
  • What features does the new product need to be of interest to the customer?
  • How many potential customers might be interested?
  • Do we have an approach to creating the new product?

The team then agrees to a set of features for the new product and divides the tasks that will ensure successful development. While the creative scientists work diligently to develop the right chemistry for the new product, the commercial team cannot sit idle. Their focus will be in doing the prep work for eventual product launch. Activities will include determining the scope of potential interest for the new product; gaining insight to competitive products that may be available for the application; pricing; and potential volumes. It can be extremely beneficial to identify a beta customer or customers during development to provide “first look” feedback on various aspects of the positioning for the new adhesive. Various commercial incentives including lead time, preferred pricing, etc., can be used to provide a win-win.

The new product development proceeds and a new adhesive is developed. The beta customer runs a trial and likes the results. Since our team has been meeting regularly to review progress, it is now just a matter of pulling things together so we are ready to do a proper product introduction.

An internal pre-launch review brings the team together to review the internal preparation for product introduction. During this review, the team should consider the following (some of this looks familiar as we go back to the beginning to see where we stand versus the initial product development brief):

 

Why should the customer be interested?

  • Value proposition
  • New product features

 

Benefits of the new product to the customer?

  • Versus our current product portfolio
  • Versus competitive offerings
  • What makes it unique/different?

 

Can we make and supply the product?

  • Initial launch support: samples
  • Manufacturing plan

• From initial production to full scale manufacture

• Raw materials – any unique? Potential alternatives?

 

Regulatory approvals

  • What approvals are needed?
  • In progress or in place?

 

Can we make money?

  • Selling price?
  • Manufacturing cost – at what scale do we make profit?
  • Competitive benchmarks

 

Which customers will be interested?

  • Identify initial targets
  • How do we reach them?

• Direct sales contacts, promotion via tradeshows, advertisements, etc.

This review is the pivotal transition point to ensure our commercial success as we must ensure we have a great product to promote with a solid package of data behind it as well as a clear plan on how we will support the emerging sales. Here is where the active engagement of the cross-functional team members and regular review meetings pay off, as many of these questions will be easily answered. However, this first pre-launch review usually results in a flurry of activity to fill all of the gaps the review may have identified. All members of the team gather their information. Depending on how much work is identified, there can be one or more meetings needed to review and make the decision that, yes, we are indeed ready to go!

It is also critical to keep the larger internal team that will be promoting the new product engaged during the pre-launch phase if not earlier. The first group to whom we will “sell” the new offering will be our team; if they believe in our new product, it makes the launch that much easier. Listening to their questions and addressing concerns helps to refine the launch package materials and helps get their buy-in on the product’s merits.

Once we have determined the scope of our product launch and prepared our launch materials, it’s time to “go live.” A launch meeting with our sales and technical service team to review these materials starts the process. The entire development team should be engaged in this meeting including the responsible scientists, the sales representative for the beta customer, and marketing. Each should play a role in reviewing the launch materials and fielding questions. Direct promotion by sales to targeted customers is a good place to begin. This can then be followed by using available marketing channels like on-line promotion, targeted e-mail campaigns, tradeshows, etc., casting a broader net for potential sales. This is, of course, dependent on the scope of the potential new adhesive product’s utility and customer interest determined during the pre-launch reviews.

As the team begins to promote the product, there should be a constant dialogue to refine the messaging, including value proposition and the data packages used. Regular reviews also may bring to light new information on product positioning and utility.

Depending on the scope of the launch, a post-launch review should be held six months to one year after the launch date. Since many pressure-sensitive adhesive products require extensive testing before offering to end-use customers, this date should be set taking this into account. The post-launch review should revisit the pre-launch plan and determine:

  • Did we correctly understand value to the customer? Was our value proposition on target?
  • What went well during the launch?
  • What did not go well? How did we adjust to improve? What did we learn that we would apply to our next launch?
  • Did we target the right customers? What was their feedback?
  • What sales have we realized? What sales potential do we see in the future?

Hopefully, based on taking a team approach and with everyone’s hard work, we have a winner! If not, then it is time to make some hard decisions. We need to determine if we continue to offer the new product. If we refine its promotion and positioning based on the feedback, can we still realize success? Can we manufacture at a scale at which we generate profit? If we are not realizing profits nor see a clear path to improving sales, it may be wise to withdraw the new product and focus our efforts elsewhere. Cutting our losses early may be better in the long run then developing unprofitable sales that drain resources.

The key of a successful product launch really is engagement from inception. No man—or scientist—is an island. Constant review and validation that the development is on target versus originally defined targets and the targets are still valid (or making corrections as things change) are critical. Constant monitoring of both customer and competitive activity keeps everyone up to date on the landscape where the product will be promoted. Over the course of development, the team members will take ownership and begin to champion the product internally. This creates the belief in the new product’s benefits that result in passionate promotion to customers.

So, there you have it: my roadmap for a successful product launch.

As always, if you have questions or comments please forward them! Otherwise, until next time, keep Sticking With It….

About the Author

Ingrid Brase is a technical market strategist recognized for her ability to translate technical needs into business solutions. Her understanding of pressure-sensitive adhesives and their use is complemented by her strengths in strategic marketing, project management, new product development, and key account management. She is available for consulting or contact assignments in these areas. Ingrid’s expertise is a result of more than 20 years of experience in the p-s adhesives business. She was most recently the market segment director for Henkel Corp., rising to that position after various assignments in the p-s business unit. She began her career as a research scientist then progressed to market-focused roles. Ingrid earned her MBA at Rider Univ. and holds a BS in chemistry from SUNY/Oneonta. She has served on the board of directors for TLMI and AIMCAL in addition to chairing technical teams for both trade associations. Ingrid is a well-known speaker and author on topics related to adhesive use. To learn more about Ingrid or contact her, visit www.ingridbrase.com, e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call her at 609-558-9760.

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