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Copyright 1999 Carol Ann Waugh

Many of my clients ask me "How do you successfully launch a new product into the education and library markets?" Here are 12 ideas for you to use to develop a strong product launch strategy.

Idea 1
Being a marketer, I always like to be involved in new product development early in the developmental stage since this is the time you can put marketing "hooks" into the product that make product introduction and sell through easy. One of the tried and true "hooks" we've all used in the past is to make sure that the product has the appropriate authors (well known, respected, and from large states if possible). Then, we would add an expanded Advisory Board to "vet" the product and give us additional strength in the marketplace. These advisors would not only give us great "blurbs" to use in marketing but their network would be put to use in product introduction.

Idea 2
We all know that selling to schools and libraries successfully depends upon relationship marketing so one of the first keys to success is to create a grass roots awareness of your new product. So one of the first things I recommend in product introduction is to develop a list of key influencers who, in return for a critical review, receive the product for free, prior to actual release. You can cull names from your authors, advisory board, and your extended selling team (field reps, dealers, distributors, telemarketers, customers, etc.). This list should number 250-400 people nationwide.

Idea 3
Review, review, reviews. Need I say more? Among the first people who should receive your new product are the influential editors at major educational and library magazines — whether they review products or not. If they review it, great but what you really want is for the editor to understand the unique features and benefits of your product so that they will consider it when assigning articles to their staff and freelancers. Besides sending them a copy, you need to also meet with them in person to follow-up. These meetings can take place at the major trade shows since the magazines are always there to cover the news.

Idea 4
Send press releases out to all the major education and library media. This goes without saying since many magazines print these releases in their "what's new" sections and you can obtain free "space" just by sending out a release.

Idea 5
Submit your new product to all possible awards. Award winning products sell. Prepare a comprehensive list of all applicable awards and find out the last date of entry. Don't miss an important award submission because your product is 2 weeks late!

Idea 6
Because new products are difficult to sell, take time to understand and create demand, and are often in direct competition with other programs, prepare a strong benefit sell-sheet for your sales force, dealers, and telemarketers. This will help them position your new product in the minds of prospective buyers and help quicken the sales cycle. Adding extra bonuses to their commission plans also helps to put this product at the top of their selling lists.

Idea 7
If you do business with third parties such as wholesalers, distributors and dealers, make sure you spend extra time with them to explain your new product in detail. Show them why this product should be on their approval lists, highlighted in their catalogs and sales materials, and perhaps provide an extra "spiff" for reaching specific sales targets for this product this year.

Idea 8
Have a party! New product introductions are a great chance to celebrate and increase the awareness with key influencers in the education and library markets. Everyone likes a party and it gives them the feeling of "exclusivity" by being on your invitation list. You can have this party at your home offices or in conjunction with a national exhibit such as ALA or NECC. Be sure to invite your advisory board, key editors of education and library publications, the product's authors (of course!) and key local educators and librarians.

Idea #9
Offer a Deal for the first 100, 500 or 1,000 buyers. Pricing new products is always a concern to publishers and many companies take advantage of pre-pub pricing strategies – order before the publication date and get a discount. Or, consider giving away a premium for the first 100 orders. Or, enter their name in a sweepstakes to win a free computer. Or, buy the new product and get a bundle of back-listed product for FREE.

Idea #10
Prime your target buyers by mailing teasers. Consider a post card promotion with 3 different "waves" hyping what's coming, what is going to revolutionize learning math, how their job is suddenly going to become easier. This gives you an ability to promote your new brand and gain recognition even before the product is available for purchase. You can even end up with an offer like "Mail back this card and we'll send you a FREE something along with information about how to get this new product into your classroom/library."

Idea #11
Highlight your new product on your home page of your web site and develop a special offer for your web visitors. Don't hide it under a "what's new" button – let your visitors know immediately that this is something they need to know about and buy.

Idea #12
Innovative new product introduction ideas are everywhere. Learn from your competitors. Learn from the consumer direct mail you receive at home. Surf the web occasionally to find out how the "big guys" are doing it. Test, Test, and Test then repeat your successes and drop the failures. We all have a lot invested in making new products a success since their sales for the future years will provide the cash-cows we need to ensure profitability.

This article was written by Carol Ann Waugh, President of Xcellent Marketing, a marketing and new business development firm specializing in the educational and library market. Xcellent Marketing offers a variety of marketing services to help publishers increase their revenues and profits from identifying new markets, providing critiques of web sites and marketing communications such as direct mail, catalogs, advertisements, etc. as well as developing effective traditional as well as Internet-based marketing plans. Carol can be reached at (303) 388-5215 or at


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