3-2-1, Launch!

September 7, 2012By Brand Marketing, Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in OTC National

July 17, 2012

Virtually all consumer healthcare product manufacturers (from the emerging entrepreneur to the largest CPG companies) have struggled with a common challenge – how to get their new product into the retail channel.

It has become increasingly difficult during the past few years as retailers and distributors have dramatically house-cleaned their inventory (SKU rationalization) and more critically evaluated suppliers (vendor reduction process). Turns out that crowding the shelves with more choices for consumers seldom results in more sales; and over-populating categories with duplicative products may harm margins and reduce customer satisfaction.

So how does a brand manager prepare for a successful launch? And what are buyers really looking for as they evaluate the flood of new items that continuously cross their threshold?

Let’s assume that the market opportunity has been assessed, customer focus groups and clinical studies completed, raw materials secured, and the manufacturing processes established. With the prototype in hand, you’re now ready to get it on the shelf.

Here are four too-often overlooked steps critical in the product launch process – and this applies to product launches both big and small.

Create packaging that WOWs

Standing out on the shelf and succinctly conveying benefits to shoppers so they choose your product should be the goal of the packaging. It’s about moving your item from the shelf to the market basket. The package, and where it’s placed on the shelf (more on that later), are among the most important success factors of a new product launch. There’s good reason it’s often been said “the packaging is the product.”

Know the retailer

Know everything about them, their customer, their service, their pricing, key performance metrics, and more. And then ask yourself a difficult question: will this retailer really be successful with my product? In this day of increased one-to-one marketing, products that appeal to the masses and belong in every market are rare.

Provide samples in retail-ready packaging

Retailers will want to know what type of packaging your product comes in because they have finite space to work with — does it hang on a peg hook or is it something they will have to find space for on the shelf? Invite their comments and suggestions; you may have to adjust your strategy if the retailer is willing to make a commitment.

Prove why your product belongs on the shelf

Shelf space is not becoming more plentiful and your product has to earn its spot. The best way to make this happen in a store is to have strongly researched return-on-investment and how your product will drive new sales for the whole category. Showing recommended placement with professionally-produced planograms remains the most impactful way to demonstrate that you belong.

If you’re seeking placement in virtual aisles rather than on the physical shelf, provide search-engine-optimized product information that will support your item and help drive traffic to the site.

Remember, launching a product that isn’t right for the market or doesn’t have a solid plan with every element for success addressed is painful – and costly.

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