Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Your Launch Strategy - An Apple a Day...

By Mark Helfen

Responding to his client's request that he wanted to "launch products like Apple," Josh Weinberg developed "a whole new field of study." Perhaps "launchology" might be the term. (Not a word used by Weinberg.)

At the SDForum Marketing SIG meeting on September 14, Weinberg, President of the Digital Life Consulting Group, described his study, summarized in 11 rules, for successfully launching consumer technology products. His presentation showed examples of great launches, mostly starring Apple Computer's Steve Jobs.

But I would summarize his lessons with a single idea - that the launch, and planning for the launch, is an equal partner to every other part of creating the product, at least for products targeted to consumers. Equal to engineering, product development, product marketing, and all of the other functions in getting a product out of the door. Launch planning needs to start early, not when the product is almost complete.

Weinberg advocates appointing a launch manager to run the launch team, with the product manager one of the attendees at the team. The launch manager is responsible for the product launch, instead of the more typical approach of handing the job to the product manager.

By focusing on the launch, your product gets off to a successful start. This can help move your product out of the price wars. He supplied some examples (Cuil.com, the search engine - remember them?) where the damage of a muffed launch is never undone.

Apple figured prominently in Weinberg's presentation. In fact, it would be fair to say that launchology is largely a study of Apple launch strategies, which he has decoded from outside the company.

He may have picked the right target. Last week, the market research firm Interbrand moved Apple up four places on its list of the 100 best global brands, calling Apple "among the most iconic of relatively young brands in the world." Following the 11 rules in his list must play a part.

You can get the complete list of rules from Weinberg directly, but here are a few favorites:

1. It's a product experience.
Meaning it's everything about the product, not just the technology. The box it's packed in, and everything included in the box. The manuals. How it assembles, how you upgrade from the prior version, how you get support, and lots more. The complete experience of purchasing, opening the box, and owning the product.

6. Products have names.
Ipod, Flip, Blackberry are names. SGX2275 isn't a name, it's a number.

8. Communicate clearly.
As a writer, one of my favorites. If you live in Silicon Valley and work in technology, you speak a different language than the rest of the planet. Information about your consumer product needs to be written for normal people.

10. Launches are theater.
You will have to watch Weinberg's presentation and its video clips of Steve Jobs to see some examples. As a one time product manager (of business technology products) I have to admit that I never considered the product launches that I worked on even mildly entertaining, much less theatrical. But then not every company has Jobs to front for them.

You can contact Weinberg through his Digital Life Consulting Group Web site, www.Dlifegroup.com.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/markhelfen

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.helfen

follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mark_helfen


Monday, September 7, 2009

Don’t Just Plan the Party

By Mark Helfen

“The consumer technology industry needs to forget it’s a technology industry, and must move to being a consumer product industry.”

Or so said Joshua Weinberg, President of The Digital Life Consulting Group, when I interviewed him to ask about his upcoming SDForum Marketing SIG talk. He will be speaking at the Monday, September 14 meeting, and you can check out the meeting announcement here.

Weinberg has studied companies that do a great job of launching consumer technology products, and has developed a list of rules for the perfect launch. The idea is to have everything ready when the product publicly launched. The same rules that apply to physical products also apply to web based consumer products. Business products also benefit from following the rules.

Apple is a company that does a great job, and Weinberg studies Apple's product launches, which helped him crystallize the rules.

“A launch is not planning six weeks for a big party,” said Weinberg. “It’s a year long process that starts at the moment the product starts.”

He referred to his recent blog posting “Why would Sony launch a product that consumers can’t buy?” which compares Sony’s Reader launch to product launches from Apple and Bose.

“Sony is not a failure, but clearly Apple has mind share.”

The “little things” matter a lot, like the product having a name as opposed to just a meaningless string of letters and numbers. Every accessory in the box is as important as the main product. For a web product, the sign-up process is as critical as how the product works day to day.

While companies can be “somewhat successful” without using his strategy, they can be “more successful the more rules they follow.”

Here in the valley, there is a long tradition of delivering the absolutely newest technology even if it’s not fully productized. If you have purchased technology products recently, you may have seen that some, or many, companies don’t have everything together when the product is launched. I related my recent purchase of a (name brand withheld) router where the User Guide is not yet finished.

Weinberg’s response is that “if the only thing you have is being first to market, there is not a lot there.”

“Most of these rules are blatantly obvious,” said Weinberg. “But if it’s so obvious, how come people aren’t doing it?”

You can ask him yourself at our next meeting on the 14th.

You can reach Weinberg at http://dlifegroup.com/


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/markhelfen

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mark.helfen

follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mark_helfen


Pre-Networking Preparation

Leslie Butlar
"Public Relations Director"
SDForum Marketing SIG

September 14th's SDForum Marketing SIG is approaching quickly and I'm reaching out with encouragement for our first time guests, and suggestions for returning members, on how to get the most from your time at our events.

What might I do in Pre-Networking Preparation which would benefit might attendance for the upcoming meeting?

Networking Preparation 101!

There are some critical points you need to
consider prior to attending a networking event.
Then, before walking into the room, go through your checklist:

  • If this is your first visit, did you research this group?
  • Is this an event at which you'll find your target market?
  • Do you know the names of the board members so you can meet them first?
  • Are you wearing your million dollar suit?
  • Do you have the perfect haircut for the shape of your face?
  • Do you have the best make-up strategies in place?
  • Have you packed your business cards? (Make sure they don't look like they went through the wash)
  • Are you carrying your cards in a nice container?
  • Do you have a pen that works?
  • How is your overall hygiene?
  • Are you setting your intention prior to entering the room?
  • Have you left drama at the door?
  • Are you going in with your heart instead of your head?

If you are prepared for any event, you will
have a maximum return on your investments. It is
a good idea to make a list and be prepared.

You want to make sure that all these questions
are answered so that you have a GREAT experience
and your networking dollars are not being
wasted. You only have one chance to make that
"first" impression. Make sure it's a good one!

At each Event there is an "opportunity to
connect" when you share the space with another person.

Tips borrowed from Kathleen Ronald's Speaktacular Connection Newsletter - September 2009

Article Submitted by Leslie Butlar
"Public Relations Director"
SDForum Marketing SIG
Committee Member