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The Modern Approach to B2B Product Launches

Posted June 21, 2024

Vahbiz Cooper, Sr. Executive of Digital Marketing at Demandbase, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Vahbiz shares which channels to leverage, including a unique approach to community marketing.

Today, I’m joined by Vahbiz Cooper. Vahbiz, welcome back. I am so excited to talk about this topic. We are going to be talking about the modern approach to product launches. We have already covered a little bit on how you should be consistent in your social strategies and not only use social media when you’ve got a product launch. But when you have one, what are the different tactics we should be using today to get it out there?

“Firstly, I think you should utilize your influencers, especially people who have worked with you in the past. That is one really good strategy. They already know about your brand. They already know your existing products. They know your tone. They know everything. So utilize them for sure. 100%.

“The other thing where I see companies not using this much is utilizing your existing customers. They already know about your product. If you have a new product, you can give them a free trial run or if they want to integrate into some of the existing software, you can help them do that. You already have a customer success story ready before your product is out there. And you can fix all glitches, etc. when you’re testing that with your existing customers vs. searching for new people and asking, hey, can you test this? Can you test that?

“Also, what I feel sometimes, is it becomes hard for product developers to incorporate each and every single change. It’s not feasible on occasion. However, when you are launching the product, are you speaking about those difficulties, I should say, or those challenges too? Because obviously you want to have a good show about your product. Yet, you have to be realistic and say, hey, you know what? This is something new we have come up with, would you be interested in trying it? Or would you be interested in giving us some feedback about it? What do you think?

“When all of that is done on the back end, then you are ready for the proper hard launch. You can obviously keep doing software launches with a limited number of people at different stages. But once all of that is done and ready, and you know that this is the product now, you can use your influencers and bring it out live to the world.”

Yeah. I’m glad you brought up the steps you can take for a feature that maybe isn’t prime-time ready. Because I think that is the elephant in the room. So many times, marketers are pressured by executives to start talking about a feature well in advance of its scheduled release date and that release date keeps moving out there and you’re caught in the situation of, oh, we’ve been talking about this for a long time and it’s still not ready. Have you been in a position where you’ve had to manage those executive expectations and talk through this? If we don’t do a software launch and follow these steps, it could put us in a weird position as a company.

“Yeah. Not here at Demandbase, luckily we have encountered nothing like that.”

Of course not! We will keep it anonymous.

“In one of my previous organizations, there was a product that launched without market research and the owner was very pushy about it. It was done in a haphazard way. It was, hey, this is the product. This is what we want to charge and go out there and make a sale with a super tight budget. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a super tight budget, you just made a product and there were so many reasonable, and when I say reasonable, I mean as good as free alternatives. So why would someone pay X amount of rupees or dollars to buy your product? 

“From time to time, it is as if you’re selling something that makes no sense because you had a random idea one day during dinner and that entire pressure is on the rest of the team. That is when the HR aspects of the morale and quiet firing and all of that come into place. 

“Product launches are hard. They’re not something that comes out like, hey, we made this and we know this is going to do well. The only time I’ve seen that striking is when it is a fresh product and you have as good as no competitors like the red ocean vs. the blue ocean strategy, then okay, you’re good. 

“In the market that we’re in today, there’s nothing known as the blue ocean anymore. Within a month, you are going to have somebody sitting in some other country making it or your neighbor making it. You have to do complete and thorough research and you’ve to know what your USP is when it comes to making products. 

“I am sure this is also for software, but when your product is a product. I’ve seen this happening so many times, people wait for the patents to come out and then do the launch. I think that’s super smart since, every now and then, it’s, oh! You know what? We already have a patent that is rolling out. It is trademarked and they already launched it. Then, you get those legal battles that are thrown at you. No, we already have this or this is something that you have copied. Perhaps it isn’t that you wanted to copy that. It was just the same thing but it’s patented so you can’t do it. 

“People, at times, want to be super pushy and they don’t wait for all the patents to come through or for them to get approved. That has happened in a couple of organizations that I have worked with in the past and it was a mess to clear all of that up.”

I think what I’m hearing hints at and I have seen this too is, every now and then, we’re not in a position of control and we can only voice so much. Then it is our job to follow the leader. That is hard, particularly when it happens more than once in the same company, then it gets frustrating because You hope if it happens once, we can learn and adjust and maybe listen to the person who has been objecting to it the whole time.

“No, for sure because sometimes the alternative is right there in front of your face. Why are you spending all of those resources on making something that you know won’t be able to launch at that price?”

Yeah. It’s tough. When we are talking about market research. Let’s talk about when marketing should get involved in the product production cycle. I love this!

“Wow! My personal opinion is right from the start “

“Yes, plus one.”

“From time to time, people say, oh, we want marketing orchestration, we want sales orchestration and those are good fancy words, but what the ground level reality is what’s going to make or break your product. There was this saying from one of the sharks in Shark Tank India and that reality hit me. She said thousands of people have ideas. The problem is the execution. If you don’t execute, then the idea comes to nothing. Your company is going to crash down or your products aren’t going to do well.”

“That is so true since sales will say, hey, these are the complaints that we have been hearing or the pricing is a problem. On occasion, it’s a very small aspect that can be fixed by marketing. Companies such as Tata when they launched the Nano, they made such a huge marketing mistake. It is a classic case study where they call the car cheap vs. economical. Now and then, it is those small things that are going to break the whole thing down. Nobody would ever know if that is true or not. But since it is out there in the open and there are case studies after case studies on these words, that’s what the people are going to believe.”

“If marketing is involved from the start, then they would know, okay, these are the words that we need to capture or this is the feature we need to promote. Sometimes, those things, if marketed well, the negative aspects of the product would just wash away. It wouldn’t be out there in the front. And, of course, you need to work on them at the back end. But, yeah, a good marketer would know what to highlight, what to hide, and on occasion, sales is trying to crack that deal and they say, no, this is the USP.”

“However, if you look at it from other angles, is this really the USP? Is this something we need to promote? Are X, Y, or Z competitors also promoting on the same lines? Why don’t we shift the focus and use other words or something else in that product to promote it?”

“I think it also speaks to figuring out if your ideal customer profile is unacceptable or acceptable. When you know your product has limitations that are going to especially impact certain use cases, perhaps you shouldn’t push it in those circumstances and train your sales team how to talk through that and be honest  in a way that isn’t bashing the company. But hey, in this specific use case, this might not be the best solution for you and I guarantee your customers prefer that every day over oh no, we can do that and then we can’t.”

“Yep. We’ve worked with a company where it happened and we asked, when are you going to give it to us? Something that shouldn’t have taken more than a month to finish off took us six months to get it done.  They didn’t have that expertise and we had to find out the hard way. You know what? This isn’t working out and that is bad. We wanted to get done with it and close the deal and finish the contract. It wasn’t a good experience for us. I’m sure it wasn’t for them either.”

Well, let’s step back a little bit. Vahbiz mentioned that people have ideas in the shower or at the dinner table. When you’ve got a mature product, I think there are different ways we should go about figuring out what the next feature should be. I’ve seen customer advisory boards and then Vahbiz mentioned market research, actually talking to prospects too because they’re not as familiar with what you already have. Then, what are some other ways or teams that we can leverage in the context of determining what is next?

“I think communities are super underutilized.”

“I love it!”

“The amount of good and honest reviews you find on Reddit or other random communities or even some good communities is so underutilized. People don’t check those and I don’t know why. Having a customer community is good. You’re the one point of contact, but sometimes, the same people would head to Reddit or would go out on X, Y, or Z websites and write the complete opposite. It’s as if now and then, you have to deal with it and sometimes, they’re actually writing the truth.”

“You have used that product and you know you faced the same difficulty. So going in there, you can go there as a company or as an anonymous person to put that fire out or say, hey, you know what? I know that they are already working on it. Or I am a beta tester, they’re working on X, Y, or Z, or just neutralizing that problem is very helpful.”

“You have to be careful. Some of these communities have very stringent rules for good reasons, but as Vahbiz said, if you notice a customer is already in there and they know that, what they say is the opposite of the truth. In those cases, I think it is totally appropriate to say, hey, I noticed you are part of this community and I saw this comment, would you be willing to do a rebuttal?”

“Yeah. for sure and it’s hard, sometimes.”

“Especially when it is the truth.”

“Yeah. It’s okay. I know this, but when I was relatively new in one of my organizations, I wondered how to put it politely and say, I hear you! I am facing the same thing, but we’re in the same boat together. It is critical that you be honest but at the same time defend the product. It’s a sticky spot.”

“Yeah. I’m not going to name the client, but we’ve had instances where people were unhappy with one aspect of the product and we had customers step in without being asked and saying, yeah, you’re right. This is a bit of a shortcoming, but here are the areas I use it for that are helpful. That is great! It gives us information on where we need to go to improve something. It also showcases that there are some things that are valuable here. If your product is technical, exactly what you’re saying is, they buy through the network, and on occasion, that network is the community.”

Yes indeed. Is there anything else you would like to tell our listeners before we tell them where they can find you to network?

“The only thing is, from time to time, marketing isn’t easy and it is okay. Sometimes, you’re not going to get those creative ideas and that is okay. Don’t feel stuck or decide, oh, you know what? I cannot do this! Please go and talk to your manager. Don’t ever feel like your ideas are stupid or they’re not doable. At times, the wackiest of ideas have gotten us the best of results. Please don’t feel shy or take a backseat and think, people are going to make fun since, yeah, that isn’t going to get you anywhere. “

“Feel free to talk to as many people as you can because knowledge is something you are never going to be bored of or you’re never going to have enough of it. I still learn so much up to this day, and yep, algorithms are crazy. Don’t chase them off.”

“Yeah. except for consistency, that one you have to do. Then we also have to shout out to some communities. I think we met through Demand or Women in Revenue? I think it was Demand, but there are fabulous communities out there.”

“Yeah, for sure! Rev Genius is my favorite go-to and there are many other good ones. We’ve Women in Sales. There’s Apollo and Pavilion. Pavilion is a good one. Oh my God! I’m in so many communities! Oh, Slack has its own community and they’re good. I get lots of insights from them. And there’s Analytics for Marketers. Chris is really good over there. Hi Chris!”

“I love it.”

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