If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my career it is that as marketers, we need to stay relevant, top of mind and we need calls to action. We also need to create things of value that are newsworthy. We need to draw awareness and attention to our business as part of our overall marketing strategy.
Newsworthy is a relative term in today’s fragmented and digital world. When I say newsworthy, that may just be information that appeals to your client base or to your social media fan base. All the better if you reach a larger and broader audience via traditional and new media. Those outlets are a little tricker to reach and less under your control.
Product Development and Promotions are two of the most effective ways I know of to create value and newsworthy attention.
Product development is when you create a new product or service from scratch and or you revise and refine an existing product. In order to be successful the product has to add value and provide benefits to the target market. One of the best examples that I can think of is the iPhone. The iPhone was a new product, arguably a new product category (smart phones) and overtime each iteration is a new product in the sense that it keeps being upgraded or improved. It’s initial launch and subsequent iterative launches were and are newsworthy. In fact they were and are events. The iPhone is typically launched at an event, people line up for hours or days to get a new iPhone and the new product brings the company to the forefront.
Why & When do you do it?
First and foremost the main reason to develop a product is that you need something to sell. It may be you need something to sell to generate incremental revenue. Alternatively, I’ve developed products to help define a brand, generate buzz and media attention as well as to generate sales and new business. Arguably, the iPhone helped to redefine Apple from a computer company to a consumer products company. So much so that they dropped the name computers from their corporate name. So a new product launch can very much shape, define and redefine your brand. Apple is an extreme example, your product development and launches don’t have to be at that scale to be effective.
Two of the most successful products that I’ve created were events. One was called Maple in the The County and the other was called TASTE! a celebration of region cuisine. These were economic development products that were primarily focussed on creating buzz, drawing media attention and helping to define the Prince Edward County brand. They were vey successful at achieving those goals. These events were no slouches in generating sales as well. Maple in the County brings 10,000 – 15,000 people out to visit the County on a winter weekend where once there was no tourism activity. The economic impact is in the 6 figure range. The last economic impact study of TASTE! that I saw was over $500,000 over a 3 day period. The broader impact was that these and other “products” helped to reshape how people thought about Prince Edward County, reshaped the brand, the economy of the region, who visited and who invested in it.
How do you develop a product?
There are many ways to develop a product and depending on the product or service different levels of development are required.
For me the first step is the need. The product developer has a need (revenue, brand reinforcement, brand redefining, news / media attention, etc…) and there is a demand or benefit to the target market for the product/service. Once those needs have been identified and established idea generation or brainstorming on potential ideas is the next step. Narrow in on the idea, undertake market research and or market testing. Then there is the product development and product launch phase. If you are a tech or medical company this would be quite extensive but for most companies it can be pretty fundamental. After the launch, undertake a post launch evaluation and use the feedback loops to refine and improve the product.
In the context of this blog I am going to discuss sales promotion and how it can support product development.
Sales promotions are basically short term marketing activities designed to increase sales. There are numerous tactics such as contests, sales and discounts, free gift with purchase, buy one get one free, special events, to consider when implementing a sales promotion, etc…
The main reason to undertake a sales promotion is to increase sales for a product or service for a specific period of time. Promotions are thought of as tactical in nature, meaning they are not thought of as a long term strategies to increase sales and growth but more of a short term boost. I think of product development and product improvements as the long term solution to increase sales and the promotions as a short term solution.
There is something called an evergreen promotion, which happens at regular intervals, annually for example. One of the most well know in Canada is Tim Horton’s annual Roll Up The Rim To Win contest.
Annual events, like some of the ones I’ve been involved with are also evergreen, they are both products and promotions and other promotions can also support them. The advantage and benefit of evergreen promotions are as follows: First of all you create them once and then implement annually. This allows you to create once, refine and fine tune on an on going basis and develop a process or system that allows for a lot of repetition in your execution. Repetition creates efficiency and makes the execution much more effective. An evergreen allows you to build your brand and on going awareness with repeat activities, evergreen products allow you to build on your existing customer base while building a new larger customer base.
The first step is to understand your goal or what you are trying to achieve. Then take a look at the menu of sales promotion options available to you. Brainstorm about which tactic(s) makes the most sense for your promotion needs. Then developed the promotion, implement and evaluate. I’ve provided links throughout the blog as additional resources to refer to as you develop your product and promotions.
The best path to obtain attention is by creating news, and creating your own news is quite acceptable. Businesses, regions and tourism destinations need news, lots of it, all the time. News creates buzz, draws attention, and can create calls to action. Think of how much news Apple generates and how powerful this is in building their brand and generating interest in their company, products and services. If you are a tourism destination, then activities like festivals and events are good examples of product development and promotions to consider.
If you are a hotel or restaurant, it could be Sunday brunch, happy hour or any of a variety of ideas. It is important to have new and exciting activities that gets people’s attention and that people can respond to. A master of product development and promotion is the Drake Hotel & Restaurant set of properties. They create events, curate activity and give the media stories to write about constantly and consistently. If you are not familiar with them, I highly recommend that you seek inspiration from them. www.thedrakehotel.ca
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I work with companies on their marketing, lead generation and sales throughout their life cycle – from start ups, to expansions to exit strategies and the sale of the company. My clients are from the private sector and public sector including economic development and tourism based organizations. Let me know if you have any projects you need help getting started on in 2016.
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