Success in launching a promotion or a new product is all about lists. In a perfect world, you would foresee every way this new move could affect your customers and your operations, make a list of these issues, and have solutions ready to go. This avoids embarrassing and expensive discoveries after publicizing your initiative. Call it “operational readiness” or “promotional readiness.”
- You thought to write down a return policy, but forgot to set up the process to handle the return.
- You find out customers are looking for a user manual, but you didn’t think they would need one.
- Your publicity omits a key contact method: phone or email
- Your order or billing system does not recognize the new product code
Of course, the promotion or new product won’t succeed if the target customers don’t know about it. One client was considering giving a free fourth visit after a client had made and kept three appointments: four for the price of three. When asked about how long it would take to get ready to do so, he said, “Don’t I just have to put up a sign in the reception area?”
Obviously he needed to inform the appointment makers and the billing people, but he also needed to send out the word to his customer list — everyone he wanted to make new appointments. The sign would inform only those already coming in, but his goal was to trigger appointments from inactive previous customers.
Involve Everyone: The Launch Team
Your employees know their jobs better than anyone else, and they know what customers ask for. To foresee everything, you need to involve everyone, or at least every department. If you are using departmental representatives, then they need to get the input of everyone in their department. Your company has the necessary knowledge, but it’s up to you to draw it out.
The organizational technique is to form a team and make them responsible for successful launch. Make it an honor to be on the team – select members for their knowledge, communication ability, and organized thinking. Offer a bonus if all goes well.
Team members should represent all the functions of the business: marketing, sales, installation and repair, customer service, logistics, production, purchasing, engineering, IT, HR/training, facilities management, finance, logistics, legal and perhaps others. Whether the business is large or small, the steps and the functional areas are the same, even if one person does many of the functions.
How the Team Works
The Marketing person usually chairs the team.
Step One: In the kickoff meeting, it’s the marketing person’s job to explain the new initiative and its goals.
Step Two: Then all the team members make a list of what needs to be done to meet their department’s needs. After discussions in the first (explanatory) meeting, they go back to their desks and make a list of what needs to be done or provided for their group. Then they get the comments of their co-workers in that department, and take the revised list to the next team meeting where they explain it all.
Step Three: In the second team meeting, each team member explains each of the items on their list to the rest of the team.
Step Four: After that meeting, the chair assembles a master list, eliminating duplicate items, and putting them all into a sequence. For example, system changes must be completed before training can be done. This master list is given to the team members before the next meeting, so they have time to consider how to improve it.
Step Five: In its third meeting, the team comments on the master list and sequence. Then the tasks are assigned with estimated due dates.
Step Six: While tasks are being completed, the chair revises the timeline or project plan. The chair monitors progress and intervenes to solve roadblocks and assure cooperation. It may be wise to keep an issues list, where resolutions can be written as well.
Step Seven: There may be progress-checking meetings, but the final meeting will be the one where every department “signs off” that all their work is done, and that everyone else has done the work the department needs.
Step Eight: Implement the pre-launch schedule. For example, confirm the launch date, notify employees and union, post new signage, etc.
Step Nine: Announce! This is the launch!
Successful companies not only have good ideas – they also pay careful attention to planning how to launch those ideas. Edison’s famous phrase is “10% inspiration; 90% perspiration.” Sweating these details is critical to successful growth!
Nobody is perfect. There may still be some post-launch surprises. But pre-launch readiness efforts minimize the cost and embarrassment of post-launch adjustments. They are the difference between minor tweaks and scrambling to save the program.
Post a comment to share your experiences with pre-launch planning with our readers!
Thomas H. Gray helps owners save and grow their companies. He is a management consultant focused on small business and telecom, a Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP), a Certified Business Development Advisor, and a Certified SCORE Mentor. He can be reached at 630-512-0406 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.tom-gray.com. For Tom’s new book Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Toolbox for Small Business Success, see http://www.businesstechniquesbook.com/