“If you build it, they will come” is not a reliable strategy

If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? (It does. That’s physics.) Maybe the better question is, does anybody care? Now how about this: if you launch a new product and nobody hears how it will make their life better, will they buy it?

In manufacturing, you spend a lot of time and effort making great products. Because that’s what you know. That’s why it’s frustrating if those products that you know are great and you know people need don’t create a stampede of interested customers breaking down your door to purchase them.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it is true that manufacturers can sometimes fall into a “Field of Dreams” mentality when it comes to their products. Whether they’ll say it or not, many manufacturers use “If you build it, they will come” as their product launch marketing strategy.

Unfortunately, that rarely works. Not very well, at least. The fact is, there’s a lot of competition fighting for your customers’ money. Relying on the obvious value of your product to sell itself in a crowded marketplace is a recipe for disappointment. So, how do you get customers to come to your product after you’ve built it?

Know your audience as well as you know your own product.

If customers are going to know about, care about, and consider purchasing your product, you need to find a way to clearly communicate its value to them. That starts with getting to know your audience better.

Getting to know your audience means more than knowing who they are or where to find them. It means understanding what’s keeping them up at night. Knowing the specific pain points your product addresses. It means learning how they think, then speaking to them in their language. How does your product make their life easier? How does it improve their job?

And it goes deeper than that. What emotion does the solution your product offers connect to? Does your product improve efficiency? To your customer, that could mean helping avoid painful layoffs. Or relieving stress they’ve been taking home, or giving back meaningful family time. It could mean helping them achieve a higher purpose through their everyday work. Understand what’s on your customer’s mind, then find the connection to the literal heart of the matter.

Build marketing into your product development process.

If you’re creating and launching a new product, it’s natural that you’ll put your energy into making that product the absolute best you can make it. Making great products is what you know. But if you’re going to position your product for its best chance at gaining traction in the market, how you’ll market your product needs to be part of the conversation from the start of your product development process.

Now, you may be doing this already. If you are, keep it up. But we’ve found that many manufacturers simply don’t take marketing into account—definitely not at the product development stage, and often not even when it’s ready to sell.

There are reasons why this happens. Probably mostly because if you’re given the choice between spending time doing what you’re good at (making great products) and doing what you’re not so sure about (marketing your product), you’re going to default to what you know. But leaving marketing to the end of the line is a great way to end up with all the same tech sheets and brochures that already aren’t getting you where you want to be.

Instead, think about how you will sell your product as early in its development as possible. Keep in mind all you know about what drives your customers emotionally. Then use that information to not only inform the product itself, but give you a clear path toward how you’ll position it and communicate its value when you take it to market. You can even begin communicating that value in conversations or marketing pieces as you’re developing the product, to prime the pump when you’re ready to ship.

Figuring out the marketing side can be hard. It takes time. But don’t let yourself take the path of least resistance. The last thing you want is to end up with a fantastic product that struggles to get the customer traction you’re hoping for because you aren’t supporting it with the right kind of marketing and communications.

Speaking of which …

Follow through with a targeted communications strategy when you launch your product.

Because you’ve got a solid understanding of your customers’ needs and you’ve built a product with how you’ll connect to those customers emotionally in mind, you’re in a great position to send it out into the world. But that still doesn’t mean the part of the world you’re expecting to find your product will actually find it. That’s where a strong communications strategy comes in.

Communications strategies come in all shapes and sizes. For a big, flagship product launch, you’re going to pull out more stops than for an update or an existing, tried-and-true product. But the thread that connects all of your strategies is that it has to be intentional. Planning your communication is about leaving as little as possible to chance. Be deliberate about choosing the channels or tactics that will connect best with your customers. And keep everything on message—make sure it’s connecting with your customers on that emotional level.

So, maybe it’s a sell sheet, a four-page brochure, a sales kit, digital ads, a full omni-channel campaign, or a dedicated product web page. Plan to meet your customers where they are, with a message that gets at the heart of how your product can really improve their lives. Show your customer “what’s in it for me.” Be intentional with how and where you communicate—based on what you know about your customer’s motivations—and then connect your product to the emotional benefit your customer is really trying to buy.

Don’t be the lonely tree.

When a tree falls in the forest, the sound only makes a difference if someone is there to perceive it. It’s the same with your products. If nobody hears about your great new product and what it can do for them, it may as well not even exist. But if you take the time to understand your customers and connect with them emotionally, they’ll hear you.

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About the author:

John Behrens

John Behrens is associate creative director/lead copywriter at Imaginasium. He’s an idea-generator and problem-solver who crafts words and concepts into memorable experiences that build brand engagement for our clients. Follow him on Twitter at @johncbehrens.