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Interview – Product launches done right with Colin Bockman

Home / Sales / Interview – Product launches done right with Colin Bockman

Interview Transcript


Mick: G’Day folks. Welcome back. We are going to be talking about how to make your product launch rock. I’m on the line now with Colin Bockman. So Colin, thank you for joining us again.Colin: Hi. Okay Mick. Good subject, this one, how to make your product launch rock. Let me give you a bit of an overview of my thinking. Product launches are so important. Here’s what happens. Somebody gets the product together, the product manager, and they’re passionate about it; they know it inside out. They quite often get together with an advertising agency or a marketing division, whatever. And these people put together all the literature for them. They put little clips together, little video clips, and they have a theme for it. And they really get their rocks off, literally, which is fantastic, which is fantastic. But they get so involved in it, they have bought it totally and it’s a part of their being. When they go to then quite often launch it, it becomes such a fanfare that the people get the fanfare on board, but what’s missing often is the execution.

In other words, how do I take this message to my customer or how do I get this message across to my customer, because they’re always releasing this product to somebody who is going to take that message to somebody else. And funny enough, the razzamatazz is great, but when you actually test people when they go away and say “Do they know how to execute that because they understand it, there’s often times a great big gap.

Mick: What sort of companies do product launches? Who is this for?

Colin: Usually it’s a product to say a retailer or a distributor and it could be anything from a pump that pumps water to something from a retail point of view; it could be even an appliance; any product that’s going somewhere that they’re launching this to and they want these people to actually then onsell it. It’s not usual that the product launch is done to the end user. Take a tire for instance. Here’s a new tire. For most people, tires are a black round rubber thing and it’s boring as boring and they all look the same, smell the same and so forth. In actual fact, they’re not. They’re entirely different. So what will happen, the guy will get up there to do the product launch to tire dealers, who know about tires, and he will say “Look, it’s got these sipes and it’s got these four grooves and it chucks the water out of there; the speed; and it’s made out of this rubber.”

He’ll even show where the giant tree was grown that the rubber came out of, he’s so excited. Then he’ll show how the bands are formed and how the tires are structured like this. Now this is all very exciting and the guys are going “Hoo-hoo, woo-hoo.” But when they actually go out to tell the customer, the customer couldn’t care less about any of that and they don’t even use any of that to tell a customer because they know the customer wouldn’t listen.

So yes, these guys want to know that it’s made in this way, because that makes them feel comfortable that it’s a safe product to sell and they’re not going to have any brain damage. But what gets missed in the product launch in the case of that nature is how do I take this information and put it into a couple of usable sentences that I feel comfortable with, that I can use with the customer that says because I know this, this is safe and I’m passing it on to you.

Now that may seem simple, but it’s not, because you have a 100 people at that launch, you have 90 different ways of going away and using that information. So I’ve done product launches talking about tires. We’ve actually done back-to-back examples on a race track and shown the difference. But what I’ve done then is say “Okay, well if the customer looks like this, this sort of car, this size, here’s what would be their hot button, here’s what they will buy from what you’ve just learned. Let’s have a look at a sentence that you would use to get that message across.” And you have got probably 30 seconds to get that message across and you’ve just had a two-hour luncheon. That’s what makes product launches work, the outcome.

Mick: Well, okay. So it really comes down to the small things. Who in the company normally gets landed with the responsibility for a product launch?

Colin: Usually it’s the product manager, tends to be the guy in the marketing division, the marketing department, but often once again, like with conferences, the advertising agency gets involved. If advertising agencies are listening to this, they’ll probably want to crown me, but so many times they take far too much responsibility for the product launch and because they do it like a sell-in, they do it like a pitch if you will, and they take that approach, and that’s good. Look, on the night sometimes, it’s pretty damn good and you go “Wow, this is pretty good.” And as people go out “Woo-hoo.” But the reality is there’s a great big gap with execution. How do I take this information and use it? They would say “No, that’s not the case,” but I can tell you from my experience it is the case, because I’ve been called in on a number of occasions to pick up the pieces because the product launch was fantastic.

I went around Australia, I mean I’ve just got a client right now who just said to me earlier in the week “This will be our fourth product launch. Everyone of them have been a great launch, but no outcome.” I said “Well, it’s because you’ve got a missing link. You haven’t covered the missing link.” They said “We know that. We want you to cover the missing link.”

Now this is a fact. This will be the fourth one that they’ve done recently and none of them have had the outcome they wanted. Nobody’s gone away Great product launches, great about the product, great about the sequences, “Isn’t it great? Look, it walks on water and doesn’t get its angles wet. Isn’t it wonderful?” But people don’t know how to execute it. Really, that’s why I do it. I do that sometimes in a camouflaged way; I might be the facilitator of the launch and I might drip feed the ideas in; I might do a keynote presentation which leads it altogether. There’s a number of ways depending on the product and what we’re trying to get across. But it’s a missing link and some organizations get really peeved when they realize that they’ve spent a lot of money on their product, a lot of money on their product launch, but they didn’t get the outcome, they didn’t get the buy in.

The other thing is that you’ve got to get the space in that person’s mind that you’re trying to get to sell your product in. Let’s say with a pump, they might have four different pumps and pumps might represent 20% of their business. So here you are trying to get this teeny little part of their mind to use one or two sentences when a customer looks like and smells like a certain profile, and they’ve got to be able to pick that profile and know what to say and feel comfortable with it. And do you think they can do that on their own? Of course not. The people doing the product launch think they can. So they think “Oh yes, they’ll go away and they’ll put it to practice.” It doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t happen. So many times it doesn’t happen.

Mick: So it sounds like you’re actually pitching them two rules. You’ve got the croc brain and then you’ve got the part of the brain where we think you had everything else. So you’re saying that the person on the receiving end is thinking about their shopping list and the kids at school and everything else they’ve got going on whereas the pitcher of the advertising agency is talking that the Whiz-bang and all of that sort of stuff. You’re trying to craft that one message that’s going to sort of slip through the guard and actually strike home.

Colin: Yes. The thing is that when a product launch is being done, the people get so excited about their product, they’ve done so much research, they’ve been working on it for months, and everything about that’s great. They’re passionate. Everything about that’s great. They’re going to hold back a little bit and say “Hang on. We’ve got to get these people’s mind timed. We’ve got to make it easy for them. We’ve got to take it off their worry list. We’ve got to make them feel comfortable doing it. We’ve got to show them exactly what they can do that’s safe for them to do. We’ve got to make sure that they understand the profile a customer is relevant to, how to pick that profile of a customer and what to say and we’ve got to make sure that they have early wins, because that’ll earn the right for them to do it again.

Because if they go out and try to do it the first time and they don’t, they do it again and they don’t, guess what they do? They throw the whole thing away. Now, dodge your product, it doesn’t work. It’s too expensive. People don’t want them with a reverse pump; people don’t want them to do this; people don’t care whether it’s got an extra one meter of track or whatever was the big issue that we were selling, they didn’t get it, they delivered it, customer care factor zero, let’s stop using it.

That’s quite often what happens. They give them all these features and benefits of their product or the reasons why. Pick one of these boys, just tell the customer now have a little fuzzy, don’t happen. So that’s the problem with product launches and I see that time and time again. Very scary stuff. Lots of money. Very scary stuff.

Mick: Have you had some case studies of people who have nailed it or companies that have really nailed their product launch?

Colin: I can give you a really fantastic example of a situation where they opened Pandora ‘s Box by saying “We want to ” The product in this case is a concept; it’s not an actual hard product. What they wanted people to do is they wanted people to be involved in this campaign to reposition themselves in a certain way. I can’t say exactly what it is for specific reasons. But anyhow, they wanted to do that. What they asked me to do was to set it up in such a way that we could get the buy in and get these people to understand how to do that. This was so damn successful that those who didn’t decide to buy in, they actual said to them “Well, you can no longer be one of our dealers,” because everybody else had gotten behind it. So they actually created their own monster, which wasn’t their intention.

After that example, I said to myself “From now on, if I can see that there could be a negative outcome, or there was a positive outcome with a negative aspect, I’m going to tell the customer that, because they could be aware that they could be creating a monster here that they can’t feed.” That may sound like a negative story, but what it tells you is that you’ve got to look at, when you do a product launch, all of the impact that it will have right across. It will impact on your sales team, impact on your phone team, impact on your management, impact on your resources, impact on your customers’ awareness, impact on your customer day-to-day activities, all the way down it impacts on people. Just because it’s a great product and you’ve gone “Hoo-hoo,” you’re little warm fuzzy, doesn’t mean to say that it’s going to impact appropriately with all those people.

So you’ve got to look at all the aspects. I know it sounds like a negative story, but that’s what I do. I come in and look at all those aspects and then I see a red light, I go “Hey, red light.” I just take care of you because it may not impact the way you want it to. So once again, advertising agencies will just look at the theme. Quite often they’ll say “It’s not our responsibility to get them to do it; it’s our responsibility to tell them about it.” I argue with that.

I say “No, it’s their responsibility to get the outcome, not just tell them about it.” Remember, tell-sell outcome. It’s much the same.

So I walk the line there and once again, this is not a known corridor of work. Therefore, people use me to do it who understand it. Not many people do it because they don’t understand it, so they don’t know to look for it. They just use what they normally use, their product launch, venue, nice coffee and tea, see if the people make them happy in no more than an hour and a half or whatever it might be, etc, etc, etc. We’ll blast them and splatter them and everyone will go and have a warm fuzzy and they’ll sell us their product. Well, that used to happen, don’t happen anymore.

Mick: If someone is listening now, Colin, and they’ve got a product launch coming up, what are the couple of things they should be doing to prep themselves and thinking about and if they want to work with you, what are the next steps they should be taking?

Colin: Pretty much the same as all I do with my conference organizing, get them to give me a call. If usually find in 10-15 minutes when they run their product by me what they want to do, etc. I am able to give them some off the top ideas, give them some structures in thinking and that usually has them in a place where they say “Look, we’d like to do more with you here. Well, thanks very much for that. That finally helps us. That clarifies what we were doing. We’re happy.” Hang up and that’s fine, I don’t mind investing the time.

But often times what happens is we have a conversation, I say these things, they understand and say “Okay, let’s get together.” I then get together, usually with the marketing people, the product people, sometimes with the advertising agency, though they tend to be resistant, and just talk it through. At the end of that 45 minutes or an hour, I’ve talked through what they’re going to do all the way down the line, all the people it will have impact on, and usually by then they’ll say “Well, okay. We can how we could use you” or “Thank you very much. You’ve given us lots of ideas. We now know how to do it properly now” and I go away. And I am happy to do that.

Mick: Well, there you go. You’ve heard me listening to Colin Bockman, talking about how to make your product launch rock. For more information, head over to the website, bockman.com.au. Once again, Colin, thank you very much for sharing the information there with us. Cheers.

Colin: Cheers.

Colin Bockman
Colin Bockman
A sales veteran with 30+ yrs of experience who has worked with the largest brands in Australasia. If you are a Marketing/Sales Manager or an MD who wants to Shift Thinking of their troops and create an innovative Selling Methodology to blast their opposition away, then get in contact with Colin for examples of how he has achieved results for companies in a similar position to yours.... a 15 minute 'triage' of your situation over the phone may well lead to significant Sales Increases for you! Click here to read, what Colin’s Clients say about his work
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