The Formula for Successful Market Programs – Finally Revealed

Awhile back, we wrote an Industry White Paper titled “Market Technology: The Missing Link.” In its simplest form, Market Technology outlined a methodology, which advocated that a company’s market program (effectiveness) was, as critical as, the product and services that a company engineered.

Possibly, more important – especially for small-to-medium, sized companies that had to get it right out-of-the gate and did not have the margin for error that larger firms have. Market Programs can make or break a firm. This article discusses a process orientation to define/develop effective, Market Programs, which can impact several areas:

Vertical Industry/New Market Development
Product Launch Introductions/Roll-Outs
Competitive Attack Campaigns
Target Account and Opportunity Base Development
Distribution Channel & Strategic Alliance Development/Stimulation

As we overview this process, it is necessary to insert a critical role in the organization – the Market Programs Designer. No matter what your firm calls this role, it is essential to have a defined “owner” and skilled individual on staff that can translate critical business insights into effective Market Programs. Without this, your organization will be driven by bold ideas that stumble along or go nowhere.

This is the primary reason that many CEOs are reluctant to put the power stick in the hands of Marketing and invest. If they have been let down by the lack of results in past efforts, it only makes it more difficult for the Marketing Team to have a voice. This may explain the reason that Marketing defaults to trade show coordination, product support, lead generation and collateral development, as their primary focus in many organizations.

Here is a summary of the process steps to feed/fuel effective, Market Programs development:

1. Research Phase (Doing the Homework) – this does not have to be a strict, empirical study. For each program, a range of outside sources should be tapped to obtain or reinforce the insights needed to develop a baseline program profile.

For example, if the focus is on New Product Introduction, then engaging with Industry Associations/Groups that cater to your target segment (niche) and key customers and prospects (and even some ringers – competitors’ customers that selected them over your firm) can be engaged to gain critical insights. Cover your bases – obtain pure, unsolicited responses on Market characteristics, buying attitudes, evaluation/selection criteria, price points, problem-set, perceived or derived benefits (from use), key applications, packaging considerations, economic factors, competitive influences (tactics, options, alternatives, etc.), timing, cost/return considerations (breakeven scenario), roll-out incentives, etc.

This can be garnered in thirty days or less and once you develop a knack, it can become a continuous process. Once the data is collected, have some of your “bright lights” interpret and translate the various inputs into a general Profile. Make sure that this step is not contaminated by individuals that will either incorrectly translate the data or influence it to be what they want it to be. That will only result in ineffective program definition, as we move through the process. Imagine implementing a Program where the timing or other factors were flawed or misjudged – it happens and it results in a bust program.

2. Program Profile – the profile is the baseline that will direct you to the make-up and elements that will fuel and shape the Market Program or campaign. The profile is a composite of the results of the research phase and the translations/interpretations that were made.

Example: Let’s say that your front-end, research indicated Middle Management (those with the problem to solve), within target accounts were ripe for change (given the capabilities of your new product launch), however Senior Management was uncertain or found it difficult to introduce change into the organization, at this stage. To ignore this input and launch a new product targeted at Middle Management (user community) and not factor-in sentiments of Senior Management and timing of launch – may be detrimental to program success.

Certainly, a necessary element of the program may be to conduct an educational webinar for Senior Management or to develop a series of Industry briefs that could bring them up to speed. Each element that was derived from the research phase must be sorted-out this way and then transferred to the Program Profile. When each element is outlined, it is then necessary to evaluate and select the overall, make-up of the campaign.

This would involve priorities and trade-offs, based on what would work with the target audience, funding availability, resource loading, desired or needed results (tangible and intangible), market readiness/demand, competitive barriers and other factors. These indicators will lead the Market Programs Designer to make the necessary selections on the vehicles and platforms that make-up the campaign.

Example: If the target market (segment) for the new product launch is the Avionics Market (Airborne Platforms) – with emphasis on surveillance and reconnaissance applications and Program Managers and Engineering Management being the key prospects – it would be doubtful that Twitter or Facebook would be selected, as critical elements. LinkedIn might be an element of the program, however depending on your internal trade-offs (like sense of urgency and budget availability) – E-Mail Marketing may be chosen, as a lead.

Direct- response programs, Webinars and other direct vehicles may also be selected to support the program. These are the type of considerations that must be brainstormed to derive the Marketing Mix for each program or campaign. We prescribe integrated marketing programs that combine different program elements into one campaign, although this must be well-grounded and justified. Each campaign must also have “metrics for success” that will set the targets to be realized and attained.

Examples: to support the product launch campaign, the following target objectives might be set (tangible) – to generate $1.5 Million sales over baseline, due to new product launch, by December 31, 2011 or (intangible) – to achieve best in class reward at upcoming MTI event for new product introduction.

3. Implementation – whether you represent a large company, a small-to-medium, sized firm or start-up – conduct a pilot phase to a well-rounded, target audience to iron-out the program, before full product launch.

This will allow you to gain valuable insights that can be factored-in to strengthen the overall, make-up of the campaign. Obtain key insights not only from prospects/customers, but also members of the Sales/Support Team and Distribution Partners prior to formal launch. Their insights will make a difference and in many cases – they are the implementation arm that will drive your program to success. This approach will breed ownership. Enroll them early and often and provide them the right combination of motivation, recognition and reward.

4. Management and Reporting – to reinforce the point – assign an owner to each Market Program or campaign for the program life. This individual will be accountable for all aspects of the program, serve as, a focal point/interface to both internal and external program participants and manage and provide program linkage.

Program reporting must be simple, useful and not imposing for program participants. The emphasis is on generating information that will determine how effective the campaign is (at different stages) and capturing vital and timely data to make mid-course, program corrections. The program owner must be an individual that has respect, within the organization and has power and clout to get things done.

5. Program Continuum – although most programs and campaigns have a life-cycle, it is necessary to note that the Market Programs process is self-perpetuating. As a program goes through different phases, there may be occasions where a program needs to be refreshed, redefined, combined with other initiatives or programs or obsoleted.

6. Putting it all together – An early-stage, technology provider decided to change its focus from varied commercial markets to the Defense and Military Market with emphasis on training and simulation applications. Their business suffered from a lack of focus and a range of discrete commercial projects that provided no sustainable base of business. The company secured several projects directly with large, Defense Contractors and could see the potential of establishing its innovative, 3-D Simulation Platforms, as a standard within this large and potentially, rich niche.

Their dilemma was that the company and its technology were literal unknowns and they were not well-connected with the TOP Defense Contractors/Integrators, and Program Offices/Agencies that were key to their success. The company was in the midst of introducing a 2nd generation platform that not only would change the rules, but also determine the survivability and continued success of the operation. Where to start?

Step 1: the company conducted a front-end, research effort to identify the TOP 50 Defense Contractors (cross-division) and the companion Program Offices/Agencies that represented its prospect set. This included full contact data on Program Managers and Engineering Management – the primary target audience.

Informal sessions were conducted with a prospect sample to gain insights into current methods of training/simulation, competing alternatives, price bogies, applications emphasis, budgetary cycles, funding allocation priorities, etc., which provided a base of understanding. The information collected was then translated/interpreted by company principals, with the help of an outside, Industry specialist.

Step 2: a baseline profile was developed, which outlined the key elements captured in the front-end, research. Primary insights revolved around the buying attitudes/opinions of the target audience, strength and weaknesses of competitive offerings (included in-house solutions), cost/pricing considerations, delivery vehicles (web-based, preferred portable devices, etc.), risk profile of prospect audience (would they buy from a small, unknown technology company), budget availability and timing, etc.

This output also paved the way for determining the “right” program mix and fueled the positioning/messaging and format that supported the program.

Step 3: the program was implemented with the following elements:

-3-Phase E-Mail Communique – this segmented campaign introduced the company and built awareness and credibility, as a dedicated Defense & Military technology supplier. Phase 2 outlined the technology with example applications, based on real customer projects, with the 3rd mailer setting-up the target audience to attend a powerful, problem-solving webinar – which encouraged potential customers to bring some of their toughest problems to solve.

-Media Coverage – featured interviews and contributory articles were set-up with major, Industry publications to reinforce the company’s commitment to the Defense & Military Market and promote its new product introduction.

-Target Account Development – direct sales efforts were directed at the TOP 10 Defense Contractors/Integrators (cross-division) and selected, Program Offices/Agencies – LinkedIn and other social media vehicles were leveraged to reach and engage with target prospects. A well thought-out and executed plan of attack to crack these accounts open was put in-place.

-Distribution Channel – to broaden the company’s coverage and build a rich, opportunity base, an active recruiting and selection program was initiated to create more “feet on the street.” The selected Reps were well-connected with the target audience and conversant in simulation and training systems.

-Collateral – creative material was developed to support the campaign – with emphasis on Customer Project Profiles – many of which were implemented on iPad and other portable media devices. This allowed the company to reach a broader audience and “strut its stuff.”

Step 4 – a Senior Manager was assigned Program ownership. Reports were generated bi-weekly at the start of the program, which was extended to monthly, as the company gained more experience with the program. As the company ramped-up its new Distribution Partner Network – the reporting requirements became more diverse, but meaningful. There were several shifts in the program format, during the campaign based on new insights that were derived from prospect and Rep Partner inputs.

This particular program is currently in-motion and will be driven for the balance of 2011. To-date, the program has created an active forecast and rich, opportunity base for the technology company, put them in the media forefront, established them with key contacts, within the TOP 50 Defense Contractors (cross-division) and netted them Industry awards for the impact their simulation and training platforms are having on redefining standards and for their innovative use of portable media devices to demonstrate product capabilities and application benefits.

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