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Seven Steps to Marketing Your New Product Don't let your new product launch sputter! Use these tips to ensure your target market is lining up to buy.

By Kim T. Gordon

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

So you want to bring a new product or service to market.You've done your homework and decided exactly what you plan tooffer; now all you need to generate is sales. Sounds simple enough,doesn't it? But every day, countless new product and serviceideas are conceived--never to be born because they're notproperly brought to market. In fact, a large percentage of thecalls my company's coaches receive are from small-businessowners who want exactly this sort of help. And we carefully guidethem through these seven important steps that will help themsuccessfully bring their new products and services to market.

1. Study your competition. Many business marketingclasses teach participants how to perform a SWOT (strengths,weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. You have to startby taking a serious look at your competitors. Make a list of thebusinesses that offer products or services similar to the one youplan to launch. Even if you think your new product or service isentirely unique and without existing competition, it'simportant to put yourself in your prospective customers' shoesand imagine what they might buy in lieu of what you plan to offer.Once you decide whom your competitors will be, review theirmarketing materials, including their ads, brochures and websites.Evaluate how your new product or service will stand up againstwhat's already being offered, in what ways you'll excel,and which companies or their offerings pose the greatest threats toyour success.

2. Target the ideal customer. To successfully launch yournew product or service with minimum financial outlay, it'sessential to focus exclusively on the prospects you believe aremost likely to purchase from you. These may be customers who arecurrently buying something similar and will appreciate theadditional features your new product or service provides. Your bestprospects have a perceived need for what you offer, can afford tobuy it and have demonstrated a willingness to do so--probably bypurchasing from your competition. Bear in mind, it's alwayseasier to fill a need than to create one.

3. Create a unique value proposition. At this stage, youshould have a clear understanding of what you must offer in orderto stand apart from your competition and who will want to takeadvantage of your offer. But do you know why customers will want tobuy from you vs. the vast field of competitors out there? Whatbenefits and features will you provide that your prospectivecustomers will value most? The bottom line is that your product orservice "bundle" should be unique and meet the needs anddesires of your best prospects.

4. Define your marketing strategy and tactics. Next,choose your sales and marketing channels. Will you market online,via catalog or through dealers, for example? Generally,multichannel marketers achieve the greatest success becausecustomers who can shop when and however they like tend to spendmore and shop more often. Suppose your strategy is to market alow-cost workout device to people who can't afford gymmemberships or high-priced home equipment. You might choosetraditional direct marketing plus online sales as your primarychannels, and employ tactics including direct-response TV spots andonline ads and e-mail solicitations that link to your website.

5. Test your concept and marketing approach. With all themoney it takes to bring a new product or service to market,it's foolhardy to rush headlong into the launch phase prior totesting. What should you test? It's best to examine yourproduct or service bundle plus your marketing message andyou're your marketing materials. Depending on what you plan tomarket and your budget, you can use formal focus groups (or simplyhost roundtable discussions with members of the target audience),employ online research or mall intercept studies, or distributeyour product to a select group of users for testing. Only aftertesting is complete, should you proceed to the final creation ofyour marketing tools and materials.

6. Roll out your campaign. Public relations often plays avital role in the launch of a product or service. You can use mediarelations tactics to place articles and win interviews, getcoverage by allowing key press to review your product, hold alaunch event, or use grass roots marketing to build buzz. But nomatter what publicity route you choose, first make sure yourproduct or service is completely ready and available for purchasein order to maximize returns from the coverage you receive. Andyour other marketing efforts should follow closely on the heels ofyour press roll out. Monitor the results from all media, and in thefirst weeks and months, be prepared to adjust your campaign to takeadvantage of what's working best.

7. Know your product's lifecycle. The campaign youuse during the introduction and education phase of your product orservice launch will need to be updated as your product or servicematures. If you're monitoring your marketing results carefully,you'll begin to see diminishing returns that will indicate whenit's time to revise the product or service itself, alter yourmedia message, or even phase out this particular offering and laythe groundwork for the launch of your next great idea.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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