In 1911, Two years after Ford’s Model T hit the market, a Scottish car dealer named Henry Alexander was tasked to introduce the automobile to the UK. A lot of things could go wrong. Customers could say it was too expensive (at its early stages, Henry Ford was still working on driving the cost down) or that they didn’t trust the foreign brand. But this dealer had an idea. He was going to prove that the Model T was a superior product.With a publicity stunt remembered to this day, he would do just that.
Henry Alexander tasked his son, Henry Jr., to go on a journey with his Model T to Ben Nevis of the Scottish Highlands, which is the highest mountain in the British Isles (4,411 ft.). He coordinated a bet. If his son could not successfully make the trip, he would lose his allowance.
Henry Alexander Sr. told the press and everyone he could get to listen. His son would prove that the Model T was the best car in the market. Henry Jr. drove over obstacles, hills, rocks, and snow. When he finally arrived after five days of driving, he was welcomed with an excited and passionate crowd. He proved that the Model T was a great product that represented quality and freedom for adventure.
In a show of overwhelming success, Ford sold 14,000 cars in the UK after the challenge. Today, the Scottish town of Fort William, which was at the center of the stunt, has a bronze statue in its town of the Model T and Henry Alexander Jr. at the wheel— a new product that changed history forever.
Introducing New Products Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
When we are introducing a new product, we face many challenges like Ford did. Customers might have many reasons why they might not buy it. It can be scary and risky. But if we follow a few simple steps and create moments like Henry Alexander Jr., we can create a product with minimal risk and a greater opportunity for success.
Before even developing a new product, it’s important to know who your customers are. What are their needs and wants? What are their passions? We often think we know what they want, but if we aren’t consistently asking them questions, being intentional at experiencing the same buyer journey as they are, then we’re really in the dark.
There are many ways to get to know your audience. Here are a few methods you can use today.
- Talk to them. Ask questions and connect with them. Figure out what kind of hunger they have that’s not being met.
- Create buyer personas for your target audience. College students might be your target audience. But it can go deeper than that and could include various categories. For example, for a financial business… college students with student debt, college students with paid-for college, students working their way to fund each semester. Each category requires a different marketing approach and variations in products.
- Utilize surveys. Find out their interests, desires, needs, and collect that data to develop appropriate products.
- Identify Super Fans. Who are your sold out customers? Connect with them and use them as a starting base for potential innovation and new products. They are the reason you exist.
When you know your audience better than anyone else, you can provide the right product, for the right price, at the right time.
After you have developed a product based on the needs of your audience, it’s time to test it. Show it to family and friends. While this will welcome some biased feedback, it’s still an effective way to vet the obvious flaws of the product. Then share with your peers and network. Once it goes through the first steps of testing, contact a select few of Super Fans and see what they think.
Develop a survey or ask the questions personally. What do you enjoy about it? What do you not like about it? How much would you pay for it? Ask for candid feedback. Even more important than what they say, try to gauge a sense of their excitement. If they aren’t emotionally moved by the product, no matter what they say, it might signify that it is not meeting the right needs or that its potential is going unnoticed.
After you gain feedback, you can develop a better product.
Before selling your product, it’s important to understand your profit margins and the future potential of the product.
Research your industry and find out what the average profit margin is for your type of product. If yours is too low, consider finding a better pipeline and supply for your product. If its above average, you’ve found a great opportunity. Regardless, decide if the profit margin is something you feel is worth the effort, risk, and long-term investment it will take to introduce it and maintain it in the market.
Calculate all the expenses it takes to create the product and what your selling price will be. To get the gross profit margin, follow this formula: (Net Sales – Cost of Goods Sold) ÷ Net Sales.
Research your suppliers and the process it will take to develop your product. Is your supplier or manufacturer a partner you can trust? Are they willing to grow with you? In order to maintain consistent quality and product recognition, it’s important to pick the right partners from the start.
When you are getting ready to launch your product, you can use this time to develop and nurture your future customers. Creating a fun anticipation and excitement will help jump start momentum, increase your brand reach, and get you started on the right track.
When launching a new product, it’s important to target the Early Adopters, which make up 13.5% of the curve. They would most likely fall into the Super Fans category. They are first to take the risk of purchasing a new product. They get excited and want to be the first to spread the word.
If you want to minimize your risk, you can do a pre-launch or limited release open to these early adopters. Tell them it’s available for just a limited time, or that availabilities are in short supply and they have to sign up now to give it a try. This makes it possible to test the product in the market and measure its success.
Once your Early Adopters are satisfied with your product, turn them into your Super Fans. Gain testimonials, encourage word of mouth, find out why they chose your product. You can use this material and strategy to reach the Early Majority which is 34% of your customers. These buyers want “influencers” to test things out first and spread the word before they take the plunge themselves. From there, you can target the rest of the curve.
The idea is to motivate your early customers to get passionate about your product, just like Henry Alexander Jr. did for the Model T in the UK. Utilize the "fear of missing out" and make it seem impossible to not give your product a shot. Find ways to get other people excited.
In Seth Godin’s book, The Purple Cow, he describes a family road trip. They are driving away from the city and after a few hours begin to see some cows on the side of the road. They think it's neat. The kids point at them. They snap a picture or two. But after driving for more hours, the continuous farmlands and cows begin to blend together. It doesn't seem exciting anymore.
Then, all of a sudden, way in the back of a group of cows, your kid points out that she sees something purple. You squint your eyes to look further back. And then you see it. It’s a purple cow. Now that’s different. You swerve your car to the side of the road. You take pictures, but it’s too far, so you get closer. Then you wonder why it is purple. Does it make purple milk? Suddenly, this one cow stands out and grabs your total attention.
This is how a good product works. Customers are bombarded with marketing. After a while, they fade everything out. Only something that demands their attention, something out of the ordinary, something remarkable, will make them stop what they are doing and pay attention.
How can you make your product remarkable? It could be a feature, the packaging, or something as simple as a unique brand message. It could even be something so unordinary that everyone has to stop. Imagine if a real estate agent, instead of buying you a fruit basket at the closing of the house, got you two tickets to your favorite sports team. What are the chances you’ll recommend them to someone else? Be remarkable. Your customers will champion your brand.
For the entire lifecycle of your product, it’s important to create a system that collects and welcomes feedback. The world moves fast and if you aren’t keeping up with it, customers will forget about your business. Your product might be relevant today, but if it goes unchecked, it could be forgotten tomorrow.
Blackberry had 50% of the US smartphone market, peaking with 50 million sales by 2011. In 2017, it reached 0%. What happened? When the iPhone eliminated almost all buttons, Blackberry didn’t see them as real competition, believing that customers loved their trackball. Instead, they made a flip phone and doubled down on their design. In short, they didn’t listen, and the iPhone dominated the market in a few short years.
When you collect feedback, you can find areas to improve and plan for the future. With the right strategy, you can create a product that can last for many years to come.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to introducing your new product! Are you interested in finding out how your ideas will impact your business? With Profit Frog, you can test out your new products with a few clicks and see how it can affect your profit. Start your free trial today!