Product launches are one of the many things the building materials industry struggles with. Customers resist change, so successfully introducing a new product can feel like an uphill battle. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I was recently introduced to the guru of product launches, David Daniels of BrainKraft. I had the pleasure of interviewing David for this episode of my podcast and asked him to write a guest post. He works in the world of tech, but I thought his wisdom and experience would be helpful to anyone in building materials who wants to be more successful in launching new products.
Here’s what he shared with me.
Successfully Launching New Products
Two articles from Mark Mitchell nail the problem of launching a product in the building materials industry. It’s a pleasant surprise to learn that the world of building materials can be as dysfunctional as the world of technology. The first article is Why Most New Building Products Fail and the second article is How to Introduce New Building Products. The parallels between the technology industry and the building materials industry are uncanny. Of course, some of the buzzwords are hipper in the tech world. But make no mistake about it. Many of the problems are the same.
Barrier 1 - Frequency Matters
One thing that’s not the same is frequency. Product launches are frequent in the technology world. Frequency builds experience and skill. And with that comes insight and greater confidence.
Building materials companies don’t add new products with the frequency of technology companies. There isn’t a reason to add products as frequently. And that’s the first unseen barrier. Innovation is gradual. Change is slower and more deliberate. This is likely driven by the pace of change of building materials customers. As a result, the muscle memory for the manufacturer to launch products gets lost.
The building materials customer also does not anticipate or expect new products at the same pace as technology. Of course, there’s a new smartphone every few months. How often does the building materials customer expect a new type of insulation?
Barrier 2 - Risk-Averse Customers Are Slow to Change
Mark does a great job of outlining the product launch issues for the building materials industry. You can chalk up some of those issues to hubris. Some to inexperience.
The biggest reason why a product launch fails in building materials is not enough customers want to switch to the new product. At least not right away.
Customers can lack the urgency to do something new because they see it as risky. They don’t have a compelling reason to change. That is the single biggest reason why a product launch fails. Especially when the target market is risk averse.
And that’s the second unseen barrier. Risk-averse customers are also called traditionalists. They know what works. They like what works. They trust that it works. And they don’t see any reason to change.
Compound the view of a traditionalist across the entire supply chain. How much change can the supply chain absorb? They won’t change because your product is cool. They need more evidence than that.
Find the Early Adopters
The path to a successful product launch in a risk-averse market is through early adopters. Early adopters seek a better way, a faster way to get more done. They are willing to share the risk of trying something new. Even if the solution isn’t perfect.
You can always find early adopters in a risk-averse market. It can be harder, but worth the effort. Unfortunately there aren’t many Early Adopters.
If you can’t find early adopters, it could be a sign of trouble to come. Your sales message may be wrong or you may need to find a new market.
Sometimes new products are more successful in new, unfamiliar markets. Traditionalists don’t like change. Forcing them to change is never a winning formula.
Sometimes new products are only successful with a new distribution channel. It’s possible you have the right product with the wrong channel.
Perhaps the people who sell your existing products well today can’t (or won’t) adapt to selling new products tomorrow. Sometimes it takes time to find success for new products. As Mark points out, too many companies are too quick to give up before they find the magic success formula.
David Daniels of BrainKraft consults with companies on product launches and provides training. You can reach David here.
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