Real time startup launches are SO exciting!
Step by Step from a market strategy and plan to the product launch
For me, the best thing ever in my professional world is watching a product transform from totally unknown to a popular brand name.
I guess I’ve been lucky in my timing, getting into the right companies at the right times. I’ve had incredible opportunities to work with the leading international retailers on one hand and the leading agencies on the other.
And then, I had, and still have, the opportunity to see the shift from print, voice, and TV advertising to online marketing, not to mention the tremendous shift currently happening in social media. The ability to engage with ‘any customer, anywhere’ is exciting, fascinating, and holds so much potential.
Over the last 10 years, I have worked with more than 120 startups and entrepreneurs.
As an entrepreneur, bringing an unfamiliar, innovative product into the market is incredibly challenging. In today’s business world, there are countless new products coming onto the scene every month. Capturing the attention of your target audience sometimes seems like an impossible mission.
The launch plan
A few months ago, I wrote about the journey to find the best sales and distribution channels for a very promising startup I’ve been working with.
The startup, named SitnStand - a Portable Smart Rising Seat, is in the market to help elderly to sit down and stand up with a push of a button.
The two founders, Gal Goldner - co-founder and CEO - and Iftah Geva -co-founder and Chairman - developed the product over ten years! According to the customers who participated in a live trial, (who, at the end, chose to buy the product) it is an excellent and helpful product.
That was also the response of the retailers we contacted to be our point of sales in the UK.
In that post, three months ago, I wrote about our travels to the UK to meet with the retailers we wanted to work with and described our journey of finding the right retailers and building a country wide presence.
You can read about our journey to find and build the distribution and sales channels here: If I got one hundred bucks every time I heard an entrepreneur say they know how to get customers...
I wrote about the steps we took, starting a few months ago, with nothing but a prototype, a research based Market Strategy, and a basic marketing and sales plan.
This is how we planned the launch to the UK.
Step 1 - Go over the market analysis and the 4 corner stones of the company’s market strategy.
Step 2 - Set the objectives and goals for the year ahead.
Step 3 - Create the marketing activities plan for the launch and for the following few months ask two main questions:
- Where are the customers, according to the 4 corner stones? What do they do?
- What tools should we use to reach them ?
Step 4 - Study the different options for sales and distribution and decide on the sales and distribution model.
Step 5 - Map the market and find partners to work with in the UK, and schedule meetings with them.
Step 6 - Start implementing the launch plan: start with preparing all in-store presentation materials, and continue with marketing materials (the site, video, content, and blog posts etc.).
Step 7 - Professional guidance for the sales people and store presenters.
Step 8 - Launch day (D day).
Since that trip to first meet with our retailers, we met with them again, started to train their sales managers, and prepared for the launch.
An un-planed opportunity
A few weeks later, we received an email offering us the opportunity to take part in the annual UK OT (Occupational Therapy) Show in Birmingham.
We learned about the strength of the occupational therapists from our retail partners. We asked who the influencer channels of this market were. It could be the orthopedist doctors, the physiotherapists, but we found out that in the UK, it’s the occupational therapists.
We learned from our retailers that the occupational therapists are highly involved in their patients’ daily life and needs. They are the ones who help the elderly and their families adjust to the new physical limitations, and to learning how to stay at home and get used to their new physical situation.
“When an occupational therapist comes into our store,” one of the retailers told me, “she is the ‘Undisputed Queen’ of the store. Mainly because she guides the elderly about everything related to the new equipment and tools they need.”
The OTs weren’t our customers, they weren’t even those who sell to our customers, but we decided to use this show for our official launch in the UK for three reasons.
- I love using shows and conferences to launch a niche product. If we just launch the product without much fanfare and start talking about it ‘out of the blue’, the chances are that it wouldn’t gather much attention. Especially when we are launching a product that relevant to such a specific target audience. However, if we use a big show within the field, chances are that it will draw a lot more attention. It will also allow us to get attention using less expense.
- The OTs are the biggest influencers in the field. If they don’t believe in the product, it could result in a death sentence for the product. On the other side, if they like and trust the product, it will make the sales much easier.
- It’s a popular show among the suppliers that want to present their products and concepts to the OTs, however, 2-3 months before the event itself, there are always cancellations or last minute changes that create holes you need to fill. And we were that ‘somehow’; we managed to get an excellent price, not only to a booth in a wonderful location, but also an opportunity for a sponsorship of the hottest ‘Networking Lounge’, which was the coffee meeting space.
Now, we had not only to produce all the launch materials, we also had two spaces of the show to design and build. Piece of cake… (not really…)
The time: September 26th. The show opening day: November 21st. Quite a challenge for a small startup just starting out!
So, we had to replan our launch. We already had a launch brief, now we had to prepare another brief for the show.
A brief is a document we prepare before any main marketing activity that consists from 6-8 main points to consider, the objectives of the activity, the measurable goals (how we measure success), the target audience, and the time table.
The show’s brief for SitnStand had three main objectives:
- To be noticed by the OTs. Meaning that the relevant OTs saw the SitnStand product.
- To gain the affection, trust, and legitimation from the occupational therapists.
- To start building engagement with the relevant occupational therapists, to get their emails and other info to establish an ongoing connection with them.
We had a measurable goal for each of the objectives above.
I firmly believe that, in business, we shouldn’t take a step without knowing exactly what we want to achieve. And then, build a focused plan that will bring us there.
We also had all other needed information in that brief.
To sum up the opportunities we saw in choosing the OT’s show as our launch event, let’s go over the benefits of taking part in such an exhibition:
Having a booth in an expertise show aimed at your target audience is one of the best marketing activities for startups.
It enables you to interact with your audience, get immediate responses to your product, attract potential customers, generate leads and sales, learn about your market, and mark the competition landscape.
It is also one of my personal favorite ways to launch a new product or service into the market.
Following our objectives as described in the brief we planed the look and feel and the activities in the show.
We met with our art director, Atar Lustig Monnickendam, who has been a part of the team since the early stages. She designed the company’s logo once the market strategy was defined, was a major part of creating the video, and she is involved in everything related to the visual aspects of the company.
The first step was to complete the visual branding process we started with creating a video (which was created a year earlier and was found to be one of our best tools) to focus on our presence in the show.
The first decision was to keep the same experience in both, the sponsorship space and our booth.
Based on the visual identity of the new website, which was built according to the new logo concept, Atar designed the most significant piece of our presence, which is the back panel of our booth. It wasn’t easy and both Atar and myself felt stuck several times during the three days of working on the panel design. I had a few versions that I didn’t think would create the powerful, intelligent experience I thought it should create.
However, then I landed the winning design. The moment I saw it, I knew this was an excellent base for our total look-and-feel in the show.
From there we easily finished the leading design of each of the parts that helped us to create the impression we wished for.
For both spaces, we chose the best carpet color, and then all the branding elements of the sponsorship space, the giveaway that was designed for a target audience that doesn’t accept gifts as an act of total loyalty to their patient’s favor.
We ordered the furniture and got an amount of huge help from one of our retail partners.
We were in an insane race to have it all ready on time (We decided on the show only two months before, remember?). On the day, we, being the team of four presenters, arrived at the last minute, ready to fly to the show in Birmingham, each of us with full two suitcases with all the materials ready for the show.
I will save the stories about the show and the launch itself, and especially to the responses we received, for my next post.
Here are a few photos from the show, the branding materials, and the outcome of all the plans.
I do want to tell you that we exceeded every one of our objectives and this was the best show we could have wished for.
Consistency, memorability, and differentiation!
Photos from the show: