Let’s just create a marketing plan, hire some salespeople and hit the streets to sell our products. After all, generating revenue is as simple as that, isn’t it?
Whatever your product, whether a simple widget, a software product or service, or a very complicated, life-saving medical device, you need to define your market, know your competition, and know your customer and their needs.
Know thy self
Marketing plans call for a definition of all factors needed to get your product into the commercial market. They are your “blueprint” for success, calling out everything from developing your brand, advertising, identifying the decision-maker and getting a signed order.
At one of my prior companies in the medical device space, we spent a considerable amount of time and money rebranding our company, as feedback from customers indicated they weren’t sure if we were a product or service company.
We seemed pretty confused about that ourselves as well. We found out that we were a solid product company, but that the software component was a driver for the hardware sale and that our superior service component separated us from the competition.
We rebranded the company and focused our efforts on making sure our customers knew that our products were more accurate than the competition because of the software component and more reliable because of our dedication to customer service and support. Revenues rose seven-fold in five years. Nice!
Play it smart
As for sales, more “feet on the street” isn’t always the answer. I had a board member once ask me as CEO, “What will happen when we simply double our sales force?” My short answer was, “We’ll go out of business twice as fast.”
We did not know our customers, their decision process or who was the decision-maker. Was it the doctor, the physician or the administrator? In the end, all three had a say and we had to satisfy each of their needs to land orders.
Sometimes a business will need to sell via distributors or channel partners, or by a combination of partners and direct sales. And today, when many products are sold over the internet with a click of your smartphone, there’s yet another avenue of sales to consider.
And then there is the global market, which for most products, triples the opportunity for sales. But even though companies should plan to sell globally, I would suggest focusing on successfully addressing the domestic market. Going outside the United States gets expensive, time consuming and risky. Going international is not for the meek and mild-mannered. It is easy to trust the wrong advisers and partners, and to get your intellectual property hijacked.
Just like any venture, having a plan is good, but success is all about execution. The “if you build it, they will come” strategy only works in the movies like “Field of Dreams,” and not in real life. Many great products never make it to market. Make sure yours isn’t one of them by having a great blueprint and following that plan.
John W. Manzetti is the managing director of Manzetti Group LLC. John formed Manzetti Group in 2017, after more than 40 years of business success, to provide guidance to early-stage and growth companies across multiple industries. In 2017, he co-founded JTM LLC, a company revolutionizing the travel experience with its patent-pending AI-based product, DestryDoTM. John also wrote a book in 2018, “Small Bites of the Elephant,” where he uses straight talk and anecdotes to address complex business issues.