Rocket Fuel

Let's Go to Jupiter

Why are we so single-minded about the discipline of launching at Introworks?

Why work so hard to get off to the right start when the analytics and automation tools available to any marketing team today make it so easy to iterate and adjust as you go?

Maybe, thanks to technology, you can get away with kinda winging it?

But no.

Think about launching an actual rocket into space.

NASA (or pick your space agency or billionaire) doesn’t go into a mission saying, “Let’s go to Jupiter. We’ll blast the rocket into orbit in the general direction and tweak from there.”

You won’t hear them muse, “Let’s go to Jupiter…or maybe Mars. Heck, it’s probably on the way. In fact, let’s go to a bunch of planets.”

They won’t say, “We’re going to Jupiter but not sure if we have enough fuel or momentum to slingshot around that bad boy out there.”

Definitely not, “We’re heading to Jupiter, and I sure hope we’ve accounted for gravity and other physics stuff that could cause logistical issues.”

Okay, silly analogy. But seriously, you can’t approach these complex, high-stakes business challenges the same way as you do the other 80 percent of marketing activities.

The adage, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” is generally true. Heck, I just watched a basketball team start a game down 16 points and go on to win the national championship.

 

 

But in these off-to-the-right-start business challenges, it’s a different ballgame. There’s too much at stake, it’s too late to correct misperceptions once they’re out in the world, and it’s too hard to recover revenue or share you never gained.

As with a rocket launch, alignment, aim, and articulation in a product or service launch are critical.

Align

Alignment is what gives you the momentum to overcome gravity and arrive at your destination. It’s about the process you follow, and the teams you form. It’s crucial that your organization is aligned on goals, strategies, branding, all of it. (Imagine a NASA launch where everyone is not on the same page.)

Aim

Aim encompasses many things—how you segment, prioritize, plan and measure success. Mostly, though, and too-often underappreciated is that the focus is towards the customer’s brain—the emotional part of the brain.

Articulate

Articulation is pivotal. You can have everything else—aim and alignment—in perfect order, but storytelling, messaging, and branding errors can blow up the whole effort. Words matter. Visuals matter. Experience matters.

Stick to the discipline. Align, aim, and articulate right, and you’ll be in the space you want to be. Quicker to revenue, stealing market share, ready to acquire a complimentary product or service.

That’s when you bring in all the measuring, managing, and adjusting you, your team, and modern technology can muster.

You want the win. That means doing everything in your power to achieve it.

Let’s go to Jupiter. We’d love to help.

The Value Equation written in white over a close up on the rocket engine and exhaust pipes of Saturn 5 rocket

People think about value in a lot of ways, but the common denominator tends to be money. Weigh the benefit you expect to get from a product or service over its cost, and the difference is value.

That’s not wrong.

But if you want to elevate the value of an offering in the eyes of your customers — which, of course, you do — here’s a different formula for you:

Value = Joy – Pain

Value is Emotional

The equation is emotional, not numerical. It makes sense, because buying decisions are made emotionally. Yes, that includes B2B, even med tech.

In his book Under Think It: A Marketing Strategy Guidebook for Everyone, Adam Pierno explains how it works:

“We essentially weigh the joy we derive from a product. This is heavily skewed by the perception of the brand. [Our emphasis] Once our brains score how much joy the thing will provide, we begin deducting points for pain […] If the pain doesn’t cut too far into the joy, we act. We click. We subscribe. We buy.”

When you calculate the value equation this way, you’re forced to go beyond features and benefits and look at the bigger picture.

You think holistically, considering the entire universe around your offer.

That could include delivery times, training packages, warranties, maintenance, education, access to experts and manufacturing capabilities, not to mention the experience you’re delivering with your website, social presence and other communication channels.

Let’s say you’re a small medical device company and you’ve got an amazing product. What you haven’t got is the resources of the big players. Maybe you rely on channel partners for service, training, even manufacturing. Maybe you don’t have the most sophisticated, content-rich website.

You can still create immense joy in your offer. But you need to be clear on where you’re potentially inducing pain, and reducing value, and have answers for those things.

And juice up the joy. Have a story that wins, shape a brand that speaks to your audiences, be the company customers love to work with.

We can help with all that and more. Ready to amp the joy and improve your value equation? Let’s get in touch.

The Tangibility Hack. Background is a closeup of the Saturn V rocket engines treated with an orange and blue filter.

Marketing Intangible Services

So you sell a service. It could be preventive maintenance contracts, medical education, business consulting, systems integration—anything that’s tough to see, touch, or put in a package and ship.  

Since your customers can’t look at what you’re selling or get a demonstration, or readily compare it with competitors, how do you stand apart? 

We get asked that question a lot. And, for once, there’s a relatively simple answer. Convert your tangible offering into something tangible.

Here’s a simple rule any good marketer can benefit from:

If you have a service (an intangible offering), you need to make the value tangible. Inversely, if you have a product, you need to make the benefit intangible, but that’s another blog. 

The tangibility hack works because it lets you sidestep that nagging question in any service business: what makes you different and better? When you give your audience a tangible hook, they can ground themselves in your offering and better understand how the value impacts their needs. 

Creating tangibility gives you a different, ownable path, and there are several ways you can do it. Here are a few we like. 

Three Ways to Differentiate Intangible Offerings 

Make a metaphor. 

This is a classic play. Because, well, it works. Find a thing or symbol that characterizes your unique positioning. You know, “Like a Good Neighbor.” Hey, Introworks has a rocket. Just be sure your metaphor is a real thing that can be understood easily. Otherwise, you’re doubling down on the intangibles and that sends you down a rabbit hole of abstraction. 

Take an attitude.  

What’s your adjective? What describes you? Once you know your values and brand attributes, pick one and run with it. Could be how you approach every challenge. Tenacious. Geeky. Pioneering. Whatever it is, lean into that. Obviously, these values need to be absolutely absolutely true to who you are at your very core.   

Productize.  

Processes and business models can be tangible assets. When people and technology work together to create a solution, it becomes real. Call it something like an “engine.” Or brand it with a meaningful name. Once people understand the noun of what you provide, they can better understand the verb of what you do. 

If you’re introducing or revitalizing a service offering, we’re here to deliver tangible results.

White text that says: Bucking the Biz Babble," overlayed close up on the rocket engine and exhaust pipes of Saturn 5 rocket. The image is treated with a blue and orange filter.

We’ve all been there. At the airport, next to the guy with ear buds pacing back and forth, seemingly talking to himself as he prattles on about “synergistic asset allocation for seamless transparency.” 

Uhhh…we have questions. First, why is he talking like he’s playing MBA Bingo? Second, who asks his wife to pick up milk like that?

Many of us laugh at a situation like this. Then pull out similar business jargon when we’re creating our next comms piece. 

Sure, there are good reasons for industries and professions to develop and communicate in their own language. They communicate with each other, which makes them more credible in a business conversation. A wrong word in that context is a sure sign of being an “outsider.” Also, like lawyers or medical professionals, language provides a perceived advantage. 

But here’s the thing. No one likes that. Because no one talks like that in their real lives. After all, the omnipresent usage of impenetrable business lexicon that permeates the quotidian business conversation can be counterproductive. (Oops, there, we did it.) 

It would have been much better to say, “Using too many complex words hurts your message.” 

The purpose of communication is to attract, engage, and prompt your audience. Too much biz-babble just confuses your audience and turns them away. To say nothing of the almighty search engines.

Take a moment and Google a couple different businesses. Go to their site and you’ll soon find telltale signs of business speak gone astray. There it is nestled in paragraph four: “By taking a holistic approach, we’ve reengineered the paradigm.” Wow, powerful stuff. Huh? 

So, write it straight. Instead of, “We employ expertly skilled sales engineers to ensure maximum revenue optimization,” try the friendlier and more effective, “Our people really know your business and they’ll make your sales numbers sing.” 

It works because it sounds like a person wrote it to have a conversation with another person. And that’s what you’re trying to make happen, right?

Ready to ditch the biz-babble? Get in touch and we’ll help give you some simply smarter ways to communicate. 

A Cart Without a Horse

READY…GO…SET!

Definitely not the way you want to run a race. But it isn’t unusual for companies to run a launch that way—sprinting over the starting line without having set themselves up for success by doing first things first. 

Specifically, many companies forget about the first audience they need to address in a launch: The internal audience. 

In fact, any launch that doesn’t begin with the people inside your organization isn’t just putting the cart before the horse. That’s a cart without a horse, a cart that’s going nowhere. 

It’s an understandable oversight. We work so hard to connect with external audiences—to map out their personas, speak their language, meet them where they are with what they want—it’s easy to overlook the internal audience. But when you do that, you’re getting ahead of yourself.

By starting your launch internally, you can practice your messaging and try out your tactics. Where are the questions? What doesn’t resonate? Your internal launch gives you a chance to refine and optimize before you go external.

More importantly, it gives you a chance to create champions and advocates. No one likes to be surprised or feel left out. Including your own people in the launch makes them part of the process and treats them as insiders. This creates all-important internal alignment and momentum.  

It gives your cart the horsepower to move forward with purpose.   

Wondering how you can best prep for internal launch? We’re ready to help. Just get in touch.

Finally the big moment has come—the moment when engineering hands off a new product to marketing to be launched into the world. This momentous occasion arrives with an almost audible sigh of relief. You know—the Aaahhhhh Moment. It’s been a long and dusty road, but at last our work is done! Aaahhhhhh! Where’s the beer and chips?

Woo hooo!! Except wait a sec. This launch moment—the great handoff, should really not be happening.

Let’s back up and get some context.

In the prototypical new product development (NPD) stage-gate process, launch is viewed as the LAST stage. But of course, it’s the FIRST stage in the market lifecycle. It’s the last-first stage, and it’s pivotal.

And it goes awry when it’s handled as an abrupt handoff from engineering to marketing—a handoff that comes with a drop in intensity and intention, as though all the real work has been done, and all marketing has to do is communicate it.

There has been no coordination, no alignment, no shared knowledge or lockstep progress from early on. So that handoff is not a smooth passing of the baton. There’s a loss of momentum, and lack of direction and focus.

The alternative? Marketing and product development work hand-in-hand to develop products conceived from the beginning to fill real needs in the market, delivering optimal opportunity for success.

Ready to get your team’s working in lockstep? We’d love to help.

Launch Fizzles Part 3: The Krahmflop

We’re wrapping our three-part Launch Fizzles series (if you haven’t seen Part 1 and Part 2 yet, here they are) with another frequent non-flyer: The Krahmflop.

Here’s how it sounds:

 

Funny word, but not funny when it happens.Line graph titled Krahmflop. Line starts in lower left quadrant and has a gradual incline to mid upper right quadrant, where it takes a sharp downward hit until it reaches the bottom in the bottom right corner.What’s sad about a Krahmflop is that the thing being launched is the subject of so much internal love, excitement, and buzz. It’s your precious child. But then it goes out into the world and it’s like a kid who can’t get a seat at the popular table.

Nobody cares.

After all kinds of buildup and fanfare, it turns out that the marketplace is massively indifferent. It’s Gatsby during his early years.

When a Krahmflop happens, it can usually be chalked up to poor aim. Aim, as in targeting the powerful, emotional needs and wants of a particular audience. Maybe it wasn’t crystal clear who the real audience was. Maybe nobody bothered to do the homework and learn what really drives those people.

Maybe it was a “build it and they will come” mentality.

On the other hand there’s that old chestnut: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford may or may not have said it, but no matter. The point is, there’s something to be said for innovation guided by vision and conviction, rather than a narrow response to customer feedback.

Even so, losing sight of the customer in the product definition and design process, and letting a fixation on innovation obstruct your focus on them is risky.

If your company gets all excited about new and not needs, there may be a Krahmflop in your future. But don’t worry, the would-be flop can be flipped. We’ll help you fly.

Do you remember the Thingywhatchacallit? Of course not. Because that launch was a shining example of our second commonly-experienced launching fizzle, The MeetooOOZE.

Last time we examined the notorious BabupPLURFT and — sputter, clunk — what can happen when efforts are misaligned. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

A MeetooOOZE launch is just what it looks like: “Me too” with a big ol’ “ooze” at the end. It’s an offering that’s perceived as lacking in noteworthiness or distinguishing appeal. A Me-Too. An also-ran. A product or service quickly blended in with the crowd. Lost in the noise. A non-factor.

Here’s what it sounds like in a business:

 

Perceived is the keyword here. That’s because your offering may or may not be significantly different. What turns the launch into a MeetooOOZE is poor communication.

It very well may be (we hope) that your offering is quite different in a meaningful way, addressing a real market need. When that uniqueness is not conveyed in a compelling way or translated accurately, it can get lost in the sea of sameness.

On the other hand, you may have intentionally developed a me-too product. That’s good strategy; go forth and steal share. But by all means, don’t ooze that puppy into the market with me-too creative or diminished strategic efforts. Tell your story in a unique way and with conviction or you end up in the same place — nowhere meaningful in the mind. A MeetooOOZE.

Communication is integral to differentiation and success. In fact, HOW you communicate is often more important than what you’re communicating. Especially today.

If you’re concerned your launch may be on a MetooOOZE path, we’re happy to talk further. If not, or in the meantime, make sure to check back for the final installment of our Launch Fizzles series: the dreaded KraAHMflop.

Ah yes, the BabupPLURFT. Say it with us: Ba-bup-plurft. It’s the sound of a launch gone wrong. A classic, in fact.

When you’ve seen as many launches as we have at Introworks, you begin to notice distinct patterns in the ones that go awry. In fact, some of those patterns turn out to be so pervasive, we’ve given them names. And sounds. And trajectories.

While you likely have never seen the word, chances are you’ve witnessed a BabupPLURFT.

Here’s what it looks like:

And what it sounds like in a business:

 

A BabupPLURFT launch behaves pretty much like it sounds. It goes in fits and starts. It jerks, sputters and splats. It’s a launch where lack of alignment between teams leads to loss of momentum. And then: FIZZLE. PLOP.

When should you suspect a BabupPLURFT is underway? Look for a pattern of missteps, disconnects, rework and lack of forward motion.

A BabupPLURFT is largely caused by a lack of teamwork, often originating with a misalignment between engineering and marketing. In the B2B world, this commonly happens because there’s an outdated perception that the job of marketing is simply to communicate to the outside world about the products engineering creates. In this scenario, there’s typically a handoff from product development to marketing. It happens too close to launch. People aren’t on the same page. Confusion ensues. And things can unravel real fast. Obviously, not what you’re after.

What does the non-BabupPLURFT scenario look like? Cross-disciplinary teams—R&D, Sales, Marketing, etc.– collaborating earlier in product development. Then moving together through a synced process to get internal buy-in at every milestone. Now that’s a sequence that leads to successful launch.

Alignment creates momentum, which powers successful trajectory at launch.

Wondering if you’re in danger of the dreaded BabupPLURFT? Let’s connect and find out.

Uh-oh. What was that noise? Sounded like a Krahmpflopt or maybe it was a Me-too-ooze — a few of the other classic fizzles you’d rather avoid. Don’t fret, we’ll be giving you the skinny on those sounds in upcoming posts.

A Launching Agency

Introworks
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