3 New Product Pitch Lessons From iPlayer Mega Media Initial Sell

As if you need any reminding just how difficult it can be to ‘sell’ a new product. Here’s a story I picked up in the weekend’s press. It relates to the trauma getting what is arguably the world’s most successful web service ever introduced by a media concern. An internal sale with prize lessons for general solution selling of new wares.

In the UK anywhere, anytime you can access iPlayer. It allows for watching just about any BBC programme – radio and tv – from the past seven days as a ‘catch-up’ service. And there’s many more items available as general on-demand feeds.

So popular is this that depending on who you read, it typically accounts for anything between 12 and 20 percent of all UK internet traffic. A soaraway success on any measure.

So you’d think that the initial idea was readily accepted, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

“In BBC legend, it took 84 internal meetings for the small team committed to the iPlayer to bring the idea to fruition.”

84 meetings!

And there’s more juice in the article. Especially the supposed original pitch;

“Too busy to catch every episode of your favourite BBC3 shows?” Stuck on the train or bus? Working late or drinking early? Then use 3VOD – BBC3’s streaming video on-demand service to request a recording of any BBC3 programme to watch on the channel’s website whenever you like, within the next three days …”

Now, there’s much to praise in this opening.

I love that straight from the off they nail the problem they’re resolving. I guess that the issue they faced was that their audience on the day was as far removed from their product’s audience as you can imagine. Aged grey suited technophobes as opposed to continual myspace and bebo dwellers of the time. Sounds a struggle.

It seems so obvious looking back.

‘You live online. And now so does your favourite telly.’

There’s a trio of terrific pointers to take from this to any b2b release.

  1. Are you properly articulating the problem you are eradicating?
  2. Is the problem one your audience recognises, aka, is your audience the correct one?
  3. Are you prepared for the number of meetings you’re going to need?

Of these, it is the last that I find brings most trouble.

Salespeople can understand they must better craft their ‘pitch’ and need to secure the right attendees. But plan for a lengthy bid? Well. It is a major reason why so many new product launches fail. Excited reps expect instant take-up. And when it doesn’t materialise, energy drops. Just at the time it needs maintaining.

Whilst you can be forgiven for not mapping a mammoth 84-meet campaign, you should anticipate something of a length beyond the initial pitch and a follow-up. Are you?


Footnote, whilst these observations surround the 2002 formulation of the idea, I also enjoyed reading about the organisational political landscape in the run up to its 25 Dec 2007 launch via this 2009 Wired article.  The exposure of a problem with the product in the second and third paragraphs by a real-life user is delicious. And I’d love to argue with a line like, “each new target is “another brick in the backpack on the death march”.”!

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