We can indeed occasionally learn from our retail brethren. Over the weekend I caught insight from one of those barmily successful shifter’s of home-based products. The kind that blanket telly shopping. John Mills began in England in the mid-80s with items that he sold from stands at such as the enormous Ideal Home Exhibition and DIY shows.
He progressed to using in-store demonstrators. He grew frustrated that good people were hard to find. Not just on skill level. Many would spend too much time down the pub at lunchtime or wind up the shop manager by saying how much more they earned than them. So he was delighted to discover fresh German technology that allowed for retail screen promotions. The main revelation being that the video tape reels would wind itself back to start over.
By way of product sample, in twenty years he’s apparently sold 26m non-slip ironing-board covers.
Although selling to consumers, rather than our commercial arena, I was struck by two key similarities.
The first is that he totally realises how hard it is to find a new product that will sell. And plans accordingly. This is in stark contrast to many a b2b launch plan. In our world it is more or less universally expected each and every one will fly, with zero thought devoted to what happens when ‘actual’ falls so short of ‘expected’.
His core stats are incredible;
1000 – each year he will look at this many possible new products
100 – only ten percent get selected for Testing
20 – of these just a fifth earn a market release
5 – and only a handful end up paying the bills
It probably doesn’t escape you that this equates to only 1 product in 200 being a winner. Half of one percent. He himself acknowledges this to be “such a high attrition rate”.
The number one element of this process for him? Testing. Only this way will you find those that truly work. And here alone is where so many b2b ambitions sadly falter.
The second delicious morsel he passes on is how he judges which may sell well. He only takes a product that has a story to tell.
This is another failing of too many a business launch.
Just because something is ‘new’ does not a story make.
There’s many a format for what creates a cracker here. The best tend to start off with a bit of mystery. There was a problem to be solved. One that was always allowed to get in the way. Then someone finally approached it in a different way. And hey presto, the world can genuinely be made into a happier and better place.
Two winning insights that in my experience are highly applicable to b2b product launches as well. How does your latest release stack up against them?