Let me paint you a picture.
You have a new product that you’re bringing to market in the next 60 days. You have the opportunity to showcase this new product at the world’s largest and best attended trade show for your industry.
You showcase the product and within hours — you have over 45,000 stories on Google about your new product. And those stories are on sites like cnet.com, LA Times.com, Cult of Mac.com, forbes.com, and gizmodo.com. Each story sings your product’s praises — talking about how useful it will be, how affordable it is and how cool anyone who owns it will feel.
Each and every story includes a picture of your product and a link to the product’s URL.
This is a dream come true, isn’t it? It’s the holy grail of product launches. I don’t know about you — but I am getting a little weepy at the thought.
But wait. You see, there’s a little problem. When you go to any of the 45,000 stories online and you click on www.trakdot.com — you get a 404 page. That’s right — they debut their product at the Consumer Electronics Show and their website isn’t live.
WHAT?? Someone needs to be fired. Today.
Trakdot hit a home run only to find out they were playing at the wrong ballpark on the wrong day. I get it — they’re not ready to ship. But I can’t even imagine the traffic those 45K stories drove to that URL. (The story on CNN.com alone was re tweeted 827 times as of Tuesday afternoon) Grab people’s email addresses and send them a $5 off coupon. Or offer to let them buy a day early if they share their contact information. But don’t invite them over and then lock the door so they can’t come in!
This example — extreme and painful as it may be — reminds me how often companies go to trade shows without doing their homework. And it’s not just trade shows. It’s sending out press releases, doing a mailing to prospects — it’s marketing in general.
Here are some things you can/should do so that you never get caught being this clueless:
Check every detail: Dial every phone number, enter every URL, drive or mapquest every address. If you are going to include contact info — be sure it’s accurate, the people on the other end of the number or address are ready/prepped and it’s exactly where someone reacting to the marketing piece would want to be sent.
Anticipate reactions: Ask yourself — when someone sees this (hears about this, reads this, etc.) what might they do?
- They might share it with others (so we might get even more traffic)
- They might try to contact us (see check details above)
- They might want to buy it (make it easy to find/do)
- They might want to read reviews (share links) or review it (again — share links)
- They might write a blog post (have Google Alerts set up and know the plan in terms of responding)
- They might want more information (make sure the website is live, you have fact sheets to download etc.)
- They might want to inquire about a large/group order (have a directory if they need to reach different people for different types of interactions)
You get the idea… be ready.
Have back up plans in case things go big or go wrong: Sometimes you just can’t anticipate how a market will respond. So have a contingency plan just in case. And you need to have a contingency plan for the incredibly good or the incredibly bad. What if the product reviews are horrible? What if United Airlines decides to buy enough to give everyone in their Mileage Plus program one? You need to be ready for either end of the “oh my God” spectrum.
Don’t let any show/publication/holiday or other outside influence get you to pull the trigger if you are not ready: We all know how big a deal CES is. But no event is worth looking unprepared or stupid. If you aren’t ready — you aren’t ready.
All of these suggestions are true, whether you’re a 25 year old product or brand new. Marketing isn’t just about the sex appeal, flashy stuff. At it’s core, it’s a discipline. It’s about getting the details right. And it’s about thinking something through before you jump.
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and once the media has “discovered” you, they aren’t going to discover you again. Be ready or stay home until you are.