Launching a new product into the marketplace can be an expensive endeavour. It takes time to understand your target audience, and even longer to build awareness and trust.
One of the more powerful, but under-utilised approaches – available to businesses or all sizes – is to work alongside existing players who already know the industry. Whether they are industry bodies, influential individuals, or other businesses with mutual goals, having them on side can provide you with an immense head start.
Striking up a relationship with an existing industry body should be near the top of the list for anybody seeking to fast track their route to market.
Industry bodies are typically well connected, have extensive membership databases and strong social media followings, and may even run popular annual conferences or events.
In many cases they are also well trusted – sometimes administering quality assurance schemes or accreditation. Think Master Builders or Qualmark; if you were launching a new building product or a tourism offering, these would be ideal choices.
One way to forge a relationship with an industry body is to involve them in development of your product, either through seeking their advice and expertise, or offering an early version of your product to them to test with their membership.
This early version might be offered free of charge to a select group of their members – helping you to gain exposure and providing valuable insights and feedback based on their experience. The aim of either of these processes it to gain the buy in of the industry body.
Once a relationship has been developed, you might offer an exclusive discount to members of the industry body, or perhaps form a partnership that involves offering them a certain percentage of every sale to their membership in exchange for their ongoing promotion of the product.
The advantage of the latter is that the industry body is incentivised to let people know about your product, and is therefore more likely to put some thought and effort into the best way to promote it to its members.
Working with an influencer – whether they be a an individual or a group – can be a cost-effective strategy. It can also come into its own when you are trying to launch a product overseas.
Your business may be well known in the New Zealand, but only a select few Kiwi companies have enough recognition to go it alone in offshore. By working with an influencer who believes in your product, you can leverage their existing audience and capitalise on the brand they may have already developed.
A hospitality business looking to break into the Australian market might try to forge a relationship with a well-known Australian chef, while an outdoor gear retailer might look to partner with an organisation that manages a popular long-distance hiking trail to grow awareness among walkers.
When doing this, it is important that their values align well with those of your business and product. If you are competing on price, don’t align yourself with a celebrity or business that is firmly entrenched in the luxury market, and vice versa.
Last, but not least, remember that the business community can be a supportive bunch. Not every business is a competitor, and you can often achieve more by working together.
Partnering with other businesses can help get your name out there, while also adding value for both parties.
For example, if you were launching a new wine, you might work with a well-respected wedding venue, or somebody who does corporate gifts. You may need to offer your wine to them at a lower-than-ideal rate to begin with, but if you gain exposure to the right crowd, this can be a valuable way of gaining awareness among your target audience.
In all of the instances mentioned above, the key is to start with your ideal customer. Where do they get their information, who do they trust, and what else might they be doing – in tandem with using the product you are launching.
If you can answer those questions you will be well placed decide who you might work alongside for mutual success.