Why Over 80% of Product Launches Fail

So what does GTM Strategy has to do with all of this?

No matter how successful your pilots were or how incredible your technology, the lack of a solid go-to-market plan will dramatically increase your new product’s chance of failure.

Remember Windows Vista? Or more recently Google Glasses? Despite being new products from two of the world’s largest tech titans, both failed spectacularly. This should be your wake-up call. 

History is littered with disastrous product launches. In fact, according to Professor Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School, 80% of new product launches end in failure. While he wasn’t addressing the hi-tech industry in particular, failure can be even more of a problem when it comes to technology startups. 

Why do so many new products fail?

The intuitive answer could be that the products themselves just aren’t good enough. Or, maybe, that the market wasn’t ready for a particular product — the classic excuse of many failed innovative startups. The truth, however, may be different. 

Hi-tech startups are surrounded (and often founded) by technologists that have very little knowledge of market needs, target audience, or selling methodologies. It’s only when they raise seed funding, and are under pressure to quickly commercialize their product, that they realize how little they know about what they should do next.

The reality is that failing product launches more often than not result from the lack of a smart, solid go-to-market strategy during those early stages after finishing the first funding rounds, or even before.

The most common mistakes startups make

To give a sense of just how easily this can happen to so many startups with great potential and innovative products, but without a solid go-to-market strategy, let’s go over a few painfully common mistakes:

  • Failure to conduct a thorough, independent, unbiased market research.
  • Failure to understand the product ecosystem and market, including the competition.
  • Failure to pinpoint the right target audience and acknowledge their goals and needs.
  • Failure to identify where to meet that target audience and what to say to them.
  • Failure to orchestrate and combine the holy grail of product, sales, and marketing.

These mistakes are often the result of one fundamental flaw commonly found in startups — they are used to thinking solely in product and technology terms. But, when a startup is looking to storm the market with a new product, it is vital they start thinking outwardly and from the customer’s perspective.

The potential problem with successful pilots

So, you’ve had a few successful pilots. And now you think you’re good to go. But if you don’t have a proper go-to-market strategy in place, at some point, you’ll get stuck. 

The first few pilots conducted by many startups often rely on existing contacts they have. This means they are therefore not forced to actually pitch. Thus, the pilot they conducted with a bank, for example, may have been made possible by a brother of one of the founders who holds a senior position there. The fact they are not going to market cold to pitch the benefits of their product means they are unlikely to fully understand if they are targeting the right audience or persona, or even the right market (a pilot conducted with an Israeli firm may be of little relevance if your market is actually firms operating in the UK). So, all of these pilots may have been a waste of effort and time. 

When you have a go-to-market plan in place, you will know exactly the correct personas, audiences, companies and locations your pilots should target. You will know what they should achieve and how to get there. This allows you to focus your efforts.

So, what do you do now?

Stop, take a breath. Don’t start with any marketing campaigns just yet. Don’t hire your first sales team member. Don’t over-invest in product development. 

It’s too early. Get a clear picture of the road before you drive it. It should not take long — a few weeks or a couple of months — to save you from becoming just another casualty among the 80% of failed product launches.

Redirecting your focus (from internal product development) to the marketplace will help you build a robust plan. This will help you combine and align product, marketing and sales efforts to support your startup’s growth. 


And if you are still unsure and need to dive deeper into go-to-market strategy read our blog on Go-To-Market Strategy – The ‘DOs,’ The ‘DON’Ts,’ And The ‘HOWs

6 Tips to Create a Killer B2B Sales Presentation

Developing a pitch-perfect sales presentation to sell B2B tech products is one of the most difficult challenges a content marketer will face. Sales and marketing see things differently, and a sales presentation is where sales-marketing misalignment most commonly comes to boiling point. If a marketer is successful in developing a sales presentation that the sales team is happy to use, it’s a good sign the organization is aligned. And if the sales presentation helps move a lead up the sales funnel – that’s a win.

Here are a few tips for marketers looking to successfully navigate the minefield of creating a sales presentation that rocks:

Tip #1: Just listen 

Most marketers know the organization’s messaging inside and out. After all, they created it. But the truth is, unless you are constantly talking to potential clients and prospects, you don’t really know what makes them tick. And that’s why you need your sales team’s feedback before you start.

Here’s a list of some of the questions you need answers to, assuming you know the product and the market:

  • How is this sales presentation going to be used? Face-to-face, through an online meeting, as a send-out?
  • Is the sales presentation the first touch-point between sales and the prospect? What does the prospect know before getting this sales presentation?
  • What are the sales team’s expectations regarding this presentation? What is it intended to achieve?
  • How many competitor sales presentations does the prospect/potential client get to see? How hard is it to stand out?
  • What works best when pitching the product to potential clients?

Tip #2: Keep it grounded – start with the pain

Marketers have a tendency to aim high, think big and be inspirational. Sales, on the other hand, have to ground their pitch in order to sell. Sales presentations need to do likewise and speak to a very specific pain. A good place to start is the pain point the potential client is experiencing.

Tip #3: Be actionable and very specific about the next steps

The buyer needs to know the solution will have an impact in a relatively short time frame. That’s not always possible with Enterprise products that take time to deploy. The important thing, if this is the case, is to show very clear next steps and a path that is both impactful and efficient. Oh, and of course, your buyer within the organization should feel like this process is not going to put pressure on them. You – the vendor – will do the heavy lifting and support the organization along the way. When you develop your presentation remember that the buyer wants to be accredited for doing something meaningful for the organization.

Tip #4: Sales put on one-man-shows: one presentation does not fit all

We’d like to think that if we are specific enough about our audience – industry, role, etc. – we can create one presentation and run with it. It doesn’t work like that in one-on-one sales presentations. For example, we sell content marketing. But it’s a different presentation when we approach a potential client that has an in-house marketing team, versus someone that relies mostly on outsourcing marketing initiatives.

Always leave room for the salesperson to change the presentation based on the individual needs and challenges of the potential buyer. Create the presentation in a way that’s clear where the information changes.

Tip #5: Make sure you cover all the basics:

  • The specific pain point 
  • The unique way we solve it 
  • How and why our product works 
  • Why we should be trusted 
  • What it takes to get there: Implementation process and next steps 

But never assume there’s really ‘a template’…

These sections can be interpreted in different ways, of course. The product section can be a demo, or just a good description. The “Why Us” can be testimonials, case studies, or hard numbers that support the product benefits. You just need to ensure you have all these in mind when developing your presentation.

To achieve this we create a slide toolkit the sales team feels comfortable using, and can easily update and customize their presentations. The ability to adapt and personalize the presentation for each salesperson leads us every step of the way during the creation process, from wording, to image selection to format and file management.

Tip #6: Every piece of content has to reflect the brand and product narrative 

Make sure the X factor you worked so hard to weave into your product story has a key role in everything sales put out there. And, more importantly, that they feel passionate about telling that story. Remember, your product story aligns your entire team, your investors and your ecosystem around your product and the unique challenges it solves.

It’s time to test yourself:

Do your titles tell the story?

My golden rule for every deck, right before you think you’re done, is to copy all slide titles or key claims into one document and then read it. Did you get the basics? How fast? Did you get excited? If the answer is yes — hand the deck over to sales, they’ll know what to do with it. If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board and work out the flow of slides or title copy until all clicks. 

Want to learn more on how we give sales and marketing teams happily-ever-afters? Check out our Blog, or contact us.

Every Startup’s Success Starts With The Right Messaging. Here’s How It’s Done

Let’s do a quick and dirty exercise: Go to your office’s kitchen. Wait for the first person on your team to come along. While he or she innocently make coffee, ask them:

What does our product do?

Then ask – if our customers buy and use our product, how do their lives change? What do we promise them?

Got your answers? Great. Now, repeat this process with two more people.

Our guess is that you got three different answers. Surprised? We’re not. It is very common, especially for startups, to have messaging misalignment. We have watched three co-founders, who have been sharing the same desk for over a year, wrestle with disbelief as they realize each of them is actually working in a completely different startup.

Reaching consistent messaging is difficult

The way you communicate about your product is critical to your success. Eventually it’s about sales and how you project your value to your potential customers. But there’s no way you can conquer marketing and sales without internalizing your messaging. Your team should be speaking in one succinct voice before they can project it. That voice is unique not only to your product, but to your company’s DNA. Achieving this voice, and having it shared across the company, is not easy, to say the least. In this article, we’d like to offer a methodology we developed that helps startups define messaging. It’s called the Messaging Hierarchy.

What is a Messaging Hierarchy?

Essentially, a Messaging Hierarchy is a method that helps crystallize the company’s positioning. The Messaging Hierarchy is the foundation for all content written – whether a website, a brochure, or a sales presentation. If you get the Messaging Hierarchy right, you have a document that supports any marketing or sales effort. It is your true north.

Here’s the structure – and an example – of a basic Messaging Hierarchy:

Why is it a hierarchy? The idea is that the more you move up the pyramid, components are more flexible and tend to change. At the bottom, there is the product or service description. In some cases, below the product description, there is a company description and the company’s values. But for startups, the product description is usually a good place to start.

What’s a good product description? Here’s one for a product most of us know well:

Cloud-based applications for sales, service, marketing, and more.

That is Salesforce’s product description, taken straight from the Salesforce website. The interesting thing is that this description hasn’t changed for years.While the product evolved tremendously, the core and purpose haven’t changed. That’s how you should strive to define your product. It sounds easy, but in truth – it rarely is.

Defining Your Value Proof

Next, you define your value proof. Value proof is what makes your customers trust you. For a startup in seed, this is a bit harder. But you can talk about the great team you’ve assembled, patents pending, or the testimonial from your design partner. You would use this section for all your marketing and sales. And don’t be shy.

Back to the Salesforce example, here’s what they say as their value proof:

The world’s #1 CRM platform with 150,000+ like-minded companies and a massive community of experts and evangelists committed to your company’s growth.

You can’t really argue with 150,000+ customers. If they trust them, you can too.

Finding Your Differentiator

Now, that’s a bit tricker. Startups, especially the more technological ones, tend to talk about product features instead of talking about a real differentiator. Ask yourself – what do I have that my competitors will have a hard time replicating? That’s why your customer will pick you over the competition. It’s rarely about the technology. It’s something that touches your customer’s pain or need.

Salesforce say: We don’t require IT experts to set up or manage.

Overtime we get to know our customers really well. And as we get to know them, we understand what troubles them – and how we can support them. And our answer to “why us?” may change. We should be able to convey the answer to where we are right now based on what we know.

The Elusive Value Proposition

So much has been talked about the term “value proposition.” We want to simplify what it means. The value proposition is your promise to your customers. It should essentially answer one question: If your customer uses your product, how would their lives change?

It’s a big question, and not lightly answered.

What the value proposition is NOT is a tagline.

Before everything else, it is a clear explanation for your reason to be. We help our customers discover new trails to success using the #1 CRM platform is how Salesforce project their value proposition in their marketing materials. Two years ago, it was:

We empower companies to connect to their customers in a whole new way. What made sense then, does not make sense today.

What the Messaging Hierarchy is and is not

It’s not copy – or it doesn’t have to be. It’s the documentation on which great copy can be developed.
It’s a marketing brief. Give it to anyone who writes for you, and you make their job easier and more effective.
It can be tailored and adjusted per product, or per persona. The initial work is just the basics.

And what’s most important: It should be created by your entire team – and then shared with them. It’s not a painless process, but it’s worth it. We’ve seen many startups thrive on their messaging hierarchy. Oh, and the right time to create it – was yesterday.

Need a hand getting started? We should meet.