In our continuing series on connector basics, Bill Garver of APEX Electrical Interconnection Consultants examines the final step of the connector development process: How to successfully launch a new connector product.
In a previous “Connector Basics” article, we discussed how manufacturers must optimize the talents of their employees so that critical needs are addressed to ensure a successful connector development process. The new product process consists of four specific phases, each requiring distinct and different skill sets:
The last phase, the release/launch of a product, is a critical phase in the process, but it is the one that is often overlooked or not recognized for the importance it contributes to the overall success of a new connector design.
Strong marketing skills are necessary to lead this phase. Direct sales or distribution personnel need to be fully armed with the appropriate samples, literature, test data, documentation, competitive analysis, and training to effectively communicate the product features and advantages to prospective customers. Sufficient product must be in inventory to meet the anticipated demand.
Delivery schedules and commitments must be achievable and strictly adhered to, and all product must be delivered on time at acceptable quality levels. Any failures at this phase could dampen the enthusiasm of the sales force and it is rare that there is a second chance to re-energize the sales department. If there are any stumbles in this phase, all of the good work completed in the first three phases could go by the wayside.
In another previous article on implementation/manufacturing, we looked at how initial parts for release should be manufactured from production tooling and be tested, evaluated, and ultimately placed on the shelf for sale. Connectors that meet all of the specified design requirements should be manufactured and tested to validate connector performance. Typically, a product performance specification is developed and published after appropriate testing on initial production parts has been completed. This document is used by sales and application engineers as well as potential users to “spec-in” a product. (There is usually a preliminary product specification developed during the engineering phase. The product specifications are typically developed before the production parts are tested).
Information required for training direct sales/distributors as well as for a successful product launch usually includes:
- Product samples
- Advertising brochures
- Product catalogs
- Product specifications
- Product test reports
- Product pricing
- Downloadable CAD files
- Comparative competitive product features (advantages/disadvantages)
- Comparative competitive pricing
- Comparative competitive product test results
- Product delivery lead times
There are various methods for disseminating this information. If the new product is sufficiently different from other products offered by the company, it could require intensive face-to-face training sessions. If the new product is similar to other connectors offered by the company, simply sending the information to the sales organization along with a conference call may suffice. A lot depends on the familiarization of the sales organization with other products produced by the company.
Depending on the broad industry appeal of the new product and the size of the potential market and marketing budget, it may be advantageous to arrange for news releases in select trade magazines. Usually, the new product marketing unit prepares the article and photographs for the news release. It is also advantageous to provide customers a way to provide feedback on the new product.
Strong marketing skills are needed in this phase. The sales organization must be sufficiently trained and armed with samples and literature to effectively promote the new product. Any slippage in promised delivery dates or product quality will severely hamper the new product introduction and dampen the enthusiasm of the sales force. It is rare that a company has a second chance to re-energize the launch effort and the sales personnel.
Bill Garver of Apex Electrical Interconnection Consultants has 47 years experience in the connector industry, primarily in the management and direction of new product development and operational division management. He held the titles of division manager and director of development engineering at AMP. Garver developed new products throughout the full product life cycle, concept through introduction, for numerous industries including consumer, commercial, computer, industrial, communications, and medical.