How Robroy Industries tossed out the playbook on product launches and instead used email, mail, magazine ads, and videos to build suspense and anticipation for its new stainless steel product line.
There was a time when a new product launch was shrouded in secrecy, with no one who wasn’t in the manufacturer’s inner circle knowing what was coming to market and when. Dropping subtle hints to their top distributors, those manufacturers would work tirelessly on the product design, manufacture, and launch in secrecy until one day, wham! The new product or line was introduced to the whole world at once.
This may have worked in the past, and it may have actually kept competitors from copying or hijacking the new product launch before it came to be. The approach may have also helped to drum up suspense over “what was coming,” and even helped product sellers take advantage of that anticipation as it built over the weeks (or even months) prior to launch.
But it’s 2019, and no one likes to wait for anything anymore. We’ve all adapted pretty quickly to this new on-demand, instant gratification economy, where both B2C and B2B buyers expect to be able to tap “buy now” on their smartphone screens and have the products or services delivered to their doorsteps in a day or less. With the same amount of effort, they can get picked up and dropped off wherever they want; have their groceries delivered and put into their refrigerators; or hire a handyman to fix their plumbing same-day.
Throwing Out the Playbook
Thinking back to the way manufacturers have traditionally managed new product launches, it’s pretty clear why that extended, drawn-out, secretive process doesn’t cut it in electrical distribution anymore. Fully aware of this, Stephanie Ellis, Raceway Division marketing manager at Robroy® Industries in Gilmer, Texas, says the maker of electrical raceways took an interesting approach for its most recent product launch.
“We’ve done some different types of launches with our PVC-coated line,” says Ellis, “with most of them based on that ‘don’t let the cat out of the bag’ approach until the actual day that we were ready to launch.”
This time around, Robroy took a different route. The product in question was a new electrical raceway meant to withstand extremely corrosive environments. Already making an innovative PVC-coated line that could handle the pressure of those environments, Robroy started exploring how to take that line to the next level. “About two years ago, we decided to get into an entirely different market,” says Ellis, “by adding stainless steel to our product offering.”
Ready, Set, Go!
Ready for prime time in 2019, the first phase of the Robroy Stainless Steel product line was rolled out in May of this year. This raceway system solution includes conduit, fittings, and accessories, with more products being added throughout the year. “We stayed within the niche business of corrosion-resistant raceway systems,” says Ellis, “but used a different marketing approach for it.”
That approach involved creating some buzz around the new product line before it actually came to market. “We wanted to have a little mystery behind it and create some intrigue for people,” says Ellis, “versus just saying, ‘Here’s what we have and it’s ready now; come and get it.’” Sticking to the latter, Robroy borrowed a page from the movie production business, which uses clips and soundbites in trailers to draw its audience in and gets it to either buy movie tickets or watch on-demand.
“They release trailers and sneak peeks, they do interviews, and they release ancillary products to build anticipation for the movie,” says Ellis. “We wanted to sort of emulate that process, and it made sense to do it for this major product line launch, which was a pretty big deal for us.”
Robroy’s multipronged effort included ads in industry publications like tED magazine and Electrical Contractor. “We knew this was something that would put us in front of the masses, and where there would be a lot of visibility into what we were doing,” says Ellis, who also looked at other vertical markets and ran ads in a few of their industry publications. Robroy also created a 25-second video “sneak peek” of the new product line. The video got to the point, but it didn’t give too much away about the upcoming May launch date.
“We crafted it in a way that didn’t even show the product itself,” says Ellis, “and used that clip to showcase the logo and the brand name, and to let everyone know that it was coming in the Spring of 2019.” The manufacturer also developed a series of short e-blasts and physical mailers that were distributed to a very targeted list of end users.
“These were people whom we knew would be interested in our new stainless line, so we wanted to make sure we got in front of them and let them know what was coming,” says Ellis. By targeting both end users and the distributors who read industry publications, she says the manufacturer was able to hit both sides of its customer base.
“Whenever you’re launching a product, it’s not just about making sure that you have the end users that want it, but also the availability of product within a particular territory,” Ellis points out. “Because of this, we wanted to make sure distributors who might add our new offerings to their product lines knew that those products were coming soon.”
Robroy’s plan worked. According to Ellis, it didn’t take long for the calls and emails to start coming in from distributors, who were asking, “What’s going on? What is this? When is it coming?” Needless to say, interests were piqued and anticipation continued to build as the year progressed. To avoid being tied to a particular launch day or month, the manufacturer used “Spring 2019” as its pending launch date, knowing that it might need an extra week or two to get its products ready for prime time.
“We didn’t want to say, ‘coming May 1st,’ and have the product come out on May 10th, because then it would have looked like we missed the deadline,” says Ellis, whose team fielded a lot of inquiries as the manufacturer slowly let the cat out of the bag on its new stainless product line. “There was a lot of curiosity, and people wanting to know more about the products and what they were all about. It definitely created a lot of buzz.”
In the second part of this article series, we’ll give you some product launch success strategies for today’s on-demand, fast-paced business environment.
Tagged with marketing, Robroy