Root3 Marketing and Business Development Founder and CEO Scott Christiansen knows a thing or two about safely navigating new markets. Christiansen has been an innovator in the development, execution, and evolution of growth marketing platforms and strategies for over 20 years. He shares his insights on helping organizations establish a strong and credible marketing foundation for new products and services, and in the first of this three-part series on entering new markets, Christiansen shares ideas on getting value out of a pilot phase.
Christiansen says there are two important goals of the pilot phase. The first is to verify proof of concept, and the second is to get out of pilot phase and into proof-of-performance phase as soon as possible. The pilot phase is a short-term trial intended to help organizations learn how a full-scale program might look or operate in practice.
“Whether you refer to it as a test trial or feasibility assessment, the pilot phase provides powerful insight and gives companies the opportunity to prove their concept, demonstrate the capabilities of their product or service on a limited scale and iron out any potential glitches or pitfalls,” stated Christiansen.
By testing and confirming initial assumptions, companies can make necessary adjustments prior to going to market.
“You may think you know the value or purpose of your product, service or idea, but once you take it to market, customers may use it for reasons you never anticipated,” said Christiansen. “It’s best to tease out these findings before going to market, when stakes are lower and your company is nimble.”
Christiansen advises saving high-value clients for after a company emerges from the pilot phase, has a proof of performance and can show the value their product or service provides.
“Save the high value clients for after you’ve worked the bugs out of your pitch and you know you are priced correctly. It is difficult if not impossible to convert a free or discounted client to a full price client,” stated Christiansen. “I’ve seen this all too often and it can be a painful and costly mistake, but with forethought and planning it’s completely avoidable.”
The company that emerges from pilot phase is often very different from the company that went in. It is critical to keep an open mind and be willing to adapt. As a third party with no “pride of ownership,” Root3 is often better able to gather and interpret pilot intelligence from clients.
“Clients speak with us a little more openly because we are neutral. We always offer to keep comments anonymous, but people rarely take us up on it. They appreciate being heard and share valuable, unedited information that helps us develop a go-to-market strategy that is both informed and empowered,” Christiansen added.
The marketing deliverables during the pilot phase include:
- Messaging: Only by talking to people who are actually utilizing a product or service can we learn how to articulate the unique value it provides to the market. Christiansen recalled, “One company we worked with had planned to lead with the revenue performance aspect of its service, but what the market really appreciated was the improvement to client satisfaction (95% drop in client complaints). Switching messaging led to an increase in opportunities and deals.”
- Proof-of-Performance: “This is where a company finally gets to transition from its own executives saying their service is great – to clients saying their service is great,” noted Christiansen. “A pilot will likely lack long-term performance data, but it should at the very least lead to client testimonials.”
- Pricing: Pilots are offered for free or at a deep discount for two reasons. The obvious reason is to get in the door with little resistance. The second is to verify the amount of time and resources it takes to get up and running and to serve the client. This information allows companies to price their product correctly when they officially enter the market.
- Target Decision Maker Profile: “The pilot phase helps us get to know your target buyer better. We always want to understand what is keeping them up at night and adjust messaging accordingly. We also generally discover additional decision makers or key influencers that need to be addressed,” added Christiansen.
- Organization Profile: Ideally the pilot will include a small group of customers that vary in size and geographic location. “In addition to learning which size client could be most profitable, we will try to understand which will have the shortest sales cycle,” noted Christiansen. “A recent project uncovered the difference in how target organizations are structured on the East Coast versus the Midwest. The takeaway was that one sale under the East Coast structure would be four times more profitable than a similar Midwest deal.”
Having met with hundreds of organizations launching new products and services throughout his career, Christiansen knows how to steer clients through the pilot phase. “I bring my own experience to bear,” said Christiansen, “and I really enjoy helping companies develop intelligence based go-to-market strategies that avoid costly mistakes and improve the chances for success out of the gates.”
Learn how Root3 Marketing and Business Development helps organizations enter new markets.