In the pre-COVID world, trade show exhibits and industry conferences were the go-to venues for B2B companies launching their latest products and technologies. While many of these in-person events have transitioned to a virtual environment in the past year and trade shows as we know it may never look the same, the pandemic has not stopped companies’ innovation or drive to introduce new technology.
Virtual product launches have created a new challenge for communicators. But they also allow for new possibilities to create a virtual experience, whether that takes the form of a customer-exclusive webinar, a live virtual launch event or an exclusive media experience. Regardless of the format, we can look to the PESO (paid, earned, shared and owned) model for guidance to make sure the excitement of a product launch translates to the virtual world.
Start With What You Control – Owned Content
Owned content is the starting point for any strong virtual product launch strategy. Before sharing innovations with the world, the first step is to make sure you have the content to back it up. This owned content, both written and visual, will serve as the basis for all communications efforts. Making sure your owned content is accurate, engaging, exciting and applicable to your customers is key.
Before launch day, there are a few pieces of owned content that must be ready to go to keep your audience engaged after your event. Starts with your website – the company’s digital face and primary hub of information. Here, you can build on the excitement of your launch with a deeper dive into product details, features and benefits, and you can connect the product to larger industry trends in blog posts to show the real impact of the new technology. This content not only keeps your direct audience engaged, but with the right SEO tools and strategy in place, it can also reach prospective customers as they look for solutions online.
Owned visual elements like video, infographics and compelling photography offer another way to bring your product to life. These elements will likely play a role in your virtual launch event, but their life doesn’t end on launch day. Whether they are shared through your website, social media or email marketing campaigns (or all of the above), quality visual assets can cut through the digital clutter to educate your audiences and keep them engaged and interested, long after the launch.
Bring it to the (Targeted) World – Shared and Paid Media
So, you have a strong set of content to build excitement for your new technology – now what? In the B2B world, casting a broad net is generally not your goal for communications. Getting the information out to the targeted groups who can use your new technology is where shared and paid media truly shine.
In the shared space, this means getting the message out to those who are already interested in your technology. Your followers or subscribers on social media and email have already opted in to receive your content. You know they are interested but copying and pasting a message from your website across the board can change their mind in the wrong direction. Followers go to different channels for different reasons, so the content they find there should cater to the unique experiences they desire.
Platform-specific content strategies should be planned and calendarized based on your audience on each network. This could mean sharing an exciting video on Facebook to boost engagement, a blog post on LinkedIn for a deeper industry-focused dive into the product’s benefits or an interview with an engineer via an email marketing campaign to give customers the details behind your latest innovation.
Paid media can bring your virtual product launch to relevant audiences beyond your existing following. Advanced targeting capabilities in social and digital advertising allows you to pinpoint those who can use your technology and reach them with blog posts, video content or downloadable content to share the benefits of your technology.
Why Does it Matter? Earned Media
Finally, we come to earned media, where you can build third-party credibility and reach your customers directly in their news feeds. Earned media begins long before the virtual product launch to build anticipation for what’s to come. In the months leading up to a launch, building relationships with reporters covering your industry can lead to opportunities for your executives to speak to industry trends and share their insights on what the industry needs to succeed in the future.
When it comes to launch day, a broad blast of a press release is never the answer. Personalized emails to reporters based on their interests and past coverage can go a long way in grabbing attention and earning more valuable placements in the publications your customers read.
The integrated communications approach can be applied here as well, by offering blog posts, images and videos in your pitches to give reporters the full experience of your product and why it matters to their audience.
For reporters you know will be interested in covering your technology, providing advanced interviews and access to these materials makes their lives easier by allowing them to build the story ahead of time so they’re ready to launch when you are.
After your launch, keep up the momentum by continually tracking reporters’ relevant coverage and offer commentary and perspective to add value for their readers in follow-up coverage.
With all the channels available to B2B communicators, planning a virtual product launch can seem overwhelming. But with the right support, strategy and targeting, an integrated communications approach can help keep you organized and on track to take your product out of the exhibit hall and into the hands of your customers.
Reach out if you’d like to learn more about how the Franco team can help you share your innovations with the (targeted) world.
Dan Horn is an account manager. Connect with him on LinkedIn.