You can’t just launch a product and expect to be successful. You know that. But companies do it all the time – they spend millions of dollars creating an amazing new thing that never takes off. Even really great products can fail.
Just ask Anthony Wood. Before he founded Roku, Anthony created ReplayTV, an earlier and better version of TiVo that failed. Google Glass, Betamax, Solyndra…the list is long because new products fail more than they succeed. We can’t help but gawk when we see the crash.
But these are boom times for renewable energy. The market is wide open for new solutions, the money is there, and there are so many amazing people working on innovative new products. You might be one of them.
So here’s a reminder for your next product launch: prepare your team to win.
A.I. hasn’t replaced all of the humans yet. The people on your team need to make, sell, deliver, and support your new product. And by definition this a new thing for them. They’ve literally never done it.
Upskill your team so they can crush the product launch. They win, you win, and it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. We just need to train them in an intentional and deliberate way. First, on the foundations. Second, on the product.
Foundational skills are the first half of the solution
You could hire totally new people who know everything about what you’re building – but that’s really hard to pull off and not great for the culture of your organization. It’s more likely you’ll need to upskill existing folks.
We work with a company launching a new line of heat pumps and it is so much fun. We co-designed a series of twelve foundational courses to give everyone the skills they need to be heat pump experts. It’s like everybody is adding a ‘minor’ in college by taking a bunch of related courses in a prescribed sequence. Everybody is learning together and it’s exciting.
We work with another company launching next-gen hardware for solar monitoring. Every component is simple to use, but realizing the full value of the product requires a big picture mindset shift. Everybody selling, delivering, and supporting the product needs to speak the language of solar performance data.
Imagine launching a new energy storage product in 2023…
The people who designed the new product understand it better than anyone. But the sales, engineering, customer support, marketing, suppliers and customers haven’t been on that same journey leading up to the launch. They’re fully capable of getting there, but they need you to guide them. If you sit down with coffee and a notebook, it isn’t hard to make a list of topics they need to learn. And chances are, HeatSpring has a bunch of content that we can organize for you to make it happen fast.
Access to content – structured learning paths for everybody – is a great start. Then, layer in a little accountability; quizzes, reporting, and check-ins with managers along the way. Maybe a monthly zoom Q&A to build some momentum and create a culture of learning. Within months, most folks – the motivated ones, anyway – will be totally ready to engage with the products in a knowledgeable way.
Product skills are the second half of the solution
A product launch happens twice. First, the internal launch, where everyone on your team gets a chance to play with it, experience it, talk about it, and become an expert. Second, the market launch, where you sink or swim.
Don’t skip the internal launch and jump right to the market launch. The quality of the internal launch correlates with the success of the market launch. Everything is going to be happening slower than expected so there’s an incentive to rush it out the door. But it’s going to be really hard on your team.
Sales will say yes to whatever the customer wants because that’s what sales does. Engineering is going to be mad at sales for overpromising. Customer support will get stuck in the middle.
A better approach is for everyone to spend time in dialogue with customers; talking about applications, limitations, benefits and the numbers. Sounds obvious, I know, but it’s hard to make time for that stuff. It gets expensive bringing everybody together. But if you plan for it, engage partners like HeatSpring early, and leverage technology a little bit then you can minimize the pain.
Training Minimizes Your Execution Risk
Launching a new product is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But doing hard things is fun and rewarding and it’s totally possible to succeed in this moment when the wind is at our back. All I’m asking is that you budget for upskilling your people so they can be the strategic advantage that you need them to be.
And if you want to talk about doing some of this stuff together, I’m totally in.