Launching a new range of products is like going through the entire process of making a baby, expecting one, labouring for one and finally looking after the baby during its infancy. It is almost as if you were playing the part of the expecting parent, as a he or she where applicable.
Before launching a product, you have to sit down with the key stakeholders of your company to discuss the prospect and feasibility of this launch and the planning involved in all related functions. Topics that are commonly touched are the launch timing, market positioning, competitors, financials, demand and supply planning. It is just like the forethought that a couple has before deciding to make a baby - the timing, financial aspects and supportability of this endeavour all comes into consideration. It is what we like to call prudent thinking.
Once all plans are finalized and management has given the project a go-ahead, the execution begins. Demands are forecasted, supply planning begins, marketing initiatives are conceptualized and new product development is initiated. Very much like the conception of the baby in the womb of the mother.
When pregnancy is confirmed a couple of months later, preparation for the birth of the baby begins. This is reminiscent of what happens when trade plans are confirmed, the artwork and formulation of the product finalized and approved and production planning begins. It is like what we do in anticipation of the baby coming into our life - seeking professional counsel in clinics or hospitals for mothers-to-be, shopping for the baby cot or the clothings, and preparing that heavenly baby room in the house.
Strange enough, the entire process of a new product launch spans approximately 9 months as well just like the pregnancy of a mother. What is even more uncanny is that the nearer the timeline of the launch approaches, the more complexity in the project arrises just like the more frequent contraction of the mother's womb when her expecting date looms nearer.
Finally when the baby is due, Murphy's Law kicks into full swing and anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The baby's expected dates are never exact and sometimes they are born earlier or later. In severe cases, giving birth may be a problem and the mother has to opt for a caesarian instead. In some instances, the place where the labouring takes place is not even planned. Similarly with the launch timing of a new product where sometimes it has to be deferred to a later date due to supply issues or moved forward due to business needs related to competition. Sometimes it is so critical that the products itself has to be airfreight from the sourcing site to meet the timeline - this to me is what I call 'pulling a caesarian' on a new product launch.
But after all the months and months of hardwork and planning, the product is finally launched and everyone in the team can breathe a sigh of relief, but only temporarily. It is like the calm before the next storm. You still have to monitor the sales and the market offtake. Perform a litmus test on the project to see if the demand captured was correct, how is the product doing at the consumer level and whether the launch is going according to plan. It is like that first moment when you hold the new born baby in your arms, checking if he/she has all 10 fingers and toes, ensuring if the baby can see and hear and cry.
Some weeks and months later, you still have to go back to the clinic for a follow-up check on the health of the baby. If there are any problems detected, the doctor will give advice and treatment accordingly for those less-fortunate babies to ensure every fighting chance of survival is given to the baby. It is no different with the new product. Every month the management will review its performance. Forecasts are adjusted accordingly until it reflects the true demand, consumer behaviour towards the product are still monitored and supplies are managed diligently to maintain an optimum level of inventory.
The rest, they say is history...
The milestones of the launch are like the milestones of the birth. We always look at the sales target achieved, market share obtained, brand equity developed and customer service level maintained but little do we realize it is like looking at our baby taking the first step, uttering the first word, going to school and so forth.
Be it a successful launch or not, it will always be our baby and it is love unconditional. It is what we all here go through day-in and day-out. When I look at it again, I see the irony of what we already do in our work with that of our lives, in the backdrop of a baby company. It is priceless.
It is never easy what we do as we are all very different people with different background and different mandate in the company. But we all strive to achieve the same goals. For me, it is about learning to adapt and meet everyone halfway. Deep down inside, I think the failure to launch maybe the single most valuable experience I can take away from this when it all finally comes to an end.
I cannot change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. I am almost there now finally...
But a constant question remains at the back of my mind - what if there was no wind to begin with?