by Mark Schoening, Director of Industrial Design
DOES YOUR MARKETING PLAN NEED AN INDUSTRIAL DESIGN MAKEOVER?
An Infographic is Worth 10,000 Words
If you’re a Marketing Manager, you have probably been here: you think you’ve identified an opportunity and have assembled a solid argument, perhaps in the form of a Marketing Requirements Document (MRD). You have described the product or service opportunity including all customary information: a definition of the target consumer, a list of desired features, and an overview of the competition. You’re expected to present to stakeholders soon. You’re really excited about this prospect but wonder: have I done all I can to sell this idea? Does my enthusiasm shine through in every detail? Consider incorporating the following suggestions to boost your confidence.
FROM EXPECTED TO EXCEPTIONAL: PARTNER WITH A DESIGNER
You might be surprised. A few design additions can transform your work from merely acceptable to extraordinary.
EXPLAIN THE INNOVATION
First of all, have you explained where this product idea came from, in both marketing and technical terms? What existing or new technology makes this idea feasible? Is your new product idea part of an existing family, or are you proposing a whole new family? How does this product or family fit into the continuum of past, current and future products? Will future products evolve beyond your proposal?
And how do you present all of this information without being tedious, confusing or overwhelming?
The most compelling way to show these relationships is visually through a Product Roadmap. This type of infographic can quickly communicate a very broad range of information, including platforms (mechanical or otherwise), development and production schedules, product history/legacy, and perhaps most importantly, potential future products and spinoffs. This is the time to take opportunity to sketch ‘dream’ products as examples of how the future might unfold. Done cleverly, these roadmaps can clearly communicate that you’ve done your homework, you have a plan, and you have a vision for success.
Once you’ve visualized your overall plan (roadmap), it is often useful to graphically illustrate details of your plan with more in-depth (but always interesting) graphics – for example, ROI or sales/distribution channels. And depending on your audience, it can be an effective medium to communicate technical or manufacturing information in ‘layman’s’ terms. As an example, the illustrations below demonstrate proposal-level assembly-line layouts. These are useful for explaining machine / station relationships, as well as scale for factory floor-space considerations.
EXCITE THE POTENTIAL
Further, your marketing plan could and should go beyond explanation – it is also an opportunity to excite! As Industrial Designers, part of our job is to compellingly illustrate the potential of a product. This is trickier than it may seem. For one thing, we’re trying to show how cool an object could be – before it is actually designed. While doing that we are careful not to imply a solution that ultimately can’t be executed. As designers, we purposely don’t want to risk rejection by being too specific. We don’t want to have a marketing proposal rejected because we inadvertently pushed some sub-conscious button by using the wrong color or adding some other trivial, but objectionable, detail.
We have therefore developed various ways to compel without being too specific. Our initial sketches are always loose and high-energy, and our initial three-dimensional models are always of accurate scale, but purposely lacking in color or detail. These techniques allow the client to see what they want to see, thus bringing their own imagination and creativity into the process.
early 2D product sketch 3d foam-core mockup
EXPLORE THE IMPOSSIBLE
So far, we’ve suggested ways to help explain and excite with your marketing plan. Are we finished? Not quite.
Marketing professionals often come to us with a well-thought-out marketing strategy and business plan. But they are sometimes a little vague on the technical/hardware side. Maybe you’ve identified a terrific market opportunity, but don’t quite know which technology will get you there. Or maybe your plan identifies the technology, but you don’t quite know how to configure the components. Our Industrial Designers can help give your marketing plan additional credibility by filling in those technical gaps. SIGMADESIGN began as a product engineering firm and our ability to explore for technical solutions is beyond compare. In fact, exploration – invention, really – comprises the bulk of what we do every day.
NOW you’re ready to sell the CEO – or your investors – with a fabulous marketing plan. You’ve transformed your plan from the expected to the exceptional through explanation, excitement, and exploration. Once you have permission to proceed, hand us off to your engineering department – we have a whole new makeover plan for them!
Did you like this article? Read some more articles by Mark Schoening!