November 30, 2021 I Marketing By Numbers I by Mike Robinson

Timing Is Everything

If we’ve ever met, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard me lament about the frustratingly poor product launch timing that’s so pervasive in the music products industry. Why is it that our beloved industry struggles to get product launch timing right? There are plenty of good models outside MI to learn from, industries that capitalize on market opportunities by synergizing demand seasonality, product availability and cooperative marketing.

The golf equipment industry is a good example. My golf obsession provides me with the opportunity to play the role of consumer for somebody else’s marketing plan. What I see is an industry that executes product launches extremely well by ensuring their retailers are fully prepared with inventory, point-of-sale and advertising assets, and product training prior to the in-stores launch date, helping retailers to be ready to sell on day one.

They also schedule product launches just prior to the beginning of the buying season, which for golf is between March and May, knowing the buying season for the product category is critical to synchronizing the supply chain timing with sales and marketing efforts. It’s not just that consumers are ready to spend money during buying season; they’re also paying closer attention to marketing communication as the buying season approaches. In the golf market, the in-stores date is only the first day a consumer can purchase. It’s not the date they become aware of the product.

What would this look like in the MI industry? Let’s start with timing. Rather than scheduling product launches around NAMM shows, they should be scheduled so that brands and retailers can coordinate product availability, sales training and marketing support to take advantage of the buying season. Even without a hard in-stores date that can be difficult to coordinate, a successful launch can be achieved with properly timed product availability and good communication. Since every customer must be aware of a product before they can consider or purchase it, getting their attention and earning their interest is easiest at a time when they’re already looking for what’s new.

It’s surprising how often this doesn’t happen in MI. We often find ourselves at a NAMM show launching products that won’t be available for several months. This inevitably leads to wasted opportunity and the need to relaunch once inventory and support assets are ready. The primary culprit for this is the reliance on The Winter NAMM Show as the best time and place to launch products.

The January NAMM show is a great place to establish or maintain B2B relationships, make plans with partners, engage with the media and see what the competition is up to, but it’s arguably not the best place to launch product. For starters, the January show immediately follows the prime consumer buying season for most MI categories. It’s the busiest time of year for every company and preparing for product launches and the show exhibit is a huge challenge. It’s also where every vendor in the industry is simultaneously competing for attention, making it extremely difficult to cut through the noise (pun intended). It could be that NAMM’s move to June could give vendors enough time after Q4 to better prepare product launches, but success still depends heavily on product availability timing.

Given current massive supply chain issues, it’s more important than ever to reset our thinking about when and how to launch new products. For now, it might be best to keep new product plans quiet and schedule the launches when inventory is ready to distribute to retailers, using the extra time to build a solid marketing plan with sales training, point-of-sale assets and a consumer communication plan that builds demand in time for retailers to begin selling. After all, timing is everything. MI

Mike Robinson has been working within the music products industry for 20 years, holding both marketing and product management leadership positions at D’Addario and KHS. Currently, he runs a marketing and business management consultancy, advising clients and executing marketing strategies both within and outside the music products market.

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