Recently, several hundred people joined Leanne Batchelder and myself for a webinar on product launch training. Hosted through Training Magazine Network, the session is called Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: How a Curriculum Drives Success.

This was one of the best webinars I have helped present because of the quality of questions participants asked. Clearly, product launch training is a high-priority issue in many organizations. People are eager for new tools and approaches to make it easier.

Take life science and medical device companies, for example. In the article 5 Trends in Life Science Learning, which appears in the Spring ’15 issue of LTEN’s Focus Magazine, authors Ann Stott and Rich Mesch list “Rethinking product launches” as their number one trend. The reality is that organizations across many industries have an ever-growing number of new products to launch each year. With less budget available for each individual launch, yet more information for sales reps to learn than ever before, there is a huge need for effective product launch training strategies.

If you missed the webinar, I encourage you to access the recorded session or download the white paper. We answered as many questions as we could during the webinar both to the whole group and through the chat, but we were not able to get to everything. I pulled more questions out of the chat transcript and have answered them below.

Your Product Launch training Questions Answered

Question: What are the audiences that should be trained? What about customer training?

Answer: What roles are involved in selling, supporting and using your product? We typically conduct an analysis to determine what the different roles are to be trained. It typically includes sales reps, sales managers, marketing managers and possibly customers.

Question: Product owners often believe that EVERYTHING about the product is critical. Whose word do you take to sift critical from reference, etc?

Answer: We gather lots of information from front-line staff through interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc to find out what information they actually need to use on the job. We take these findings and share them with the key stakeholder(s). When you have the data to back you up, it is easier to convince a product owner what is truly critical versus just nice to know.

Question: Reinforcement has different meanings. Can you tell more what you mean by reinforcement?

Answer: Learners need an easy way to reference product features, benefits and competitor information long after the launch has ended. This should be in an easy-to-access location. However, just providing access is not enough. We often recommend creating a “culture of reinforcement” by positioning key employees as “product champions” who proactively share product information and re-focus reps on the product post-launch. Other times, the local countries will have control over reinforcement and you will just have to provide them with tools.

Question: How do you address the learner who scoffs at games? Do you develop a more traditional information dissemination option for the ones who take themselves so seriously?

Answer: It would be far too resource-intensive to make two parallel tracks. Your analysis should help uncover what the right approach is for your learners. If your learners are divided into multiple roles, you will likely be presenting different information to each role. This could be an opportunity to modify an approach slightly for each group… but you will run into budget issues if you create completely different solutions for everyone. The research, and our experience, shows us that games or gamified approaches work very well especially with the sales and marketing audiences. Learners that stakeholders believe will not respond well to games actually do quite well with them.

Question: How long did it take to create the product launch training curriculum shown?

Answer: It took 9 months to design and develop that 2nd global product launch project. Analysis took 3 months, and development of all the tools took 6 months—including the pilot and train the trainer. Timeline is really dependent on availability and stability of content, access to the actual product and number of reviews. We had a team of 5 on our end—Project Mgr, Instructional Designer, Writer, Programmer and Graphic Designer. Sometimes one person can play multiple roles depending on the tool.

Question: Can the prelaunch be ongoing in regards to content? If parts of the product being launched are still being finalized but other parts are solid, can you begin the prelaunch training and build onto it after the remaining parts are solid?

Answer: I think you could do that as long as you’re absolutely certain you are not going to have to go back and rewrite something based on new decisions made to the product. We often stagger our development deliverables, as this helps ease the burden of reviewing so many components at one time. We also want to be sure we are consistent in naming conventions, branding, product messaging across all tools. You don’t want to risk slight variations of content that could confuse learners. Organization is key!