12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform

health care mast head



Watching the current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has valuable lessons for all leaders throughout the world if we take time to pay attention. I think it was Einstein who said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has strong emotional attachments regardless of which side of the debate you reside.

It is often the life lessons with emotional attachments we remember most.


The goal of my last series of blog posts was to share business lessons leaders can learn from watching and living the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative. I tried to focus on the business principles and not take a partisan view. If you have read any of my posts you will not be surprised to learn I am a Christian, American, and Republican….in that order. I am proud to be an American and I admit we can always improve as a nation, however having traveled the world I can say first hand how blessed I feel to live in the United States.

pres obama

As for our President, I follow what our Lord taught us in the Bible and I pray for him. I pray the Lord gives him and all our leaders wisdom, discernment, and the courage to act upon what the Lord instructs him to do.( and not those of this world) I have received a number of emails since launching this blog thread. A number of those felt I was “bashing” our President, and if my word choice made you feel that way I apologize.


As a man, I have no problem with President Obama and if asked I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the solution.


As our leader I must follow him, support him. If he loses, I lose…we all lose.


What I challenge is the process of this initiative.


My intension was to ;


“focus on the problem and not the person”


There are a number of lessons we can glean from watching life lessons before us.


I am sure there are many more lessons if thought leaders wish to add content:



  • the impact of social media on the 2009 Health Care reform Initiative

  • Lessons in leadership when a launch goes bad

  • The cost(s) of change

  • The psychology of change

  • When tempers flair seek first to understand and find common ground

  • …and I am sure there are many more



12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform?


#1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail


#2: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, you cannot write good requirements for your development team


#3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!


#4: Your Previous New Product Launch success (or Failures) Affect Current and Future Launches


#5: Without a Clear understanding of the Problems your New Product Solves, Marketing will resort to “Buzz Word Bingo” and “Gobbledygook”


#6: Without a Road Map Your “Administration” Will Attempt Too Much, Too Fast and Not Achieve Any of Your Goals


#7: Asking…and not listening to your market, is worst than not asking at all…


#8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging


#9; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…Fix the Right Problem


#10, #11, #12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer


What other lessons have you learned, or are learning as we watch the 2009 Health Care Reform Imitative?


Is your organization making some of the same mistakes? Why?


Are you about to Launch a New Product or Service and you adjusted your plan based on the above 10 posts? If so which posts and how?


How can we unite as Americans and stop Blame Storming?


Do you feel I was wrong to use this real life emotionally charged lesson to blog about? Why, Why not?



2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lessons #10, #11,#12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer



A basic marketing tenant says make sure you have all the “rights” covered in your New Product launch, New Service Launch. I discussed solving the right problem in my last post and that leaves the following “rights”; Right Time, Right Customer(s), and Right Offer(s).

Failure to nail all the rights puts your new product and or service launch results in jeopardy of missing ROI targets. Let’s take a quick look at these “rights”.

Right Time       alarm clock

One of the difficulties the Obama administration faced when launching the 2009 Health Care reform initiative was bad timing.

Like companies who have launched products in their markets before they were ready, or failed to meet the expectation set by marketing and sales, the Obama administration could not have launched at a worst time. They followed a failed stimulus from the Bush administration, a failed stimulus from the Obama administration, and they tried to begin their launch in the worst economic conditions the United States has seen arguably since the Great Depression.

When you launch products that are not complete solutions, or are not solving a specific problem, your market at first becomes suspicious, and if you repeat the insanity (doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results) you eventually break the trust in your Brand. When trust is broken you turn loyal customers into shoppers again.

Market leaders understand the importance the right timing plays in hitting their new product launch goals and the ROI’s promised the board and or shareholders.

Market Losers are so in love with their new product they fail to listen, they fail to send out market soundings and often their launches crash into the rocks of bad timing


Right Customer       

In the Book Tuned In the authors discuss how to determine if the problem you are trying to solve should even be considered for development. They discuss the need to determine if the problem is urgent, pervasive (a bunch of folks have it) and most important, is your market willing to pay to solve it?

As we look at the “market “of US consumers we have distinguishable groups that can be segmented: Gen Y’s, Gen X’s, Baby Boomers, and Retired Consumers, consumers without health insurance,…just to name a few.

When you launch a new solution the burden is on you and your organization to clearly understand the problems of each market segment and solve them.

Once you solve problems the burden is also on you to clearly articulate the problem(s) you solved in the voice of the market.

Market Leaders understand the importance of segmenting their markets and speaking to each segment in a voice that they understand.

Market Losers launch with one size fits all solutions that require a salesperson to interpret, and fail to be understood and therefore Miss ROI targets.



Right Offer        reform bill

When you thoroughly solve problem(s) for specific segmented groups in your market, you create offers that are made to stick. The offer is clear and does not require a rocket scientist or an attorney to understand. These perfect solutions instantly connect and become viral in all your targeted market communities. Social media picks up your solution and cannot wait to share how you solved the problem.

Market Leaders understand and value the impact social media can play in a successful Product launch.

Market Losers use Ready-Fire- Aim new product launches that, not surprisingly end in disaster.

Market Losers do not understand the power of Social Media and how it can be a valuable ally or an incredible foe that literally can cause you to go out of business.

How about your business….

Do you have all the “rights” covered in your next new product and or serve launch?

Are you living a launch disaster now?…tell us about it…

Have you successfully launched a product without having all the “rights” covered? If so, tell us about it.

Do you have clearly defined solutions or are you practicing “Agile Product Launches” …how’s that working for your shareholder value?

Are there other “rights” we need to consider?…Right Channel?….


2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging

obama head


Marketers who build their message from within the perceived safety of their office walls create lazy marketing messages that are perceived as safe, but do not resonate in the marketplace. When marketing and their creative teams build messaging from an inside out approach, versus the market needs and problems in, they create noise and buyers learn to tune out to the noise. If you continue to violate your buyer trust with luke warm messaging that fails to explain the problems you solve for them, your buyers become tone deaf to all you’re marketing.

Scientists who have studied people who are tone deaf have found they lack specific connections in their brains. These individuals have an interruption in the synapses and thus no longer able to distinguish changes in pitch.

Your market becomes tone deaf by hearing repeated messages that do not resonate so they learn to disconnect from your product and your Brand.

The Obama administration is now in that ever so common place entrepreneurs find themselves after rushing to launch without doing the market research and connecting to buyer needs early on. When you launch products with a; Ready-Fire-Aim approach you miss your target and may actually hurt your relationships with buyers in your market.

The current administration was so focused on hitting a launch date (hasting) they compromised the needed upfront strategy work. When this occurs in your business, you launch expecting to sell 3,000 units of your new product or service and in reality you only sell 3.

Market Leaders recognize they have a problem early on, conduct win loss interviews, dive deep into their market to gain understanding (and not sell), and create learning’s.

In the Bible it talks about the sailors sending out “soundings” in the black of the night during storms at sea. What they were doing was listening for land, and more importantly rocks that could sink their ships. The Obama administration needs to be connecting to the market, and listening for soundings and not selling.

Once you learn more about your buyers, their problems, their buying process, buying criteria, and develop buyer personas, you can speak to them in a voice they hear an understand.

Market Losers just tell the same message, over and over again.( hoping this time it sticks)

taxi mex

Market losers are like Americans hiring taxi cabs in foreign countries…if the driver does not speak English…we just speak LOUDER!

Market Losers create Lazy messaging because they failed to do the strategy work upfront and pay in missing ROI targets and more importantly broken brand trust in their market.

If you find yourself in the middle of a storm brought on by underperforming sales to goal…

If you find your marketing team trying to convince you to spend more, have more placements and impressions, you may be dealing with a tone deaf market.

What do Market leaders do?

  • understand the value of spending time upfront in their markets

  • understand buyers and their problems

  • segment those buyers into common groups

  • create buyer persona

  • speak to their buyers in a voice that resonates

  • Constantly send out soundings in their markets, always listening…


How about your company…


Are you in a Taxi cab In Mexico City trying to speak louder in your market?

Does your team practice; Ready-Fire- Aim Product Launch?

Have you learned to become Tone deaf to the Obama administration messaging?

Is your messaging resonating with your buyers…or is it lazy marketing noise?

Can you afford to have your lazy marketing negatively affect your Brand image in the minds of your buyers?


2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #7: Asking…and not listening to your market, is worst than not asking at all…

header harry michel

A number of organizations are so focused to achieving their objectives that they stop listening to their market. Oh, they ask the right questions, (like they are supposed to) but they only hear the answers that are in alignment with their internal goals, understanding, and historical data. The market (your market) has changed as I discussed in my post interviewing salespeople. So asking open ended questions in your market is imperative to gaining current information and understanding the buying process of today’s market. When organizations ask, but not authentically listen, they create more damage in the trust between their team and their market than if they never would have asked in the first place.

I received an email invitation to attend a telephone town hall being held by Harry Mitchell. What the message said was;

U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell will participate in two live telephone town hall meetings to discuss the issue of health care and health insurance reform on Wednesday, August 26, with individuals residing in Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District.

“I believe that the telephone town hall format maximizes the ability to engage respectfully on the issue with folks across the district,” Mitchell said. “Reaching more people and taking more questions provides an opportunity to constructively listen to the thoughts, concerns and opinions of people and to answer their questions about the proposals in Congress.  I also want to highlight the provisions where there is bipartisan agreement and on benchmarks I believe should be met in order to gain my support.”

I have followed Harry Mitchell since moving to Arizona and what appeals to me is he seems to be a regular guy, someone I could call and have a conversation with. Someone, unlike a number of representatives in Washington, he is one of us. On his website he does a much better job than the Obama administration in clearly stating his views;

As I meet with people throughout the district, many have shared with me personal stories about health care.  Like most Arizonans, I believe that rising costs and the threat of losing existing coverage is cause for great concern.

Our health care system needs reform and I believe that it should be comprehensive. Reform should not only improve access to affordable and quality care for all Americans, but it also needs to also preserve individual choice and protect competition in the marketplace.  Reform should not leave individuals with fewer options, should not add to the national deficit, and should not leave doctors with inconsistent and low reimbursement rates as is often the case with Medicare.

This page closes with:

While our advances in the health care system are the envy of the world, too many Arizona families and businesses are facing skyrocketing costs, the threat of losing coverage, or denied care by their insurance companies.  Reform needs to protect what works and fix what doesn’t.  Any solution must first start with an open and honest conversation that gives all of the stakeholders in the debate a seat at the table.  That includes you.

As legislation works its way through Congress, I will continue to review the bill and monitor its changes.  I have also created this resource page where you can also read the bill, access information about the legislative process, and contact me with your thoughts.

Awesome, he clearly has done what I ask business leaders to do;

go out into your market, discover their needs and unresolved problems listen and do not try to overcome their objections…

Here’s my concern; Is a telephone conference call truly the best venue for you Harry, and your brand?

I do not think so, and I think it will be the biggest strategy mistake in your career….but I may be wrong. For me it is an interruption in your Brand. But then again all who Am I? I live in Arizona, I am a Republican, and I help business people connect with their markets which ultimately results in explosive growth. However, what this “feels” like is you are trying to control the voice of the customer. Whoever recommended a telephone conference, in my opinion, should be asked to serve in another capacity on your staff. I thought it might just be me, so I asked a number of friends, and unfortunately perception is reality and the perception is you are afraid, and you want to control the venue. The reality may be you truly want to serve more people in a better way; however the execution does not match your Brand so we are Branding you by Default.

I tried to sign up for the telephone conference but your web site said;

Note: Due to heavy traffic, we are experiencing delays with our email system. If you encounter difficulties, please return later and try again.

Did you not expect heavy traffic? Did your advisor not research what was necessary to support this venue, support you?

Here’s the problem, we the American people have lost trust. The shame is you “feel” like a great , Authentic guy next door, (like someone I wrote about ), however this teleconference “feels” like you will be “telling and selling” not listening.

It feels like you are trying to control the voice of your customers and shape a confirmation of what you already believe and not listen and learn.

When you ask buyers why they do not buy, most think it is price, or the product is not right…but what buyers tell you the top two reasons are;

#1 the salesperson did not listen

#2 they did not understand my problem

Keep in mind, as consumers, we Love to buy…we hate being sold!

I truly hope your motivation was to reach more people and provide a positive venue to address real questions. I was not able to participate but I hope to hear from those that do. However, if you are trying to control the voices of your marketplace, stop, and have someone on your staff buy you a copy of a book titled: World Wide Rave.

How about your business…

Are you asking and not listening?

Are you trying to validate and support your beliefs or are you authentically listening and connecting to unmet needs?

Are you “selling and telling” or listening and solving?

Did you attend the teleconference? How did it make you “feel”?

You see, at the end of the day how markets “feel” about you, your company, your Brand, and if you and your team authentically Listens, Understands, and solves my problems affect their purchase decisions. Each purchase is a vote of confidence.

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #5: Without a Clear understanding of the Problems your New Product Solves, Marketing will resort to “Buzz Word Bingo” and “Gobbledygook”

buzz word bingo


Just as marketing often throws products “over the wall” to sales, development often throws products over the wall to marketing. When marketing lacks a clear understanding of the problems your product solves, the buyers they solve them for, and a clear understanding of the criteria and process those buyers use when making buying decisions marketing resorts to “Buzz Word Bingo” in hopes that something they say sticks.

Marketing’s job is to create a story that spreads.

Or as Seth Godin states “Marketing tells a story that spreads”.

Without market knowledge and a clear understanding of the problem(s) your new product or service solves the marketing message becomes one of “Gobbledygook”.

As David Meerman Scott explains on his Blog Web Ink Now, That’s how so many PR people write — using gobbledygook-laden phrases that are so overused to have become meaningless.


When marketing creates buzz words and Gobbledygook it makes your market nervous as you have not clearly stated the problem(s) you solve for them, …so they assume.( and we know what happens when we are left to assume…)

One symptom your marketing story has gone astray is the need to have specific messages that address the myths in the market that have grown due to a lack of story clarity. Your marketing efforts will move away from developing a story that resonates with the market and they will produce defensive copy like: Top Five Health Care Reform Lies—and How to Fight Back.

All of the above are signs of a solution being thrown over the wall to marketing without a clear understanding of the problems your new solution solves and marketing is playing catch up. What should have been market research and testing of messages becomes surveys to validate the need. It gets really dangerous when development asks marketing to “create a need” for this new solution they just threw over the wall.

What should we all remember about creating stories that resonate in our markets so we do not have to be defensive? Cheryl Clausen helps us understand what it takes to write a good story in her blog: How to Put Life in Your Sales .



    As you develop your short powerful story include these elements:
  • Curiosity – Incorporate unexpected things, open a loop with an incomplete thought you have to stick around to finish
  • Make it about the people who buy your stuff either explicitly or implicitly
  • Keep it logical – Stories have a plot.  Therefore, a person like the people who buy your stuff must have an urgent challenge or problem that is resolved as a result of the actions they took.



    It does need to:
  • Speak to the right people
  • Share the right message
  • Tell your story the right way
  • Connect with people at the right time

  • Focus on the right reasons people want to act



If you find the market is struggling with the messages your marketing has created and its stories, what you are experiencing is your lack of market knowledge and the problems you solve is showing.

Chances are you are experiencing a Hasted effort to market without clearly understanding the unresolved market problems you were supposed to solve, your buyer personas, and an understanding of your buyer’s buying process.

You can keep trying to catch up and or defend yourself and your new product idea, or you can back up and spend time understanding the needs of your market.

You must stop telling and selling and start asking and listening.

In the process of doing so create buyer personas and speak to those personas in their voice. You must make your story specific to those most likely to buy.

When you use your understanding of your buyer personas and their voice you can create concise messages that are easy to understand and are emotional engaging.

How about your company….

Are you throwing products over the wall to marketing and they are using Buzz Word Bingo in hopes that something sticks?

Is your website full of Gobbledygook that fills a lot of white space but says nothing of value to your buyers?

Do you have to defend your solution and expose myths?

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #4: Your Previous New Product Launch success (or Failures) Affect Current and Future Launches



At the Austin Pcamp last weekend I was speaking with a young product manager and he shared sales and marketing do not seem to be embracing his current new product launch. The first thing I asked him was;

Have you launched other products or solutions recently expecting to sell 60,000 (and that was the sales goal) and you only sold 6…”

His answer was “Yes, how did you know that?”

I explained the one thing about having grey hair is I earned each one,and I went on to explain

“… you have a trust and credibility issue within your team and probably market you must fix first.”

As a salesperson and someone who has lead sales teams it is hard not to become a bit skeptical when marketing and product management “throws another new product over the wall for my team to sell”.

 It is particularly difficult to get excited about a new product opportunity when marketing and product management have throw two previous solutions over the wall and my team was given a goal for 60,000 and we only sold 6.

So I explained to this ( now wide eyed) young product manager that once you break trust with your sales and marketing team, once you no longer have credibility among your team members you have a much bigger problem you need to solve first. (And you need to solve it quickly)

I asked him a number of questions and the one that seemed to make him most uncomfortable was;

When the last product launch failed and sales was out in the market banging their heads against the wall trying to sell it (so they get paid) and you were at corporate…did you attend any meetings with your leadership team and when asked why the product is not selling…did you throw sales under the bus?”

big bus

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2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!

ipod bathroom 


Where a number of entrepreneurs make a costly mistake is in jumping into a new product launch and making a product launch checklist  without spending an adequate amount of time gaining an intimate market knowledge and building strategy. When this occurs, developers and engineers (Representatives) build things because they can not because they should.

How do we end up with a 1,000 page bill? ( few have read, and fewer understand?) Or an ipod station and toilet paper holder? Or a laptop that smells?…. ( by design)

Without a clear understanding of the problem you want to solve, and clear requirements and not understanding who you are solving them for, you will build stuff.

Developers are creative problem solvers. They want to be given problems and requirements. They go nuts if you also tell them how to solve it. Just as salespeople hate it when accounting tries to tell them how to sell more.

The inherent problem though lays in the fact developers also see problems that are real to them, that may not be market problems. So they have their “wish list” of solutions they want to introduce.

If you lack a clear definition of the problems you want to solve and the requirements needed and just “throw a challenge over the wall” two things will happen;

1. Development will create a perceived list of problems and prioritize them themselves.

2. Without a clear direction, they will build what they always wanted to build and not necessarily what the market needs or wants.

What happens next is even more dangerous. So you have shared your “big hairy audacious goal” with your market: “A Health Care reform bill before the August break”.

Not having a connection to the problems your team will connect to something…so the August goal is clear, measureable and written so they rally to meet that goal.

The achievement of the goal date becomes more important than solving the unresolved market problem.

When this occurs your team tunes out the market and its needs and tunes into the leaders goal ( and often ego).

Teams aligned around the wrong goal “tell and sell” versus “teach and share the problems they solved” and markets often rebel.

Buyers like to buy; they do not like to be sold.

With the power of social media, and the lack of alignment to the correct goal, a solution can launch and die within hours.

Market leaders understand the value in spending the time upfront, clearly defining the problem(s) they want to solve and developing requirements that set their developers up to win, and ultimately add value to the bottom line of the organization.

Market Losers are so focused on a delivery goal they Haste, and they waste. Focus on the wrong goal results in their team members thrashing around, starting and stopping and not able to develop revolutionary solutions that the market willing buys.


How about your organization….


Does your team throw things over the wall?


Do your developers ask for more information and the prioritization of requirements, or do they assume they know.


Has your company launched something because you could and not because you should? ….How’s that working for you?