In the life insurance business and for annuities especially, keeping products fresh has become an industry norm. In fact, it is expected that annuity products undergo 2 or more enhancements each year.

This product proliferation and intense competitive pressure can create clutter in the minds of distribution partners and customers. Now that baby boomers are moving into retirement, this proliferation is certain to increase even more.

It’s therefore more important than ever for insurers and advisors to increase the likelihood of achieving product and market success.

But how to do that in a world filled with frequent new product introductions? What will capture attention and excitement for the new product? How to ensure the product message gets heard and its value proposition is clearly communicated? How to sustain the traction gained from an innovative product launch?

The adage that you only have one chance to make a first impression is apropos here. With new product launches and re-launches, appearance, presentation, and connection with the audience on a personal level make all the difference in the world.

The key is to have a unified approach prior to entering the market. Aim for all systems go prior to the launch date.

For example, the product must be approved in all states (or at least all states generating significant volume), be on all distributors’ shelves, and have all support and servicing areas trained and ready to go. It should have high impact, clear and concise marketing materials. Additionally, the sales team should be knowledgeable, well versed, equipped with a finely tuned marketing message and be polished and poised to sell.

Much of that is obvious, but the number of new products that fail to achieve results is surprising. The failures are typically attributed to faulty product design or less than hard hitting product features. However, in many cases, the fault rests with weak go-to-market execution.

The question that must be addressed is how to increase the odds of a product’s success?

A type of boot camp process can help. That is, tightly align all go-to-market tasks so the product is in a position to achieve spectacular results.

The key building blocks of this strategy revolve around a marketing message. Developed through hard work and intellectual capital, this message articulates the product’s value proposition as cleanly, simply, and precisely as possible, and it becomes the cornerstone upon which all client and distributor materials, sales scripts, service scripts, illustrations, and supporting services are built.

The second part of the boot camp strategy focuses on launch execution. This involves aligning all product approval, customer service, public relations, distributor communications, and wholesaling around the marketing message combined with a detailed drill-down on product mechanics.

This ensures that all major stakeholders are dispensing the same marketing message, and that wholesalers fully understand all of the product features, mechanics, and details.

This product knowledge combined with a powerful marketing message arms the sales team with the confidence to present the product and position it for each distributor’s unique situation.

Again, the adage rings true that you only have one chance to make a first impression. In this case, the boot-camp trained wholesalers create that first impression. When they are armed with the message, tools and knowledge to help their distribution partners, they communicate the message in a way that makes the new product shine.

Finally, it is vital that the service operation reinforces these positive impressions by cleanly complementing the sales delivery with excellent service, professionalism and knowledge.

Cary Lakenbach, FSA, MAAA, CLU, is president of Actuarial Strategies, Inc., Bloomfield, Conn. E-mail him at caryl@actstrat.com