A Smash Hit Down Under
A successful launch with an original approach silhouette project
A Smash Hit
Hager Group has pulled off a surprise coup in the Australian market with the introduction of its “silhouette” range of switches. Hager’s recipe for success is the winning combination of creativity, a systematic, success-oriented approach and an original take on customer engagement.
The product: an exceptionally attractive range of switches and sockets. The name: silhouette. Market entry: early 2016.
At first glance, the launch of silhouette switches on the Australian market was nothing unusual. In reality, however, the range was able to achieve exceptional success thanks to a highly innovative approach, one that may be used as a template for effective communication between companies, partners and customers in the future.
After all, with a market share in Australia of less than 2 % for switches and sockets, Hager Group has, until now, been a niche provider at best. When Hager Group’s competitors present their new products, they often do so with a marketing budget 25 times that of Hager. One of the top dogs in the market took to renting football stadiums in all major cities for one of its launch campaigns. The stadiums were filled with partners and potential customers. “We knew that the only way to succeed in this environment would be to find a creative way to achieve broader exposure.” says Ross Magee, Managing Director of Marketing & Sales at Hager Australia. And it was this creativity that characterised silhouette from the very beginning.
The product was developed in cooperation with Hager Group specialists from around the world. The switch design came from Hager Group Design Studio in Obernai, France (and immediately landed an Australian Good Design Award), while the electronics were provided by Hager experts from Karlsruhe, Germany. The mechanical components were developed by Hager’s Chinese team under the responsibility of John Lee, Business Development Manager Wiring Accessories, in Huizhou, which is also where silhouette components are manufactured today. However, a decisive impetus also came from the target market itself.
“For a tailor-made product like silhouette, it is essential to first determine local expectations and needs,” explains Pierre Jeunesse, Head of Wiring Accessories Offer Management at Hager Group, France. Hager learned about its customers’ needs by way of extensive market research in Australia. With a strikingly narrow contour, a robust body, elegant finishes in stainless steel and aluminium, as well as exceptionally rapid installation, silhouette has four distinguishing features to delight electricians, architects and building contractors alike.
Ross Magee and his colleagues knew they had a winning product in the pipeline. At the same time, they were all too aware that these qualities alone were no guarantee of success.
“As a product-oriented manufacturer, we are accustomed to putting a lot of work into developing our solutions,” says Ross, who spent decades travelling the world on behalf of IBM before joining Hager Group. “You need to put just as much energy into the launch if you want to cause a stir on the market, and unfortunately, we haven’t done that enough in the past”.
For the launch of the silhouette range, Hager strategists developed something of a ’David meets Goliath’ concept in the form of a dedicated plan to help their new product achieve maximum market recognition with limited resources. This included giving key construction companies, general contractors and architects a selection of test products. Over a series of events, construction planners were convinced to adopt the range of switches, whose minimalistic, chic design makes them an excellent fit for luxury residential buildings. Some 300 electrical wholesalers were also given large free-standing displays to promote silhouette on their premises. Other materials included a high-quality brochure and sales videos featuring electricians talking about the advantages of the switch range.
Most importantly, the silhouette team was able to convince 200 wholesalers to send their sales consultants on half-day introductory workshops. The sales consultants returned from these workshops with plenty of insight into the new programme, as well as demonstration kits and product samples to share with their customers. As a result, the manpower of the 30-person Hager sales team was extended at a stroke.
The product launch was accompanied by systematic project management involving all participants. “We clearly defined the success criteria for the silhouette project in advance,” explains Magee. These included, for example, first achieving a significant number of end- customers for the silhouette range. According to the plan, as many building contractors as possible with potential to complete 100 or more projects per year were to be convinced of silhouette’s benefits, thereby bringing silhouette closer to their customers. In weekly meetings before, during and after the launch, the project team also assessed whether and how they had progressed with these jointly defined goals.
These must have been highly energised meetings as silhouette exceeded all expectations from the very beginning. Since the inception of the programme in the spring of 2016, sales have increased every month. On three occasions, stocks were completely sold out, so customers looking for an exquisite range of switches had to go home empty-handed. What is more, not a single switch has been sold at a reduced price to date. Demand and the team’s self-confidence are so high that price reductions have not even been considered yet.
For Ross Magee, silhouette’s success can primarily be explained as a change of perspective. “As we all know,” he says, “things can go wrong in every major project. If you concentrate on what can go wrong, it usually does, as a negative outlook can set you on a downward spiral.”
On the other hand, it is far more beneficial to focus firstly on the things that must succeed for the project to get over the finish line. And secondly, to systematically do everything possible to achieve these milestones.
For Ralph Bertelt, the success of silhouette is the logical outcome of great team spirit, consistent customer focus and a uniform campaign from the first idea to the market launch. “We all felt we had a big fish on the line with silhouette,” says the Senior Vice President of Offer Management Residential. “And now we are using the enthusiasm of customers, partners and employees to take on the next project with a strong tailwind.”