When Electrical Wholesaling sent out the survey in April for our annual Top 200 listing (look for the list next month), we asked electrical distributors what new product launches impressed them most in 2011. Among those who mentioned a product line by name, the most frequent response was RAB Lighting's LED lighting products.

RAB, based in Northvale, N.J., has made a splash in LED lighting since rolling out its first LED fixtures in 2009. The flow of new products accelerated through 2010, but it was in 2011 that Ross Barna, CEO, felt like the company was really hitting its stride in getting the right products into the market in the right way. That whole process begins, of course, with creating products people want to buy.

“What we think is the key to success in LED lighting is affordability. If it's not priced right, the distributor can't stock it, and if it's not priced right the end user doesn't want to buy it,” says Barna. “So it starts with the design problem of how do you end up at that right price. How do we simultaneously create a new market for the products, and then how do we capture as much of that market as possible? That was the focus.”

The company introduced more than a dozen new LED luminaires in 2011, including wallpacks, area lighting, landscape lighting and floods, spacing the launches roughly three weeks apart. By a good margin, the most successful new product introduction RAB made in 2011 was its LED wallpack line. By the end of the year, that one product line had generated as much revenue as the entire company had in years past across all its lines, Barna says.

The key to the success of RAB's 2011 LED product launches may lie in its prolific use of product samples. The samples had cords and plugs to make it easy to show customers how the lights look in action. We're not just talking about a few samples, either.

“We absolutely covered the country and the market in samples,” Barna says. “In 2011 we sent out 15,000 samples or so. We spent millions of dollars, just in samples. It was a big move, and it worked very well.”

So the launch involved figuring out how to get those samples out rapidly and get all the messaging wrapped around it — explaining the affordability message, explaining the product's reason for being in the world, and technology was a key to doing that, Barna says.

RAB's process of staging a new product launch hinges on an e-mail. The company sends out an e-mail blast to its distributors, hitting every outside salesperson, inside salesperson, branch manager, purchasing manager, marketing manager, executive and lighting showroom salesperson it can reach, Barna says. That's the first announcement to the world that there is a new RAB product in the world.

“E-mail marketing is pretty much the first thing that occurs. There's a big e-mail campaign that goes out to electrical distributor personnel — everybody involved — branch managers, people at corporate, outside guys, counter guys, quotations guys, lighting guys, anyone involved in lighting. We communicate with them and send out samples to the key people involved. The e-mail blast links them to a landing page on our website that contains video, e-learning modules, explanations of why this product matters, specs, all combined on that page.”

Barna's hope is that those e-mails will not only pique the interest of rep and distributor personnel, but that distributors will forward that e-mail to customers who may have a need for the product. “That's the easiest thing, and that's what we hope they do,” he says.

Getting the word out to reps and distributors is backed up by the website, printed literature, trade shows and advertising campaigns. RAB also uses social media to support the other methods of communication, Barna says.

RAB Lighting's 2011 LED product launches clearly made an impact on respondents to our Top 200 survey and on distributors' customers, proof that new product introductions are still a bright spot in the industry.