What is a product launch?
A product launch is a process in which a new product or service is brought to market by a company. The primary purpose of a launch is to provoke a sense of anticipation and generate awareness of your product amongst your target audience.
A collaborative exercise, product launches require input from different people within an organization to ensure the process is successful. These include sales, customer success, product, and product marketing.
How do you pitch a product launch?
An effective pitch is pivotal to the success of any product launch, with the most; you must combine thorough research, meticulous preparation, and an engaging presentation.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for the product launch pitch:
- Don’t ‘settle’ for second best. You need to pitch your product to an investor that ticks all the boxes. Conduct thorough research before pitching so you’re not wasting your time and that of your attendee. Preparation is key to helping you find the right investor - don’t try taking any shortcuts.
- Make a good first impression. Investors team up with people they know, like, and trust - you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. You need to take this opportunity to ensure you convince a potential investor that you’re the right person to deliver on your promises and release a successful product.
- Be confident, but not presumptuous. While investors want to see a confident pitch, it isn’t appropriate to be overly confident. For example, insisting a potential investor sign a non-disclosure agreement isn’t acceptable. Bide your time, nail that all-important first impression, and focus on the specifics when/if the time comes.
- Include data in your pitch. Never underestimate the importance of data. Numbers can be your perfect ally if you’re faced with tricky questions or have to support claims made in your pitch. Always be sure to say where you got your data from, include comprehensive, granular information, and select stats that meet the requirements of your audience.
- Prepare for criticism. It’s important to prepare yourself for a tough crowd. You need to develop thick skin and take potential criticism on the chin. Keep your eye fixed firmly on the importance of securing your investment, stay composed, and don’t get protective.
What is important when launching a new product?
Carter Holland, Market Strategist at GhostRetail, has 25 years of experience leading large-scale marketing teams and shares his insights on how product marketers can measure the success of their product launches and optimize the launch process.
He shared his insights on what’s important when launching a new product.
Why is product differentiation important?
Differentiating your product sets it aside from the competition and provides your target personas with a distinct reason to opt for your company - if competing products aren’t offering the same features, where else can they go?
Add to that, exclusivity provides you with a basis to introduce higher price points. Curiosity and consumers go together like hand in glove. If you’re bringing a niche product to market, the chances are consumers will be willing to spend more cash to experience something different from everything else.
Carter Holland explains why product differentiation is important for product marketers, and in business, generally:
As far as adoption metrics are concerned, how has the role of a product marketer changed the way you as a marketing leader look at new user adoption campaigns versus existing customers and consumer adoption?
“I’ve managed product marketing, but my background in marketing and rising to market leadership stems from communications.
“Therefore, I bring a lot to the table as far as the differentiated position is concerned and establish how that impacts effectiveness when it comes to things like user adoption and consumption.
“Differentiation is critical. Last night, I was watching Shark Tank, and there was this product called the X Torch. It’s a multi-purpose flashlight - you can use it in a bunch of different ways as a USB charger, and so on.
“At one point, Mark Cuban borderline dismissed the product and said: “It's a flashlight”, and the owner pitching the product was emphatic and replied: “This isn’t just a flashlight - it's the only rechargeable, solar-powered lantern that's also a phone charger that you can count on when the power goes out. Mark Cuban replied: “Otherwise known as a flashlight…”
“The point of this story is you have to be able to differentiate your product from others that are available on the market, and people who know me say I’m like a broken record because I always maintain you need to differentiate products in a way nobody else can.
“Articulate how your product addresses a pain point and closes a gap in the market. People are trying to be successful in their jobs, and if something is impeding that success, that's creating pain for them.
"Our ability to describe the pain that they're feeling, and then say, ‘here's how that pain can be eliminated and you can’t eliminate it without using something else’ is critical.
“I think this applies to new customer adoption as well as consumption. If you're trying to emphasize how a product can be used for an existing audience, it's a matter of drilling into those points. Marketers get lost in jargon that nobody understands - you need to be human.
“In the same way that we forget there's a revenue goal behind what we're doing, I think we forget that there's a human being on the other end of the buying process.
“If we can relate to people on a human level using terms they’ll understand, I think success will follow because they’ll clearly understand how our solution addresses their issue. I think we will be surprised at how we could accelerate adoption.”
It’s natural for companies to try their utmost to differentiate themselves from the competition - but what do you do if you’re truly struggling to set yourself apart from market alternatives?
Lawson Abinati, Co-Founder of Messages That Matter, explained how to differentiate yourself from your competition - even if you aren’t different, at all.
Which KPIs and metrics are important when launching products?
Which KPIs and metrics are important to consider when focusing particularly on a product launch?
“I would say revenue. You'd be surprised how many times in my career I've asked teams what the revenue target is, only to be told they don’t know.
“If you don’t have an idea of how much revenue you’re looking to generate, what’s the point? If you don’t have the revenue forecast, you don’t need to abandon your product launch, the figures can be obtained, but you need to have a revenue goal.
“Dissecting that revenue goal can be important, too, and if you're a global business, the revenue goal should be regional.
You need to consider how you’re going to work with local sales and marketing leaders on their business and pipeline objectives to understand how you can be impacting the launch in their region. Not every region is going to have the same part of the goal.
“We often think, ‘here are the four main selling propositions of this product’, and in a way, if we homogenize it too much like that, it may not work in every part of the world. That's not to say it's hypersensitive. For example, in Germany, it's maybe different than it is in the UK, and similarly, it’ll be different again in Illinois.
“However, across Europe in a certain business segment, there are very different pain points than you might have in the US in a different segment, and so at the end of the day, the product does what the product does, but it's being able to relate to the challenge that the market has. The regional piece relates to revenue goals, so I think it’s important. Again, that cascades to helping you and your team position the product.
“In my opinion, you win because you're going to help your customers do one of three things: make money, choose some sort of savings, the right time or cost, and reduce risk. As a quantifiable B2B metric, it comes down to those three things, almost everything else can probably be slotted into one of these.
“If we only say that we're faster or better without hard data, it doesn't mean anything. You can't say ‘tell your customer if they use your product they’ll grow their business faster, or save countless hours.’
“These are hollow comments; when you provide quantifiable results, you can't argue with the benefit. You can debate it, like whether it's good enough or not, but the data is substantive. You must have the specific quantifiable value that the product can deliver.
“For example, imagine a piece of tech that was going to automate a process. You need to say something along the lines of, ‘with automation, only one person has to be involved. They can set it up in thirty minutes, and the automated process is complete in two hours. A process that used to take three people two days to complete now takes two hours for thirty minutes of one person's time.’
“These data points have been used to justify the value and now you're hitting your core value pain point that the business understands - they know if they can save that amount of time, that there's an efficiency metric they can manage.
“However, if you're only telling them, ‘you can be more efficient if you use this product’, everybody's saying that, and you’ll find you’ll still be competing with everyone else because you’re not differentiating yourself.
“Those kinds of things are critical when you're launching any type of product. I think the challenge there is sometimes with a new product, we don't necessarily know what the quantifiable metrics are, so get the data points - I always test the product team and what data we have that we can refer to about performance.
“I think there are other things too, like, you know, who are we targeting in terms of competitors: how many competitors do we want to displace with this launch? There are things like objection handling that play key roles in product launches. And you also need to triangulate personas, geographic trends, and nuances there. I think those are critical in launching a product.”
How to work with product management teams
An effective working dynamic plays a crucial role in companies achieving their short and long-term goals, and product management and product marketing teams are by no means exempt from this rationale.
Rory Woodbridge, Director of Product Marketing at Pleo, highlights how not to work with product managers if you're a PMM.
Carter Holland offered his perspectives on how PMMs can liaise effectively and work in unison with their PM peers.
How can product marketers work with the product management team to identify relevant performance metrics relating to the end-user?
“I think it's worth being a little provocative and making the suggestion to challenge your product teams if they're not giving you the answer that's going to work for you.
“It’s the job of product to develop the solution, and it's the job of product marketing to take the product to market and communicate in a way that's going to matter to somebody who needs to buy it.
“Product teams are notorious for innovation. They develop capabilities and tell you about new features, and that's all great, but how do we know that this matters to the end-user? What conversations have they had that have highlighted the problem that we were told exists in this business?
“This is where you can start to uncover some of these conversations, and if they haven't done the final test, they might say to you: ‘look, we've been hearing in the field that it takes three people two days to get this thing done. This feature will offer them a way to get it done in two hours.
“From a marketing standpoint, you can take that to market in a quantifiable way. And hopefully, you can get that data from the product team. If you can't, and you're pushing on it, and they’re asking you to just trust them, don't settle for that. You need to push hard on it; you're going to be able to sell more of the product and make more money as a company if you’re able to quantify the value.
“It's been proven time and again - customers don't know how to choose if they're faced with five different things and nobody's quantifying any value. If four of them are generic, and one of them quantifies the value, which one do you think they're gonna buy?”
How is product launch success defined?
Is there a single leading metric that would define the success of a product launch?
“Revenue - you're always going to look at the financial success. You can say all the other things like cost, customer adoption, etc. but all those things should be leading to revenue.
“If you get customers to adopt it, and revenue isn’t associated with it then the business should be asking whether they’re focusing on the right thing, entirely. Therefore, in my mind, revenue is the single most important metric tied to a product launch.”
Aligning metrics with the sales cycle
How is revenue measured in correlation with the sales cycle? Some sales cycles are much longer than 30 days, so there are low indicators of seeing that metric until months out. How might you look at that?
“I take a holistic view of the business and revenue to start. Before I ever get to any sort of product revenue, I look at the revenue for the business; I take it over a year, and say ‘if our year-over-year revenue growth is expected to be X, how does that break out by region and by product?’
“You need to ask how you’re triangulating that because that's where nuances come into play. Therefore, when you set a revenue goal for a product, it can have those nuances attached to it.
“We may say, in the first six months, we're expecting the adoption to be in the US only, and we're not going to push this in Europe yet. This decision would be based on what the market is telling us.
“You may find it’s split in a way that replicates how your business’s split, with 10% from Asia and 30%, from Europe and the rest, so you could try and break it out that way.
"That’s the way I tend to look at it.“I think you want to sort of dovetail that with, ‘okay, when we look at all of our products, and the revenue there, how does that tie into the way we set up to run our business?
’“That’s a step that a lot of times people don't take because a lot of businesses take the peanut butter approach and say, ‘we're gonna launch this product worldwide, we're expecting $80 million in revenue - who knows where it's coming from? We’ll throw it all against the wall, and see what sticks.’
“You can be more successful if you've done the analysis upfront and say, ‘if we've got to generate $5 million or $10 million revenue for this product, 70% of that could come from APAC because here are the needs that are in that market and here are the needs this product addresses.’
“While I say revenue is the single leading metric, there's a lot more to that - there are sub-metrics underneath that.
"When you do that, it becomes actionable for the teams and everybody knows what their stake is. Then, when it comes to regional teams, you need to develop programs against that so they have clear markers in place.”
The importance of the post-launch process
While companies are often thorough when completing the stages up to a product being released, companies are sometimes guilty of neglecting the post-launch process, despite its importance to ensuring a product’s sustained success.
Menelaos Moustakas, Head of Marketing at SumUp, explains that while it may seem the work is done when the product is on the open market, this couldn’t be further from the truth, emphasizing the importance of the post-launch stage.
How to use market research during a product launch
Market research plays a fundamental role in ensuring your product launch is executed to perfection. If you cut corners, not only will you be running the risk of attracting negative personas, your lack of preparation could even benefit your competitors.
And the good news is conducting market research is easier than it’s ever been before, with a host of the dedicated customer and market tools available to help you gather essential qualitative and quantitative data.
Common barriers when launching a product (and how to overcome them!)
As is the case with any process, there are common barriers that product marketers may encounter when launching a product. These include:
- Customers resisting change
- Lack of market understanding
- No in-house training
- Inaccurate personas
- Too much innovation
- Demand outstrips supply
- Pain points aren’t addressed
- Poor pricing strategy
- Lack of communication
In this article, we’ve gone into more detail about such obstacles and outlined how you can overcome them.
How do I start launching a product?
A product launch feels like a huge undertaking, but without enough planning, customer and market research, and overall preparation, it's impossible to expect anything to happen.
The key to success is understanding where you should focus your efforts and how to manage each step of the process.
The launch process is split into three sections: pre-launch, the launch itself, and post-launch. There are certain steps you need to take throughout this process to achieve and surpass your goals.
How to prepare for a product launch
Kacy Boone, Head of Growth Marketing at Clockwise, described- in her experience- what a standard day for a product marketer looks like:
"There are seasons and times that have different characteristics than others. If you're in the early stages of a product, your day-to-day’s going to look a lot more connected to research and assessing data to figure out where the opportunities are. So it's going to take more solo time for you to think through these problems, and a lot of time looking online.
"If you're later on in the process, and you're more in the execution stage, then you’re getting closer to launch and maybe meeting with large groups of people from across the entire organization. You’d be running meetings, creating materials, gathering lots of reviews, and having more of a mindset of getting things ready to launch.
"I do think there are different levels within the process, but you're always working with a lot of people, and are always at the center of things- talking to sales, product, marketing… and also hopefully finding time to do more focussed work on the product."
The steps involved in the pre-launch process
We also asked Kacy what typically happens just before a product launch. She explained:
"I'll break it down into categories because there's so much of the work that happens before a product launch. It's like an iceberg- all you see is the tip of the iceberg, which is the actual launch.
So much goes into it from assessing whether you have met the customer's needs, starting even before ideation, understanding what the customer’s needs are, etc.
“But then as you're developing it, make sure you're consistently going back out to the market to adapt, refine and ensure you're on the right track. That includes your product but also your messaging as well.
"So, you need to make sure that all your ducks are in a row before the actual product launch because this then goes to a huge orchestration of many different people who need to deliver on an excellent launch, which should be rooted in very clear goals and targets.
“Also, who you're going after and what you want to say should be clear as well, for everyone on the team. The leader of that launch should be making sure that the ship’s sailing in the right direction so that when it comes to launch day, everything’s all about execution and iterating hereafter."
How to get salespeople excited about your launch
Salespeople are pivotal to the success of a product marketing team success. You can put hours upon hours into nailing your product’s positioning and messaging but the reality is all that hard work can be undone in a matter of minutes if it’s not understood and acted on by your sales teams.
Here are some tips on how you can get salespeople excited about your product launch:
1. Use real-life anecdotes
You telling salespeople your new product or feature is great and that your audience will love it is one thing, your target market telling them is another.
At the end of the day, at the most basic level, sales reps’ only aim is to sell. The more convinced they are that what you’re telling them will help them do that, the more likely they are to sit up and listen - and what illustrates that better than active testimonials?
So, if you have a beta version that’s been rolled out to X number of customers, pick their brains, compile their feedback, and let them do some of the pitchings for you.
If you don’t have any pilot results, the next best alternative is your data. Presumably, you ran some research before going ahead with the new product or feature you’re about to launch (if you didn’t, eek!), so use those numbers to back yourself up.
For example, going in with this:
“Our research showed 65% of lost customers didn’t convert because we didn’t have this feature, so the fact we now have it will improve your odds of closing deals.”
Is way stronger than:
“We’ve decided to add this feature to product X and it does this, this, and this…”
Go in with a role reversal approach. This time, you’re the sellers and they’re the market. Sell your product or feature to them.
2. Make it interactive
Instead of speaking to your sales team for 15, 20, or 30 minutes, mix it up by incorporating a bit of role-playing. As well as being more engaging, it’ll help them contextualize what you’re telling them and offer up some practical pitching tips, too.
Tip #1: Make sure the people involved with the role-play are up for it and enthusiastic. Two people begrudgingly and half-heartedly acting in front of a room of sales reps won’t harbor the results you’re after.
Tip #2: Consider using your reps as the stars of the show. We’ll touch on this in more detail a little later on but often, salespeople are more likely to listen to other salespeople, so capitalizing on this might make everyone more receptive to your efforts.
3. Use gamification
A lot of sales departments gamify their targets and day-to-day. The first person to reach X sales might get an early Friday finish. Every Thursday they might run a raffle. They might have an ongoing, quarterly leaderboard, and so on.
If it works, it works, so get on their wavelength and consider adding an element of gamification to your launch. For example:
- The first rep to make $XXXX in sales gets a $100 voucher, the second $75, and the third $50, or
- The rep at the top of the deals closed leaderboard at the end of month one gets half a day in lieu.
Use your imagination, factor in what works best for your set-up, and of course, remember to run your idea by the departmental heads first.
4. Split it up
From features to pricing to sales enablement collateral to messaging to demos to...you get the gist, there are lots you need to communicate with sales teams before launch. So, instead of overwhelming them with info in one not-so-swift swoop, think about breaking it up into weekly sessions on specific subjects.
- Week 1: product features, benefits, and pricing
- Week 2: messaging, positioning, and marketing
- Week 3: sales enablement collateral, etc.
There are studies out there that show our attention spans are as short as 14 minutes and after that window’s passed, people start to drift out of focus. With that in mind, maybe try to keep each of your meetings within or around a quarter of an hour.
5. Star your salespeople
We promised we’d expand on this point earlier, and here we are. Rightly or wrongly, salespeople can be more inclined to pay attention to their own and whether we agree with it or not, it makes sense to take whichever approach is going to be most effective.
In practice, you could look to do this in a couple of ways:
Sticking with the role-play idea, instead of using people from your product marketing team, recruit people from sales - just make sure you clue them up on the product or feature in advance.
Get your reps to deliver all or part of your meetings. If you do go with this tactic though, just make sure you properly train them beforehand and you or someone else from your team is present to make sure they stick to the script and have support if any questions arise they’re unable to answer.
One last thing worth bearing in mind for this one is which salespeople you choose. To be truly effective the person/people you pick should be top performers and well-respected among the team.
6. Lead by example
Okay, so this one might sound basic, but it’s important. If you want your sales teams to be excited you need to emit that kind of vibe - and that means presenting with gusto and showing you’re genuinely pumped.
Being a great presenter is a skill and we don’t think it’s right to say “if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, pass it onto someone else in the team who’s good at it.” It’s cliche, we know, but practice does make perfect, so use your launch meetings as an opportunity to grow and the more you do the better you’ll be.
Here are a few quick-fire tips to help you nail the essentials:
- Do a practice run before you stand in front of sales
- Come prepared with a few prompts as a safety blanket
- Assert yourself both physically and vocally
- Sit or stand upright, use gestures, and be mindful of your facial expressions
- Speak confidently and loudly (without bellowing!)
- Make eye contact with those in the room
- Ask questions to get people involved
- Don’t speak too quickly or slowly
- Make sure your nerves don’t make you monotone
- Remember to breathe and take a few sips of water if you need it.
7. Ask for feedback
This’ll help salespeople feel invested in the process and like they have a say.
Tip: not everyone likes sharing their thoughts in front of a room full of people so make sure you provide a more anonymous forum for them too.
Remember though, just because you ask for feedback doesn’t mean you have to act on it but if you don’t, be sure to thank the person anyway and explain why their comments aren’t being taken any further right now.
How to market a new product feature
After endless meetings and hours of research, you’ve finally got confirmation feature X is coming soon. Fantastic. You already know how much it’s going to help your customers and why it puts you above your competition, but, do they?
For existing customers, it gives them a reason to stay and for prospects, it gives them a reason to come. So, to make sure they’re all as excited about the feature as you are, you need a marketing strategy that covers all bases.
If your new feature’s going to revolutionize what you already offer, get people geared up for the announcement with some teaser messages.
Don’t go too hard on this stage though - otherwise, you run the risk of wearing people down before the big day, just scheduling a post or two across your social media platforms will do. Here are a couple of ideas:
- A post outlining some of the benefits that come hand-in-hand with your new feature;
- If applicable, a picture or video of your new feature in action along with a ‘coming soon’ message; or
- Something simple and intriguing like ‘Keep your eyes peeled, we’ve got an exciting announcement coming next week’.
Update your collateral
Behind the scenes, you’ll need to think about incorporating your new feature into any existing collateral, like:
- Dedicated landing pages,
- PPC text,
- Social media bios,
- Sales collateral
- Product descriptions, and
- Offline collateral (brochures, flyers, etc.)
This bit doesn’t need to be too time-intensive and usually won’t require a full re-write, but just think about how you can shout about its benefits and let people know it exists.
You don’t want to put this live before launch day, but if you get it drafted and approved ahead of time it’s then at least ready to be switched over straight away.
Email your database
Make sure you don’t let the prospect of new sales distract you from communicating your improvements with existing customers.
Although they might not bring more revenue in the short term if this new feature results in ongoing loyalty they’ll be the ones benefiting your bottom line in the long term.
In the run-up to or on the day of the release, schedule an email with important information like:
- What the new feature is,
- How it works,
- How it’ll benefit them, and
- Where they can go for extra support.
While we’re on the subject of current customers, don’t forget to think about cross-selling opportunities; but also don’t bombard every single contact. To fit the criteria for cross-selling the person or company should:
- Not already have the product that’s now got the new feature, and
- Already have a product or service with you that compliments this one.
And let them know you know they’re already a customer by opening with something like “We know you’ve already got our [insert product] and we thought you might find [insert product] useful too…”
Now, this is the exciting bit. If someone was interested in your product in the past but didn’t take the plunge, this new feature could be the nudge over the sales line they needed.
You need to arm prospects with all the information you gave your existing customers as well as some important additions - so don’t try and take shortcuts with the same template:
- A general overview of the whole product,
- Why they should choose you over your competitors, and
Tip: For a second stab at making sure everyone sees your announcement, consider mentioning it in your newsletters too (if you send them).
Create a landing page
Bespoke landing pages are a great way to capture new leads and increase conversion rates. Start by making sure you’ve got all these elements on it:
- A catchy headline
- Your branding and logo
- A clear description of your product
- Persuasive USPs and benefits
- Top-quality, relevant pictures
- Contact details
- An actionable CTA.
Once you’re happy with what you’ve got, this can be used in your email and social media (paid and organic) campaigns.
Spread the word on social
Different audiences are on different mediums, and, as we all know, there’s no guarantee your emails will be opened. So, to make sure your message reaches as many people as possible plan some social media activity around your new feature.
If you can, it’s a good idea to create some custom, branded imagery to support your efforts too - after all, this is all about your product.
Last but not least, if you want to target specific clusters of people consider investing in a few paid social posts too.
It’s up to you to gauge whether or not a press release is worthwhile for your feature, but if it is, it could be a relatively easy and cost-effective way to get your name in some local and industry-specific publications.
Tip: Get some advice on how to write a newsworthy press release here.
Signs your feature might be picked up by the press:
- It’s environmentally friendly,
- It’s something no one’s done before, or
- Its benefits are groundbreaking.
Train your sales team
And finally, don’t forget to educate your sales reps on everything they need to know. After all, what use are great marketing emails if the prospect then reaches out to a sales rep who makes no mention of the new feature whatsoever?
So, get your teams in a room and arm them with things like:
- Core benefits of the new feature,
- How it works with the product’s existing features,
- Key terms to use when talking about it, and
- If it affects pricing, let them know-how.
It might also be worth knocking up a simple one-pager with all this information so they have it to refer to when they want, as much as they want.
What is the product launch process?
The product launch process refers to the steps companies follow when taking a product to market.
Processes vary depending on factors such as product type, industry, level of investment, forecast ROI, and so on.
Typically, the process involves:
- Identifying and targeting segments
- Designing product packaging
- Drafting slogans, taglines, and marketing campaigns
- Conducting competitive analysis
- Consulting PR firms
- Creating a product sheet detailing the features of your product or service
- Launching or updating company websites
- Advertising the product
- Promoting the product in the media
What are the different launch tactics?
There are three types of product launch tactics:
- New value creation - these grow your company’s revenue streams and are new products or features, that further address your customer’s needs.
- Maintenance and support releases - these releases are focused on preserving the revenue of your products that are already on the market. You need to make sure that you make continuous changes to your offering to ensure that customer expectations are being met.
- Internal product releases - Though these releases aren’t public facing, this doesn’t mean they’re less important than new value creation or maintenance and support releases. They support the day-to-day running of your product.
How can I introduce my product online?
When you’re launching a product online, you need to complete five essential steps:
- Research your competitors
- Understand your audience
- Engage in product storytelling
- Write a marketing plan
- Launch your product
How do you write a new product announcement?
1) Know your audience
It’s essential to understand who the audience is that you’re catering to. The tone of your messaging will be dictated by the age of your audience, where they’re from, their interests, and so on. It’s fundamental to get this spot on - failing to do so will see your announcement fall short.
2) Be succinct
Keep things simple and be succinct in your approach. Adopt a simple approach, and start your announcement by simply telling the audience you’re releasing a new product. Never go into full sales mode from the offset - you can adopt this stance in the later stages of your announcement.
3) Describe the product
Unsurprisingly, your audience will need to know what they’d be getting if they were to invest in your product.
Outline the key USPs and main benefits. Don’t overcomplicate things - you need to make sure the audience identifies with why your product could be beneficial to them and meet their needs. Emphasize what they’ll accomplish, should they decide to invest.
4) Call to action
End the announcement with a rallying call that’ll entice your prospective buyer to put their hand in their pocket and buy the product.
What is a product launch checklist?
A product launch checklist refers to all of the steps a company needs to complete when releasing a new product.
Overseeing a new product launch is tough, but it forms a huge part of your role as a product marketer.
Granted, there may be times when tight deadlines leave you tearing your hair out, or poor planning and avoidable errors can frustrate you, but there’s an easy solution that’ll see you and your team over the line and keep key stakeholders happy: a watertight product launch formula - and we’re gonna tell you how to put it into action.
What are new product launch essentials?
As part of any product launch, certain things are indispensable as you and your team strive for success: customer development, positioning and messaging, internal communication, effective planning, great content, and awesome team morale.
Customer development is a term relating to ‘understanding your customer’.
Any great product launch is built on the knowledge you have about your customers; the more you know about them, the more equipped you are to launch a product that’s likely to tick all the boxes and address their pain points.
There’s an abundance of customer and market research tools designed to help you learn more about your prospective buyers - don’t put them to waste! Use them, delve into the data, (qualitative, quantitative - or both), identify trends, and act on bonafide customer needs.
Positioning and messaging
This stage of a new product launch is based on three essential questions: who is this product for? What does the product do? And most importantly, why is your product different?
To start with, familiarize yourself with these key terms:
- Target: Prospective customers you’re hoping will buy your product.
- Segment: A defined group of people who have a particular attribute that makes your product or service attractive.
- Brand: The name of your product.
- Category: A competitive frame for the target audience. Consider who it is you’ll be competing against and think of a way to make your option more appealing.
- USP: This is your unique selling point; what do you have that the competition doesn’t?
- Proof: Hard evidence to back up your claims.
When you’re positioning your product and constructing your messaging, don’t just tell your customer what features are included as part of the package - they can find this information out for themselves. Explain why these features are going to make their lives easier, and why they should invest.
There’s no room for keeping secrets when you’re planning a new product launch; you need to be sure everyone contributing to the process is aware of your positioning, so communicate internally to align expectations.
Building customer relationships is essential, but internal teams also need to be pulling in the same direction and excited by the prospect of the new product launch, and if this means popping on a pot of freshly brewed coffee and doing overtime to build your bank of internal advocates, then so be it.
Product launches at big and small companies are planned to precision, and the same principle must apply to you.
Speak with multiple teams and pick their brains for ideas, before considering A) the impact each idea will have on the launch, B) whether you think the idea is feasible, and C) if you did include it in the launch, how easy would it be to test its effectiveness?
Planning allows you and your team to put contingencies in place to navigate any curveballs that may come your way. The process can be stressful enough as it is, so why make things harder for yourself?
Carefully plan content
There are plenty of content and opps tools to help you create material that’ll make your competitors green with envy.
Remember, these will be the assets you’ll be using on the big day and form a critical part of your product launch plan, so don’t skimp on the details - they’re a big deal.
There’s nothing worse than working tirelessly for weeks, sometimes months on end, only to let yourself down with mediocre assets to accompany your launch.
Always make sure sure content is relevant and measurable. Data and insights are invaluable when you’re launching a product, as they’ll essentially tell you if your product launch has been a resounding success or a terrible flop.
Also, never be afraid to tease your audience and give them hints about what’s to come when putting together your content plan.
Maintain team morale
Internal communication is the glue that holds any product launch plan together. If teams in the company are none the wiser, how can you possibly be expected to execute your launch to perfection?
When you're holding meetings, consider holding multiple sessions in which you can tailor your agenda to each relevant group of people.
For example, if you’re discussing sales enablement with the sales team, you don’t need non-sales staff there with you - their attention will wander and your big day could suffer as a consequence.
Keep your team motivated and keep calm; if you start to wobble, your panic will be noticeable and it can easily rub off on other members of the team.
11 tips on influencing and organizing launches
Influencing organizations and stakeholders to stick to your timelines is no easy feat. Everyone’s got their priorities and KPIs and convincing them to make time for yours too can be testing.
If you’re reading this though, take solace in that you’re not alone and hopefully, these 11 tips will help you shake up that internal shift and make your next project less taxing.
Hanna Woodburn, Product Marketing Manager at FullStory said:
“In terms of getting buy-in from other teams, it can be immensely helpful to use a decision-making framework, such as a RAPID framework, to clarify what role cross-functional team members play. That way, when you need buy-in, your team members know if their feedback is a launch blocker (and you can prioritize your time accordingly).”
1. Paint the bigger picture
Whether it’s targeting a new audience to gain more of the market share, adding a new feature to retain more clients, or creating a whole new product to add another revenue stream, in theory, everything you do should be tied to an overarching business goal.
That in itself is your in, but it’s on you to explain how project X, Y, or Z is going to achieve that, and usually, being specific and data-driven is the best way. We know we’re oversimplifying it here but take a look at these two approaches:
“We’re doing this because we’ve been targeted with reducing churn by 5% in the next quarter.”
“We’ve been targeted with reducing churn by 5% next quarter and our research and data shows us 55% of churned users currently leave because we don’t have feature Y.
The interviews we’ve conducted with lost customers tell us 80% of them would have stayed if we added this feature already, so we are confident completing this project will directly correlate with a lower churn rate and $XXXX more in company revenue.”
The second is unarguably more compelling and it’d be pretty darn hard for anyone to turn that away, which leads us nicely into our next point…
2. Link it to their objectives
“Position the launch in the context of what’s in it for them and the greater impact of the business to get buy-in. Then, help them understand the driving reasons behind the deadlines; as a PMM, you are perfectly suited to highlight the why behind deadlines [e.g. business impact, cross-functional partner needs, etc].”
Sapphire Reels, Product Marketing Manager at Pluralsight
In a dream world, our first tip’s enough to get everyone bought in. The reality is that’s not always the case though. Everyone’s got their objectives and if people have got to-do lists as long as their arm, justifying taking their eye off one of their balls to focus on yours can be...tricky.
So, if you can, find a way to tie your objectives into theirs. For example, for sales, a new feature might make it considerably easier to close deals which would directly correlate with their new business targets. For IT, it might mean a reduction in tickets. For customer service, it could be fewer inbound calls.
More often than not, there’ll always be a way to intertwine the two so take the time to work out what that connection is and then tailor your pitch to hone in on it. For this reason, it might be worth splitting your approach by department...
3. Segment your briefs and plans
As product marketers, we spend a lot of time segmenting our market and customers to get optimal results, so take that principle and apply it to internal stakeholders too. There are a few benefits to doing this:
- As we just touched on, you can position your project and requirements in a way that resonates with what matters most to each department/stakeholder. Because they will all care more and less about different things
- You can dedicate your time to them focusing solely on the facts that matter to them. Let’s be honest, we’ve all begrudgingly been in one of those 45-minute meetings where only five minutes of it have been relevant to us. It doesn’t engage people and in the long run, they’ll probably just stop turning up. So, instead of having one big meeting with everyone, consider setting up two or three shorter ones with individual departments.
Don’t stop your segmentation there though and if you’re building an internal roadmap, consider splitting them up too.
Because if you create a catch-all roadmap for sales, engineering, marketing, etc. you run the risk of diluting each’s tasks and responsibilities and people not paying attention to what they should be focusing on. If sales don’t need to know about a software migration IT will be doing in week five don’t bother them with it - and vice versa.
The simpler and easier you make everything to digest, takeaway, and act on, the more likely you are to get the results you’re after.
“Create clarity for stakeholders over what is and isn't a launch blocker, as well as who owns what. This helps spread not just responsibility, but accountability.
"It also makes the launch a shared win, instead of PMMs or PMs win. Launch teams sink or swim, together! I find that a simple one-pager that divides the launch into key initiatives (e.g. legal, campaign, comms + PR) and assigns cross-functional owners, can help with this.”
Katherine Brittain, Head of Marketing at Stealth Startup
4. Bring them into the process
There’s a theory in psychology called the IKEA effect which essentially says labor leads to love - i.e. if people help build something they’re more likely to like it than if it came premade. Well, the same concept can be applied to things that aren’t physical - like your plans and strategies.
People don’t like feeling left out or sheltered from discussions and decisions that impact them, and if they are, they’re more likely to be adverse to what comes next. So, bring your peers into the process early on, let them have a level of control, and just watch how much more passionate they become about the result.
“The greatest help here is this: get people to be part of the plan creation. Set the goal, paint the north star, and then build the plan WITH them. When they have helped build the plan, with their input and expertise, they are more likely to want to see it come to fruition. Don't just make the plan and throw it at them, build it together as a team.”
RJ Gazarek, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Atlassian
5. Think about who you’re talking to
Different people have different personalities and factoring these into your delivery can take the impact of what you’re saying to a whole new level. For example, if you know Sam from sales loves a good data-driven presentation, give it to him. If Carol from customer service prefers more of a story outlining the customer’s journey and perspective, try to give that to her too.
For this exact reason, more and more companies are investing in workplace personality assessments - to help individuals and teams better communicate with one another. There are tonnes of really robust paid versions out there but if you wanted to test the waters, here are 14 free personality testing tools.
6. Be specific
Avoid being loose with what you’re after and when by. If you need task A completed by Jan 10th put that deadline on the individual and don’t give them any reason to be able to wiggle out of it on a technicality. Document it, share it, and remind them of it.
Tip: if it’s a long-running project, to prevent it from falling off other people’s radar, you could do something as simple as circulating an up-to-date version of each department’s roadmap, say, weekly or biweekly. This’ll take a matter of minutes and should serve as a regular prompt and keep others from forgetting their role.
As well as that, if someone’s deadline’s looming don’t leave it until the day of to ask for it. If you do and they’ve not done it, you’ve no chance of sticking to your timings. Instead, set a reminder in your diary to check in a few days before with a friendly nudge like:
“Hey, I’m just checking in to see if we’re all on track for the delivery of [insert task] by [insert date]? Let me know if you need anything else from me.”
Again, it doesn’t take long at your end and will hopefully stop things from slipping.
“Get face time with people to communicate the importance of collaboration. It helps to define exactly what's needed and why. Do your side of the work before you approach other teams - this may be a detailed plan, the what and why piece, and how it affects this individual. People appreciate when you acknowledge this may not be their core but that their support is crucial.”
Kirti Sharma, Associate Director, Product Marketing at Whatfix
7. Incorporate feedback
Now it goes without saying you can’t include everyone’s feedback, but if people take the time to give their input they like to know they’ve been heard. This one’s pretty simple but if you:
- Include their feedback, let them know, and thank them for the idea; or
- Don’t include their suggestion, let them know the rationale behind the why, and still thank them.
This all just ties back to being transparent and seen to value other people’s time and efforts - and we don’t need to tell you being a product marketer requires tip-top interpersonal skills.
“Get everyone's feedback and opinions and put them in three buckets:
1) Desirable. Great idea! It's a feature our clients will need in the future. Let's add it to the product roadmap.
2) Feasible. Yes, it can be done in this sprint.
3) Viable. This one is going to contribute to our long-term sustainability and growth. Let's add this to our product backlog.
This way everyone, even outside the PMM team, feels heard, accountable, and empowered. It's a great exercise for PMM to collect some outsider's perspective.”
Puja Shah, Independent Marketing Consultant at whiz.ai
8. Keep people up to speed
Sticking with the transparency theme, make a point of keeping people in the loop and try to pencil something into everyone’s diary to make sure they commit to your catch-ups.
“In the words of our CMO, ‘over-communicate’. It’s a great principle to use pre-launch as it forces you to stay in touch with your peers and people you need help from.”
Sean Broderick, Senior Manager, Product Marketing at Altify
“I completely agree with Sean, especially for teams that are distributed globally and/or working remote. That and a clean, frequently-updated source of truth for the project.”
Joe Ciuffo, Product Marketing Director - AI at Genesys
- These don’t have to be long. Short and sweet is generally best and it might be something as simple as a 10-minute huddle every Friday morning.
- Be flexible. Things change so don’t see your communication plan as set in stone and have contingency plans for if something doesn’t work out. For example, if a key stakeholder isn’t able to make it one week, could you record the meeting and email it? Or take notes to share? Or invite another representative from their team? There’ll always be another way.
- Don’t just be open about the positives. If people need to know about the negatives be upfront but just position them in a constructive way that doesn’t result in loss of confidence.
To make sure your catch-ups don’t derail and turn into a platform for people to vent or ask specific questions that could or should happen one-on-one or behind closed doors, send the invite out with a brief overview and agenda. For example:
Just putting this in your diary to schedule weekly catch-ups around project Z. Here’s the agenda:
1. Product marketing to give a status update
2. Sales to give an update on deliverables.
3. Sales to outline any new barriers
If you have any questions or issues outside of this, please come and speak to me separately before or after the meeting.
9. Prepare for objections
Is there anything less assuring than when you ask someone a question and they’re visibly unable to answer it? Don’t fall into that trap.
It’s natural for people to have objections, but just make sure you explore them before you go into a meeting so you’re able to confidently answer them on the spot and shut down the opportunity for uncertainty - once you lose morale it can be tough to get back.
10. Know the numbers
To expand on our loss of confidence point, make sure you’ve got key numbers at the tip of your tongue throughout and use them where you can to make your updates easier to understand. For example:
“We’ve migrated 45% of existing customers to the new platform.”
Sounds better and more credible than:
“We’ve started migrating some customers over to the new platform.”
No one’s going to sue you for not having a memory that hoards and regurgitates 25+ stats on command, but if you’ve not got them in your head, have them on paper so you can easily refer to and use them as and when needed.
11. Make it visual
Visuals and stories are much easier to remember than a reel of numbers so incorporate them as and where you can - it’s pretty much guaranteed that people will retain more of what you tell them.
If you’re turning your data into visuals just remember to:
- Keep them simple. If a standard pie chart will do it don’t go using a fancy alternative for the sake of it, and
- Don’t use words where you don’t need to. Your charts are visual aids and don’t need an in-depth explanation surrounding them.
It’s probably worth sharing these kinds of things post-meeting too so people can refer to them as and when they want and you get less of those “have you got” requests.
Finally, keep the visual element front of mind when you’re drawing up your roadmaps too. The aim isn’t to showboat with an overly technical and complicated plan, it’s to make the document as easy as is humanly possible to follow, understand and update.
“Ensure that you communicate clearly and efficiently. Avoid using technical terminology that is not understood by all and keep it simple.”
Malaz Idris, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Rocket Lawyer
"When it comes to getting buy-in from teams outside PMM to stick to pre-launch dates, I find there are three key things that are helpful. The first is to make sure people are really clear on our key milestones, outlining what we need to deliver and why it's important.
“The second thing is proactively communicating regularly, so if someone misses the information the first time around, they'll get it again in a subsequent communication.
“And finally, checking in with people 1-to-1 is useful as well to make sure you receive confirmation from other stakeholders that they will deliver according to the milestones, as promised."
Eric Moeller, Director of Product Marketing at Sage
9 things to remember for your next internal product launch
Internal communication plans are integral to the success of any new product or feature. But, with so much going on getting external launches prepared, making final tweaks, and chasing looming deadlines, they don’t always get the TLC they need.
So, whether you’re looking for ways to communicate your message better, increase adoption, improve your support set-up or get everyone bought in, here are nine tips to help with all four.
1. Knowledge is power
Make sure you’re feeding the right people with the right information. It might sound obvious but it still gets missed - sometimes.
Not enough information will leave people unprepared but overloading them can get them flustered. For example, does everyone need an in-depth understanding of your ongoing lead generation and marketing campaigns? Sales, marketing, and product, yes, but IT? Probably not.
That’s not to say you have to keep that kind of detail from them completely, but strengthen the uptake of the information you do give them by not sandwiching it in between all the irrelevant bits.
Tip: if you’re not confident you’re providing people with everything they need, ask them...which ties nicely to our next point.
2. Ask people what they want
Some product marketers have a nice internal set-up where they, product, and sales get on like a house on fire...others don’t. It still applies to both scenarios, but if you’ve got friction with other departments letting them take a bit of the lead might help.
That doesn’t mean it’s a case of they say “jump” and you say “how high?”, but instead of just telling them ‘you’ll get this type of training on this day’, ask them what works best for them.
- Do morning or afternoon slots suit better?
- Would they prefer in-person training or offline documents?
- Does anyone need a bit of 1-2-1 support?
- Is there anything they think could be improved from the last internal product launch?
It’ll shift the dynamic and show them you’re working together.
3. Timing is of the essence
People don’t like things being sprung on them last minute - especially stuff that directly impacts them. We’re not saying you have to involve every department in every stage, but if you’re discussing something today that’ll impact your customer support team in 10 weeks, let them know about it sooner rather than later.
It’ll give them time to prepare, you the opportunity to iron out any concerns that might arise, and make for a smoother journey all-round.
Tip: if you’re not already, remember to bring key heads in from these departments when ideas are in the concept stage. Not only will it enrich their buy-in, but it’ll likely result in a stronger, more well-thought-out product full stop.
4. Tell them how it benefits them
Be specific with your benefits, because every new product or feature will mean something different to each department.
Example: Let’s say you’re a financial services company and you’re launching a new app that enables customers to apply for credit, update their details, check their credit score, and speak to an advisor via live chat.
As much as we wish they were, your goals aren’t always aligned with other teams’, so, by showing how yours helps theirs, you’ll increase business-wide engagement and the overall success of the launch.
5. Variety is key
Everyone digests information differently so prepare a few types of collateral, like:
- One-page flyers
- Product brochures
All seven might be a bit much so if you’re not sure which would work best, going back to point two, just ask. Different departments might be more receptive to different styles too, so remember to factor that into your plans.
Make it all accessible
Whether you’ve got one or six products in your portfolio, it’s a good idea to store all your collateral in a single place for everyone to access when they want - like a folder in your drive or an internal intranet system, for example. This will:
- Give everyone autonomy to refresh themselves as and when they want;
- Enable teams to train recruits themselves; and
- Reduce the number of people coming to you asking for X, Y, or Z.
It doesn’t need to be anything complicated, a simple file structure like this would do:
- New products
- Personal banking app
- Internal collateral
- One-page flyer
- Presentation recording
6. Look at your language
Just because you know what something means it doesn’t mean your sales, customer service, or IT teams do, and if they struggle your customers have got no chance.
So, before you send any emails or hand out any collateral go through it all and check:
- It’s not got any jargon only you and your team use, and
- It’s not full of marketing lingo. Keep it simple and focus on the key messages and information its recipients need to take away.
Tip: to make sure nothing’s gone unnoticed pass your collateral onto someone in the business (outside of your department) with a fresh pair of eyes and ask them to flag anything that trips them up.
7. Empower people
One surefire way to get people bought in is to empower them and there are a couple of ways you can go about this.
If you’re planning on running a training session with your sales team, instead of someone from the product marketing team hosting it, get someone from the sales department too. Rightly or wrongly, having ‘one of their own’ presenting it can make some people more receptive.
To maintain some control and ensure accuracy, just be sure to send someone from your team to oversee the session and answer any questions.
Okay, so this one might need buy-in from someone more senior first, but, if you can, put some of the KPIs onto other teams.
If nothing before this has worked (which it should have!) we’re confident this one will because it directly impacts their numbers and departmental success.
Sticking with the personal banking example, although you might have an overarching adoption goal for existing customers, you could divide that goal up and put X amount on the customer service team, Y amount on your customer comms team, Z amount on the marketing team and some on yourself, of course.
But remember, it’s not a case of dumping a target on their desk and scarpering. You still play a pivotal role in helping them hit those KPIs.
8. Don’t launch and run
Keep you and your team visible and make sure everyone who could need help knows you’re on-hand to support them by:
- Reminding them you’re around for questions or extra guidance - a simple email would do.
- Running an internal incentive campaign - this could be a bit of fun, like a quiz or game, or a prize for the first person to achieve X conversions.
- Asking sales and customer service teams how they’re getting on, what kind of feedback they’re hearing and whether or not they think improvements could be made.
9. Do a practice run
In the words of Neil Patel, “When you rehearse the launch process, you ameliorate a significant risk. If you expect your launch to be successful, you must control the features of the launch that are within your control.”
His sentiment’s shared by James Hacket, former CEO of Steelchase:
“By building practice into our formal process, we make sure everyone is given the time and resources they need to do it and do it thoroughly ...If the effort is worth our collective time and we are playing to win, then we need to practice to perform.
“Practice, in this case, meant training everyone from the line workers who had to adapt their production protocols to the sales force and order management people to the board members who would be asked about the product line once it went public.”
Tips to ensure a successful product launch
Launching a new brand or product can be an exciting time. It’s a chance to show off your vision, make a splash and get people talking about your company. But it isn’t always a smooth process.
In fact, according to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately:
- 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open,
- 45% during the first five years,
- 65% during the first 10 years, and
- Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.
If you want to maximize your chances of success, some key areas should be sufficiently developed before a launch.
Know your audience
Ensure you understand your target audience. After all, these are the people that’ll be buying your product. So, you need to identify:
- Target demographic information (age, income, location, etc),
- Challenges they face and how they’ll benefit from your product,
- What your product can offer them that competing products don’t,
- What they like, what similar products the majority purchase, etc,
- How they respond to certain marketing techniques, and
- Where their community is, and how they’re going to find out about your product.
Tune in to our Consumer and Market Research podcast series, where Vincent Xu, Product Marketing Manager at Google speaks to a variety of professionals on the best tips and tricks to improve your consumer and market research process.
Develop a strong Go-to-Market strategy
A solid go-to-market (GTM) strategy’s essential for a successful product launch and can be used to improve team collaboration. It’s used as a way for an organization to bring a product to market and touches on three core components:
- Your target audience,
- Your marketing plan, and
- Your sales strategy.
Every product and business is different, meaning that the GTM strategy changes along with it, so you need to ensure that your entire team’s on the same page.
Join Holly Watson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services, in the Ready, Set, Go-to-Market podcast series as she explores the intricacies of the GTM strategy with specialists within the area.
Market, market, market!
If you don’t market your product effectively, how will it reach your target audience? You need to ensure that you’re marketing before, during, and after the launch process, to reach the maximum amount of attention for your product.
Here are some key things to consider with your marketing:
- Create an email list before launching your product so you can communicate with your customers throughout the process.
- Create a social media plan- your customers need to know what to expect from you once you go live. Consider using tools like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to promote your launch, depending on your demographic’s most commonly used community.
- Post about your launch on your company blog. This way, you’re driving traffic and engagement towards your organization and product.Check out Copywriter Emma Bilardi’s article on how to optimize your product marketing efforts to establish your product marketing strategy and get the most engagement with your launch.
If you don’t market your product effectively, how will it reach your target audience? You need to ensure that you’re marketing before, during, and after the launch process, to reach the maximum amount of attention for your product.
Here are some key things to consider with your marketing:
- Create an email list before launching your product so you can communicate with your customers throughout the process.
- Create a social media plan- your customers need to know what to expect from you once you go live. Consider using tools like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to promote your launch, depending on your demographic’s most commonly used community.
- Post about your launch on your company blog. This way, you’re driving traffic and engagement towards your organization and product.
Check out our article on how to optimize your product marketing efforts to establish your product marketing strategy and get the most engagement with your launch.
Launch products at the optimal time
If you launch too soon, your brand will be seen as new and unproven. If you launch too late, you won’t get much attention.
You need to determine when would be the best time to launch your product to receive the most engagement with your target customer base. Product launch metrics will help you identify the right time for putting your product on the market.
Be prepared, patient, and don’t rush
It takes time to build awareness, and you don’t want to make avoidable mistakes by rushing through the process.
Create checklists to ensure you’re meeting all the goals you and your company have set and be prepared for any wrenches in your plans by acknowledging potential challenges and how to overcome them.
Messaging is the guiding force for everything you do in your product launch. What your product brings to the table, who it is for, why they care, and how they can help them accomplish their goals.
You can lay out the new product messaging in several formats but if you keep it simple, to a single page it works better for all your internal stakeholders who need to review, approve, and use it in their efforts of content, demand gen programs, and AR/PR.
Pro tip: Take a close look at all the great features in the new product, reviewing slides, documents, and info sessions with your product team. Get a demo or see a mockup if it is ready. Boil it down to a top-level message, and a few themes that support it.
Do some research as to how the market is talking about it, how competitors are positioning it if any, and how partners might be approaching it from their POV.
Launch Messaging / single page summary:
What is the new product or feature about?
- Launch the main message. A one-liner about the new product or set of capabilities, supported by 3–5 launch themes
- Launch abstract. 50–70 words describing the launch key message and themes
Who is the new product launch for?
- ICP — ideal customer profile. Customer size (strategic, enterprise, mid-market, SMB), customer journeys/use cases that this new product applies to, customer geos/verticals, etc.
- Buyer Personas. From C-level to VP/Director to practitioners/users. IT and Line of Business as relevant
Why does the buyer care about this new product?
- Business & technology challenges (or pain points) for your buyer from C-level down to the practitioner
How does your product solve buyers’ pain points?
- Key features/capabilities of the product
- How does each feature or a subset map to a customer benefit? Benefits could be monetary (increased revenue, a new line of business, lower costs, etc.) or efficiency (improved productivity, enhanced collaboration, faster time to market, etc.)
Press release headline
- Is your new product industry’s #1 in a market category, or most comprehensive, etc.? This is especially important if you’re trying to create a new category or improve your differentiation within a crowded market
- Go for a swagger statement, but with proof points/features that support it
Launch goals & program management
Consider using a RACI or DACI framework (below) to get the messaging finalized.
- Driver: Product Marketing
- Approver: GM / BU Leader, CEO, etc.
- Contributor: Product Management
- Informed: AR, PR, Program Management, Demand Gen, Content Marketing, etc.
Pro tip: Product marketing can lead a launch kickoff meeting in collaboration with program management, inviting internal stakeholders and the launch team.
Keep it short but the idea is to get everyone on the same page with your single-page messaging doc and get them pumped up on the upcoming launch.
Your launch goals may very well be determined by the scope of the product but also by your overall GTM (Go-to-Market) strategy. As part of your launch plan, determine the key objectives and metrics of your launch along with these areas:
- Highlight tech innovation, vision, and leadership — drive awareness and adoption
- Showcase your product vis-à-vis your partner’s — drive joint GTM
- Highlight early adopter customers — drive upsell and cross-sell motions
- Connect your product to new buyers’ journeys — drive new logo acquisition
Pro tip: As soon as you have your launch plan down, run it by our internal stakeholders and launch team to get their buy-in, and their feedback incorporated. This helps set up the cross-functional teams for success.
Which areas among the above are you doing well, which ones are you hitting out of the ballpark, and which ones need work? How do your stakeholders feel about it?
Product launch tips
Jarod Greene, VP of Product Marketing at Highspot and host of Leading the Way: The Sales Enablement Podcast, spoke with Harish Peri, Head of Product Marketing at Salesforce, to delve into the finer elements of what it really takes for a product marketer to deliver a product launch hits the mark.
Harish is a growth-oriented executive with over 20 years of cross-industry experience in product management and product marketing. He’s sampled different flavors of product marketing and has dubbed himself, “a recovering developer who became a product manager, and then a recovering product manager who became a product marketer and never left.”
During his chat with Jarod, Harish discussed:
- How to help salespeople adapt to change
- Sales enablement tips
- How to build an effective relationship with sales leadership
- How to build on post-launch wins
- The secret to successful launches
Helping your salespeople to adapt to change
One of product marketing’s big remits is the product launch, but everyone's got a piece of it – the corporate marketing team, the demand team, enablement, sales, and customer success, among others. Basically, product launches require a lot of cat herding.
All this means you need to effectively manage change at scale. However, a statistic from our friends at Salesforce tells us that 71% of sales leaders believe that sellers can’t adapt to change. That feels like a really high number and reflects what I might think of as low competence. I’m curious about what you think.
I think it's unfair to talk about competence, but “change” is the exact right word.
On the marketing side of things, we often get so caught up a lot in the sugar highs and the quick hits of the launch – press mentions, social coverage, creating the right buzz, and getting the right entertainment for launch events – that change management gets neglected.
Salespeople are going through an entire mental model change exercise with their prospects, and launches disrupt that model.
A lot of times, the fact that we think that something's new isn't good enough – that sales process may not have been impacted at all. That's not necessarily because reps can’t deal with changes in strategy; it’s more like the launch strategy doesn't match up.
I'd argue that a lot of time is spent on all the fun trappings of launches and not enough time is spent on figuring out how we can inject the benefits of launches into existing deals or plays that our reps have with customers.
We should be molding the launch to fit those models, rather than just throwing in something new and seeing whether it sticks.
And look – it's tough being in SaaS. Everybody is competing, everyone's got to come up with a new thing, and everyone's launching and relaunching left and right, so I get the pressure.
It's up to product marketers to say that the shiny new product almost doesn't matter – how it fits into enablement, playbooks, reps’ mental models, and how they talk to their customers is what the launch should be about.
In short, I would say that the reason for this stat is that we as PMMs are not really doing our job to the best of our abilities.
Sales enablement advice
There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate when it comes to launches. Internally, there’s the business strategy, the product strategy, and the go-to-market, and that’s all mapped against external constraints, like what your competitors are doing.
On top of that, sometimes there's a gap between what the really good reps can do, what the not-so-good ones can do, and what the really struggling ones can do.
When you think about a launch, that construct still applies: the good reps are going to pick it up, and the not-so-good ones might not. Everyone's heard the 80:20 rule – 80% of sales are made by 20% of reps, and launches can exacerbate that.
So how do we solve that? How can organizations think about moving that needle and getting the whole team on board with what the launch is intended to support and drive?
That is where enablement comes into play. The worst thing you can do is say, “We launched this new feature. It's amazing for these reasons – good luck!” which is what we were talking about a second ago.
Yeah, a small portion of reps are going to be able to take that and know exactly how it fits into their world. Maybe they’re more proactive, in sync with the product teams, and thinking about the launch ahead of time – that's part of what makes them really good reps.
However, you want to systematize that out of the equation. You can’t just rely on your star performers; you need to be building a team that covers your entire customer base correctly. That's done through proper enablement.
We need to make sure there’s the right education, the right enablement, and the right pressure from sales management.
We want them to be able to say, “This is how you take these products to market; we’re only executing these plays,” and those plays need to be enforced. Then, the key is to get the launch to fit those plays, or create a new play that supports that launch.
That way, you take the “voodoo” factor out of the equation. It’s no longer about certain star performers who just get it. It's in the playbook, everyone has been enabled, and everyone's demonstrated that they can execute the playbook.
That doesn't change the fact that some reps might be more proactive than others or have the right number of touches with their customers – that's up to each frontline sales manager to figure out with their teams – but it at least reduces the uncertainty about whether a launch will land or not.
Getting that enablement machine working, getting those launches plugged into the right plays, and getting those plays enforced across the AE base is, at least in my view, a way to fix that 80:20 problem.
Another key thing to remember is that you shouldn’t just be talking about what the new product or feature does and why it matters – you have to show why it matters now.
That relevance is what drives urgency in the field, and that's when the plays become super powerful. A lot of times, the reason launches fall flat is you haven't done that translation.
Product marketers will say, “Our job is to take features and turn them into value.” But that's only 50% of the puzzle. The other 50% is why that value matters to this specific prospect at this moment in time. That hyper-relevant tip of the spear will help your reps get ahead of the competition.
Take my world as an example. Cybersecurity is hot all the time, but right now the world is seeing nation-state actor threats. We can compete all day on a feature basis, or even on a value basis, but what’s more relevant now is that the barbarians are at your gates and you’ve got to be ready.
Switching the conversation to why that matters at this moment in time is a play that any rep, even if they're brand new, can use to generate meaningful pipeline.
How to build an effective relationship with sales leadership
One of the things I've learned is that enablement only really goes so far as the sales leadership team allows it to.
If you enable the rep, the first question they ask is not back to the product marketer; it’s to their manager. So if the sales manager isn't informed or, worse, they’re not on board, things can go wrong. How have you navigated the dynamics in the sales hierarchy in the context of a launch?
There are different tactics depending on the size and culture of your company, but it ultimately comes down to relevance. The larger the company is, the more of a fight it’s going to be to show how your launch supports a corporate initiative or company-level goal, but we have to do that. That way, you can use something that the CEO wants to achieve as ammo to get everybody on board.
In a smaller company, it's much easier. You just go to the VP of Sales and say, “Listen, this is what's gonna get your reps to meet their quotas faster,” and make it relevant in that way.
If there's a way to tie it to a deeper customer value outcome, that's even better because the best sales manager will want not only their reps but their customers to succeed.
The right approach depends on what stage you're at, how large the company is and what the culture is, ultimately.
How to build on post-launch wins
Let's shift gears and talk about the other side of enablement. As PMMs, we’re often guilty of creating a ton of new content and assets and just throwing it over the wall to sales and saying, “There you go – that’s all the content you need.”
Even if we include guidance on each play and when to use it, most reps are going to forget it, so there's a world of training and coaching to think through.
How do you think about the sales training side of a launch?
There are two parts to it – the push and the pull. On the pull side of things, an easy thing that power marketers can do is really highlight deal wins. You want to latch onto successes and rapidly publicize the heck out of them with your reps.
Having somebody on the sales team explain how they successfully used a play in this way is going to give you way more credibility than if you just explain it yourself.
Product marketers aren't the Spartans in the field, so the story of who a rep went after, the messaging they used, and how they closed that deal is very important.
Plus, that rep can tell you about opportunities and gaps that we marketers may not have known about when we launched the product. Those learnings from the field are supremely important.
The second thing is to make sure that at all of your opportunity stages, your sales folks are correctly tagging the plays and methodologies they’re using in your CRM. From a push perspective, that’s where a manager can really coach their team and address why they might not be using a certain approach.
So it's a push-and-pull thing, but in my experience, sharing deal wins is by far the best way to remove any scepticism. It also creates a little healthy competition, and that's the culture, right? Salespeople tend to be motivated by a little bit of competition.
The secret to successful launches
What's the secret to successful launches? Are there any pearls of wisdom you'd like to pass on to other PMMs?
The thing that really makes a launch successful is everybody having the same definition of what success looks like.
If you don’t have that, you can end up with a huge trough of disappointment afterwards because certain teams didn't see the outcome they wanted. Sometimes, you need the launch owner to be brave enough to say, “This isn't going to impact sales, and that's okay.” If everyone knows that going in, then no one's unhappy.
If your objective is to drive sales success, don't spend so much time on all the fluffy noise-making stuff. Get into the weeds with the reps and reverse engineer your positioning so that they’re ready the minute your new product or feature launches.
It can be hard to wrangle folks to agree on the definition of success, but the launch owner needs to be brave enough to drive that and get alignment. The launches where I’ve seen that happen are the ones that have gone most smoothly and where everyone’s happiest after the fact.
Recommended tools for product launches
There’s no disputing that product launches are challenging. They require copious amounts of time, resources, and effort.
However, there are tools available on the market that can support you and your team during the process of launching and alleviate the workload.
Discover a collection of product launch tools in the PMM Tech stack.
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