Whether you’re at a pre-seed startup or a well-established public company, saving cash is a top priority in 2024.
Last year, according to MarTech, 68% of marketers reported budget cuts. This means that marketing teams are being asked to achieve ambitious growth targets while simultaneously reducing costs – and product marketing isn’t immune, so getting the right resources to launch products is challenging.
All’s not lost, however. It’s time for product marketers to get creative, test out new tools, and work with partners, customers, and internal teams to build hype around new products. You may even pick up some new skills along the way.
Having worked as the sole marketer at Duro, a seed-funded B2B SaaS startup, for a year and a half, I understand the need to reduce costs and still get information out into the public domain. This blog covers some tactics I've tested along the way and some others that I plan to implement.
Firstly, what exactly do we mean by 'shoestring budget'?
Shoestrings cost between $3 and $12 on Amazon these days. As we know, that amount won’t get you anywhere in marketing spend. So, let’s pretend we have zero budget. You’re on your own and have been tasked with making a big splash for an upcoming product release. Where do you start?
Defining the essentials of a successful product launch
Let’s look at what goes into a product launch to see what costs the most. Presuming the product team has already evaluated the market opportunity and specified a timeline for release, the four fundamental steps for product marketing include:
- Messaging and positioning: Here, you’ll hone in on your solution’s strengths and decide the angle you’ll take to showcase differentiation. How will customers use the product? What problems does it solve? Getting customer intel at this stage is vital to define the elevator pitch and product value proposition to go in the external-facing copy.
- Professional-looking sales materials: From decks and one-pagers to new web pages and blogs, your team will require materials to share. In today’s attention age, short video assets or interactive content are a must.
- Internal education and training: Your colleagues should know how to discuss the features and benefits of the product with prospects and where to find materials to share. This step involves communicating via Slack and email and setting up live training sessions with the sales and customer success teams.
- External promotion: Now you're ready to share the news of your exciting new product with the world. With a big budget, you might run an ad campaign, host an in-person launch event, and invite the media. But webinars, press announcements, emails, and social posts also help get customers and prospects excited.
What costs money, and where to save?
Aside from time, the costliest parts of this process are the creation of images and videos plus promotional campaigns, such as events, ads, or sponsored content and newsletters.
In an ideal world, you’d have an in-house graphic designer and access to a video production agency, as well as the budget to run ads across different channels and launch your product on stage at a big industry event. However, each of these things can cost thousands of dollars.
So, let’s explore a few ideas for making creative assets and running promotional activities without breaking the bank.
Creative assets on a budget
Innovation in creative tools has been outstanding over the last couple of years; they’re cheaper, more user-friendly, and, of course, AI-fueled. These are some of my favorites for getting your assets created cheaply and most have free trials.
Canva: The paid version is well worth it for the templates and ability to set brand fonts, colors, and logos. Although it costs slightly more than a shoestring (think one shoestring per month), you can use it for everything, not just a single product launch.
I rely on Canva for one-pagers, social imagery, video covers, banners with CTAs, and email graphics. Once you've set up a few templates, you can reuse them as much as you like.
Zoom or Loom: These tools are your best friend for short demos, and you probably already have access. It's super easy to create a couple of two-to-three-minute videos highlighting the product benefits, explaining why it's different, and demoing how it works. These can be published on YouTube.
One thing to keep in mind is that these tools don't have the best video editing or graphics capabilities so you may need additional software (I use Camtasia). However, Loom now removes 'ummmms' and filler words and both tools transcribe the text automatically. Canva also has video editing so you can upload your Looms or Zooms to Canva to add covers and text captions.
Synthesia: You can make polished videos with an AI avatar speaking about your product. Experiment to find an avatar that works for your brand and isn’t too robotic. It takes some time to get the hang of editing and uploading brand assets. However, it's a great tool for making more creative stylized videos on a budget without relying on other people's time.
Interactive product demos
Arcade: Full disclosure: I haven't tried this yet, but it’s been recommended to me. Arcade enables you to create click-through interactive product demos with buttons, quizzes, and a mix of recordings, imagery, and text. These are more engaging than videos and provide a unique experience for showcasing product value. There's a free trial option, and the paid plan is much cheaper than some alternatives.
Remember to follow the company's brand guidelines for all these assets. This helps you maintain a consistent, professional image. If possible, centralize your brand assets, image style, and templates beforehand to save time.
Promotion on a budget: AKA word of mouth
Launch events and webinars
Hosting a webinar can be an excellent way to announce a new product because it provides a deadline to work towards, ensuring everything is ready for the big reveal. You can also invite customers and prospects through promotional emails and track interest using signups.
Be patient! Setting up a webinar involves a lot of steps, including creating a registration page, automating email confirmations, sending invites, tracking signups, and sharing the recording afterwards. Try to do a test event beforehand and give yourself time to prepare – at least four weeks.
Paid ads offer better targeting and reach but you can build hype without them. Pick one or two key channels that map to your audience. For B2B, this will probably be LinkedIn and X.
A social strategy for a product launch should incorporate teaser posts, launch announcements, updates, and customer testimonials afterward. Mixing creative assets, blogs, customer quotes, and video clips helps keep this content fresh.
As I've learned from experience, posting on your brand page and getting employees to repost or like isn't a very effective way of building engagement. Instead, consider commenting on other posts, addressing how your product relates to hot news topics, and sharing information in relevant groups. You may also want to engage with your target communities via Reddit, Meetups, or Discord groups.
It’s also a great idea to get thought leaders, company executives, and partners to share from their personal accounts. Make it as easy as possible for them to do so by providing a prepared document with post ideas and graphics they can copy and paste. Share stories or helpful tips instead of overly salesy content and, most importantly, avoid spamming people.
You likely already have a marketing tool like HubSpot and a list of customers and prospects. A blanket email announcement or campaign is a good option if you're short on time. However, you can tailor the emails to specific personas or groups with a little extra effort. Work with sales and customer service teams to adapt the messages to new buyers as well as existing product users.
Don’t forget to include clear calls to action (CTAs) in each email, such as "Watch a video," "Read the press release," "Sign up for a webinar," or "Request a demo." Here, you’ll share the product graphics that you've just created in Canva and link to the demo videos.
Press and analysts
Attracting media interest can be time-consuming if you don't have existing relationships with journalists. However, if your product is really newsworthy and has the potential to bring about a significant change in the market, you can try to get a story published. Sending email pitches or responding to requests on Qwoted or HARO is free. And at the very least, you should put out a company press release.
Consider chatting to analysts too. Although analyst subscriptions to Gartner and Forrester are expensive, you can still set up a briefing without having a paid relationship. This allows you to connect with experts in your industry and start building valuable relationships. Analysts also appreciate learning about something new and exciting before a public announcement. This is also a great way to test messaging and get expert feedback ahead of your launch.
If you're hosting a product launch webinar, consider inviting select press and analysts and sending them the news as a follow-up. This is an easy way to reach out with too much extra work.
Time is money too!
As you’re weighing up your budget, don’t forget to factor in your own time. This is where repeatable processes and templates come in handy. Setting up your brand assets ahead of time, while tedious, will only make your launch assets creation look more professional and speed up their creation.
Here are a few more tips to help you on your way:
- Prioritize the assets that count: You don't have to make everything for every launch. Your website should be updated and a video demo is essential. Other fundamentals include social posts, email copy, and possibly a PDF for sales to send. You can always add other materials later as needed.
- Beg, steal, or borrow. No, I don’t mean get ChatGPT to do your work. Instead, look at old blogs and prior launches to use whatever you can for inspiration, whether it's words or formats and templates. If you’re launching a product for the first time, see how best-in-class brands in other industries have done it and use their emails, videos, or webinar formats as guides.
Five tips to help you stay lean
Tip #1: Set realistic goals
There are really only two main business goals when launching a new product:
- Revenue generation
- Product adoption
When setting marketing goals, align them with these broader company objectives. This includes identifying the target audience for the new product and clarifying business expectations. For instance, is the product designed to win over new customers, increase sales deal size, or upsell existing accounts? How many companies is it even suitable for?
Keep in mind that generating revenue and product adoption can take time, so set regular benchmarks to gauge your progress. Track views on new product pages and blogs, email click-through rates (CTR), engagement with social content and videos, webinar signups, and demo requests.
Use past data and achievable reach to set targets for these metrics. Your email lists and existing social reach and impressions data will give you a good estimate of the number of people who could see your announcement and then your goal for webinar sign-ups or conversions will be a certain percentage of that audience.
While it's natural to dream of having a viral post or blog, be realistic about what you can achieve without the help of influencers, fancy creative assets, and advertising.
Tip #2: Make sure internal stakeholders are involved
Involve the rest of the company in various aspects of the launch, from product naming to timelines and setting benchmarks. This will ensure they’re more supportive of the work; plus, they'll be more likely to promote the content externally later.
It’s also vital to share regular updates so everyone stays on the same page. Take advantage of Slack, all-hands meetings, and emails. More communication is always better.
Tip #3: Be resourceful with asset creation
If you’re on a tight budget, you probably won’t be able to pay an agency to develop clever slogans or catchy copy and, as we’ve talked about, design resources might be scarce.
We've already discussed a few tools that could help. Still, you might also consider looking for creative talent within your company. It's possible that someone in your sales or engineering team already has a podcasting setup or creates videos in their free time and is willing to help. Just be mindful of their primary job responsibilities.
Tip #4: Ask customers and partners to spread the word
Hopefully, you've already engaged a couple of customers to be beta testers and provide feedback and testimonials. Plus, you have a product that people want to talk about because of the huge value it delivers.
The best marketing is a referral from someone you trust. Create a formalized process for referrals with rewards for customers or partners. This will be slow initially but over time, momentum will build. My favorite example of ‘word of mouth’ marketing in action comes from Monzo, which built both viral mechanics and network effects into its growth strategy.
Tip #5: Don’t launch a product and forget about it!
Finally, you’ve created all the materials on your checklist, trained the team on how to sell the product, and run a launch webinar without a hitch. Job done!
Well, not so fast.
You may have seen some initial success but adoption and revenue growth typically take much longer than a couple of months.
After you've had a breather (and you deserve one at this stage), look at those early metrics and ask for internal feedback. Track whether demo requests converted and why. What were the objections if not? Who signed up, and are there lookalike cases?
It’s crucial to work with the rest of the team to continue to promote the product and ensure all that hard work pays off. Assess how the new product impacted the business. If it didn’t work out as planned, what lessons can you bring to the next project?
In summary, don’t panic.
Just because you don’t have a big budget doesn’t mean you can’t pull off a smooth product launch. Admittedly, you may not have flashy ads like Apple or thousands of attendees joining your launch webinar like Salesforce, but you can still attract attention.
Remember to set aside time to build templates and design standards beforehand to ensure everything looks professional. Write a checklist so things don’t get forgotten, and remember to ask for help. This may come in the form of purchasing new tools, getting different team members to help promote the content on social media, or customers emailing their peers about the launch.
Without a big budget or team, you may not get everything right. Still, you have the advantage of speed and agility, which will allow you to adapt following market feedback.