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10 min read

Product launches (and re-launches): How to resource, differentiate and maintain momentum

Membership content | product launch

This article originates from Natasha's presentation at the Product Marketing Summit in Chicago, 2022. Catch up on this presentation, and others, using our OnDemand service. For more exclusive content, visit your membership dashboard.

Hello! My name is Natasha Janic, and I lead product marketing for our Loyalty Management product at Salesforce. I've spent pretty much my whole career working in tech. I came to Salesforce about three years ago specifically to launch our new loyalty product.

It was an interesting journey, and while I don't feel qualified to talk about many things in this world, this is definitely something I do feel qualified to talk about, and I'm excited to share it with you.

I’ll break our topic up into three big chunks. We’ll look at:

  • How to resource and start planning for a launch
  • Tips and tricks that we learned from our go-to-market strategy
  • How to run effective enablement and drive evangelism

Let’s dive in.

Resourcing and planning for product launches

I want to start with a little story about our loyalty product launch. I was told that this was going to be a tier-one launch – the biggest launch you can possibly have – so I was super excited but very confused as to why they were letting me as a PMM be the one leading this. Still, I appreciated the confidence that leadership had in me.

The launch was going to be a big splash at Dreamforce, our flagship conference. If you’ve ever been to Dreamforce, you can imagine the scene: there’s Marc Benioff on the mainstage talking about this new product, plus a keynote, and all of that fun stuff.

The entire launch cycle typically culminates at Dreamforce, so I was picturing myself finishing my keynote and walking into a big party to celebrate all of the hard work we’d put into this launch over the past year.

Product launches: expectations, and then an image of people celebrating throwing money everwhere.
Image courtesy of Salesforce

This was all planned for September 2020. It became pretty obvious by April that it wasn’t going to happen that way.

Being a large company that loves to launch things all the time, we have playbooks and plenty of resources to guide us through the launch process. I remember sitting down with my executive sponsor, looking through the playbooks, and crossing out 50% of the things in there because we just couldn't do them.

This was the first tier-one launch at Salesforce during the pandemic, so I really had no guidance, and I felt like I was shooting from the hip most of the time. For the next eight-plus months, I tried to figure out how to make this exciting and bring the magic that Salesforce usually brings, despite being unable to interact with anyone in person.

Reworking that playbook and creating a launch process for this new world was a really interesting journey. Since then, we've revamped all of our playbooks. I went on a tour of the company afterward, telling everyone what I learned, what worked, and what didn't work because we were all trying to figure out how to navigate this new space.

What are you launching?

I like to break launches down into tiers based on what we're launching. Is it a feature, an add-on product, or a new product or category? Even within that last tier, there can be huge variations.

We've launched smaller products that weren’t meant to be huge disruptors, as well as bigger products like our loyalty cloud, which represents a new market for the company and requires a much bigger launch.

All of these launch tiers require different levels of investment, which is what I want to talk about today. I encourage you to think through what exactly you're launching. Sometimes we want a launch to be bigger than it is, so having an exec who can give you a reality check is helpful.

Lessons learned

Now I want to share with you the lessons I’ve learned when it comes to resourcing and planning a launch.

Lesson one: Have a work back plan on-hand before resourcing requests

It helped us to have a work back plan already done. We knew what we needed to get done, and we knew which teams needed to do those things, so we just needed to assign actual people to each task.

We went to the leadership for each team we needed to be involved in, and we asked them which team members had the bandwidth and might like a stretch opportunity to work on a big launch. That also helped us maintain accountability throughout the process.

Lesson two: Allow two to three weeks to coordinate resources for new product launches

Getting everyone aligned for this launch involved a lot of meetings with different leaders and a lot of moving people around before we finally got everyone assigned to what they were responsible for. I’d recommend allowing at least a few weeks, if not a month, to make this happen.

Helpful tips for your work back plan

  1. Set realistic timelines and give yourself more time than you think you need – I found myself editing a datasheet on Christmas Eve because I totally underestimated how long things were going to take. Don’t let this be you.
  2. Align your launch with an existing event – I've found that trying to drum up interest for your launch alone is a lot more difficult than piggybacking on a third-party conference or a suite of company announcements that’s already in motion and maybe already has press coverage.
  3. Schedule regular check-in cadences and tracking documents – As we got closer to our launch, I met twice a week with our cross-functional team and our marketing arm. All of this can get out of hand if you don’t regularly update tracking documents that show your progress.
  4. Leave room for additional tasks – Things will inevitably come up that you didn't think about as you were building your plan.
  5. Send weekly updates to leadership and stakeholders – This not only keeps everyone informed but also makes it possible for leaders to remove roadblocks.

    Plus, it gives visibility into the amazing work you’re doing. You’re leading a very important motion for the company, so take credit for it and make yourself stand out from those leaders.

Feature resourcing: Low investment

Unless it’s an especially large feature, you’ll need to pull in relatively few resources for feature releases. You’ll want to bring in the marketing part of the organization.

If you have a release team, they’ll be involved too. You’ll also be working with product and engineering to understand how the feature works and maybe create some demo videos.

Written by:

Natasha Janic

Natasha Janic

Natasha is the Senior Product Marketing Manager of Loyalty Management at Salesforce.

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Product launches (and re-launches): How to resource, differentiate and maintain momentum