This article is based on Derek’s brilliant talk at the Product Marketing Misunderstood event. Catch up on this talk, and others, with Product Marketing OnDemand.

Welcome to space camp! Today, we’ll be talking about launching products and how to turn that process from a chaotic cost center into a revenue-driving, repeatable competitive advantage. 

Are you ready? Five, four, three, two, one, blast off!

The cost of chaotic launches 

Let’s play a quick game of word association. What words or phrases come to mind when you think about the launch process

Sleepless nights? 


I talk to product marketers about this all the time, and the most common word I hear is ‘chaos’.

All this chaos not only has a negative impact on our well-being but also that of the company. Let me give you an example. Have you ever heard of Netflix Games? If not, you’re not alone – three months after its launch, less than 1% of Netflix subscribers had even heard that it existed. Unsurprisingly, it was a huge flop. Still, Netflix is in good company – more than 80% of launches fail

Netflix games: Is it already dead?

While failed consumer-facing launches are the ones that get all the negative headlines and public shaming, B2B launches are equally at risk. You cannot afford to run a failed launch; it’s extremely costly. 

Just think about the underlying costs of a bad launch process. Think about all the internal teams that end up frustrated. I've talked to plenty of people who have left their companies because of the shoddy launch process, and replacing an employee costs twice their salary. 

And then there’s the cost of confusing customers. That’s a great way to make them churn, and it costs five times the value of a customer to replace them.

Plus, there are the hundreds of hours of product development time, hundreds of hours spent repairing the launch, and the revenue opportunity – all of it, up in smoke. 

Even very small launches that go wrong at very small companies can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. For bigger companies, it can be hundreds of millions of dollars. According to IDC’s research, for every $1 billion in corporate revenue, $100 million is lost due to ineffective go-to-market processes. 

Breakdown of the cost of a bad launch

The power of viral product launches

But enough about the downsides – let's talk about how launches can catalyze growth. 

The best companies in the world use launches masterfully. Think Apple, PlayStation, and Salesforce – launches are the core drivers of their annual performance, with up to 60% of their revenue coming during launch windows. 

And this isn't just the domain of big companies – even very small startups can harness the power of launches. Look at early-days Uber, before they were the Uber we all know today – they were driving growth through small launch campaigns in each local market. 

Similarly, Slack attributes a lot of its early growth to the effectiveness of its release process. 

Companies that do launches brilliantly: Apple, Salesforce, Uber, Slack

I've even got some fun startup launch stories of my own. When I was at an eight-person mobile keyboard app developer called Flexi, we turned one of our future releases into an opportunity to set a Guinness World Record. It drove five million downloads.

So what are these successful companies doing differently when it comes to launches? 

Well, first they approach launches with a wildly different mindset. They don't view launches as just another project to check off. Instead, they see them as opportunities to catalyze step-function changes in growth.

Think of company growth like a race car. You're constantly optimizing to push the engine faster – selling, running ads, and improving features. But there's a top speed you'll max out at. 

Launches are like gear shifts – they give you sudden bursts of speed when you most need them. A new product line or market expands your total addressable market (TAM) by giving you an entirely new audience. A major new feature plugs a retention gap.

Launches are net revenue retention drivers

Launches also make your other growth activities more efficient for a period by capturing customer attention. The companies that excel at this recognize that nailing launches is the difference between winning and losing.

Why launches go wrong

When launches fail, companies default to blaming strategy – did we build the wrong thing? Did we target the wrong audience? Use the wrong channels? Did we not spend enough?

But strategy isn't usually the problem. The real issue is whether the company can actually execute that strategy. Even the best strategies fail if you lack the operational readiness to activate them across your org. That comes down to thorough cross-functional planning and alignment, which tends to be the weakest link.