Ahhh product launches! The most exciting (not to mention stressful) aspect of what we do, am I right? But with all that high octane excitement comes some high stakes, with a million and one things that could go wrong at any time, how do you ensure you’re ready to go to market?
Well, luckily for you, Jeffrey Vocell, Director of Product Marketing at Iterable, shared some wisdom on the GTM process, avoiding common pitfalls and how to scale for success.
Let’s take a look. 👀
Q: How can I communicate the role content strategy and design plays in the scaling process? It’s been problematic finding common ground with key stakeholders.
A: “Before communicating it, I’d spend some time understanding where it’s breaking down. Are you pitching ideas that don’t line-up with their goals? Do they view company, or product, positioning differently than you do? Are they writing about high-level topics that don’t connect down to your product? There’s potentially a million more questions we could add here - but getting to the center of where that’s breaking down will be more important than any tips or tricks I, or any other PMM leader, could offer.
“That being said, to more directly answer your question here's what I would advise:
- Look at a handful of companies that are slightly ahead of where your organization is. Use Ahrefs, SEMrush, or a similar tool to gauge how much traffic they have compared to your own and how that impacts your brand/product awareness.
- Consider how any launch, or ongoing product communications can tie into their goals. At HubSpot, the content team was focused on TOFU acquisition and metrics - so as I considered launch strategy I would think about broader topics that were prominent and could generate traffic, and tie down to traffic.
- Get some informal (coffee chat, water cooler, something else) with these folks. Get to know them beyond just your project or context of a project. This will pay long-term dividends and help with future projects as well. I always leave some time open in my calendar in a week for things like this and generally wind up in (virtual) coffee chats with people from different teams.”
Q: As I ramp up my scalability efforts, I’m conscious of costs for marketing, lead-gen, etc. could become unsustainable. What’s the most effective way to estimate customer acquisition costs?
A: “There are a ton of thoughts and opinions on how to best calculate CAC out there. I think the biggest thing is whoever is responsible for measurement and analytics at your company - ensure the way you are measuring CAC is aligned with them, and they're bought-in to the metric.
“I've found it's generally the Operations team (at least at SaaS companies) and once this is aligned most folks will get on board and be able to measure it. At HubSpot we looked at this and months to payback for new customers and how our marketing spend was impacting the number of months in that equation.”
Q: What would you consider to be the most common GTM pitfalls, and how can I avoid falling into these traps?
A: “There's so many, but a few common ones I see...
Communicating across the entire GTM team - as a PMM, you're responsible for driving the success of the launch and overall go to market effort. So communicating across the team, and being able to zoom-in and zoom-out is incredibly important. From my experience, I've found at the start of a project doing a "roadshow" with key stakeholders (i.e. customer marketing, demand gen, etc.) to talk about what the launch is, go over positioning, and proposed launch plan. This will get them bought-in to the launch with you.
Project Managing a Launch - I've heard countless times from PMMs that they don't want to be project managers, but let's be clear - it's your responsibility to set up the strategy and ensure the success of a launch or product so to some extent it will involve some project management. You shouldn't fully become a project manager in this instance, but don't hesitate to lean into what's needed either.
Considering your key launch assets and time required - A great product video, or explainer video takes 6-8 weeks (or longer) in my experience. Consider all of the long lead-time assets you need for launch across video, audio, content, web, TV, or more and how much time you have until launch. You likely won't be able to fit everything in, but consider the highest impact assets and ensure you have the time to pull them off at a high level.
Setting goals ahead of time - In my opinion, you should have one primary goal for a launch and up-to two secondary goals. These goals can be awareness, demand, usage/retention/engagement focused, and should be aligned with your PM and the broader business. This will ensure that your strategy for launching the product isn't just a cookie cutter list of activities - but a thoughtful plan to drive specific company goals.
Setting up a launch day plan - I love having a launch-day "war room" where every key member is on a Zoom as assets go live and monitoring social. It's helpful as a way to sync in real-time, because as we all know, nothing with a launch ever happens 100% according to the plan so being able to adapt and having all the people needed for this is really helpful.
Lastly, consider your post launch plans. I encourage and drive my PMMs to think about a 90-day post launch plan that ties in with those secondary goals I mentioned above. Maybe it's driving awareness out in the marketplace, maybe it's driving usage, maybe it's a mix. Either way, a launch isn't a single day activity it spans multiple days and you should have plans that account for this well after your initial day of launch.”
Q: Which customer retention programs can I introduce within my product marketing team to protect my existing client base and drive future growth? After all, they’re at the core of a company’s growth and success!
A: “Do you have a customer marketing team? If so, I'd ask for their help with some of this as well. That being said, think about things that will engage with your audience like: AMAs with product team members in a community, customer-facing webinars, PMMs/PMs hoping on at-risk customer calls, customer stories/testimonials/case studies, a Customer Advisory Board of your top-tier customers, and more. You should also consider a monthly customer newsletter and targeted messaging to customers to keep them engaged. If you're collecting feedback (like NPS) then think about how to close the loop on that feedback with customers and send different messaging to folks who may be a detractor versus a promoter.”
Q: I’m not entirely sure myself and my PMM team is making the most of the data at our disposal. How can we convert data into information we can include within our go-to-market strategy?
A: “This is something I think every PMM team faces at some point (or on an ongoing basis).
“First, I'd spend a little bit to understand what information you have: website analytics, market research/analyst reports, customer surveys/support, etc. Once you have that, see how those individuals/teams gathering the data share it out. Do they use Slack channels to communicate it? If so, can you be invited to those to see data. Or do they send emails and can you be added to the distribution list. Regardless of the method, gathering the data has to be the first step.
“Next, consider how you want to use the data. Oftentimes I've used it to help inform GTM strategy, positioning, pricing, and competitive intelligence. For example, you can build a feature matrix of your product versus key competitors based on all this information and use that to help sales and CS in their conversations with prospects and customers.
“When you learn about new launches coming down the pipeline, it's important to take a little bit of time (I try to time box it to between 2-3 weeks) to understand the landscape and data you have. This should inform your positioning and your entire GTM plan.”
Q: I know people whose companies have enjoyed great domestic success, but I’m keen to scale internationally; are there any globalization techniques you’d consider to be indispensable?
A: “We thought a lot about this during my time at HubSpot too, but a few things:
“Consider what is appropriate for each market. Just because the EMEA, or APAC market is huge doesn't necessarily mean they'll care about your product or the way you have it positioned.
I would ensure you, or your PMM team are writing positioning and messaging far ahead of time and then distributing it to any regional marketers and working with them to localize it. If you don't have distributed regional marketing teams, talk to sales reps who are selling into those markets, or just do a fair amount of research to see how positioning and messaging needs to change. Quite often it needs to be tweaked to truly work in a separate market.
“Once that's done, consider what launch materials are needed. At HubSpot because there was so much content for a launch being created in English, we would always pick some assets that could be translated into different languages. We weren't going to translate all 40+ pieces of content, but what is a small handful that would be meaningful to that market and the team there.
Ensure you or your PMM team is spending time with any folks from your company that are in that region. They will be the "front line" to answer questions once your product goes live, so they need to understand what it is and how it works - and spending time with them is crucial to making this happen and ensuring prospects and customers have a good experience when they ask about the latest product/feature you released.”
Q: Company culture plays a pivotal role in scalability, but how can I encourage my team members to buy into the core values at my company so we’re not pulling in separate directions?
A: “You have to believe them and live them first, before your team will (assuming you're leading others, or the entire team). One of our core values here at Iterable is balance. I will admit that I have never been great at that, and throughout my career have always prioritized work - and now leading a team, I've been more thoughtful to set the right example by ensuring I'm taking time off to recharge to set that example for the rest of the team. This is one small example, but whatever your company culture is or values are, make sure you are living them and that your team sees it.
“Aside from that, build it into team meetings and events. If you have a value around transparency, or authenticity, help that shine through in team meetings by talking about executive decisions being made, or what's happening in your personal/home life a bit.”
Q: I’ve been told trying new methods is key when scaling a team. Do you have any pointers on how I can experiment with new processes, without compromising goals and high standards?
A: “I think there's a few ways of doing this.
“Make sure you're doing a retrospective on launches that happen. Typically I like to have these 3 weeks after a major launch because it gives some time for the launch to settle a bit, some breathing room for the PMM, and a chance to truly reflect on what went well and some things that may not have. This isn't about calling out any individual, it's about how to improve as a team/company for the next launch. And quite often you can come up with new ideas or new ways of trying things in these retrospectives that can directly be experimented on with the next launch, or folded into your process.
“Encourage that each PMM (or at least every senior member of the team) has a sense of ownership. It's their launch and they should feel empowered to drive it in a way that will make the product and company successful. Obviously there need to be guardrails, but if they want to try something that your company normally wouldn't do - as long as it's within brand, and budget, then it could be worth experimenting. I try to recognize and reward my PMMs for doing this, even if the metrics don't "crush it" for that channel, leaning into something new is challenging and difficult. And it's a learning experience for the entire PMM team/company.
“If there are specific channels or resources that help you hit goals, use those and potentially reserve a small portion of the budget, or your content resources to try something new within those channels as well.”