Getting ready to launch your product or new feature is always an exciting time. The product and engineering team has been working hard on product development and are itching to get this product in front of customers. Sales has been asking (likely for a few months!) when they can start demoing the new product to prospects, and marketing has been eager to send out the press release. Sound familiar? All of this is amazing energy which yes all are important components of a launch. However, I believe there are a few very key areas to focus on leading up to a product launch in order for it to be a success.
Below are five ways to avoid mistakes during a product launch.
1. Align with the most critical teams and do this early
One of product marketing's critical role is alignment. This is critical on an on-going basis whether you are working on sales enablement tools or product related content. The one area where I would say it is the most crucial is when you are gearing up for a product launch. There are a few key teams that are both most affected by a launch and at the same time most crucial for input during the planning. I am putting below a sample of these teams (*this is only a sample because I don’t know all the teams and their names at your company).
Teams most critical to align and ideas around what you want to focus on for each:
Sales: Ask them what their goals are with this launch and what are the most critical tools they need for the first 3 months?
Marketing: We need to think about what specific messaging they need for the planned marketing activities? (i.e. a press release)
Product: You want to be very aligned on timing with the product team throughout the process and continue to gather accurate feature information.
Customer Success: Ask customer success if they expect any questions or concerns from current customers and you will provide them with customer facing language about the new release.
Support: We need to ensure we have all support documentation ready for the team and discuss what impact, if any, the new release may have on any existing customers
I would recommend you reach out to a leader in each of the above groups and ask who they would like to represent their department in a launch taskforce. Then, put together a task force of these key members, set up regular biweekly meetings which may become more frequent as you get close to the launch date, and run through your launch dashboard in each meeting.
Generally, to align with the most critical team members, think about who you either need buy-in from or a decision from for you to be able to consistently plan towards your launch.
2. Know the product as if you are a customer
This is a tip I would say to anyone even starting a new role as a product marketer but I want to stress it here. Taking the time to really know the product and put yourself in the shoes of your target audience for this specific product is invaluable in planning a launch. The biggest reason why is that in the launch task force that we mentioned above, you are seen as the leader of this launch and others will likely expect that you know the in and out of this product. Of course, they can always go to the product team but you are representing the GTM plan for the launch.
In learning more about the product, ask your product manager these below questions as you meet with them:
- Why are we creating this product?
- Who is it going to benefit and how?
- What are the most desired features within this product?
- What are some features that customers would be expecting but may not make it into the initial release? *This is critical to share with sales and customer success as it will come up in their conversations!
Then, use the product. This does take time so I would recommend blocking 30 min-1 hour a week to test out the new features. They may be wireframes to start but as the product team develops them, you can start to use them in a staging environment.
3. Communicate often with your taskforce and the company as a whole
If you ever feel that you might be over communicating or wondering “are people getting tired of me?” then you are probably doing exactly what you need to do! Especially right now, it is even more crucial to communicate given we are all remote.
There are two areas of communication I recommend focusing on:
- Regular communication with the launch taskforce
- Less frequent but consistent communication with the company as a whole
With the launch taskforce, although you may be meeting regularly, even virtually as we are all doing now, it is important to have a consistent line of communication for quicker updates that are relevant to the group. Create a slack channel or an email distribution list for the group and use these channels for quicker updates around such things as a new messaging document you want to share, getting quick feedback on a content piece, etc.
With the company as a whole, depending on the length of the launch planning period, I would say a few updates are great for the whole company. They primarily are: announcing a new feature coming at a specific date, sharing overall launch and business goals with the
launch, and as you get closer to the launch an overview of the launch activities so that the entire company gets excited and there is some internal buzz.
4. Organize, organize, organize!
Again, this is one of those skills that I feel is so critical for a product marketer, regardless if you are working on a launch but it is incredibly vital for launch planning so I have to mention it here.
The primary way I have strived to remain very organized is by creating a Launch Dashboard. I have been called “Dashboard Queen” before which tells you how much I obsessed about and referred to this dashboard. And you don’t need anything fancy for this. I use google spreadsheets, each tab represents a specific launch, and each line item/section includes the various action steps needed for each team. For example, there will be a section for “Corporate Marketing” which includes: Press Release, Email Communications, Update to web copy, etc.
This dashboard is my go-to resource and a tab that I always have open on my desktop every day. It is also always shared with the launch task force.
This is the method that works for me. Find the one that works best for you to organize and have visibility into all the moving pieces of a launch. There are always many different moving pieces so I recommend you find the best one for you.
5. Celebrate the launch...before the launch
This is the one that’s the most fun - primarily because it involves a party. I am a big believer of internal excitement around a launch. Think about it. If you are more excited about something, do you put more energy and effort into the work/project? I definitely do! So whether someone is directly involved with the launch planning or in a supportive role to a specific team, they are still all involved.
The nuance to this party is that I recommend you set up a launch party before a launch. Yes, before! That may seem counterintuitive but the goal of this party is to energize teams. Ere is a suggested agenda for the party:
- Announce the new feature - either from the head of product or the CEO.
- Show a brief demo of some of the product highlights
- Take some high level questions from employees
- Celebrate and get the internal buzz kicked off!
The goal here is that we want everyone to feel included, aware and excited about the company's direction and goals.
Those are my five ways to avoid mistakes for a product launch.
Align teams, know the product, communicate often, organize a lot, and PARTY 😀