What is a Product Launch? Stages, Strategy, & Tools

Nikhil Gangaraju

Director, Product Marketing

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8 -minute Read,

Posted on February 25, 2022

Discover product launch strategies and best practices that can take your launch to the next level.

Product launch strategy

A product launch is a company’s coordinated effort to bring new or updated products to market. Well-planned and well-performed launches announce a product to the world after building substantial buzz. They also align members of a product team with other departments to ensure the entire business is unified in its approach to supporting the new product.

Planning a thorough product launch requires investing a great deal of labor and time. However, product-centric companies will find these commitments worth the effort. A successful launch can attract the right kind of customers to a new product. This increases the rate of product adoption and allows a company to see a quicker return in their investment in the product’s development.

Key takeaways

  • A product launch is the process a company undertakes to bring its new or updated products to market.
  • Tips for building a successful product launch include:
    • Focusing on the customer experience
    • Using your product data to inform strategy
    • Creating a product launch checklist
    • Launching early and tweaking as you go
  • The success of a product launch can be measured quantitatively through tracking KPIs and qualitatively through internal and external feedback.

What is a product launch?

A launch is more than just posting “We’re open!” on a social channel. It’s a dedicated effort to get the product workable ahead of a deadline and then to appropriately market the product across channels. It’s an extensive project that requires collaboration through various teams and departments within a business.

63% of customers enjoy when companies bring new products to market. Customers are often more excited about and engaged with an offering when it’s new. Releasing a great product without properly preparing the world for its arrival is a good way to miss capturing your target audience at the peak of their interest.

A launch can be divided into three stages:

1. Planning

This is the stage where product teams set goals, research their audience and competition, align expectations, and establish the marketing strategy. The launch team also works closely with product developers to establish a timeline for a launch date and identify key marketable components of the product.

2. Execution

This is the window of time during which the product is formally released. This includes the actual day of release and the subsequent marketing efforts to maintain buzz throughout the following weeks. During this time, product and marketing data is collected that will eventually help determine the success of the launch.

3. Analysis

Eventually, marketing efforts will wind down as the product transitions from the “launch” stage into the “growth ” stage of the product life cycle. Product teams compare data collected during the release window and determine whether KPIs and other goals were met as a result of the launch.

Tips for building a successful product launch strategy

Every product launch comes with its own unique challenges because every product is unique. Even the release of a new version of an existing product will require a different blueprint than the initial launch. That said, there are a few best practices companies should follow with every product launch strategy to create a strong foundation for their product launches:

1. Focus on the customer experience

Most successful teams perform product discovery before brainstorming a new product. This process forces companies to ask why their new product should exist in the first place and identify which problem it’s solving for potential customers.

Your product launch team should answer these questions for prospective customers:

  • Why customers use the type of product you’re building
  • The specific pain points your product addresses
  • What your product does better than any other

Understanding these points requires research. First, you should gather feedback from your customers in the form of market research. This allows you to ask customers directly about what features they’re most excited about or issues they’ve experienced with similar products in the past.

This research should then be compared against what you know about your competition to identify the best way to position your product against what’s already out there. Products that provide solutions to problems that don’t exist don’t excite customers. Customers are also unimpressed by products that don’t bring anything new to the table. It’s important to identify a way to communicate how your product solves customer pain points in a unique way.

2. Use your product data to inform strategy

Beta testing creates valuable product data that sheds light on how customers engage with your product. A data analytics solution like Amplitude can help businesses analyze the data beta testers generate so they can be used to craft a product strategy for the upcoming product launch.

For instance, a glance through beta testing data reveals the extensive use of the “recommendations” feature of your ecommerce product. What’s more, the beta testers who use this feature stay more engaged with your product than those who do not. It would make sense for your marketing messaging to focus heavily on the recommendations feature to attract customers with a higher likelihood for engagement from the get-go.

3. Create a product launch checklist

A running checklist is an essential facet of any product launch. Product launches involve product teams, marketing teams, sales teams, and more working together toward a common goal. It’s easy for even the most organized manager or team lead to lose track of what needs to get done while handling an ever-changing list of tasks.

Keeping a running list of all essential tasks ensures that nothing falls between the cracks as the launch day nears. Items should be checked off as they’re completed or added as new ideas or complications arise. Tasks should also be grouped by type or by the team responsible for performing each item.

Checklists vary from business to business and launch to launch, but common action items include:

  • ☑ Creating a product launch timetable
  • ☑ Identifying relevant KPIs
  • ☑ Defining your target audience
  • ☑ Choosing distribution channels
  • ☑ Crafting marketing messaging
  • ☑ Aligning internal teams, including sales, IT, and customer support

4. Launch early and tweak as you go

You should release your product as soon as its core features have been thoroughly tested. The sooner customers adopt your product, the sooner you can gather and analyze their valuable behavioral data to improve onboarding flows, identify churn points, and inform feature development.

Every day your product is in development is a day customers can’t use it. While you’re waiting a few months to finish polishing a non-essential feature, your potential customers are becoming disinterested or turning to competitors for their needs. Releasing a working version of your core product can appease early adopters, who in turn can advocate for your product while you work on touching up your offering.

What to expect from a product launch

A company’s first product launch is often their most difficult. Teams simply lack experience, which makes constructing and executing a launch plan especially daunting.

Planning for a product launch begins while the product itself is still in development. This means that features you intend on including in your messaging may fundamentally change or disappear completely. Furthermore, snags in the development process can change the timetable for release dramatically.

The best product launch plans have flexibility built-in. Development, collaboration, and testing are often iterative processes. Business leadership may decide to change the approach to marketing mid-way through the launch process. These changes and delays might derail more rigid plans. Only 55% of product launches are executed on schedule, which is why it’s essential to allot more time than you think you need for launch tasks.

The launch process takes several months, but even the formal release of your new product to the public spans longer than a single day. Marketing efforts like social media posts and email campaigns shouldn’t be focused on “just” the actual day your product is released, as information often takes time to spread. Instead, launch teams should focus on building buzz ahead of the launch and maintaining momentum in the days and weeks following an official launch day.

How to measure product launch success

Odds are that your most recent product launch will not be your last. This means it’s vital to analyze the good and the bad of a release so future launches are optimized for success. This can be achieved by the following:

1. Define relevant KPIs

Before your product launches, you need to define what a successful launch would look like. Success is likely defined differently for products in varying markets. For instance, an ecommerce website may have a new revenue goal in mind. Alternatively, they may view a launch as successful if a certain percentage of customers complete a second order.

Selecting several relevant KPIs to track alongside a North Star Metric will help give a clear account of how well your launch went. These KPIs should directly represent your end goals. They also need to be measurable. Common KPIs associated with product launches include:

  • Web traffic
  • Revenue gained
  • Leads generated
  • Customer usage and retention
  • Trial subscribers signed up

Calculating your KPIs will allow you to designate whether your campaign exceeded or fell short of expectations. However, it’s important to scrutinize data sets beyond what can be directly attributed to profit and loss. Your broader collection of launch data may reveal surprises that lead to more effective marketing or the development of new features down the line.

2. Tracking and analyzing data

A successful launch is likely to yield a great volume of data. Marketing data from your website and behavioral data from your product will need to be sorted and analyzed to determine how well your KPI goals track with reality. This should be done post-launch to zero in on launch-specific results.

3. Gathering feedback

Many metrics focus on quantity—that is, how many users were onboarded or how many products were sold. Soliciting feedback directly from customers gives you a sense of how well your product and messaging were received. Customer feedback is usually gained through:

  • Customer interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys

It’s also important to evaluate how well the product launch went within your company. Other teams may have identified points of friction in the rollout of internal processes your team wasn’t aware of. Additionally, departments such as IT or customer service likely interfaced with customers in meaningful ways during the product launch. They may have unique insights into issues or concerns that arose through the creation of help tickets or direct customer requests.

Tools for a successful new product launch

It’s hard to build anything useful with the wrong tools, and product launches are no different. Luckily, the digital product sphere is flourishing with tools to help you manage and fine-tune even the most complex product launch campaign.

Amplitude

When it comes to planning a product tour, it’s easy to overlook the strategic benefit of having an analytics tool like Amplitude at your disposal. The accessibility of product and marketing data is essential to companies looking to set goals, analyze customer behaviors, and measure the success of their launch.

Different teams throughout a business often use tools unique to their own department for data management. This leads to siloed data inaccessible to the teams they’re trying to collaborate with—a huge problem for a project as extensive as a product launch. Amplitude provides a way to bring various sources of data into one program that’s easy to use for even the least data-savvy employees.

Amplitude can:

  • Unify data from your product, website, and other sources under a single umbrella
  • Review beta testing data to see what features customers enjoy
  • A/B test onboarding workflows to increase the likelihood of product adoption

Productboard

Productboard is a customer-driven product management system that empowers teams to get the right products to market, faster. Productboard can help create compelling roadmaps and dynamically prioritize features for the roadmaps. They can also centralize and organize market feedback and evidence to attach to the features on the roadmaps.

Amplitude’s new integration with Productboard will enable Amplitude customers that use Productboard to filter customer feedback based on cohorts created within Amplitude, and categorize the insights into themes that can inform the product roadmap and prioritization process. This will help product managers make better decisions about what to build and who it will impact when new features are shipped. Learn more about the Productboard integration.

Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a website specifically designed to facilitate product launches. Companies create postings for their new products to build buzz ahead of their launch. Users upvote products they find especially helpful or interesting, which, in turn, pushes them to a higher ranking. The best-ranking products display on the front page as one of the most popular products of the day.

The Product Hunt audience consists of promoters, prominent product managers, and investors who can help advocate for your product and promote it within their own channels. Pulling off a successful Product Hunt launch requires careful planning, but becoming the “Product of the Day” has paid dividends for companies like Hotjar, Slack, and Trello.

Trello

Speaking of Trello: your various team members are going to need a way to stay organized as they prepare for your next product launch. Trello is an app that enables teams to create Kanban-style boards for projects. Collaborators can create cards for specific tasks and organize them into categories such as “Pre-Launch,” “Launch,” and “Post-Launch.” These tasks can be assigned to members of the Trello board, who, in turn, can mark each card as “completed” once the task is finished.

References


Thinking about your next product launch? Make sure you’re defining the right KPIs to measure success by following our North Star Playbook.

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Nikhil Gangaraju

Nikhil is a product marketer at Amplitude focusing on Amplitude Analytics and works with teams to advance our mission to help companies build better products.

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