A lot of teams obsess about getting everything perfect for product launch day. There are bugs to iron out and blog posts to write. There are marketing emails to assemble. It all amounts to a lot of mental Olympics at the end of a long development cycle.
All of that anxiety, and in the grand scheme of things, launch day isn’t a be-all and end-all event. In the Mad Men world of marketing, a huge launch day could be vital in building hype. But now, a great product launch is all about the bigger picture.
The ultimate goal of a product launch is to demonstrate its unique value proposition to your target audiences and establish your product’s presence in the market. It’s about adapting your marketing, product and go-to-market strategy to give your product the best chance at wide market penetration and adoption. In this context, your product launch strategy isn’t just a plan for launch execution. The product launch itself is just a moment of transition in your wider product journey. A product launch strategy must include clear choices you are making regarding your target market, your value propositions, sales motions, pricing & packaging, customer success plans and org readiness.
Approach your product launch with this mentality and you can both measure and maximize its impact effectively.
1. Your Product Launch Process Starts With a Clear Goal and Crisp Positioning for your Product
A good launch strategy starts with taking a bird’s-eye view of your product to see how it fits with the rest of your business. At the very start, it’s important that there is a clear goal defined and shared amongst all stakeholders. Is the ultimate goal of the launch to create new markets? Is it to generate additional revenue from existing markets? Is it to improve adoption? Or is it to delight existing customers?
Once the North Star is well defined, you move to define positioning for your product. Positioning starts with understanding the target audience(s) for your product. A well-crafted user segment will help articulate the right value prop, and guide you towards the right marketing messages and channels to reach these audiences. Many companies make the mistake of only using demographic or firmographic data to define the target user segment. While those are important, it is also important to use behavioral data and product usage data to create cohorts and understand which customer segment is most likely to find value and pay for the unique benefits of your product. You can pull behavioral data for these purposes from your alpha and beta testing rounds.
After you have a well-defined target segment, consider your new product’s place in the market. Assess how the market itself is doing. If it’s booming, you might consider whether a larger launch-spend is likely to lead to a big impact for your product as it enters the market.
Next, look at what your competitors have done with similar products. Your product positioning should focus on what differentiates your product from those competing products or services. If there’s something your product does demonstrably better, use the benefit(s) derived from that feature as a key component of your launch strategy.
Once you have your target segment, market information, benefits, and competitive differentiation, start working on a positioning document. This document will serve as your first step towards crafting your launch story, value propositions, sales pitch, and messaging.
Your strategy should also account for the sales period after launch day. Sit down with sales reps, and help them tailor their selling approach to your new product. Make sure they understand the story of your product, differentiators, unique value props, and the features that are the most appealing to prospects. By doing this, you’ll help your sales reps appraise which buyer personas your new product will appeal to most and which decision-makers they need to target. Doing this early on helps them forecast better, as well as be on the lookout for potential lands or expand opportunities. Work with sales to craft a narrative where they can start to tease some benefits of the upcoming launch in late stage opportunities.
2. Internal Alignment Is Key for Executing Your Product Launch Strategy
Product managers and product marketing managers often share most of the responsibility for coordinating product launches. But your launch strategy should also involve other areas of your company.
After all, an effective product launch needs a tailored sales approach and marketing strategy. Your product teams will be handling your actual feature rollout, as well as education and documentation relevant to that rollout.
From there, your go-to-market enablement will be divided among several teams. Your operations team will be responsible for CPQ (configure, price and quote) and feature flags. Your legal team will need to make sure all trademark and patenting actions have been carried out. Your demand gen team will then run campaigns to prepare for your launch day and to continue generating momentum. Your solution consultants will also need to draw up product walkthroughs and demos so that your product is easily usable from your users’ first session.
Collaborate with customer-facing teams to discuss the messaging around this new product. This conversation will help the marketing team build campaigns for the launch and will help the sales reps pitch the product.
The other thing that will define your go-to-market strategy better is beta-test data for your product. Insights from the product usage data will help you understand where your users are most engaged, which features have high adoption, and most importantly why your customers use the product the way they use it. This will help you understand if different customer segments (enterprise, commercial, SMB, etc.) find value differently in your product. Which in turn can serve as a key input to fine-tune your sales motion, pricing, and packaging for different market segments.
3. Your Product Launch Messaging Should Be Based on Actual Beta Usage
When meeting with marketing and sales team members, don’t rely on gut instincts to form your communication strategy for the launch. Use data from actual beta usage of your product to compose messaging that your audience will relate to. Product usage data is key to identifying which types of users will be able to benefit from the unique value your product provides. Usage data is often overlooked, or marketers don’t know how to find it. Helping them do so is key to building a solid go-to-market strategy.
Begin by observing which features your testers are enjoying the most. Which features are gaining the most usage? Which ones have delighted testers driving adoption? It’s those features that you want to put front and center in your product launch materials to attract prospective users and encourage adoption.
Once you’ve assessed behavioral data, get hold of some qualitative data to complement it. Survey beta users to learn what they found enjoyable about your product. Find out which features they loved, along with which ones they’d remove and which ones they would like modified. Knowing what features appeal most will also give your marketing team a better idea of how to message your product against competitors in launch campaigns.
4. Choose Post-launch KPIs That Gauge Product Usage
After launching your product, tracking vanity metrics—like campaign traffic—can be gratifying. You feel like your launch must be a success if it got so much attention. But these metrics don’t show how many people are using your product or how useful they’re finding it.
To prepare for the post-launch period, choose KPIs that will help you gauge product usage. Focus on adoption- and impact-related metrics, such as:
- Number of daily users
- Engagement with the features
- Revenue and new customer acquisition (if a stand-alone product)
- Retention rate of customers acquired through the product
- Churn rate of customers acquired through the product
If you’re in a heavily competitive market, you may also wish to track the new product’s competitive win rate. Whichever specific KPIs you choose, go for ones that will allow you to assess precisely how average usage relates to the customer pain points you built your product to address.
5. Lastly, Your Product Launch Strategy Is More Than Launch Day
If you’re a B2B product professional, ensuring that you have everything perfect on the launch date isn’t enough. Generating buzz on that one day is helpful—but it doesn’t necessarily translate into product adoption and customer satisfaction in the long run.
Instead, imagine the entirety of your product’s trajectory after the product launch. As you think about expanding your markets, determine which product features will make it most appealing to the potential customers. Think about how your sales approach will need to shift to maximize your product’s revenue potential. And, of course, work with team members to sort out the details of this strategy.
According to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, there are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, and 95 percent fail. Aligning your company on your product launch strategy and thinking well into the future of your product’s lifecycle will help ensure your company makes it to the 5 percent.