Whether you work in product marketing and are launching a brand new product, work in growth marketing and are focused on increasing product usage, or are just a marketer that's rolling out some updates to an existing product, a product launch can be a criticial -- and nerve-wracking -- time for your business.
And while there isn't a perfect formula for a product launch, there are definitely a few things that you can do to increase the chances your launch is a big success.
So from positioning and messaging to product content and internal communications, we created a checklist that you can follow to make sure that your next launch will be successful and drive demand.
A Simple Product Launch Checklist
1) Customer Development. Steve Blank coined the term back in the early 1990s but what it really means is this: do you homework. All great product launches start with a deep understand of the audience you're trying to get in front of -- and I'd be willing to bet that most successful launches started with at least a little bit of research and talking to customers.
When you get out there and talk to customers as part of this phase, you're most likely going to hear a lot of things like: "I wish it worked like this" and "How come I can't do this." But those questions really just result in features. So as a marketer doing customer research, your job is to try and filter out all of those wants and feauture requests and listen for pain. What's the real problem they need your product to solve?
Pro tip: When you're doing customer development, you dont need to talk to the entire universe of customers. In most cases, 12-15 customer interviews will reveal the majority of the pain points you'd hear from a bigger sample size.
2) Positioning and Messaging. Now it's time to turn all of the notes you took during customer development into something actionable.
There are a million ways that you could write a positioning statement, but you don't need to get caught up in all of the different frameworks and worksheets. Just focus on answering these three questions when you're building out your messaging for launch day: who is this product for? what does this product do? why is this product different?
But if you do want a little positioning worksheet, here's one we like from Actifio CMO Mike Troiano:
- Target: The actionable universe of buyers.
- Segment: The key, predisposing attribute. Within the target audience there’s a segment of people with a specific attribute that makes your product or service appealing.
- Brand: A name you call yourself.
- Category: A competitive frame for the buyer. Think about who you are competing against, and then separate yourself from them.
- Distinction: What makes you unique, setting you apart from the competition.
- Proof: A perceived evidence of truth to back up your distinction.
Just treat each bullet above like a Mad Lib, and then turn them into a description:
"For target who are segment, brand provides the category with distinction because proof."
Pro tip: Don't think about product features - think about super powers. What super powers do people get from using your product?
3) Teach out the positioning. Now that you have positioning for your product launch, everyone at your company needs to know it. This step is hugely underrated. Positioning will never stick unless everyone is on the same page.
If you can't get employees to buy in on your positioning for a new product launch, what makes you think that customers will?
Pro tip: Spend time trying to build up a few key advocates internally. The more people you can get excited about your product launch at your company, the more resources you will have to, well -- launch it.
4) Create your plan for launch day. There's usually a great plan behind every great launch. As Ben Franklin famously said, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail -- product launches are no different.
When creating your launch plan, work backwards. If your goal of this launch is to get 100 new customers, what do you need to do to get there? If your goal is to cross-sell a new product to 300 key accounts, how many of them do you need to reach out to?
Once you've set a clear goal, make a list of all the possible things you could do to hit your goal -- don't leave anything off the table. The point here is to create a list of everything you could do and then whittle it down.
Pro tip: After you get all of your ideas, clean them up and put them in a document (Google Sheets work great here), then give every idea an "ICE" score from 1 to 10. ICE stands for impact, confidence and ease:
- Impact. If this idea works, will it have a big impact?
- Confidence. How confident are you that this idea will work?
- Ease. Is this idea something that will be easy to test, or will it take weeks of product development to figure out?
Rank each of your growth ideas according to this ICE scale. This will give you a good sense of the ideas you should prioritize and focus on (the key is to find ideas that score well across ICE. Look for tests that are easy to run and can have a big impact). Here's more about this framework if you're interested.
5) Create your launch content. Now that you've prioritized all of your launch ideas, it's time to create your launch content -- all of the assets you will need come launch day.
This should be everything from FAQs to demo decks to sales training materials to landing pages to email copy -- but don't forget about tracking. Everything on launch day should be measurable so you can easily track whether your launch was a success or not (back to the original goal).
Pro tip: Seed the market first. Just because you haven't launched yet doesn't mean you can't be out there talking about what you're going to launch and getting people thinking about it. If you aren't comfortable sharing specifics, take a thought leadership angle and talk about things like trends and best practices related to the product/area you are going to be launching. For example: if I were launching a new email marketing tool, I would be out in the market weeks in advance blogging about email tips and changes in the email world.
6) Prepare your team. Don't overlook this step just because it's a short bullet -- internal communication can be just as important as external communication when it comes to a product launch. Before launch day, make sure all of your key stakeholders are prepped and ready to go.
Pro tip: Email, Slack, and your company wiki are great channels to reinforce messages, but don't hide behind them and assume people will get the message -- get up in front of the room and present the launch plan or hold individual team meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page.
7) Launch. But just remember -- like Mike Tyson once said -- "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." So be ready to adjust on the fly. Things always seem to go crazy on product launch day - but don't freak out. This is why you've read this checklist and created a strong plan to make sure you're ready for whatever the market throws at you.
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