How To Successfully Launch A Product in 2021 [Complete Checklist]
Perception often shapes reality. In contrary to the old belief, just because you've built a great product doesn't always mean the customers will come.
That's why having a well-planned launch will give your product its best chance to succeed whether in driving adoption, revenue, or both.
Because there are many moving parts and many teams involved in this process, it can be intimidating and overwhelming. So we've put together a comprehensive and practical checklist, covering from the planning to execution to reporting and which tools we've used, for a successful product launch.
- Product roadmap: Product and Engineering teams develop and socialize an initial product roadmap for the coming year to get feedback from customers and internal stakeholders (sales, customer success, marketing)
- Quarterly launches: Marketing team (product marketing, demand gen, PR) collaborates with the Product team to group features into 2-4 categories/themes that align to benefits that are relevant to the end-users, then map these categories/themes to quarters.
Why it's important to group features into quarterly launches:
- People remember stories: having themed quarterly launches, instead of a disparate list of features, gives your roadmap a narrative that is more memorable for your audience, both externally and internally.
- Be proactive: allow Marketing, Sales, Support teams to proactively allocate resources and training to prepare for the launch, instead of reactively scrambling to get things done 2 weeks before the ship dates.
- Get the biggest bang for your marketing buck: it allows Marketing to pool resources into 2-4 key launches so that every launch gets the attention that it deserves.
- Integrated campaign: having all cylinders (PR, advertising, sales, customer success) fired at the same time, telling the same narrative is much more effective at grabbing customers' attention than running small campaigns here and there.
- Launch dates might NOT be the same as the Engineering's ship dates. A feature can be shipped in February, but its "marketing" launch (aka announcing that feature to the world) can happen in March along with the rest of the features for that quarter. This goes back to the goal of integrating resources across the company for one big, loud, effective launch per quarter (above).
- Getting alignment across the company is crucial, from product and engineering team to the revenue teams. This process will require multiple iterations and could take weeks.
Your product launch checklist
- Owner: product manager and product designer
- User interviews: covering use cases, pain points, benefits which are useful when developing the product's positioning and messaging
- Product mock-ups: necessary to create marketing assets (for website, ads, content, etc.)
- Support readiness: train and enable Customer Support team on product details, prepare FAQ
- Owner: product marketing (PMM) or product manager (PM)
- Positioning and messaging : to communicate relevant, differentiated, and captivating messages to get the target users' attention.
- Differentiators: how is it different from other competitors and why should the target users care
- Pricing and packaging: is it included in existing plans or is it a standalone pricing? who will be impacted?
The positioning and messaging document is the foundation for all subsequent marketing and sales activities.
Define your launch objectives
- Owner: Marketing leader
- Objectives: is it awareness? adoption? purchases? third-party apps developed? etc. The objective(s) will drive your go-to-market and launch activities.
- Metrics: define and quantify metrics to evaluate the launch based on the objectives. Ideally you already have previous metrics to be used as a baseline before setting the new metrics, but if not, leverage industry benchmarking.
- Owner: Demand Gen/Growth
- Advertising: the advertising strategy, which is based on the target users (how and where they like to consume content), will drive the types of content and creatives to be created. Ads could be a mix of display ads, social media ads, newspapers and magazines, outdoor advertising, radio and podcasts, direct mail, video ads, product placement, event marketing, and email marketing.
- Website: create a new website or web page, or update an existing site. Remember to optimize your page content for search terms that your target audience would use to find your product category.
Content and designs
- Owner: Brand /Content and Creative team
- Content: this usually includes blog posts, white paper/ guides, social media posts.
- Video: could be a product video and/or brand video. A product video is more around that product/feature, usually shows a bit of "how-to" vs. a brand video is an overarching messaging and aspirational benefits.
- Creative: various designs to use in every content piece, advertisements, videos, etc.
- Owner: Communications.
- Customer references: a press release would be more impactful when there are quotes from beta customers and/or partners.
- Media outreach, press interview scheduling & preparation for executives
- Upcoming speaking opportunities: prepare executives to tease the launch narrative in their speaking opportunities, building momentum toward the launch date.
- Analyst relations outreach, scheduling, and preparation
Customer & community marketing
- Customers: it's always a good idea to let customers know about the launch in advance, especially those who would benefit (or be impacted) by the new product so you can address any questions and concerns before the launch. No matter how awesome and flawless you think the new product is, there will always be customer questions that you have not thought of.
- Community: community is a great place to solicit and collect feedback from alpha and beta testers. Their feedback and conversations can also help you refine the product messaging. Including customer and community marketing in your launch plan helps build momentum toward the launch date.
- Owner: product marketing, collaborating with sales enablement & product or sales engineering
- Product training and certification (if any)
- Sales talk track
- Update the demo script, sales presentation, one pager
- Prospect to previous customers who are now at new companies to let them know about the new product/feature. This makes for a warmer outreach and helps you stay top of their minds for new opportunities.
Email Templates To Reach Out To Your Alumni Customers
(if you are hosting an event to announce the product, or announcing it at an industry conference)
- Owner: demand gen/growth
- Pick a date. this is a strategic decision. For example: you might not want it to coincide with a competitor's event, or maybe you do.
- Guest lists & invitations: customers, partners, press, analysts, influencers, community members, etc.
- Logistics: location, transportation, food & beverage, entertainment, personnel, etc. etc. and internet connection. If you're having employees working at the event/conference booth, make sure to have a shift schedule.
- Be original, make it fun, but still on-brand
- Demo training: includes talk track, demo environment, training
- Executive presentations and rehearsal
- Prepare any handouts, gifts, etc.
- Promote the event before and afterward to boost the demand generation efforts
- Rehearse everything!
- Have a back-up plan: something will always go wrong at events, have a plan B, C, D and brief your team about them.
- Owner: Marketing leader
Some of these launch components are more visible to the internal employees than others. Everyone sees the new website; some see the new content (blog, video, etc), but most employees don't see the advertisements because marketing targets their ads spending to potential customers instead of employees.
Without the visibility into what a complete launch requires and how each component is performing, some might assume that a launch only needs a beautified website, running some ads here and there, and that a launch only requires 2 weeks to execute.
Therefore, communicate the plan and the metrics regularly with the management and the rest of the company is critical to the success of the launch.
Tools to coordinate a launch
Because a product launch is a highly cross-functional initiative, the Product Marketer is also responsible for managing the project to ensure the deliverables are completed on time.
While you can get by with an Excel to track deliverables and owners, it will soon become unwieldy and time consuming for everyone involved. So, I strongly advocate for modern collaboration tools such as Asana, Monday, Jira, or Trello where task owners have real-time visibility into deadlines, dependencies, have the ability to assign tasks and communicate with each other quickly.