Imagine planning your extended family's 15-person holiday party on the back of a napkin. And yes, you have to invite Aunt Cindy. Organizing your product launch with only a spreadsheet is a little like that, though, hopefully with less offensive relatives. If you want to execute a masterful product launch strategy, you need a robust tool capable of handling the details of your product launch plan—a single place that contains everything you need to do, who will do it, and when it needs to get done.
A product launch calendar allows you to stay organized. Managers can see when certain tasks are at risk of falling behind and individual workers know what their role is in the bigger picture. If your calendar tool is poorly organized, hard to update, or lacking the features you need, it can cause chaos and put the whole launch in jeopardy.
In today’s market, there are tons of project management tools out there, all claiming to be the only ones you need for your product launch. In this list, we’ll take a look at some of the top tools for creating product launch calendars, so you can find the one best suited for you and your team.
1. Airtable: for people who love to customize
When juggling features, assignees, and launch plans, oftentimes, you need the flexibility of multiple views to keep everything aligned and on time. Airtable gives you this freedom, because it’s designed as a database where you create tables (like people or projects) and cross-reference them (x people are tied to x projects, x projects have x delivery dates).
That might sound a bit complex, but sometimes you need to nerd it up if you’re gonna get a multifaceted launch off the ground. Once you create your database, you can use Airtable to see your product launch in a calendar view. This way, you can visualize your roadmap to launch success laid out before you in all its glory.
One of the biggest advantages of Airtable is that it’s fully customizable. Want to store outside data like visuals on your calendar? You can do that. Want to run a countdown timer until the next product release? You can do that, too.
This level of customization is Airtable’s biggest strength and weakness. For power users interested in learning how to get the most out of Airtable, this platform will reward you with even more ways to tweak your calendar to suit your needs. However, there’s a steep learning curve, and new users might struggle out of the gates.
There’s some hope for new users, though. Airtable has a free product launch template for you to try, as well as documentation on creating a product launch calendar to help you take your first steps. That being said, if you’re looking for something more straightforward, it might be better to look at other tools on our list.
2. Trello: for people who love simplicity
If simple and easy to use is your game, then Trello might be the right solution for your product launch calendar. Based on a Kanban table system, Trello allows you to create a board with multiple columns (like ideas, in process, complete) and then move tasks across the board as they transition from one phase to the next.
Trello’s major advantage over other tools is its simplicity. The board is easy to use—it’s a simple drag-and-drop to transfer a card from one phase to the next. The cards themselves are customizable with spaces for descriptions, subtasks, due dates, images, and an owner of the task to keep everyone on the same page.
If you’re running a small business with relatively few users and tasks to coordinate, Trello is an ideal product launch calendar for your needs. For larger, more complex launches, however, its simplicity can be restricting. If you’ve got 50+ tasks on your Trello board, you risk losing some in the shuffle. Trello tries to remedy this with email notifications of upcoming due dates, but it may be too late to get your tasks done if the due date has already arrived.
If you’re on the fence about Trello, give it a chance to see if it works for you. Trello is free with a basic plan, and you can use their product launch calendar template to get started.
3. Asana: for people who love custom views and reports
Asana is the main project management competitor of Trello, and it offers a similar, but more complex product. Like Trello, on Asana, you can create tasks with subtasks, descriptions, and owners. With Asana, however, you have more options to keep yourself organized, making it ideal for businesses where Trello is just a little too limiting. These options include calendar or task views and customizable time ranges instead of firm due dates.
Asana’s wealth of views and reports also helps everyone stay on track. For example, macro views allow you to see what stages all of your tasks are currently in so you can sense how ready for launch you really are.
Personalized views are also available, so individual users can see what they need to get done to contribute to the overall project.
These features all help you stay on top of a complex product launch strategy, making Asana perfect for those who want to strike a delicate balance between the complexity of Airtable and the simplicity of Trello. There’ll be a learning curve for new users when implementing advanced features like automation or managing your different views, but the basic cards and features should be easy enough for anyone to get started with right away.
4. Pipefy: for people who love automation
If automation and custom fields are your thing, Pipefy is for you. While many products have custom fields, Pipefy’s custom fields can be altered to suit the specific stages a task is currently in. For example, if you’re planning blog posts for your product launch, you can move a task into the “Blog Post” stage, and Pipefy will automatically create custom fields related to blog posts on the card. This way, every time you make a blog post for a launch, your processes will be standardized, without the need for you to set up each card individually.
Another benefit that Pipefy has over competitors like Trello or Asana is its customized flows. With Pipefy, you can set up the flow a task will take as it moves from conception to completion. For instance, a custom flow could kick a blog post to an editor after it completes a drafting phase or move it to get approval from a manager before it goes live.
All of this automation keeps product releases organized and saves you the time you’d otherwise spend organizing and updating your Kanban boards. For this reason, Pipefy is ideal for larger companies or companies that frequently launch new products.
It’ll take some time to get your processes refined and in place, but once they are, you can use them for every future launch. You can get a feel for Pipefy for free with their product launch calendar template.
Pick the product launch calendar that makes sense for your team
The whole goal of a product launch planner is to keep track of the who, the what, and the when. Every tool has unique features—the idea is to pick something that will work best for your team. How do you like to visualize the process? How do you usually collaborate? How much detail do you want to include within the launch planning tool (versus outside resources)? The good news is, it’s easy to try a tool for free and see how it works for you and your team. And who knows, maybe that napkin will do the trick (but probably not). Happy planning!