7 Lessons from How HubSpot Executes a Massive Product Launch
HubSpot’s product and product marketing team spends a large part of their year on a massive product launch that goes live every September. The annual product launch centers around a keynote presentation in front of a crowd of 14,000 attendees at their very own INBOUND conference.
The keynote presentation is followed by a number of launch blog posts, webinars and other communications to help drive interest and product adoption.
HubSpot’s product launch is so well thought out and coordinated, that even if you cannot replicate the magnitude of their campaigns, there’s a lot you can learn from the strategies that drive it.
I recently had the privilege of sitting down with the mastermind behind the product launch strategy, HubSpot’s VP of Marketing, Meghan Keaney Anderson to get the inside scoop, and I came away with these 7 lessons from how HubSpot executes a massive product launch.
1. Pre-launch: prime your audience for what is to come
A few weeks before the new HubSpot’s product goes live, Anderson and her team begin publishing blog posts to prepare their audience for the coming release. The content produced is meant to get prospects and customers thinking about their strategies for specific marketing practices that HubSpot plans to enhance or disrupt without revealing the product itself.
The product marketing team works with blog editors to pepper in posts that included:
- August 26th - Blog post on marketing blog - How to Create Facebook Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide to Advertising on Facebook
- August 27th - Blog post on marketing blog - 5 Reasons No One is Clicking on Your Banner Ads
- August 27th - Blog post on marketing blog - Lead Scoring 101: How to Use Data to Calculate a Basic Lead Score
- August 30th - Blog post on marketing blog - How Advertising Makes Us Buy [Infographic]
- August 31st - Blog post on marketing blog - 7 Things to Know Before You Run an App Install Ad Campaign
- September 4th - Blog post on sales blog - The #1 Social Network to Find, Engage, & Sell to CEO Buyers [Research]
- September 4th - Blog post on sales blog - Flash Forward: Remember When We Called it “Predictive” Analytics?
*This might seem like an altogether blog takeover if you don’t consider that HubSpot posts around 10 posts every day.
As you can quickly see from skimming each blog post’s title, there are apparent themes around advertisements and lead scoring. And you’d be right to guess that HubSpot released relevant features in their product launch.
2. The launch: balance vision with practical needs
The HubSpot product launch took place on September 9th and included the following activities:
- 2:45-4:15pm - Keynote at INBOUND15
- 2:45pm - Live broadcast of keynote for remote press and analysts
- 2:45pm - Live tweeting on the releases from the Hubspot account begins
- 3:30pm - Customers get access to the product
- 4:10pm - Blog post on sales blog from CEO Brian Halligan - Better for the Buyer, Better for the Salesperson: The Bold New World of Inbound Sales
- 4:15pm - Blog post on marketing blog from Founder Dharmesh Shah - Inbound for Everyone: 5 Launches (And 1 Surprise) We Think Will Change Your Marketing This Year
- 4:15pm - In-app contextual announcements go live with Appcues (see following section)
- 4:15pm - Partnerships embargo ends and partners post on new product. (see section below)
- 5pm - Blog Post on customer blog from Product Marketing Manager - A Complete List of the INBOUND 2015 Product Updates [Feature Roundup]
Product launches are an excellent place for vision. By telling a visionary story with your launch, you can capture the interest of an audience that is much wider than your customer list or sales pipeline.
HubSpot did a great job laying out the vision in their product launch in their keynote as well as in the blog posts by Dharmesh and by Halligan published as the founders walked off stage. Here’s a taste:
It’s important in a product launch to also consider the needs of your customers. They want to know all the details on how they can benefit from your new product, and they want to be communicated to directly.
HubSpot published an additional roll-up on their customer blog 45m after the keynote that examines what each new feature can do for them and included many screenshots and links to the features in the app
Although your visionary announcements might be suited to help expand your audience and sales pipeline, it’s with your immediate customers where onboarding takes place and feature adoption begins. Successful product launches cater to both audiences.
3. Use in-app announcements for contextualized activation
HubSpot uses Appcues to activate their customers to use their new product. They do this through targeted in-app announcements about their new features that look like this:
In terms of the content of these in-app announcements, Anderson says, “we try to stick as close as possible to the goal of trying to show customers how to use our product…In-app announcements are no place for vision.”
By targeting to specific pages in your app, customers both looking for the new product and navigating their app per-usual are prompted to activate your new product when they reach the right area of the platform. HubSpot’s in-app announcements help foster new feature adoption, which is crucial to the successful of their product launch.
4. Take advantage of existing partnerships to amplify your message
HubSpot is fortunate to have a network of thousands of marketing agencies that are building services on top of their software. These agencies know how to serve up a good story through their own well-oiled marketing channels and have been tapped to help spread the message of the product launch with HubSpot.
Operating on an embargo, HubSpot partners published several blog posts soon after the INBOUND keynote to help support the launch. Here are some examples of HubSpot partner posts:
- Trew Marketing: The TREW Review: Our Favorite HubSpot Product Announcements from Inbound 2015
- Eyemagine: How HubSpot’s New Product Launch Will Revolutionize Your Inbound Marketing
- Weidert Group: HubSpot Launches New Marketing Tools & Upgrades at INBOUND15
- Weidert Group: Reporting: HubSpot’s Greatest Weakness Just Became Its Biggest Upsell Opportunity
“For companies without developed partner networks,” Anderson advises, “look to your beta customers or those who are already acting as ambassadors for your brand for help on your next product launch. They are often excited to help you push the limits of your product, and the more you equip them, the bigger your audience will be.”
5. Post-launch: communicate value, and how-to to your customers
It’s amazing how frequently HubSpot’s team posts on topics related to their new product in the days and weeks following the product launch. The following list is exhaustive, and is apt to continue growing:
- September 11 - Blog post on customer blog from Product Marketing Manager - How to Launch Your First Ad Campaign
- September 14 - Blog post on marketing blog from Product Marketing Manager - Traditional vs. Predictive Lead Scoring: What’s the Difference?
- September 18 - Blog post on sales blog from Content Marketing Manager - 6 Brand New Sales Tools Announced at #INBOUND15
- September 22 - Blog post on customer blog from Support Manager - 3 Ways the HubSpot Ads Add-on Makes Launching LinkedIn Sponsored Content Easy [HubSpot Support Series]
- September 23, 7:30am - Email from Sidekick promoting product enhancements to the Sidekick app
- September 23 - Blog post on marketing blog from Founder Dharmesh Shah - Is Advertising Inherently Outbound?
- September 23, 3am - Webinar email reminder
- September 23, 10:30am - Webinar email reminder #2
- September 23, 11am - Webinar - INBOUND 2015 Product Launch Recap
- September 24 - Blog post on customer blog from Product Marketing Manager - 5 Ways HubSpot’s Predictive Lead Scoring Can Improve Your Marketing [New App]
- September 24 - Email with webinar recording from CMO
Posts on their main blog are a bit more strategy focused, such as Traditional vs. Predictive Lead Scoring: What’s the Difference? Whereas on their customer blog, you’ll see articles promoting the new product such as 5 Ways HubSpot’s Predictive Lead Scoring Can Improve Your Marketing [New App].
In addition to the posts, HubSpot initiated two webinars by email to demonstrate their new product and sent a follow-up email with a video link. Webinars are a great medium to help show off how your product works, and HubSpot did a good job promoting theirs.
The majority of your post-launch activity should be aimed towards helping your customers figure out how to use your product to advance their company goals. Typically this means you’ll be posting blog articles on your customer blog around the features that answer questions, promote their benefits, and demonstrate how they work.
6. Measure product and marketing success separately
It’s imperative to measure the success of your product launch, so that you can learn from what’s working, and what’s not working. For HubSpot, that means setting goals before launch around feature adoption. These measures are based on revenue goals and benchmarks from similar product launches, and are used as a bar that the team strives for.
After the launch, HubSpot measures two things separately:
First, they measure how successful the marketing campaign was by tracking metrics such as new leads, social shares, customer interest and PR success as well as how many customers activated their product.
And then they measure product adoption by time spent in that area of the app, or by how many customers successfully got to the next point of value.
Breaking down your metrics by marketing and product success may help you more readily figure out how you can optimize your current product launch. And apply that knowledge to your next one.
7. A successful product launch never truly ends
After a product launch, there is a tendency to take your foot off the gas pedal—and you can, for the most part—but Product Marketers at HubSpot become evangelists for the tools they release, and your team should follow suit.
HubSpot’s Product Marketers are constantly on the prowl for stories that are relevant to their product, industry or customers. They study data and chat with customers who have adopted their new product to tell their stories in the format of case studies or testimonials.
As Anderson said, “sometimes it doesn’t really become real for customers until they see how it’s being used by their peers.” By telling your customers’ success stories, you can create social pressure to help drive the value home and create continual feature adoption across your prospect and customer base.
For your next product launch
HubSpot is certainly different than your company. But as marketing and sales leaders, there’s a lot to learn in how they market and sell their own product.
Without the benefits of your own conference or partner ecosystem, you may be at a disadvantage. But there are certainly ways to draw on these lessons and put into practice something that works for your company.