Launching a new product can be stressful, but if you stay focused on these 3 key questions, you'll be sure to cover all your bases.
Your product launch is your product’s birthday! 🎉
Now imagine you put a ton of work into planning the party... and no one shows up.
Like a party, or any event for that matter, your product launch needs to be carefully planned: the date, the type of party, who you plan to invite, etc. After all, your goal is to get people to show up and be excited, ready to try out the product your team has worked so hard on.
Effective product launches require careful planning, often months in advance. To create that “I must check this out” anticipation, you need to consider your target audience, the size of your launch, and overall timeline.
We’re here to give you the ultimate planning guide to help you think through the details and put together the perfect launch for your product.
Who: Your product’s target audience
Your new product wasn’t developed in a vacuum. Your team had some indication that it would be a good market fit, whether it was based on research, user feedback, or competitor analysis (or a combination of all 3).
Now it’s up to you to find a way to communicate your product’s value and differentiators. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often the product messaging that will draw in an audience to sign up for a free trial or request a demo.
Do your research
The reality is that your product isn’t for everyone: you’re going to have an ideal customer in mind—someone who will really “get” what your product is offering and how it will benefit them.
Start with your product managers, who can talk about the product’s use cases and features. They can also provide research around how the product came to be included in the roadmap in the first place, and clarity around the target audience based on the problem the product is trying to solve. If you have an existing customer base, a product manager can also identify if the product is appealing to the same audience, or if it’s an attempt to expand into a new market.
Once you understand the target audience, you need to write for that audience. You may have more than one type of buyer, and in that case, you can create several target personas. This breakdown can be supported by data from your existing customers or insights from your sales team. What are customers looking for? What concerns come up during the sales process?
The last part of your research should include looking at your company’s existing product messaging (if you’re not a startup). This includes the overall style, the words used to convey product benefits, and the results of any past product launch campaigns.
Develop your product positioning and product messaging
Once you’ve collected your background info, the fun begins! This is the creative part of being a product marketer: translating those facts into product messaging that will resonate with your audience.
You’ll start with your product positioning, or your product’s niche, how it compares to the competition, and the best way to present your product to different target audiences. Product positioning includes several components:
Price: How your product compares to your competitors, and how do you describe the price (luxury? value? affordable?)
Product application: How different features fit with different use cases
Target customers: How your product appeals to the different buyer personas from your research
Competitive advantages: Why your product is better than and unique from your competitors
Brand: What your company brings to the table, such as an inspiring mission, causes supported, or exceptional customer support
Once you have your product positioning worked out, it’s time to craft your product messaging, or the words you’ll use to communicate your product’s purpose, relevance, and value.
Unless you’re planning to do a complete messaging overhaul, now is not the time to deviate from your brand’s overall voice or style. Instead, you’ll need to look at your product positioning and find the words to highlight your new product while still fitting in with the overall brand messaging.
Not only that, but you need to think about everything your product messaging touches: your website, sales collateral, emails, and social media, and be prepared to write for the audience of each platform. Your product messaging needs to fit into each of these mediums appropriately.
And then you have to communicate your product positioning to your team internally, including sales and your customer service teams. Everyone should be on the same page with the messaging part of your product launch plan, so you’re consistent across the board.
What: Your approach to a product launch
Not every product launch will happen in the same way, and many factors go into choosing a product launch approach, including:
Is this a brand new product, or are you complementing an existing product?
Will this product appeal to your existing customer base, or are you tapping into new markets?
How many internal resources do you have to support the product launch?
How much time do you have before the launch?
You should decide the type of launch that is best for you before you start creating a timeline and list of deliverables leading up to your launch date.
If your product isn’t quite ready for a full-scale launch, you might do a soft launch or launch to a limited group of users. This gives you an opportunity to prepare your team as well as test out product features and collect feedback before diving into a bigger launch.
A soft launch can help you further refine your product messaging because you can collect feedback from users. You can ask questions via an email survey or an in-app survey about what features are favorites and why. A soft launch also puts less strain on internal resources—you can have your development team or customer service team at the ready to help the small group of users with any issues that come up.
Things to think about: Soft launches work well with an “invite-only” email campaign, where users can request to be included. You could also reach out directly to users and ask them to participate. Just make sure they’re available in the window for your soft launch. And while it might be tempting to only invite your “best” users, you might not get the full range of feedback that can help you move into a full launch, so consider including a diverse mix of users.
Any software product is going to have multiple releases per year.
You’ll have bug fixes or little tweaks to the product that are pushed out more frequently. Then there are the times when you have a much larger feature to launch. While it’s not a stand-alone product, you might be hoping it will attract a new audience, provide a huge benefit to your existing customers, or upsell existing customers. In these cases, you want to create some hype around the new feature. These launches still deserve attention, but don’t require as much effort as a full-scale product launch.
Things to think about: You can get your existing users excited with a series of emails, teasing out the feature you might be adding as well as announcing the anticipated release date and launch day. Videos are a great way to show how the new feature works with your existing product (don’t forget in-app feature announcements). A feature-based launch is also an opportunity for your sales team to revisit opportunities in the pipeline that might be swayed by the new feature.
A full-scale launch pulls out all the stops: you’re putting your product out into the world and (hopefully) creating a lot of anticipation and fanfare. This launch requires the most planning and coordination.
This type of launch makes the most sense when you’re releasing an entirely new product (or a feature so large it deserves more effort than a feature-based launch). You want the most attention from every channel possible, and your team needs to be prepared for the influx of inquiries or purchases the launch could generate.
This also means your product needs to be pristine (or as close as humanly possible). We get it. Sometimes products go to market, and they’re not quite ready (in which case, see soft launch above). But for a full-scale launch, the last thing you need is a product riddled with bugs.
Things to think about: This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Every team needs to be aligned, and every step of the product launch planned out in detail. You only get one shot, so you need to make sure your product messaging is spot-on. It’s a huge investment of resources, but you’re also counting on huge results from your efforts.
When: The countdown to product launch
The easiest way to plan your tasks for a product launch is to start with the date you anticipate product development completion and work backward.
You’ll need to allow yourself enough time for the following:
Finalize your product messaging
Combine your product messaging with design elements, such as your website, new sales deck, or sales collateral
Write all your copy, such as a blog post announcing the new product, an email campaign, and social posts
Line up other resources, such as a press announcement, podcasts, or a webinar
Determine any paid ad spend and the timing of these paid promotions
Queue up all content to post on the right date at the right time
The amount of time needed for each task will depend on your internal resources (are you a team of one? a team of 10?) as well as your approach to a product launch. A soft launch may not need a webinar and won’t require initial ads.
And keep in mind the timing may change. As much as we’d like to celebrate product development always being completed on time, that’s not always the case. So plan for contingencies, such as pushing back a product launch date if necessary and how that impacts your plans.
Create a product launch plan to match your goals
As you dive into the details of your product launch, don’t forget to think about your metrics for success. It’s not only about getting your product out into the world, but also about having measurable results from your campaigns, such as new signups, SQLs, or other meaningful impacts on your business. Those objectives were likely defined before the product development began, but now it’s time to align those objectives with your product launch strategy.
With all this hard work, don’t forget to celebrate! After all, planning a product launch can take a lot of time and energy. When you finally get to launch day, take a deep breath before you move onto measuring results.