My first product launch was absolute chaos.
The launch date was moved back once and forward twice. Stressful dreams haunted me before the release—but thankfully, it turned out to be a success. However, the aftermath left me physically drained and sleep-deprived. Exhausted and over-caffeinated, I realized there must be a better way. After poring over product launches from top companies, reading countless product announcement emails, signing up for multiple free trials, and scrolling through miles of product landing pages, I finally found it.
A product launch can make or break your company—and while it won't be stress-free, careful planning can help you avoid common pitfalls. This post explains why planning is crucial, outlines steps for smoother pre-launch preparation, and offers tips on creating a product launch timeline with our Product Launch Planner.
What is a product launch?
A product launch is a meticulously planned and executed strategy to introduce a new product to the market. It’s a series of actions across various departments—such as marketing, sales, and customer service—to ensure a coherent and impactful debut.
The process starts well before the actual launch date and extends beyond it, aiming to create awareness and drive adoption, fostering a favorable market position for the product.
A well-orchestrated product launch can significantly influence a product's success, making it crucial to align all involved stakeholders and plan each phase of the launch.
Why you need to plan a product launch
Planning is the most important step you can take to make sure your new product launch goes smoothly. A flawless product launch gives your product a better chance of succeeding in the long term.
When you’ve spent months developing the perfect product, it’s easy to overlook the launch. But making a great product isn’t enough in a competitive SaaS startup landscape—with so much competition, it can be hard to capture your audience’s attention. That’s why you also need to launch your product in a way that generates buzz, builds excitement, and, ultimately, sets your product on the road to success.
In addition to having some breathing room for course corrections and being able to roll with the punches of unexpected roadblocks, there are several other advantages of advanced planning for a product launch.
You have time to do (more) customer research
If you’re thinking about your product launch, you’ve most likely already established product-market fit and talked to your potential customers to confirm that your product fills a need in the market. But there’s still a lot you can learn from your customers.
- How do they describe their pain points? Getting a sense of the tone and vocabulary customers are using can help you fine-tune your messaging, which you can then incorporate into your launch materials (emails, blog posts, value propositions, etc.)
- What products are they currently using to solve their problem, and where do they fall short? Pre-launch customer surveys can help you understand more about your competition and where your product fits into the market. What frustrations do they have around current solutions? How does your product address these? How much are your customers paying for their current solution, and how much value would they associate with a better one? Ironing out these details prior to your launch can help you position yourself strongly right out of the gate.
- Where can you reach them? It’s important to know where your potential customers go for information. What blogs/publications do they read? What conferences are they attending? Social networks, popular industry newsletters, and targeted ads can all help you spread the word about your launch—but to be most effective, you need to go where your audience is, and asking them directly is the easiest way to find out where that is.
You can achieve internal alignment and get buy-in from all of your teams
Internal alignment around your product is the key to product-led growth. Before your launch, it’s important to create alignment among your different teams: Marketing, sales, customer service, and the dev team should all be on the same page when it comes to key messaging, the metrics that matter, and goals for your launch.
Promoting communication across all teams prior to launch will also help keep your entire company invested in your product’s success and help you spot problems early on—it’s a good way to break down communication silos and help collaboration across departments.
You can notify your partners and stakeholders
Keeping external partners and stakeholders in the loop shows them you value your relationship.
With open and clear communication, you can get your partners on board and use them as early product testers to receive valuable feedback and uncover potential issues. Plus, updating your partners early on means they can use their platforms to spread information about your launch through social media posts and guest blogs.
When should you think about a launch?
The moment inspiration strikes for a new product, it’s time to start envisioning its launch. Planning a launch alongside product development ensures a cohesive strategy.
The sooner you start thinking about your launch, the better. No plan is foolproof, but with enough time, you can roll with any setbacks and adjust your launch accordingly.
Plus, having a clear plan for your product launch can help your product, too: As you begin to plan, you’ll gain valuable insights into your customers, your team, and your goals—all of which can impact the work you do on your product in the final stretch.
In the ‘Types of product launches’ section of the Product Launches 101 course, we specifically recommend taking a phased approach to launches (which we’ll discuss more in a few sections). This method means you’re carrying your customers along each step of the way of building your product, which will allow them to tell you what they want out of the product and the best way to make it for them.
How to launch a product: A step-by-step guide
Now that you understand why you need to plan a product launch, the next question is how.
Here are 10 steps to launch a product that combines the psychology of excitement with
Step 1: Define your objectives and key results (OKRs)
First things first: What will a successful product launch look like to you? Do you want signups? Downloads? Views? Take some time to think about how you should be measuring success, then identify your north star metric. This metric should inform both the language you use to talk about your launch and the way you view your final numbers and launch success.
Once you’ve determined which metrics you’ll be measuring and optimizing for, you should set some OKRs in your product launch plan. Objectives are what you want to do and Key Results are the outcomes you expect from your Objectives.
Try to use historical data if possible—for example, if you had a similar launch that got you 400 signups, then 400 or 500 signups is probably a good goal to start with. Your goals should be ambitious but attainable.
Your goals should be ambitious but attainable.
Step 2: Get team-wide alignment
If you can only do one product launch tactic well, it should be this: Make sure all team members are aligned on the importance of the new product, the messaging around it, and the goals of the launch.
Your sales team will talk directly to prospective customers, so give them all the tools they need to succeed. This often takes the form of a one-pager summarizing everything sales needs to know to successfully sell the new product—including value prop, the problem the product solves, how it stacks up to the competition, etc.
Next, make sure your customer support team is well-versed in marketing messaging. This will provide context to the support tickets they’re likely to receive in the future (i.e., “Your product promised X but didn’t deliver! 😒”)
And don’t underestimate the importance of educating the rest of your team, even non-customer-facing folks on the engineering, product or marketing team. Understanding the product's value and how customers respond will better inform future developments.
What’s more, team-wide alignment will get your whole team excited and invested in the launch. This type of energy invariably results in better design, better customer interaction, and a stronger social media presence when you finally blast out the product launch.
With all the teammates and tasks involved in your product launch, organization is key to generating that alignment and there’s no better way to get it than with a product launch calendar – here are four of our favorites.
Step 3: Create a timeline
Now that your launch goals are defined, and your teams are on the same page, it’s time to create a product launch timeline. Ideally, you want a timeline that covers all important product benchmarks and also gets down into the nitty-gritty of each team’s deliverables before launch. That way, each team will know what their deadlines are and how those align with overall launch goals.
Our Product Launch Planner can help you get started developing a product roadmap to a successful launch.
Step 4: Decide on messaging
Product messaging is both an art and a science. Generally speaking, the language you use to talk about your product should be clean, concise, and consistent.
To determine what your messaging will be, talk to your product team and product marketing manager. Think about what sets your product apart from the competition, what customer pain points it solves, and so on.
Dig into any support tickets or customer feedback channels to find out how your customers talk about the problems your new product will solve—then use that same language in your launch copy. Then, create personas that fit with the different segments of your identified target audience – consider them as you move through the launch process.
Once you’ve settled on messaging, it’s important to convey it to your marketing and sales teams. This will help ensure that the language you use to communicate with your target audience is consistent and accessible across channels.
Step 5: Create a product launch landing page
Your new product should have its landing page on your company website. This page should be where you drive your traffic in the coming steps.
Keep this page short and sweet. Don’t overload people with too much information — focus only on what potential users need to know about your product, what problem it solves, and who it’s for. Similarly, avoid unnecessary or excessive calls to action—devote your CTAs to a single action.
Pictures of your product, an explainer video, and quotes from beta users are all great ways to increase page conversions. Use ‘em if you got ‘em.
For example, here is a screenshot of the landing page we used for launching our integration with Salesforce.
This landing page style has been effective for us because it gives an overview of the benefits and the features included. We end with a CTA to “talk to a product expert” so visitors know we can answer in-depth questions.
Step 6: Publish a product launch teaser on your blog
Once you’ve hammered out your goals and messaging, you should start teasing your product launch through a series of marketing campaigns.
In the weeks leading up to launch day, seed your blog and social media with content marketing that addresses the problems that your new product is designed to solve. This will help boost your SEO ahead of the release of the product, as well as with product validation among your target market.
For example, before the official launch of Appcues Checklists for user onboarding, we published a post explaining the psychological benefits of using checklists to guide the completion of complicated tasks.
Pre-launch content works by priming your audience; when people are invested in the problems your company is trying to solve, they’re more likely to see the full value of your new product.
You should also publish on launch day or shortly thereafter. Use this content (ideally written by your CEO or product team lead) to discuss your company’s vision, the pain point you set out to solve, and how this new product will address that problem. Also, encourage your team members to talk about the product (pre- and post-launch) on their profiles, like LinkedIn to increase the reach.
Be sure to always include a CTA to try out your product and link it to the landing page you built in the last step.
Step 7: Build an in-product tutorial
In-product messaging doesn’t have to be complicated (in fact, it shouldn’t be). A few concise and thoughtful tooltips here, a modal introducing your new product there—these little bits of communication can go a long way toward reducing churn and making sure users stay with your product long enough to realize its value.
Step 8: Launch on Product Hunt
Launch snobs be damned—Product Hunt is still the best place to launch a new product. It offers you an entirely new audience to discover your product for free.
To give yourself the best chance of success on the platform, be sure to include eye-catching graphics and a strong title and tagline. Make it a company-wide effort as well, encouraging teammates to hop in and interact with your post as well as share the launch far and wide.
Oh, and don’t expect an early night’s sleep—post your product at 12:01 a.m. PST. That way, you get a full day’s exposure on Product Hunt.
Step 9: Send announcement emails
Product Hunt is great for reaching a new audience. But your existing audience needs some love, too! (Make new friends but keep the old, right?)
The best way to reach your existing audience is through their inboxes. Send a carefully crafted announcement to those on your email list who will be most receptive to your new product.
One way to do this is to first segment your database by blog subscribers, content signups, free trials, and existing customers. Then, further, divide each of these segments into smaller ones based on topics of interest or demographic categorizations. This strategy lets you tailor your subject lines and email copy for maximum effect.
As every marketer knows, an email’s subject line can make or break its success. Make it too bland, and it will get overlooked; too sales-y, and you’ve bought yourself a one-way ticket to the junk folder. Aim for a subject line that catches the eye and teases out the idea of your launch but leaves the reader wanting more.
The body copy should be punchy and to the point. Start with a strong hook that sets the stage for your big announcement. Then, briefly explain the problem and how your new problem will solve it. Finally, wrap it up with an irresistible CTA that directs the reader to the landing page you made in Step 5.
If you want more information and real-world examples of great product announcement emails, read our post, The 14 best product launch emails for re-engaging customers.
Step 10: Launch!
That’s it; you made it—launch day is here! Celebrate and enjoy the rush of knowing you did everything possible to launch the product successfully. And tomorrow, maybe sleep in a bit—you’ve earned it.
If you need some inspiration, product launches are happening all day, every day (just peek at your Product Hunt homepage to see what I mean). However, some do it better than others – here some of the ones we truly love.
Product Launch FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about how to launch a product – and our answers.
How long does it take to launch a product?
We recommend you kick off launch planning three to six months out, but the timeline looks different for every team. It all depends on how long you plan to spend developing, testing, and then marketing your product. So rather than looking at the time cumulatively, think of it as a timeline of activities from when you start working on your idea, to determining your marketing plan and then your ultimate launch event.
What are the four tiers of a product launch?
Most companies launch products and features frequently, but not every launch is made equal. That’s why it’s important to agree early on the level of the launch, especially among the key stakeholders. With this launch tier framework, you can easily prioritize and categorize launches.
- Tier 1: Scream – A major product launch that will acquire new customers, open new markets, and/or adjust the company's GTM strategy.
- Tier 2: Shout – A product or feature launch that will improve retention and/or unlock new revenue potential.
- Tier 3: Cheer – A "me too" feature launch that levels the playing field and improves retention.
- Tier 4: Chirp – A minor improvement that creates stability or resolves an issue.
You can’t do a Tier 1 launch all the time, so analyzing your new product and your KPIs against this framework helps you prioritize which level of effort goes where.
What is a product launch strategy?
A product launch strategy is your game plan for introducing your new product to the world. It’s like the playbook for a sports team, detailing every play and every move to ensure a win.
Your strategy outlines the who, what, when, where, and how of your launch. Who is your target audience? What message do you want to convey? When is the optimal time to launch? Where will you promote your product? And how will you measure success? It encompasses everything from marketing and promotion to sales and customer feedback, all tailored to make your product's debut a triumph.
A well-thought-out product launch strategy doesn’t just amplify the buzz around your product; it ensures that the buzz reaches the right ears and translates into tangible results. It's about making a memorable first impression, one that establishes a solid footing in the market for your product.
What is the difference between a product launch and a go-to-market strategy?
A product launch is the event of introducing a new product to the market, aimed at generating buzz and initial user engagement. It's the debut day, showcasing your product to the public.
On the flip side, a go-to-market (GTM) strategy is the comprehensive plan leading up to the launch. It includes identifying the target market, positioning the product, and planning distribution channels. It sets the stage for the launch, ensuring the product is poised for a successful entry into the market.
While the product launch focuses on the debut, the GTM strategy orchestrates a sustained market presence, laying the groundwork for a successful launch.
What are the phases of a product launch?
We recommend taking a phased approach to product launches because we recognize that it works. When executed well, it helps build momentum and excitement over time with your users.
- Pre-Launch: In the pre-launch phase, anticipation is the name of the game. It's about creating a buzz around your upcoming product through teasers, social media campaigns, and perhaps a landing page where interested folks can sign up to learn more.
- Soft Launch: A soft launch is like a dress rehearsal before the big show. It's a quieter release to a limited audience, allowing you to gather feedback, make necessary tweaks, and ensure everything runs smoothly before the grand debut.
- Full Launch: The full launch is the grand opening where your product takes center stage in the market. It’s the moment when all the meticulous planning, marketing efforts, and community engagement come together to introduce your product to the wider world.
- Feature Launch: A feature launch is about spotlighting new features (or updated ones) post-launch. It’s an opportunity to re-engage your audience, show continuous improvement, and potentially attract new users who find the fresh features beneficial.
This can be a lot of steps, especially for smaller teams, but even using some of the process. You can learn more about these phases in our Product Launches 101 course.
Creating your timeline with our Product Launch Planner
Your product launch timeline should begin three to six months out. But if you’ve passed that mark, don’t sweat it—the Appcues Product Launch Planner can help you figure out what to prioritize. It’s easy (and totally free).
Answer 8 questions to get a detailed, personalized timeline for your product launch, including suggestions for when to post on your blog, publish on social media, and supplement your announcement with targeted paid ads. If you have a shorter launch lead time, the planner can also help you focus on key steps to add to your product launch checklist. It’s better to hit the basics than try to do everything at once and stretch yourself too thin (and risk letting important things fall through the cracks).