Lesson 1
8 mins

Intro to product launches

In our first lesson, we’ll provide an introduction to product launches, from basic definitions to identifying the right people to get involved. Whether or not you’ve previously launched a product, this lesson doubles as a primer and refresher.

Product Launches 101 Badge

What is a product launch?

Product Launch definition - The go-to-market strategy devised to help successfully launch a product. The main goal of a product launch is to create enough buzz around the release to pique the interest of the product’s target audience.

When you think of a product launch, what comes to mind? A good product launch strategy has a simple goal—to be the “hype train”. It’s all about creating buzz and getting your audience excited about your product.

Meme of a train moving very fast with the text "nothing stops the hype train"

Product launches shouldn’t only be reserved for main releases since you do a lot of work to your product offerings throughout the year that deserves a shout. From a marketing perspective, celebrating the “small wins” is equally important for customer acquisition and retention. One thing is for sure: every product launch is different, and yours is no exception. Let’s break it down.

Types of product launches

Just as you wouldn’t launch a new eBook without an amplification strategy, you shouldn’t try to launch a new (or existing!) product offering without a launch plan. 

Product launches require loads of planning and execution, and that can feel overwhelming especially when you’re just getting started. But that work is critical to ensuring a successful launch. Appcues’ Director of Product Marketing, Anand Patel, explains it nicely below:

Some of the most effective launches introduce new products in phases, each serving a unique purpose.

When executed well, a phased approach will build momentum and excitement over time, with each release playing a key role in making sure the hype train stays on the tracks.  🚂

Icon of a bee representing pre-launch buzz

Pre Launch
The goal of the pre-launch is to prime your target audience for the release by creating some buzz. Create a website or landing page with product FAQs, start talking to influencers in your space, start a email list, start discussing KPIs of a successful launch with your internal teams.

Icon of a browser behind a science beaker representing soft launch

Soft Launch
The goal of the soft launch is to test the market and workout any bugs. It’s basically a gut check to ensure your messaging and product offerings align with your audience’s expectations. It also gives you an opportunity to test out your product in the real-world (beta) and to work out any kinks among a much smaller audience pool.

Icon of a rocket coming out of a computer representing a full launch

Full Launch
The mother of all product launches. This is reserved for brand new product releases, and requires the most heavy lifting in terms of a go-to-market strategy. Think PR, marketing—email, social, paid ads, website, events, and more. Every facet of marketing should be considered for a full product launch.

Icon of a +1 representing the addition and launch of a new feature

Feature Launch
Feature launches help to keep the hype train running post-launch. Adding any new features or updates to your product will keep your audience interested and attract new users. Use feature launches as re-engagement opportunities.

Because of their complexity, phased launches are typically employed when launching a significant new product or feature (just wait until we cover “launch tiers” in Lesson 4!) versus an incremental improvement. Even if you decide to proceed with a more straightforward approach, you can still employ bits and pieces from each phase. We’ll learn more about pre-launch product discovery and beta testing in Lesson 3.

Who’s responsible for product launches?

Product marketers, stand tall 🙋. This is your race, as you should own the product launch vision and strategy (and rely on your rockstar marketing team for execution, of course 👊).  

Borrowing from our friends over at Product Marketing Alliance to break down what world-class product marketers do:

Hand drawn #1

Represents the voice of the customer - before, during and after launch,

Hand drawn #2

Clearly articulates a product’s value in a way that resonates with the market, and

Hand drawn #3

Drives product adoption and advocacy.

The role of a product marketer is two-fold. First, they work to develop on-point messaging and a robust go-to-market strategy for their designated product.  From there, they act as a user champion— working tirelessly to understand the unique needs and challenges of their users and then coordinating with engineering to address them. 

As the below venn diagram depicts, product marketing is the ultimate cross-organizational role:

The launch team

When it’s product launch go-time, product marketers act as conductors leading the cross-functional orchestra. They are the leader behind all product launch initiatives, keeping everyone organized, accountable, and on target to hit the end goal of launch day.

While every good launch needs a strong leader, they can’t be planned and executed in a silo. Product launches impact—and need support from—your entire organization. That’s why product marketers typically work with a core group of cross-functional participants. Representatives from product management, sales, customer success and support, and marketing are most common. 

Once the team is in place, you should schedule weekly meetings to keep communication high and ensure every function is on track with key initiatives. As you get closer to the big day, consider increasing the meeting cadence with daily standups. Things are about to get loud!  

Product launch calendars

Speaking of keeping things on track, there sure are a ton of moving pieces when it comes to product launches, huh? It’s truly a juggling act. How the heck do you avoid dropping balls?

Cue the product launch calendar:

Product launch calendar in Airtable

A product launch calendar is an effective tool that gives you and your team a clear line of sight and ownership into all the moving parts of your product launch. Unsurprisingly, the best product launch calendars include the early stages of product discovery all the way through post-launch adoption campaigns. 

Remember the hype train? A product launch calendar is a must if you want to keep your hype train (and sanity) on the rails. Be sure to review your calendar during every weekly launch team meeting or daily standup.

🚀 Need a product launch calendar? Here are 4 of our favorites.