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The buzz about a new book or movie doesn’t start the day it’s released. The hype begins long before that—and it’s the anticipation that gets an audience excited in the first place.
The same is true for a product launch. Whether you’re launching a new product into the world or adding some exciting new features to your existing product, you want to prepare users—both potential and existing—to dive right in and give it a try. If you get your product launch right, your new product can make a splash right away, and you’ll see a quicker ROI on your development efforts.
We’ve heard from so many companies about their product launch efforts and the techniques they use to improve new product adoption (including onboarding flows, in-app messages, and other tactics). As a product manager or product marketer, planning a big launch can feel overwhelming (there are so many things to consider!), but we’re here to break it down for you.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to prepare a successful product launch—from the people involved, to 4 best practices, to a checklist of tasks leading up to your launch date. You’ve got this.
Let’s start with the basics. Your product launch plan lays out everything you need to do to bring a new product to market, from marketing to sales to customer service. You need to align everyone in the company around the tasks that need to be completed and their timing.
Not only that, but the company should have a clear understanding of the goals of your product launch. You’ll need something more concrete than “to raise awareness” or “to get people to buy the product” (we’ll get into metrics a bit later). This is also your chance to build internal excitement around your product launch—get the team to understand what the new product means for the company and its goals.
You should decide your product launch date in advance: that’s the date that everyone will work toward. Start there, and plan backwards. The plan—in written form—is the sequence of events that lead up to the launch date.
In order to make the most impact with your product, you need to be strategic about getting the word out and preparing your internal teams. This involves a lot of logistics and sometimes months of preparation.
Think about it: you have this fabulous new product, but that means nothing if people aren’t aware of it. Successful product launches have some key ingredients in common. You’ll see that the companies behind these launches not only know their target audience, but they know how to reach their target audience and spark their interest in the new product.
Imagine planning an epic birthday celebration and forgetting to send out the invites...
Without a product launch plan that’s centered upon your unique audience, you risk not generating the attention your new product deserves. This will, in turn, lead to falling short of your overall goals for the product. Your strategy should be both thorough and tactical to have the biggest impact.
Your product team may have been heads-down, working hard to bring your product to life. But now, it’s time to bring in other departments to collaborate on the product launch. Sometimes all departments are well aware of the development efforts and their potential impact on the company. In other cases, not so much. It's crucial to bring everyone up to speed and outline their involvement in the product’s success.
If you don’t detail out the tasks included for the product launch—and we mean all of the tasks—you risk something being overlooked or not having the right internal resources available to help. Let’s take a look at each of the departments you’ll need to include and what kind of participation you can expect.
Since your management is involved in the overall product vision and strategic direction of your company, you’ll want to involve your CEO or other managers in your product launch plan, especially for larger launches. While they may not have any assigned tasks, they’ll have a keen interest in the results of your efforts.
While management should have understood the product-market fit (or at least the problem they were looking to solve) before the development of the product even began, you’re now presenting how the product launch efforts are also a market fit—you’re showing how the product launch aligns with your target audience. And while you’re at it, you’re also getting buy-in for the overall strategy.
📋 What you need to do for management:
Outline how you’ll report on results in the first days, weeks, and months after the product launch.
If you’re reading this guide, there’s a good chance you’re a product marketer who’s part of a larger marketing team (if you’re flying solo, best of luck to you). You can lean on your team to help you develop product positioning and product messaging, but most of this work will fall on your plate. Creating a product that solves a problem is the first step—communicating your product value in a way that resonates with your target audience is a whole other ball game. Many aspects of your product launch plan will be dependent on the messaging. Before we go on, here’s our Director of Product Marketing at Appcues, Anand Patel, to explain the difference between positioning and messaging (people often confuse them).
Your marketing team (or you) can do research on the user personas and the most effective strategies to reach your audience. For example, if your potential users don’t rely on Facebook to find a product like yours, direct your efforts elsewhere (or at least don’t expect to see any huge results).
As you talk through the details of what the new product does and how it benefits your potential customers, your marketing team will start thinking about email campaigns, social media, ads, and other tactics to create buzz. You’ll need their feedback about which tactics will be included and the timing of these for your product launch plan.
📋 What you need to do for marketing:
Provide the team with any market research or customer feedback that was collected during your product development process as a foundation for the target audience.
Your sales team (and customer success team, if you have one) is likely eager to get their hands on your product (new cool thing to sell!), but they need to have a clear understanding of product positioning and how the product aligns with your other products, so they can effectively communicate its value. It’s also helpful for these teams to understand who the ideal customer is for the new product and the overall narrative you want to tell the market, so everyone is sharing the same story.
Sales will also need to understand the pricing: Is it a new subscription? An upgrade to an existing product? Are there different product tiers? Whether sales has any say in pricing or not, during your preparation for product launch, you’ll need to involve your sales team in these discussions.
📋 What you need to do for sales:
In addition to creating sales collateral and a new pricing schema, you'll need to provide any product training ahead of your launch date, so the sales team can see the product in action. You want sales to be prepped and ready to sell, sell sell.
Customer support needs to be prepared to answer product questions upon launch and have the training and resources to support customers.
Think about it: your customers often come to your support team with questions. You want the support reps to be equipped to talk about how your new product solves a problem (along with answering the nitty-gritty questions about the features of your product itself). Share your marketing and sales strategy with the customer support team, so that the language you use with customers is consistent across all channels.
📋 What you need to do for support:
You could have an influx of activity after launch, so think about which additional resources you’ll need available and for how long after launch. You want your customers to have a great impression of your customer service—especially potential new customers.
Sure, you can create a long checklist of items that lead up to your product launch (and we’ll get into that below!), but there are a few high-level best practices to make your product launch successful.
Depending on the scale of your product, it could take months to prepare a successful product launch. As soon as you know your targeted launch date, you should begin planning. Keep in mind that there are different types of launches, and you’ll need to determine which kind is best for your new product or feature.
• Pre-launch: When your product isn’t ready yet, but you want to create some serious buzz, you can put a ton of marketing effort upfront in a pre-launch. You’ll see a lot of companies do this at conferences. Pre-launches allow you to build anticipation and create potential waitlists.
• Soft launch: This is used to test the market or if the product is not fully ready. In this case, your launch planning is for a very small, segmented group of users. A soft launch gives your team time to prepare and test out product features and messaging before a bigger product launch. Soft launches also put less strain on your internal resources.
Example: You’ll build an invite-only campaign to try out an early version of your product.
• Feature-based launch: This launch is for major feature changes to an existing product, where you want to capture the attention of your existing users. While this is not a standalone product, it can help attract a new audience or provide a huge benefit to existing customers. This launch still deserves attention, but not as much as a full-scale product launch.
Example: You’ll create a series of emails (and maybe a webinar) to build anticipation among your existing users.
• Full launch: This product launch pulls out all the stops. You're releasing an entirely new product and company to the market or announcing an exciting product that complements an existing one (either way—congrats!). This type of launch requires the most planning for maximum impact. You only get one shot, so you need to make sure your efforts are spot-on.
Example: You’ll consider every channel and how best to reach each potential audience.
Most companies launch products and features frequently, but not every launch is made equal. That’s why it’s important to come to agreement early on the level of the launch, especially among the key stakeholders.
Using a launch tier framework, you can easily prioritize and categorize launches. With this system, you’ll rank each launch between Tier 1 (make a big splash) and Tier 4 (release it quietly). This framework allows you to strategize how you take products to market because:
• You can’t shout about each product and feature (or give each the same level of promotion), otherwise your customers will just stop listening
• You have restraints on time and resources, so you need to make sure you prioritize the launches that will provide the largest business impact
• A framework creates a fair and consistent way of prioritizing launch activities, so that something doesn’t get extra love just because the champion was a little bit louder (we’ve all been there)
Our Director of Product Marketing is a huge fan of the launch tier framework. He’ll talk through it a bit in this 1-minute video.
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. We talked about the different teams you need to involve, but it’s just as important to bring everyone together to discuss the plan, especially as you finalize the details. The various departments can also provide feedback about what worked and hasn’t worked in the past.
Once you have created a draft of your timeline, you need the team to be on board, particularly those that are contributing resources (like your marketing department creating collateral for the sales team). You want to make sure that everyone knows the target dates and agrees that those dates are achievable.
And now’s the time for the team to bring up anything that may have been overlooked or needs more or different resources. Adjust your product launch plan accordingly. Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve got a final version that everyone will work from. (Psst... try not to get too mired in revisions—you’ve got a product to launch! Make sure your changes are meaningful with each iteration.)
Visibility and alignment across this group of stakeholders is key to success, so don’t be shy about setting up ongoing go-to-market huddle meetings. If you’re a few few months out, meeting on a weekly or bi-weekly cadence makes sense. If launch is only a week or 2 away, maybe you want to try a daily cadence.
Some users are so excited by new products. Others are... hesitant. And you want to be prepared for both reactions, making users’ initial product experiences as smooth as possible. That can mean taking the users’ (figurative) hands and guiding them through your product.
• Onboarding: For brand new products or major changes to existing products, think about an onboarding flow. It could include a product tour, a checklist of tasks to complete, and/or some simple tooltips.
• Feature announcements: If you have an existing user base, you can use in-app messaging to announce new features, capturing their attention while they’re in your product.
• Segmentation: You might have different onboarding tours for different use cases or feature announcements targeted to certain users. The more you can target based on the use case, the more your users will feel like the product is “made for them.”
The name of the game is reducing product adoption friction.
As mentioned before, you’ll start with your product launch date and work backward, placing all tasks on a timeline. While your product launch plan will include task assignments and likely subtasks, you can use this list as a guide to create your own product launch checklist.
You have to know what success looks like for your product launch and how you’ll measure it. Ask yourself: what are the goals of your campaign (e.g. number of MQLs, number of trials started, number of units sold)? It depends on your business model, but you should have a clear picture of what you’re hoping to accomplish.
Then, look at how you’ll report on your results and with what frequency (in the days, weeks, and months following the product launch). Again, think about your business. If your product has a free trial for 14 days, you can look at how many users convert within the first few weeks. If your product requires a demo and interaction with a sales team, it could take longer to see results. It might also be that a measure of success is product usage (like how many users completed onboarding). Your OKRs should be ambitious but attainable.
Hot tip: Look at past product launches to get a barometer for your campaigns.
We discussed this briefly in the Marketing section above, but product positioning and product messaging need to occur early in your product launch plan because they’ll impact almost everything.
• Product positioning is how your product fits into the market and what pain point it solves.
• Product messaging is the words that you use to convey your positioning to your target audience. This touches everything from your website to your sales collateral and other marketing efforts.
Marketing peeps: here’s where you shine. Finalize what both your product positioning and product messaging will be before you go any further. If you’ve never done this before, and you’re confused about how to begin, try filling out this handy template.
Need some inspiration? Check out our awesome roundup of product messaging examples.
Your product will need an identity, especially if it’s a standalone solution, but the naming process can also be valuable for features that require a little extra attention. Picking the right name is important, but we wouldn’t suggest you overthink it. There are 2 key things to consider when selecting a name:
1. Does it confuse your audience? You’ll want a name that will guide your audience down the right path, but at the very least, it shouldn’t completely confuse them. Yes, there are products and companies out there with abstract names, and it’s completely possible to still succeed in those cases, but you shouldn’t blindly follow in their footsteps.
2. Are there any negative connotations? Whether your product name is abstract or straightforward, one thing it should not do is bring up negative thoughts or feelings. Make sure the name you’ve selected passes that test, across various audiences and languages… because you just never know.
Hot tip: Although we don’t recommend spending too much time on naming, it doesn’t mean you can’t do some high-level testing and validation. There’s no harm in running a quick survey or holding a few customer interviews, just to make sure you’re on the right path and you’re clear of the 2 concerns above.
Pricing and packaging could have its own guide (there’s so much to consider!), and it’s something you’ll want to nail down prior to launch.
Strategize your pricing based on value. Yes, competitor pricing matters, and may act as an anchor to your pricing, but what’s even more important is your audience’s willingness to pay based on the value you provide. Take the time to research and think through how you’ll price your product. You may be surprised by what you learn!
Packaging is typically a last-minute thought. When launching something new, big or small, give careful consideration to who will benefit from the product or feature. Use this information, along with the willingness to pay learnings, to determine how you should package your solution for targeted segments. For a product with existing plans, confirm which customer segments benefit from the new feature and how that relates to your current packaging and upsell strategy.
Your campaigns should build excitement around your product, whether you hint at what’s coming through a series of emails or plan for a large reveal on launch day (or both!). You’ll need to plan the timing of each and queue up your announcements for your blog—the place where you really get to tell the story of your product—email campaigns, social media channels, and more.
For example, your sequence might look something like this:
• Two weeks before launch - build anticipation: Send out some teasers via your channels to let your audience know that something new is coming.
• One week before launch - announce the product: You’re ending the suspense from your previous announcement and including the exact release date and pre-order information.
• Launch day: Share your enthusiasm with your audience so that they’re excited to make a purchase or upgrade to the latest version.
• One+ week later - follow-up: It’s time for the #ICYMI posts, reminding your audience of the new product.
Timing is everything (plus, you’re fighting for the attention of your audience in a flood of other emails and posts in their feeds), so plan for a series that can keep your product on your audience’s mind.
Your sales team will need materials to support the new product, including brochures, flyers, and other downloads. You’ll also need to think about existing sales assets that might need some updating, including:
• Sales automation tools (such as email) so that they reference the new product and can re-engage with cold leads
• A new pricing sheet—internal or external—with the new product info
• Answers to common questions your sales team may encounter
• Case studies or testimonials, once you have some customer examples (if you have beta customers, create these in advance)
You’ll want to arm your team with everything they need to push the product from Day 1 and schedule any emails to go out to your pipeline.
Pitch your launch story to the press under an embargo (either with the help of a PR firm or soliciting the press in your industry on your own). You need to create interest by telling your product’s story, outlining the value proposition, and putting in a call to action.
Prepare a press release that you can distribute. Does your website have a press release section? You can drop it there, too!
Hot tip: Try to lock down some customer success stories or quotes ahead of time (maybe from a beta group?) to include in your press release.
Your product onboarding is your users’ first impression, and you want your users to stick around long enough to reach their aha moment. We’ve got plenty of awesome examples of user onboarding and feature tours and prompts to give you some inspiration.
Hot tip: A no-code tool like Appcues makes it easy to create and implement sleek in-app experiences. 😉
Your website will need a new landing page for the product—a place to drive traffic from your blog, press, ads, and more. Your landing page is often the place where potential users think, well hey, that sounds like something I want to check out, so try to put your best foot forward with exceptional product messaging, some screenshots, and a CTA.
If your product is tightly interwoven with existing products, you may need to update multiple pages, including your homepage or pricing page. Think about every place on your website that will be impacted by your new product. There’s nothing worse than confusing users with outdated or conflicting information.
Hot tip: Once you find all the places on your website that need updating, make a master list and stash it away for future launches.
Paid ads can quickly boost your reach and drive traffic to your feature page. You can also set up retargeting ads for folks that might need one more nudge.
If you plan on using any paid advertising, you’ll need to decide on the platform (such as Google ads), when the ads will run and for how long, and the ad copy. (And of course, tracking the success of these ads will tie into your overall OKRs.)
While onboarding and feature announcements will help get your users started, some folks might need additional content that describes how the product works. You’ll want to have a plethora of resources available for users to read, watch, or both.
• Prepare your release notes (short overview of the product features added/changed) and user guides (detailed how-tos)
• Create training videos that “show” product functionality for users that may not want to read or learn better with visuals
• Make sure that your documentation is easily accessible through the product
You’ll also need to prep your customer success team to direct users to these resources when questions crop up on your support channels. Over time, you can build a knowledge base or create a FAQ in your support center.
Product Hunt can be an awesome source of attention and launch day traffic, but it takes a bit of planning to get it right. You’ll want to think of your standalone feature page as its own distinct product. You’ll need to:
• Prepare your product title, description, and tagline
• Create the gallery and descriptions of the product to show it off
• Use the Scheduling option to schedule your launch in advance
• Engage with the community by asking for input or starting a conversation
If you’ve not used Product Hunt before, check out other products to get inspiration.
Hot tip: Try connecting with a top Hunter ahead of the launch and asking them to post your feature page for you. If done well, this can increase your amplification.
Whether you’re the host or a guest, webinars and podcasts are a great way to reach a broader audience and connect prospects with an exciting voice from your company.
You can host your own webinar to demo your new product to customers and prospects (and then make the recording available for people to watch later). This is your chance to show your product in action. You can also look for opportunities to be a guest on other relevant webinars or podcasts, where you can plug your new product in the weeks and months that follow launch.
No one said that a product launch plan was easy, but the effort is so worth it. On your launch day, you can begin to watch the efforts of your hard work pay off (don’t forget to plan an internal party to celebrate 🎉).
Want some more help getting started? We created the Product Launch Planner to get you organized in no time. You’ll answer 8 quick questions and receive a personalized launch plan—complete with a checklist and due dates.
We’ve got some other great resources you should check out as well, such as:
• The ultimate guide to user onboarding—everything you’ve ever wanted to know about creating an engaging onboarding experience
• The Appcues Blog—in-depth content on product management, UX design, feature adoption, and more
• ReallyGoodUX—a site for weekly UX design inspiration from our favorite products
• The Product-Led Growth Collective—a community-driven resource made for growth-minded folks, by growth-minded folks
We wish you all the best as you launch your product into the world!