Best Practices in Product Launch Once Your Product is Go-To-Market Ready
As a product marketing specialist, I’ve helped lots of companies go to market with lots of products. In my experience, the product launches that really excelled were those where product marketing called the shots from start to finish. Due to the complexity and the huge number of moving parts, having a dedicated team or individual to plan and implement your launch is vital to its success.
Product marketing is (or should be) the quarterback of the entire GTM process, including the leadup to the launch and the period immediately following. The product marketing manager is the person saying, “If this is what you’re trying to do in this market then here’s the play you need to run and here’s how you do it.” In this blog, I’m going to talk about the top five (of many) critical details product marketing needs to execute for a successful product launch.
1: Choose your GTM collateral wisely
In order to get everyone on the same page, you need to make sure that you have key collateral in place by the time you launch. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive, but you need at least a few core things up and ready to go: a launch-specific web page, product pages, your sales pitch, and (at a minimum) either a product brief or another asset that your partners, salespeople, and others can use to sell your product. This is bare bones.
Then you need to focus immediately on the funnel. Keep adding more substantive assets to reach prospects at different stages in their customer journey. More and more, buyers are educating themselves and/or their organization before they ever approach a sales rep for information, so make sure that these potential buyers are being met with the right kind of messaging at every stage of their journey. The common wisdom here is, “You’re not selling––they’re buying.”
2: Emphasize visual assets
Most of today’s buyers grew up watching TV and being tethered to their smartphones, so they will often prefer visual assets over literature. (After all, reading takes some effort.) In addition to your social media content (which we addressed in an earlier post), create a few short videos with product highlights in time for the launch and put them on your product website. Keep these videos short and light––you don’t want them to be highly technical, and you definitely don’t want them to feel like work for your viewers.
Add webinars for more detailed product information
If you’re looking for a visual way to impart more detailed product information, consider adding a few webinars to your mix as well. That way people can see what you do, see what guest analysts and lead customers have to say, ask questions, and get some validation of their interest in your product and company. Record these sessions live and then make them available for watching later on (which, by the way, is also a great way to create potential prospect lists). Each of these webinars (or maybe just the series) should be a full-blown campaign.
3: Talk to the pros like a pro
Another key audience that product marketers need to keep in mind when mapping out a major product launch are the pros: the press and industry analysts. A successful GTM plan must include a comprehensive approach to press and analyst engagement with a well-formed messaging strategy. This starts with a multi-tier message board that informs everything else—the press release, the briefing agendas, press kits, and the other collateral needed to support the key press and analyst meetings.
Oftentimes, the product marketing team will tie the product launch to a major event, such as a trade show, major conference or something similar, where there’ll be a high concentration of press and analysts. This is highly efficient for all parties and maximizes ROI.
Again, note that this is a very complex set of variables that necessitate a dedicated team to manage the planning and execution correctly. This is not amateur hour.
4: Partner with your customers
The main advantage of having the product marketing team call the plays during the GTM phase is that they have a real grasp of what customers want and how to position the product in various segments of the market.
For example, I mentioned lead customers above in the context of webinars. Across the board, lead customers are the key to making sure your messaging is on target. Markets (and market segments) are often referred to as “self-referencing sets of customers”––that is, customers with a similar set of concerns and alignment on what they consider valuable in a product. (Geoffrey Moore talks about this in Inside the Tornado.)
During the product development cycle, product marketing should be joined at the hip with a handful of these customers (and PLM) across one or two segments to make sure that the product fits their needs as precisely as possible and that the launch messaging accurately reflects the value being delivered. As a product marketer, lead customers can (and should) be your major source of authority for messaging and positioning. Yes, sales has an important perspective, as do the analysts and PLM, but understanding the customer’s needs first-hand is immensely powerful and ensures you’re on-target with the launch. Lead customers, along with broader message testing, are critically important.
5: Measure early and often
We’ve all heard the old saw about the CMO who’s asked about the effectiveness of their marketing budget. The response is, “I think that half of my budget is effective; I just don’t know which half.” Those days are long gone. Thanks to the internet and advances in digital technology, marketing is one of the most analyzed functions in the business. Marketers are expected to be equally well grounded in both brand-related disciplines and marketing analytics.
This is a good thing. Why? It gives us a real seat at the table. We now have concrete data to measure the effectiveness of our marketing spend. We can talk about our programs with the same level of objectivity as the folks in Ops or Sales.
In the context of product launches, you’ll need to define meaningful, measurable objectives that speak to impact. A few examples might be the following:
- Analyst coverage (sentiment across analysts)
- Initial press coverage and mentions over 90 days (sentiment)
- Launch-specific web trajectory over 90 days post-launch (page visits, conversions, velocity from one buying stage to the next, etc.)
- Launch-related revenue over 1st two quarters
As anyone who’s attempted a complex DIY project will attest, it takes doing a thing a few times before you get it right. The same is true of product launches. The key to success is a combination of planning and having an experienced management and staff for execution: it can make all the difference. Without those, 45% of product launches are delayed, of which 20% fail to meet their internal targets.
But what if you don’t have a clue about how to plan a product launch and you lack experienced staff? Well, one possibility is to hire the right people long before the launch––or you can hire a specialty GTM firm to help manage both launch strategy and execution. This firm can provide the training wheels for the first couple of launches and fill in any missing pieces with experts in best practices.
Either way, it’s imperative that you get your product launch process on a solid footing. You need to do it. It can be a game changer for the effectiveness of your marketing function and drive success for your entire organization.
Looking for experts to help jumpstart your GTM planning cycle? Contact us for a free consultation today.