10 Tips for a Successful Product Marketing Launch (Part 1)

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Your new product is on its way. Maybe it’s exponentially better — more advanced, faster, providing more value — than anything else on the market. Maybe it’s a point release that  helps differentiate you from the competition and improves upon previous versions.  Or, perhaps it’s a segmentation play, intended to move your market up to enterprise or more broadly to the mid-market or into a specific vertical.

In all of these scenarios you will face a similar question: how do you tell the world — whether they’re existing customers or new faces — about your great new product and build momentum for a long product life cycle?

In many cases – especially start-up technology firms, success of your product launch could make or break your company.  And there are a lot of functional roles involved in a product launch.  Most likely product management will be there guiding the product through release phases, and corporate marketing/marcomm will be there drumming up press.  You’re not alone in this, but your job is still quite challenging.  You must manage all the go-to-market details as the owner of the product as it comes out of development.  You have collateral to write, sales to train, analysts to speak to, a market to excite and customers to thrill.

As we discussed before, product marketing can vary greatly from company to company so there is no cookie cutter product marketing launch plan that I can give you that applies to every situation.  However, I’ve been through several of these now – from the new product to the point release. Here are a few tips that I have accumulated over my career that can help make your next product launch a successful one .  These tips come from the perspective of a product marketer who is part of a team that’s working together to launch the product, so it doesn’t cover everything your company must do – but specific tasks that you, as a product marketer, can undertake to drive successful launches.

As I got to writing this, the post became quite long so we will cover this over three parts.  Here are tips 1-3:

1. Create a plan, build consensus and assign ownership

This is your first step in launching the product to the market as it comes out of development and into your lovely little product marketing hands.  You need a plan.  Keep it as simple as possible.  Don’t get bogged down in the process.  Create a spreadsheet, list all the tasks, have all your marketing cohorts on a call (as well as reps from the other functional areas such as product management, sales, etc) and go through what needs to be done and assign an owner to each.  Put delivery dates on each task and hold a status call once a week.  The reason that this is so important is because everyone is probably working on 12 things.  You are going to need to be the glue that keeps this together.  Take a positive, energetic tone and lead.  You are now the leader of this product.  Everyone will take their cue from you, remember that.

 2. Write a positioning document so your team moves in unity

Really, I hope you’ve done this already.  But if you haven’t, stop everything and work on this now.  You have to create a positioning document that serves as guidance for everyone who works on the launch.  This is a document that everyone who will interface with the outside world can use to understand what value you want to communicate about your product.

You need to set up the pains that the customers are feeling, what’s needed to alleviate that pain, and how your product is the only one that can do that for them in a differentiated, relevant and sustainable fashion. Your product’s positioning must be clear, concise, and easy to understand. If it’s not, your market becomes confused, and a confused buyer simply doesn’t buy.

You want to communicate from your market’s perspective and focus marketing dollars on what problems are solved, rather than what features your product is packed with.  A clear positioning highlights your product benefits in a simple-to-understand manner and helps the prospect understand, “Yes, this is what I’ve been looking for.” And it needs to be targeted. Sure, it’s tempting to shout a message to anybody and everybody, and solves many problems that your customers face.  But the reality is, your product will get lost in the shuffle if it tries to be everything to everyone.

Focus on those segments who are ready to hear your message and ready to buy your product. If it’s a brand new category of product, all of your marketing channels — social, physical collateral, website, elevator pitches, press releases, and packaging should be crafted specifically for that early adopter audience. These are the people the laggard markets will look to for assurance, so why wouldn’t you want to tailor your marketing to them?  If your product improves a category or already has a built-in market then your targets would obviously be different.  This is all to be considered as you write the positioning document.

Positioning is such an important topic that I will be spending a lot of time on it here at www.whatisproductmarketing.com but the typical contents of a positioning document are: segmentation, target audience, personas, key pains, ways to solve the pains, how your product delivers the solution, competitive advantages, and finally a simple one paragraph – elevator type pitch positioning statement that can be easily understood and remembered by the team.

3.  Feed your friendly analyst

Does your company have good relationships with the analysts that cover your space?  Do you spend time with them?  Do they see you as a good source of information for their reports and opinion pieces?  If not, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to evangelize your solution in the market.  Leverage analysts.  They are important and influential.  Analysts don’t recommend vendors per se, but if they see you as a source of good information that helps them uncover material to write about they will naturally start promoting you.  They will include you in their reports and maybe even position you as a leader in your market.  Do not underestimate the impact of analysts on your prospects.  Prospects think the vendors are all saying the same thing and claim to do everything, so they rely on analysts to parse out the truth.  Spend time and make the analysts lives easier – it will help you with launching your product as the analysts will not only start talking about you but they will give you direct feedback on how to launch from what they’ve heard in the marketplace.

Coming next:

In the next two parts we will cover:

  • Generating buzz
  • Working with sales
  • Leverage strategic partnerships
  • Timing your release
  • Success stories
  • Content and demo development
  • Post-mortems
I look forward to the next two parts.  In the meantime, what do you think about the tips so far?  Any interesting examples you can add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

10 Comments on "10 Tips for a Successful Product Marketing Launch (Part 1)"

  1. Giles Farrow says:

    You might be planning to cover this under sales, but a key aspect of a product launch is selling the product internally.

    All too often marketing is considered to be all about communications not substance, so marketing trumpeting a new product is not enough. Successful launches need everyone on board: sales, SEs, support, training, professional services…

    I have often seen this overlooked. You can’t just pass out the same messages and sales tools you’re going to use externally. You need to convince them about the market opportunity, why this is important, where this fits in roadmap / vision.

    In particular sales need to be motivated (e.g. sales promotion incentives). If you have established cash cows, sales know how to sell these with their eyes closed. New products are harder to sell:
    – lack of references
    – fewer sales tools
    – sales & SEs need to learn
    – steeper discounts
    – early bugs

    Experienced sales pros will wait to see if new products get traction before investing their time and credibility

    • Diego Lomanto says:

      Excellent points as usual Giles. Yes I plan on covering these topics under sales but you have already given me more to think about.

  2. Great points.

    However, in my experience, you really need to do #2 way up front during the product development process. If you don’t have this ironed out ahead of time you may end up launching a product that doesn’t meet your the need of your customers and market.

    Thanks,

    Josh

    • Diego Lomanto says:

      I agree 100%! That said I have been in the situation where I have been given a product to launch that was developed with no positioning in mind. My advice there is to get moving asap and at least try to market with positioning in mind even if your company did not build with it in mind.

    • Iyer Venkatesan says:

      Agree on this, the positioning document, which I’m assuming also includes messaging, value props, problem to be solved etc. should be done first. #1 is almost a tactical plan so before that, #2 which is more a strategic plan should be done up front and approved by key execs, stakeholders etc. Also in that first meeting, pr, ar, corp mktg, etc. will ask for that document so they can start their work.

  3. Steve Hall says:

    Thanks Diego for starting this list. I am sure most of us have been indoctrinated into the Pragmatic Marketing Framework – for good or for worse. One of the things that this framework, along with some of the next-generation frameworks coming out of places like Sirius Decisions is grounded in two basic principles that you must truly OWN before any launch can be put on track:

    1. What problem are we solving?
    2. Who are we solving it for?

    In too many cases, organizations I’ve found build something and THEN plan the launch retroactively. If I were to make any suggestions to any strong PM/PMM – get these defined and written down before you do anything else. Also, I violently agree that the positioning statement should be done as early as possible in the development cycle to help baseline cross-functional teams on the who, what and why – I’ve found that this is just as useful for MarComm as it is for Engineering.

    • Ted Schuh says:

      Couldn’t agree more. As a PM who has worked as a PMM and had the privilege of working with great PMMs, I like to make sure the positioning is clear at the beginning of the project. If you don’t know what problem you’re solving or who it’s for and if the product marketing messaging doesn’t naturally fall out of your highest priority requirements, you’re on the wrong track. Engage your PMM partners early and if it’s not very quickly clear to them why you’re building something, you need to go back to the drawing board.

      Can’t count the number of projects I’ve seen that throw the end result over the fence to the PMM to try to spin into something compelling. I’m always amazed at what a great job they do, but the goal should be to make it easy for PMM to create the market message. BTW, if the value prop is clear to Product Marketing, it turns out it’s also more likely to be clear to engineering and they will build the right product.

    • Diego Lomanto says:

      Agree on all counts! It’s amazing how often this fundamental concept is ignored. Guess we need to just keep screaming about it. Or use it to our competitive advantage. :)

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  1. Software Marketing Tweetables - 12 December 2011 | Smart Software Marketing
  2. 10 Tips for a Successful Product Marketing Launch (Part 2) | What is Product Marketing?

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