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.
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