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  • Writer's pictureSandi Green

The Startup Survival Guide to Hacking Your Next Product Launch

89 percent of product launches fail to meet their objectives. How to use product marketing tips to launch successfully.


Launching a new product or major feature updates is a big deal for startups. It's more than just introducing something new; it's your chance to set the tone for your brand and create a memorable customer experience. Plus, it can be a fantastic springboard for sales. A successful product launch can position your company as a leader, attract early adopters, and generate buzz that fuels long-term growth. Depending on your industry and company’s stage of growth, you may have a Product Marketing Manager (PMM) on board. If you do, chances are they spend a lot of time thinking about how to make your product launch a huge success. 


If you’re pulling double duty as PMM, you’ve come to the right place. There are tools you can use to hack your next launch. In this blog, we'll explore growth stage strategies to make your product launch a hit.


What is Product Marketing? 

If you ask ten different people, ‘what is product marketing?’ you'll likely get ten different answers. Product marketing is ultimately about helping your customers get as much value from your solution as possible. Product marketers do this by bringing a product to market, promoting it, and selling it to customers. While this may sound like a ‘one and done’ activity on the surface, the cycle of introducing a product to the market and selling it to customers requires a long-term focus. 


Product Marketing is responsible for product messaging and positioning, product launches, sales enablement, competitive analysis, and product-related campaigns and content. They work closely with Product Management, Sales, Customer Success, and Marketing to drive new customer acquisition and product adoption. 


Does my startup need product marketing? 


If you’re planning your first launch or thinking about how to showcase your latest product enhancements, there are several moving parts to manage. While your development team focuses on coding and features, and your sales team starts hinting at new features to your prospects, who’s helping the broader go-to-market team understand the scope and impact of your product launch? 


When B2B startups don't focus on product launches, you can miss out on some big opportunities: 


  1. Excitement. Delivering on your roadmap promises and solving customer pains are two big reasons to celebrate. As a new business, you must take every opportunity to make noise. Every member of your GTM team wants the chance to create buzz and excitement, which is crucial for attracting early adopters and gaining traction. 

  2. Brand equity. Product launches are a special campaign where brands can couple their mission, values, and solution into one sweet story. Great product launches can help you set a strong brand narrative and position your company as an industry leader. 

  3. Customer affinity. Product launches offer the perfect moment to engage and educate your target audience, leading to more add-on sales and improved customer loyalty. Prioritizing product launches can make all the difference for long-term success.


Need more support? We've got you. Email us at hi@miraclemaxmarketing.com and schedule a call to discuss your product launch. Before we get to that, let’s talk about the elements of a solid product launch.  


Anatomy of a Product Launch

As we mentioned in the introduction, product launches come in a variety of sizes. When planned and executed well, they can serve as seismic events that can skyrocket your brand awareness and competitive positioning. Product launches are also a wonderful opportunity to delight your customers, reducing churn and improving your chances of renewals or better yet, referrals for new business. The best thing about product launches is they give your market-facing team good news to talk about. What can you do to spread the word about the product improvements or new features? That depends on a few factors we’ll get into. 


Here are some tactics that you can plan for your launch:

  • Press release

  • Product explainer video

  • News article or op-ed in an industry publication

  • Customer training sessions

  • Webinar

  • Product Hunt listing

  • White paper 

  • Customer testimonials

  • Analyst interview 

  • In-person event (breakfast, dinner, TED Talk-like presentation)

  • In-app announcement

  • In-app walkthrough of new features

  

How big of a deal is your product launch? 

If you’re still reading, chances are you’re sold on the importance of product launches and are thinking of your roadmap. If you’re an Agile shop, you’re familiar with Epics. An Epic is a large body of work that can be broken down into a number of smaller stories, or sometimes called “Issues” in project management tools like Jira. Epics are almost always delivered over a set of sprints. As you mentally scan your development roadmap for upcoming Epics, let’s break down how product marketing managers think about sizing up launches and matching the activities to the importance of the features. 


Three dogs ready to rock a product launch
Product launches come in different sizes, just like these dogs.

Product Launch Tiers

Product launches can be categorized into three tiers, from largest to smallest. 


  • Tier 1 launches are first-of-its-unkind functionality. They’re usually a new module or function previously not available in your solution. They open new markets, get investors and the Board really excited, and unlock growth for Sales. 

  • Tier 2 launches introduce competitive features that position your product nicely against incumbents and peers. They include new functionality interesting to your target audience and help reduce customer churn.

  • Tier 3 launches are incremental improvements. They introduce improvements and fix paper cuts that cause friction with customers but don’t break open any new ground that your target audience would notice. 


PMMs tend to negotiate tiers with Marketing and Product leaders to align on the launch activities. Each stakeholder may have different points of view regarding what’s a big deal versus what’s table stakes, so it's important to have this discussion at the start of the Engineering team’s sprints. 


Why so early? Because Tier 1 product launches take time and bandwidth. Even the most expert marketing teams need 4-6 months to execute a comprehensive Tier 1 launch.


Here’s what I ask the stakeholders to size up launches and determine the tactics:

  • Is this feature the first of its kind for our market segment? 

  • Will this new feature unlock a new market or new audience within our ICP?

  • Is this included in our pricing and packaging?

  • Are we charging for it? 

  • Can we calculate the impact on customers in terms of ROI, time saved, or efficiency?

  • How many pilot customers would be willing to speak publicly about how this feature makes an impact on their jobs/work/company? 


If they answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions AND we could have a customer testimonial candidate teed up to sing the praises of this new feature, I call it a Tier 1 launch and plan as many promotional tactics as possible. 


And here’s why: it’s hard to break through the noise on social media and the web. If we have a new solution to a problem for our customers and they love it so much that they can point to tangible results, then it’s worth channeling as much promotional energy toward spreading the word as possible. 


Ready. Set. Launch (plan).

As a rule, most marketing teams need at least 90 days to execute a Tier 1 launch effectively. If you just panicked…don’t. Lean startup marketing teams work quickly and can apply a pre- and post-launch strategy if they need time to create the launch strategy and content. You’ve probably already given the team a heads-up on major features impacting the most visible marketing assets, like the website. Hopefully, you’ve met to brainstorm other opportunities that take some lead time, like Founder op-ed articles, white papers, virtual events, and sales enablement tools. Moving forward, keep the ‘quarter in advance’ thought in your Engineering Leader’s mind as they plan the roadmap and its Epics. 


Internal Communications 

Looking for brand ambassadors to spread the word about your company and the product launch? Then look no further than your employees, partners, and investors! Equip and activate your team around the launch to get them excited and talking on social media. As a leader, this is a great opportunity to share the good news with your company and keep everyone aligned and along for the ride. Remember - not everyone at your company is thinking about the new features (Accounting and Finance, for example). Use your company all hands to showcase the Engineering team’s demos. Give Sales the floor to talk about how many closed/lost opportunities they’re planning to reconnect with to show them the new features. Give the product managers the limelight to talk about the pilot program. Get Customer Success hyped for reaching out to grumpy clients about new product training and how the new features are included in that subscription they’ve been meaning to sign off on. Allow marketing to share some of their plans for promoting the launch.


As a Founder, your job is to keep your teams aligned, engaged, and excited about why this matters. We strongly encourage you to drive the internal communications piece of the launch.


Tools to Streamline Your Product Launch Activities

There are lots of project management and planning tools on the market that can help. Here are a few recommendations for planning and launch tools to make sure you don’t miss the chance to make your product launch great: 


Campaign Brief

Product launches require lots of planning and coordination. One way to align your sales and marketing teams early is to use a campaign brief to communicate objectives. If you’ve sized up your product launch and believe it’s a Tier 1 or 2, your marketing team will want to build a demand generation campaign to promote the new features. Some overlap exists between the tactics we listed above and the campaign tactics. The purpose of the campaign brief is to engage the marketing team early enough in the process so they can prioritize and manage the details. 


If you’re unfamiliar with campaign briefs, here’s a template to help you get started. 


Virtual Event Planning Guide

Tier 1 and Tier 2 launches have something in common: your customers. Your customers have offered feedback and suggestions and have patiently waited for new features and fixes. So why not take a moment to celebrate your launch with a virtual event? 


Virtual roadmap and launch celebrations are great reasons to get your customers excited about what you’ve shipped and where the company is going. It’s also a great reason for Sales to reach out to closed/lost opportunities and also invite late-stage prospects to get a glimpse of your brand and product. Like everything else, planning early is the key. We’ve got you covered. Check out our virtual event planning checklist to get you thinking about your live event. 


Product Hunt

Product Hunt isn’t just for new company launches. It's a place for product-loving enthusiasts to share and geek out about the latest mobile apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations. It’s a great way to spread the word about Tier 1 feature updates, especially if you're selling to a technical audience. You can post your launch and run a social media and customer campaign asking your audience to upvote the new features and leave a review. Product Hunt is a great source of social proof.


Ignition

Ignition is mission control for product launches. It’s a platform that can help your product and GTM teams build the right products and sell them more effectively. Ignition offers frameworks for product roadmap, competitive analysis, planning calendars and tasks - all in one place. It will even help you write the internal employee communications (that one pesky task that you forget until launch day). (Disclosure: I was an early tester of Ignition and I’m a long-time fan.)


Prioritizing product launches can set the tone for your brand, create a memorable customer experience, and fuel long-term growth. By focusing on generating excitement, building brand equity, and engaging your audience, you can maximize these opportunities and drive success. 


With the right strategies and tools, even if you're pulling double-duty as a Product Marketing Manager, you're well-equipped to make your product launch a resounding success. If you need fractional help or want some extra brain power on deck to handle your next big launch, feel free to connect with us! 


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