Like a tree falling in the woods, if you launch a product without spreading the word -- will anyone use it? Will anyone even want it?
Probably not. Whether you're launching something huge, something small, or you're updating a current offering, you'll want to start your preparation well in advance of the launch date.
This includes nailing down your positioning and messaging, sharing that with key teams and stakeholders, listing out all the launch activities, creating assets and content, prepping everyone involved in the launch, and so on.
Because there are so many moving parts in this process, bringing your product to market can be intimidating and tricky.
To help you, we've come up with a step-by-step checklist for a successful product launch and gathered the best product launch tips from a HubSpot Product Marketer.
Plus, we'll review how to know when to delay a product launch.
1. Learn about your customer.
Whether you call it “market research,” or “customer development” it's key to learn about what drives your customer. Identifying their goals, motivations, and pain points could lead you to developing and marketing a valuable solution.
You don't need to perform years of intense research to learn about your customer. In fact, we suggest just talking to 12 to 15 current or prospective customers.
When speaking to them, pay extra attention when they start sentences with “I wish a product did this function…” or “Why can't products do this?” When they give these statements, respond with questions that go deeper, like “Can you get more specific about that?" If they don't bring up any pain points, ask them a few specific questions that will encourage them to give deeper answers.
These conversations will give you a solid idea of what their biggest pain points are and how you can market a solution to them. Once you learn these key details about your customers, you can develop a buyer persona that your team can focus on serving.
2. Write a positioning statement.
Write out a statement that can clearly and concisely answer these three questions:
- Who is the product for?
- What does the product do?
- Why is it different from other products out there?
If you'd like to go even deeper, create a statement that answers the following questions:
- What is your target audience?
- What segment of the target audience is most likely to buy the product?
- What brand name will you give your product or service?
- What product or service category does your product lie in?
- How is it different from competitors in the same category?
- What evidence or proof do you have to prove that your product is different?
Still need more guidance on how to write a positioning statement? Check out this template.
3. Pitch your positioning to stakeholders.
Once you've established your position statement, present it to stakeholders in your company so they are all on the same page.
If your employees have a hard time buying into the product, your customers might as well. If your team loves it, that might be a great sign that the product launch will go well.
4. Plan your go-to-market strategy.
This is the strategy that you will use to launch and promote your product. While some businesses prefer to build a funnel strategy, others prefer the flywheel approach.
Regardless of which method you choose, this process contains many moving parts. To create an organized strategy for launching your product, it can be helpful to use a template, like this one.
As you create the strategy, also start considering which type of content you'll use to attract a prospective customer's attention during the awareness, consideration, and purchase decision stage. You'll need to produce this content in the next step.
5. Set a goal for the launch.
Before you get started on the implementing your strategy, make sure you write down your goals for the launch.
Alex Girard, a Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot, says, "Create specific goals for the launch's success. Keeping these goals in mind will help you focus your efforts on launch tactics that will help you achieve those goals."
For example, the goals of your product launch could be to effectively establish a new product name, build awareness, or create sales opportunities.
One of the best ways to set goals for your launch team is to write them out like SMART goals. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
6. Create promotional content.
After planning out your go-to-market strategy and writing your SMART goals, start producing content that will support and align with those promotional efforts. This can include blog posts related to your product or industry, demos and tutorials, and landing pages.
Our go-to-market template will also help you determine which content you should create for each phase of your prospective customer's buyer's journey.
7. Prepare your team.
Be sure that your company and key stakeholders are ready for you to launch and begin marketing the product. Communicate with the company through internal presentations, Slack, or email to keep your company in-the-know of your launch plan.
8. Launch the product
Once you've completed all the above steps, you can launch the product.
9. See how well you did achieving your goals.
After you launch your product, track how the go-to-market strategy is performing. Be prepared to pivot or adjust aspects of your plan if they aren't going smoothly.
Additionally, don't forget about the goals you set before the launch. See how well you did achieving those goals. If the launch didn't meet expectations, you can rethink your go-to-market strategy and adjust from there.
Product Launch Tips
To learn the best practices for a successful product launch, I talked to Alex Girard again.
The HubSpot Product Marketing Manager said he had three main tips for a successful product launch:
- Your product positioning should reflect a shift you're seeing in the world, and how your product helps your customers take advantage of that shift.
- Create a recurring schedule for you and the core stakeholders for the launch to check in and ensure you're all on the same page.
- Make sure you keep the product team in the loop on your marketing plans. The product team could have insights that inform your overall marketing campaign.
However, sometimes, external factors might impact your ability to launch a product. When that happens, you might need to delay your launch.
How to Know When to Delay a Product Launch
To understand when, and why, you might hold off on a product launch, Girard told me there are three key reasons why you might want to delay a product launch, including:
- When your product itself isn't ready, and you need to change your timeline to create the best customer experience possible.
- If a situation occurs where your current customers are having a less than optimal experience with one of your current products. Before launching and promoting a new product, you should make sure your current customers are satisfied with your existing product offering.
- If something occurs on an international, national, state, or local level that requires your audience to readjust their priorities and shift focus away from your company and its product launch. Make sure that when the time comes to launch, your target audience is ready to learn about your new product.
If you're looking for templates to coordinate your team efforts and align your company around your new product's messaging, download our free product marketing kit below.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.