When your product team is working on it The next big thing, there should be an equally great promotional strategy to get the word out.
While some companies are guilty of writing a press release, keeping their fingers crossed and hoping users will come, there is actually a lot more to it than that.
It’s simple: if you have big news, you need a great strategy. And this is where your product launch marketing plan comes in.
Product launch plan
A product launch is the coordinated effort to bring a product to market and make it known to the world. The marketing plan outlines the messaging and marketing strategy to do this effectively, with the ultimate goal of getting customers to embrace the new product.
From setting up the right messages and creating the assets, to helping your sales team and keeping it dynamic, there’s a lot to do to come up with a solid product launch plan.
At HubSpot, I work on the product marketing team and we are responsible for launching all new HubSpot products. Our experience has shown us that there are three different phases of a product launch: the pre-launch, the launch and the post-launch.
Before launching, take the time to really get close to the product. Work with your product team to understand the problem they are trying to solve. Join them as they do user tests. Chat with them about their product philosophy. Most importantly, ask a lot of questions – especially if you are unfamiliar with the room.
Focus on understanding their vision and becoming a product expert. Outside of the product manager, the marketer bringing the product to market should be the most knowledgeable person in your company about that product.
Understanding the product and doing market research will help you tailor your messaging strategy to the product. The main goal will be to bridge the gap between what the potential customers are having problems and what the competition isn’t doing.
The pre-launch phase also includes the necessary promotion planning of your choice:
- Where will you advertise (e.g. search engines, social media, traditional channels)
- Where to promote your message organically (e.g. social media, blog, website homepage, events)
- This is how you will be picked up by media companies (i.e. your PR strategy and media reach)
- Who you will depend on to get the word out (e.g. partners, communities, forums, third-party marketplaces)
During the pre-launch phase, you decided which channels to advertise on, built relationships with partners to help you do this, and created the assets that will draw attention to your messages on those channels.
The implementation phase is simply the execution of all of your planning. This phase is much shorter than the pre-launch: it can last a day or a week – depending on how long you feel you need it.
As you prepare to start, you want to focus on the job and be ready to put out any fires.
After the start
The job is not over just because the product hits the market. In the post-launch phase, you do a retrospective where you gather the data to see what went well and what didn’t.
Additionally, once a product is launched, it still needs to be maintained and improved, taking customer feedback into account to maintain adoption and loyalty.
This, of course, is a high-level overview of a product launch. However, there are a few specific tactical things that you can do to keep your start off going smoothly.
Product launch tips
- Research the room thoroughly.
- Focus on a single buyer personality.
- Write a false press release.
- Build your messaging, but don’t marry it.
- Try out your messages.
- Take part in the beta.
- Change your messages and find the best hook.
- Set yourself ambitious goals.
- Take the time to prepare the market.
- Build compelling creative assets.
- Put your go-to-market strategy together.
- Choose the right channels.
- Activate your sales team.
- Make it an event.
- Lean into the swing.
- Go to your go-to-market document again for reporting.
- Shift your focus to retention.
1. Thoroughly explore the room.
In most companies, the product manager owns the problem that solves the product. You have a deep understanding of who the end user is and what their individual needs are.
The job of the product marketer is to understand the market. You need to be able to answer questions like:
- What’s the bigger narrative about this space?
- How do current customers feel about this?
- What do people like and dislike?
- Is it growing and is it modern or old and is it disrupted?
- What are the leading strategies and tactics in this area?
- What is your company’s unique position when it comes to this area?
- How does your new product fit in?
2. Focus on a single buyer personality.
You may not need to reinvent an existing buyer personality, but you should outline which of your target audiences are well suited for this new product. What are their challenges? How do you work? How big is your team? Talk to people who fit this profile to really understand their needs and goals.
If you need help organizing this information, check out these buyer personality templates or this handy tool.
3. Write a simulated press release.
At HubSpot, we write a simulated press release In front We bring a product to market. We do this very early in the product life to ensure that everyone involved in the launch is aligned with the message.
To give you a better sense of how this exercise is developing, here is an example:
But we are not the only ones practicing this approach. In fact, the folks at Amazon use this exercise too. The idea is that if you work backwards and start the press release, putting yourself in the customer’s shoes will be easier.
If the press release doesn’t sound very interesting or doesn’t evoke a response, there is likely more work to be done.
(Need help getting started? Check out these free press release templates.)
4. Build your messaging – but don’t marry it.
Messaging or positioning is mostly about refining your product narrative to focus only on the most valuable aspects of the new product through a simple message.
That is hard.
Most product people feel the urge to communicate how great each feature is – something you want to avoid when introducing news. At start-up, you may only have someone’s attention for a few minutes or seconds, so your message needs to be compelling, simple, and unique. It has to communicate what your product is actually doing and communicate its high value.
You want to get this right, but don’t commit too much on messaging. It can (and should) change when you share your messages with internal people and customers.
Elements of a good position are often:
- A slogan
- The problem it solves
- A list of the core functions
- The value Prop
- A 10 word positioning statement
In the screenshot above, you can see some of these items in action on the HubSpot Ads product page.
5. Share your messages with everyone.
It’s time to take the news you’ve been tormenting yourself about and introduce it to your reps, clients, and prospects.
This is often the least fun part of a product launch. Mainly because no matter how good your positioning is, it takes time to get the pitch down and not everyone will get it.
It’s good to start with people who may be a little more lenient and honest before presenting them to executives. Use each meeting to present people and ask questions. You want to gather as much information as possible here and weed out confusing or bad news.
6. Take part in the beta.
Having a group of beta testers to rate your product before you release it to the public is a really important step. At HubSpot, we release products to a group of people – our beta testers – who have chosen to give us feedback in exchange for early access.
If your company does, make sure you speak to customers using the tool in beta. Capture their stories, review their performance, and use them to validate your value proposition. This is your opportunity to test your messages and create real-world evidence to support your pitch with an audience ready to share feedback.
7. Change your messages and find the best hook.
After speaking to prospects and sales reps and seeing beta users use the product, you’ve likely discovered a thing or two about your messages that you might want to customize. It’s good.
If you’ve got things right, it won’t mean drastic changes, but most likely an tweak to the value prop or tagline.
8. Set yourself ambitious goals.
You need to be conscious and ambitious about the goals you set, and this can be a challenge when you have a new product without benchmarks. To counteract this, we ask the question: “If everything went exactly, what would be the highest possible number – be it leads, users, etc. – could we reach?”
This sets a cap on your campaign – a number that realistically almost never gets hit.
If I predict that the highest possible number of leads the campaign can generate is 500 and I end up with 450, I know we did almost everything right. If I am generating 550 leads, it means I probably haven’t done a good job setting a realistic cap. And if we only generate 300 leads, we know that some tactics didn’t work at all.
The following image can be a useful slide as part of your go-to-market plan:
9. Take the time to prepare the market.
Whenever you launch a new product that your company is entering into a new area – possibly an area where your company doesn’t have much authority – start creating content about that area before launch.
You want to seed this content for SEO purposes and establish your company as an expert in the market. It also gives you a chance to see what type of content is resonating before it’s published and helps you uncover issues.
10. Create compelling creative assets.
At this point, you are about to get started and it is time to start creating launch resources. But before you start writing emails or creating landing pages, think about the customer journey:
- How do people make purchasing decisions in your space?
- What do you need before you buy?
- Is it a free trial? A demo?
- Is it best for you to speak to a salesperson?
- What do you need to know before you get to that point?
After you’ve answered these questions, outline your conversion path. How are you going to get people’s attention first? Maybe it’s an email that takes people to a landing page asking users to fill out a form.
Once you have that, you can then create the actual forms, website pages, videos, social posts, emails, and other tactics that will get the users into your funnel and to your conversion point.
(If you’re looking for inspiration, check out this list of the best promotional product videos we’ve ever seen.)
11. Put together your go-to-market strategy.
All of the elements I mentioned should come together in one deck or document – something that is clear, complete, and easy to share.
This is your go-to-market guide: a holistic document of all implementation activities, planning, and goals. This could include price recommendations, market research, competitive analysis, and any other relevant information you may need.
12. Choose the right channels.
During the planning phase, you should have outlined the channels through which you want to get your message across. This is not a “the more the better” thing – a mistake new product marketers often make.
Be careful to avoid channels where the audience may not be the right choice. Pick a main channel – an event, Product Hunt post, or blog post – and use email, social, paid, and other channels to support that main post.
For example, in 2018 we launched HubSpot’s free email marketing tools on Product Hunt. We choose Product Hunt because it is a great way for startups and tech companies to introduce new products to a community of product-driven influencers.
Before you start, do one final check to make sure everything is working – buttons working, forms working, copy and creative look good, and so on.
When you are at an event, make sure you are communicating too much with your team. At this point everything that can go wrong goes wrong. Be prepared for that.
13. Activate your sales team.
Work with your sales team to coordinate meetings and outreach on the day of launch or immediately after. And use signals from your marketing efforts to turn the hottest leads into sales immediately.
When hosting an event, make sure your sales team has the opportunity to speak to customers in an organized manner. This can mean that they have a comfortable room for customer meetings, computer access or a system for booking meetings.
14. Make it an event.
Even if your launch is not a live event with speakers, you can still make it an occasion.
Host a webinar or hangout on air, do a Reddit AMA, or try live chat on social media. Use apps for startups to manage and host events for free. (Here’s a helpful guide to getting on the right track with Facebook Live.) Invite influencers to test your product. Bring customers and the press to your office for a live demo of the new product from your product team.
Whatever you do, strive for a personal element. It will help keep your start moving even further.
After the start
15. Don’t lose your momentum.
You will reach a lot of people with your launch, but it often takes several touchpoints to convince someone to start a trial or get a demo. Make sure you keep moving people down your funnel who raised their hands as “interested but not ready to buy”.
This means you get emails, free trials, demos, and more in-depth, product-focused webinars and activities. Create additional creatives, like a longer video or social media post, that you can save after launch. This will give you new assets to share.
And don’t forget to train your sales team. It will take a while for all of your sales reps to feel comfortable with this new product. Hence, it is important to equip them with amazing sales materials (demo video, one pager, etc.).
In addition, you can make a big impact by being a part of their calls: when you make a phone call and introduce them to the product for the first time, you give them the security they need to carry the flashlight.
16. Review your “go-to-market” document for reporting.
With all of the work ahead of the launch, you don’t want to have to figure out what to report on after the fact. If you’ve done a good job with your go-to-market document, you should be able to create a new slide and fill in your results with real numbers.
When you’ve had a little extra time from your start, spend some time analyzing the results. Where was your campaign successful and where did it fail? What did you not expect? What did you learn? Publish them on your internal wiki or as a public blog post.
17. Shift your focus to retention.
After you’ve successfully launched a new product, your focus should be on customer loyalty. Marketing in general can play a bigger role in attracting new users, but it’s important to work with your product team to figure out how you can help keep these users hooked.
This means more education like post-market product webinars, as well as sharing case studies and success stories to show your users what they can achieve with your product.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated for topicality, accuracy and completeness.