It’s no secret that Product Marketers wear many hats. That said, one of (if not THE) most important things your company will rely on you to do -- is to bring their new product and service offerings to the market.
To do this successfully, you’ll have to live at what we like to call “the intersection” of your organization’s product, marketing and revenue orgs.
You’re not quite product management, you’re not quite sales or customer Success, and you’re not even quite marketing (at least not in the traditional “demand gen-y” kind of way).
But at the same time, you’re kind of all of them. And you’ll certainly need to be able to think like all of them if you’re to successfully launch your org’s next big idea or capability.
When leading a GTM Launch, you’ll be responsible for -- pretty much everything. That includes:
- Understanding how a product technically works
- Articulating its value
- Defining its market-fit and ideal personas
- Deciding how to price and package it
And once all that’s set -- you’ll also be in charge of tactically managing the way your business introduces (ie: launches) that new product to the world.
That’s a lot of ground to cover, right? The good news is, as a product marketer -- you’re absolutely the right person for the job.
By sitting at the intersection and aligning the key teams around you, you’re going to help product management understand the real-world problems their solutions solve for the people we’re building them for.
You’re going to help your revenue teams (ie: sales and customer success) be successful by providing the tools, training, and context they need to actually sell-in a new product (and strategic narrative) to another human being.
And finally, you’re going to hook up your own marketing team with the messaging, content, direction they need to launch campaigns -- along with the knowledge and segments around whom to actually target.
A great launch process should quite intentionally take three distinct components of your company’s overall strategy -- specifically: your product roadmap, sales pipeline, and marketing programs.
And essentially weave them all together into a comprehensive with clearly defined goals, stakeholders, milestones and outputs.
That right there, is organizational alignment. And that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing here. Starting with step 1 of our GTM Launch process: Ideation.
Step 1: Ideation
Every successful GTM Launch first starts with a problem that you (or your teams, or customers) have identified that can be solved with technology and innovation.
Now -- full stop here: If you find yourself in an Ideation conversation where it’s not actually clear that we’re solving a problem for anyone -- and rather we’re building something we think is cool or unique: We should NOT be launching it.
No matter how great a Product Marketer you may be, it’s quite literally not possible to message or launch your way out of a problem that doesn’t exist.
That no one’s experiencing. Time-and-time again, launching a product for a problem no one’s experiencing will result in a ton of wasted effort, lack of adoption and lack of revenue.
That’s why most (if not all) of this first stage -- Ideation -- will be spent uncovering, researching, and validating the problem you and your teams are trying to solve.
If this exercise sounds like a collaborative one -- it should. Ideation is typically tackled between Product Management and Product Marketing. This stage should be full of open discourse on the problem or need you’ve identified.
There should be a “lean canvas” -- which is a single-page business plan to review and complete together that clearly articulates problems, potential solutions, unique value, unfair advantages, ideal customer profiles and addressable markets.
Although nothing’s been technically built yet, it’s here when Product Marketing should start brainstorming and playing with initial messaging.
We should also be nailing down technical FAQs to ensure we totally understand what’s being built here and how it would work. Along with pricing/packaging ideas and initial KPIs for what success would look like.
If you have a good hunch this initiative will be approved, it’s also in this stage where you can start thinking through product naming (which is always harder than it seems) and where this “thing” should sit within your company’s existing product hierarchy.
Is this a standalone product? Is it a feature? Is it a unique enhancement to an existing solution? Etc.
Step 2: Build
Now. Let’s say this problem-solution that you and your team have fully flushed out in Ideation is something your company wants to move forward on. Okay, that means we’re going to start building this thing. Which leads us to the second stage of our GTM Launch Process -- called Build.
It’s here where this new capability will appear on the Product Roadmap, and engineering/dev resources will be assigned to it -- so we can actively start building this thing.
In parallel to that, we as Product Marketers start “a build” of our own. Starting with messaging development, also known as Narrative Design. Lucky for you, there’s a whole other Masterclass dedicated to helping you do just that.
The actual output of that messaging exercise (ironically) goes by many names. I personally have always called it a “Message House.” Which is exactly what it sounds like: a home where your messaging and strategic narrative live.
It’s typically a one-page foundational messaging document that, once approved, will inform all related marketing, sales, and training materials that are to be built in later stages (we’ll get to that soon enough).
Locking down your message house will ensure every resource you build, every campaign you run, and every person you train are on-message and aligned at all times.
That said -- developing your core messaging isn’t the only major milestone you’ll hit in this phase.
Use the Build stage to nail down your GTM checklist of tools and resources you’ll need for the launch, along with who you need to train/enable, and when your actual launch date is.
Step 3: Soft launch
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! By now you should be armed with a vetted customer/market problem that needs solving. Along with a strong Message House and GTM Launch checklist of tools and resources to develop.
You should also have a pretty solid idea of what this new capability will be called, where it’ll be packaged and how it could be priced.
Long story short: you’re full of ideas. And now here in stage three -- called Soft Launch -- we’re going to validate those ideas and assumptions.
This is important to note: Of the five GTM stages we’re gonna cover here. This is the stage that’s most often ignored or skipped. Why?
Because getting customer/market validation of products before launching inevitably slows things down. We’re all also only human, and take tremendous pride in our work.
Which often makes it tough for us to swallow when hard feedback and objections come in from users that we’re testing or soft launching new capabilities with.
That said, establishing a feedback loop with customers/users prior to launch will often make-or-break that launch. Especially for software/tech products with an implementation component, or perhaps data-or-campaign based products that may be harder to navigate or understand.
Regardless of what you’re launching. This is the stage where you’re going to collect that critical feedback from actual users on whether your new capability:
- Has the correct -- and required -- functionality
- Has a good user experience (and is in fact usable)
- Is messaged, positioned, named, priced, and packaged the right way
You heard me right. The Soft Launch stage is every bit as much an exercise in Product Marketing validation as it is in Product validation. Use this stage as your final gut-check to ensure you’ve done your job right.
Otherwise, you risk launching a new product that might be beautifully built and designed -- that simply isn’t marketed the right way. Resulting in a serious miss and wasted opportunity for you and your company.
Alpha and beta
In my experience, the Soft Launch stage is often split into two sub-stages:
- Alpha: Where internal new product development testing and QA is performed by the Product, Engineering, and Design teams. Alpha stage is often led by Product Management, and can include user testing -- but not always. If technical requirements are met in Alpha, we can then move to Beta.
- Beta: This is our external testing phase where a new capability is made available to an invited (typically closed- group of external users. All so final testing/feedback gathering can be carried out by real users in a real environment. It’s HERE where Product Marketing can ideally vet messaging, positioning, naming, pricing, packaging, and everything else that you’re cooking up on the Product Marketing side of the house.
If technical requirements are met in Alpha, and both technical and marketing requirements are met in Beta -- the next step is to move to GA (also known as General Availability).
It’s here, in GA, where it’s time for us to formally introduce this new capability both internally to our teams for enablement/alignment, and externally to the market in the form of a GTM Launch.
Module 4: GTM launch
Ah! And now we’ve arrived to the stage in particular that if you blind-surveyed everyone at your company and asked them what they believed a product launch to be -- they’d likely point to this fourth stage: GTM Launch.
It’s not hard to see why most would commonly associate a launch with this specific stage. It’s here when the “keys go in the ignition” and communications begin going out.
GTM Launch is when press releases go out, websites get updated, landing pages are launched, customer/prospect campaigns and comms get kicked off and blog posts go live.
It’s at this stage where all of the GTM checklist items you’ve been working on since Stage 2 Build go live to generate as much awareness and buzz as possible.
That said, just because all of the external stuff is what gets people the most excited -- it should by no means overshadow or deprioritize all of the internal enablement and training work that must be done here too, in parallel.
Remember, GTM is just another phrase for organizational alignment. And that’s what you’re doing here. That’s your #1 priority -- even more so than generating buzz and awareness.
Because if your internal teams aren’t enrolled, educated, and aligned to the goals and mission of your launch -- all of this buzz and demand you’re about to generate will go to waste.
That’s why at a minimum, you should train, enable, certify and prepare your people-facing teams in Sales, Customer Success and Support two weeks before your GTM Launch.
This can be done with live meetings, recorded trainings, exams, and pre-work your teams must complete if they’re to successfully position and sell-in whatever it is you just launched.
If you take anything away from this fourth stage, it’s that the external and internal work are two sides of the same coin. And you can’t have one without the other. The external-side of your GTM Launch generates market buzz and demand for your new solution.
That’s how we drive leads and source new opportunities to be worked. While the internal-side of your GTM Launch ensures your teams are put in the best position possible to close on that demand, acquire new customers, upsell existing new customers and drive game-changing ROI and momentum for your company.
Module 5: GTM continued
Finally. We’ve reached our last (but certainly not least) stage in our five-step GTM Launch process: called GTM Continued.
What’s interesting about the stage in particular is that it’s not only our last of the five GTM stages, but it’s also the biggest and most open-ended.
Because despite all of the work it just took to get your new product to market, which included:
- Validating your problem in Ideation
- Architecting your messaging and launch plan in Build
- Vetting your product and marketing in Soft Launch,
- … to finally getting to roll everything out internally and externally in GTM Launch
It’s here, in stage five, where much of the true work is just getting started. To announce and rollout a new capability is one thing.
It’s a whole other thing to build an entire ecosystem around that new capability that can include continued storytelling, campaigns, tools/resources, best practices, how-tos, and success stories and more!
At this point in your GTM Launch process, you should have anywhere from a 3-6 month roadmap of activities and outputs to fuel demand, revenue, and adoption of this new thing -- whatever it is.
Common outputs here can include webinars, live events, case studies, nurture streams, media opportunities and more.
It’s really up to you, and it depends on the size/scope of your launch, how strategic a given capability is, and quite frankly how much bandwidth you have to prioritize these continued efforts versus new things coming down the pipe for you to launch.
But make no mistake -- no matter how successful your initial Stage 4 GTM Launch is. It’s here, in GTM Continued where your efforts will likely result in your hitting those pipeline, revenue, and adoption KPIs you nailed down early on in your GTM Launch planning.
Conclusion: GTM launch stages
Now that we’ve defined and reviewed the five stages that make up a comprehensive GTM Launch, I’ll leave you with this: there’s no such thing as a perfect product launch.
By nature they’re going to be fluid -- and at times a bit bumpy and stressful. No two launches (or products) are identical. There’s no doubt you’ll have to tweak and tailor your launch plans to do what’s right and best for your teams, products, businesses, and customers.
What this will hopefully give you is a general end-to-end launch blueprint you can follow to ensure rhythmic, repeatable consistency of your GTM activities.
Like all things in life, familiarity breeds success -- and it’s no different in go-to-market. Use this launch process to establish expectations, hold collaborators (and yourselves) accountable, and ensure your launches are as consistent, contextual, and complete as possible.
If you’d be so kind as to join me for our next lecture -- we’re going to introduce another simple (yet powerful) framework! One that’ll help you assess the size, scope, checklist and overall level of effort for your GTM Launches. See you there!
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