Propel your B2B Software Product to New Heights
The Launch State of Affairs
Are you launching products that are not compelling for buyers? Is yours basically a mere press release and a website update? Is your product differentiation diluted or even lost by the time it gets to the promo materials (emails, landing pages, ad copies, etc.)? Are you on a launch treadmill, scrambling every time the product & engineering teams hit you with a new release?
And here is the worst one: do your sellers (and partners) have no clue how to position the new product or features vis-à-vis the other products / solutions in their portfolio?
I hear these concerns in speaking with peer marketing leaders as well as GMs running business units / CEOs at both startups and large tech companies.
Reasons to Launch
If you are reading this, then you are a product marketing leader, a product leader, or an overall marketing leader/CMO who wants to kick it up a notch on product launches. Product & engineering teams put in a lot of good work, presumably with market & customer input, in building a great product or a new set of capabilities. It is a huge miss if you don’t bring those exciting innovations to the market in a big way, and drive awareness for your brand. In fact, completeness of vision or innovation is a key dimension that the industry analyst firms such as Gartner, Forrester, and IDC measure and rank tech vendors on their market category quadrant/wave/pulse reports. Analyst reports play a huge role when enterprise customers look to solve problems in the respective market categories.
Some call it a new product introduction (NPI), some a product launch, or others simply a launch — it is an excellent reason to get in front of your customers, prospects, and partners to show how you are innovating and adding value to their digital transformation journey.
Launch Target Audience & Team
It is likely that certain launches you do are more suitable to existing customers than to everyone, where you might be focused on upsell and cross-sell motions of account expansion. Whereas other launches are suitable to both prospects and customers. Regardless, here are some of the key constituents of a product launch you can tailor to fit your specific needs.
External Stakeholders of a Product Launch:
- Customers, Prospects
- Partners (Tech/ISV, Ecosystem, SI/GSI, VAR/OEM)
- Industry Analysts (Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc.)
- Media (industry, tech, national/international)
Internal Stakeholders of a Product Launch:
- CEO / GM of your business
- Sales (AM, AE, SE), SDRs, and ISRs
- Customer Success
- Support and Services
The Launch Team:
- Product marketing, solution marketing, pricing & packaging
- Demand gen, digital/web/ABM/field marketing, AR, PR, social
- Sales enablement
- Partner marketing
- Product management and engineering
- Program management
Key Pillars of Launch
Here are some of the key elements of a B2B product launch, better visualized below in a house structure, with launch plan and messaging guiding and permeating four launch pillars in content, campaign, sales enablement, and comms. While program management helps keep launch team on track and informs internal stakeholders on progress.
- Launch Plan & Messaging
- Launch Content
- Launch Campaign
- Launch Enablement
- Launch Comms
- Launch Program Management
I will cover all these topics in a two-part blog series. This post (part one) will set up the framework of the launch in terms of launch planning, messaging, and program management. Part two will cover the launch pillars in depth.
Launch timing is an important consideration, with many aspects to it. First and most important thing is to be in lockstep with your product & engineering teams on the roadmap as to what is coming down the pipe, in terms of next quarter, half, year, and beyond. Typically, a 6–12-month timeframe of the roadmap is what you can use to plan your launches ahead.
Another key consideration is how often you launch — weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually? The answer really depends on how well you plan together with your product, sales, and demand gen teams. We all heard the saying “launch early, launch often”, but you may burn our teams out if you do a full-fledged launch every time there a product release (esp. SaaS products) — monthly, weekly, or more frequently. Also, it is unlikely you can mobilize your campaigns, comms, and enablement teams or get sales and partners’ attention if you launch so often.
There are a couple of options here:
- Size the launch based on how big the product (or solution or platform) release is — a large truck load of products & features, versus a medium or small load. Then, based on the launch size, have an agreed upon set of activities across content, campaigns, enablement, and comms
- A better approach is to launch quarterly i.e., a seasonal launch (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Launches). Everyone likes cadence and consistency. Internally, your launch team knows exactly what they need to do quarterly, and externally, customers/prospects/partners/ analysts/media can all look forward to your launch— allowing you to build a community around your offerings
Pro tip: The times when your launch cycle is light on new products / capabilities, it is possible you can pick a few of your recent popular / impactful products and features, then do a relaunch perhaps with more context or even as a new solution packaging such products or feats together.
Another key consideration on launch timing is to avoid doing it too close to your fiscal quarter-end when your field teams are too busy closing deals. Early to mid-quarter can be a better timing.
Messaging is the guiding force for everything you do in your product launch. What your product brings to the table, who it is for, why they care, and how they it can help them accomplish their goals. You can lay out the new product messaging in several formats but if you keep it simple, to a single page it works better for all your internal stakeholders who need to review, approve, and use it in their efforts of content, demand gen programs, and AR/PR.
Pro tip: Take a close look at all the great features in the new product, reviewing slides, documents, info sessions with your product team. Get a demo or see a mockup if it is ready. Boil it down to a top-level message, and a few themes that support it. Do some research as to how the market is talking about it, how competitors are positioning it if any, and how partners might be approaching it from their POV.
Launch Messaging / single page summary:
What is the new product or feature about?
- Launch main message. A one-liner about the new product or set of capabilities, supported by 3–5 launch themes
- Launch abstract. 50–70 words describing the launch key message and themes
Who is the new product launch for?
- ICP — ideal customer profile. Customer size (strategic, enterprise, mid-market, SMB), customer journeys / use cases that this new product applies to, customer geos/verticals, etc.
- Buyer Personas. From C-level to VP/Director to practitioners/users. IT and Line of Business as relevant
Why does the buyer care about this new product?
- Business & technology challenges (or pain points) for your buyer from C-level down to practitioner
How does your product solve buyer’s pain points?
- Key features / capabilities of the product
- How each feature or a subset map to a customer benefit. Benefit could be monetary (increased revenue, new line of business, lower costs, etc.) or efficiency (improved productivity, enhanced collaboration, faster time to market, etc.)
Press release headline
- Is your new product industry’s #1 in a market category, or most comprehensive, etc.? This is especially important if you’re trying to create a new category or improve your differentiation within a crowded market
- Go for a swagger statement, but with proof points / features that support it
Launch Goals & Program Management
Consider using a RACI or DACI framework (below) to get the messaging finalized.
- Driver: Product Marketing
- Approver: GM / BU Leader, CEO, etc.
- Contributor: Product Management
- Informed: AR, PR, Program Management, Demand Gen, Content Marketing, etc.
Pro tip: Product marketing can lead a Launch Kickoff Meeting in collaboration with program management, inviting internal stakeholders and the launch team. Keep it short but the idea is to get everyone on the same page with your single-page messaging doc, get them pumped up on the upcoming launch.
You launch goals may very well be determined by the scope of the product but also by your overall GTM (go to market) strategy. As part of your launch plan, determine the key objectives and metrics of your launch along these areas:
- Highlight tech innovation, vision, leadership — drive awareness and adoption
- Showcase your product vis-à-vis your partner’s — drive joint GTM
- Highlight early adopter customers — drive upsell and cross-sell motions
- Connect your product to new buyers’ journeys — drive new logo acquisition
Pro tip: As soon as you have your launch plan down, run it by our internal stakeholders and launch team to get their buy in, and their feedback incorporated. This helps set up the cross-functional teams for success.
Here is my question to you: which areas among the above are you doing well, which ones are you hitting out of the ballpark, and which ones need work? How do your stakeholders feel about it? What changes do you want to make in your upcoming launch? Feel free to leave a comment.