If your product team is working on the next big thing, there ought to be an equally awesome launch plan in the works to accompany it.
While some companies are guilty of drafting a press release, crossing their fingers, and hoping that the users will come, there's actually much more to it than that.
Quite simply: If you have big news, you need a big plan. And that's where the product launch comes in. From establishing the proper messaging and creating the assets to enabling your sales team and keeping momentum, there's a lot that goes into putting together a solid product launch plan.
At HubSpot, I work on the product marketing team, and we're responsible for launching all of HubSpot's new products. Our experience has shown us that there are three distinct phases of a product launch: pre-launch, launch, and post-launch. Let's walk through them below.
18 Foolproof Product Launch Tips
Before you launch, take the time to get really close to the product. Work with your product team to understand the problem they are trying to solve. Join them as they do users tests. Chat with them about their product philosophy. And most of all, ask a ton of questions -- especially if you’re not familiar with the space.
Focus on understanding their vision and becoming a product expert. Outside of the product manager, the marketer launching the product should be the most knowledgeable person at your company about that product.
1) Research the space in-depth.
At most companies, the product manager will own the problem that the product solves. They’ll have a deep understanding of who the end user is and what their unique needs are.
The product marketer's job is to understand the market. They must be able to answer questions like:
- What’s the larger narrative around this space?
- How do current customers feel about it?
- What do people like and dislike?
- Is it growing and cutting edge or old and getting disrupted?
- What are the leading strategies and tactics in this space?
- What is your company's unique point of view when it comes to this space?
- How does your new product fit in?
2) Focus on a single buyer persona.
You may not need to reinvent an existing buyer persona, but you should outline who amongst your target audience is a great fit for this new product. What kind of challenges do they have? How do they work? How big is there 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 persona templates or this handy tool.
3) Write a mock press release.
At HubSpot, we write a mock press release before we launch a product. We do this very early on in the product’s life to ensure that everyone involved in the launch is aligned on the messaging.
To give you a better sense of how this exercise unfolds, here's an example:
But we're not the only ones practicing this approach. In fact, the folks at Amazon use this exercise, too. The idea is that when you work backwards and start with the press release, it's easier to put yourself in the customer's shoes.
If the press release doesn't sound very interesting or fails to conjure a reaction, it's likely that there's more work to be done.
(Need some help getting started here? 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 on only the most valuable aspects of the new product via a simple message.
This is tough.
Most product people have the urge to communicate how great individual features are --something you want avoid in launch messaging. At launch, you may only have someone’s attention for a few minutes or seconds, so your messaging needs to be persuasive, simple and unique. It needs to communicate what your product actually does and communicate its high-level value.
You want to get this right, but don’t over commit to messaging. It can (and should) change as you share your messaging with internal folks and customers.
Elements of good position often include:
- A tagline
- The problem it solves
- A list of core features
- The value prop
- A 10-word positioning statement
In the screenshot above you can see some of these elements in action on the HubSpot Ads product page.
5) Share your messaging with everyone.
It’s time to take the messaging you’ve been slaving over and get it in front of your co-workers, customers, 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 individuals who may be a little more forgiving and honest before presenting to executives. Use every meeting to pitch people and ask questions. You want to gather as much info as possible here and root out any confusing or bad messages.
6) Get involved in the beta.
Having a group of beta testers evaluate your product before you release it to the public is a really important step. At HubSpot, we release products to a group of folks -- our beta testers -- that have opted-in to give us feedback in exchange for early access.
If your company does this, make sure you are talking to the customers using the tool in the beta. Capture their stories, review their performance, and validate your value prop with them. This is your opportunity to test your messaging and build real-world proof to support your pitch with an audience that is ready to share feedback.
7) Change your messaging and find the best hook.
After talking to prospects and salespeople, and seeing how beta users use the product, it’s likely that you've uncovered a thing or two about your messaging that you might want to adjust. That's good.
If you’ve done things right, this won’t mean drastic changes, but most likely a tweak to the value prop or tagline.
8) Set ambitious goals.
You need to be deliberate and ambitious with the goals you set, and that can be challenging when you have a new product without benchmarks. To combat that, we ask the question: “If everything went exactly right, what is the highest possible number -- whether that be leads, users, etc. -- we could achieve?”
This sets a ceiling for your campaign -- a number that is realistically almost never achieved.
If I project that the highest possible number of leads the campaign can generate is 500, and I end up with 450, I know we got just about everything right. If I generate 550 leads, it means I probably didn’t do a great job of setting a realistic ceiling. And if we only generate 300 leads, we know some tactics didn't work at all.
The image below can be a useful slide as part of your go-to-market plan:
9) Take the time to get the market ready.
If you’re launching a new product that enters your company into a new space -- potentially a space where your company doesn’t have a ton of authority -- start creating content about that space pre-launch.
You’ll want to seed this content for SEO purposes and to establish your company as experts in the market. It’ll also give you a chance to see what kind of content resonates prior to the launch, as well as help you surface any issues.
10) Build compelling creative assets.
At this point, you’re close to launch and it’s time to start building launch assets. But before you start writing emails or building landing pages, think about the customer journey:
- How do people make purchase decisions in your space?
- What do they need before buying?
- Is it a free trial? A demo?
- Is it best for them to talk to a sales person?
- What do they need to know before they get to that point?
Once you've answered those questions, outline your conversion path. How will you first get people's attention? Perhaps it's an email, that drives people to a landing page, where users are encouraged to fill out a form.
Once you have this, get to work building the actual forms, site pages, videos, social posts, emails and other tactics that will drive users down 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) Assemble your go-to-market strategy.
All the elements I’ve mentioned should come together in a deck or a doc -- something that is clear, complete, and easily shareable.
This is your go-to-market guide: A holistic document of all launch activities, planning, and goals. This can include pricing recommendations, market research, competitive analysis, and any other relevant information you might need.
This phase is much shorter than pre-launch: it can take a day, or a week -- depending on how long you feel you need. As you prepare to move on to the launch, you want to stay focused on the execution and be ready to put out any fires.
12) Choose the right channels.
During the planning phase you should have outlined the channels you want to use to share your message. This is not a "the more the merrier" sort of thing -- a mistake new product marketers often make.
Be sure to avoid channels where the audience may not be the right fit. Pick one main channel -- an event, a Product Hunt post, or blog post -- and use email, social, paid, and other channels to support that main post.
For example, earlier this year HubSpot re-launched Website Grader on Product Hunt. We choose Product Hunt because it serves as a great way for startups and technology companies to introduce new products to a community of product-centric influencers.
Before you launch, do a final check to ensure that everything works -- buttons are functioning, forms are working, copy and creative looks good, and so on.
If you’re at an event, make sure you’re over communicating with your team. At this point, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Be prepared for that.
14) Activate your sales team.
Work with your sales team to coordinate meetings and outreach the day of the launch, or directly after. And use signals from your marketing efforts to drive the hottest leads to sales right away.
If you running an event, make sure your sales team has the opportunity to talk to customers in an organized way. That might mean ensuring there is a comfortable space for them to meet with customers, computer access, or a system for booking meetings.
15) Make it an event.
Even if your launch isn’t 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 out a live social chat. (Here's a helpful guide to get you started on the right track with Facebook Live.) Invite influencers to check out your product. Bring customers and press into your office for a live demo of the new product from your product team.
Whatever you do, strive for an in-person element. It'll help propel your launch even further.
16) Don’t lose your momentum.
You’ll reach a lot of people with your launch, but it often takes several touch points before someone is convinced to start a trial or get a demo. Make sure to continue to move folks who’ve raised their hands as "interested but not ready to buy" down your funnel.
This means nurturing emails, free trials, demos, and more in-depth, product-focused webinars and activities. Build extra creative, like a longer video or social media posts that you can save for after the launch. This will give you fresh assets to share.
July 06, 2011
Launching New Products: Campaign creates 29.8% increase in new sales pipeline opportunities
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|SUMMARY: When marketing the launch of a new product, you need to do more than just publicize information. Ideally, you would have a well-defined target audience for the new product, and a coordinated campaign to appeal to that target.|
Find out how one B2B software company launched a new product for marketers with an effort combining strong visual appeal, a catchy hook and elements directed specifically toward a highly qualified and targeted audience of C- and VP-level marketers and advertisers.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter
Launching a new product is best accomplished with a coordinated marketing effort and a catchy campaign. The new product should have a target audience, as appealing to these targeted prospects will help determine the look and feel of the marketing campaign.
A unified theme that reaches across each element to build interest in the new product can help draw the attention of the desired target audience.
Central Desktop is a B2B software company with a cloud-based social collaboration platform for managing people, projects and files. Its core product is used across a wide range of industries and business sectors, including manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, management consulting and professional services.
The company's client base includes marketers. Recently, it launched a new product with capabilities specifically geared toward the needs of marketing agencies and internal marketers, which provided a challenge for Central Desktop's own marketing team.
"We knew that we had to come out with something that was a little more creative than your standard campaign, because [the new product's target] are marketers," explained Linda Souza, Associate Vice President of Marketing, Central Desktop. "We are marketing to marketers."
This case study takes a look at how Central Desktop developed a theme with visual appeal, tied the theme to multiple marketing channels, and even came away with knowledge to apply to future campaigns.
Not only was Central Desktop specifically targeting marketers for its newly launched product, it was targeting top people at top agencies.
Souza said, "We were targeting some of the top-tier agencies, and we were targeting higher-level people who were VPs and C-level people within these agencies."
The goal of the campaign was to generate leads and give Sales an entry point for further conversation with decision makers at the targeted marketing agencies.
For the targeted portion of the campaign, Central Desktop looked at the top 100 digital and traditional advertising agencies in terms of revenue and employee size and picked out executives to target at these agencies.
The list included C- and VP-level employees at the head office, but Central Desktop also identified people in similar, decision-making positions at satellite or branch offices and subsidiary companies.
"We were definitely looking to strike up conversations with people who had authority to either make a decision for an entire branch, or potentially an entire agency or network of agencies," stated Souza.
Step #1. Match the campaign theme to the target audience
In this case, since the target audience was marketers that were potentially a tougher crowd to get through to, Souza said the campaign's theme couldn't be "bad or gimmicky" and it needed to be compelling and intriguing enough to get targeted marketers to the conversation stage with Central Desktop's sales team.
The marketing team came up with "The Breakup." The idea was to appeal to a range of potential customers:
o Agencies using other similar solutions
o Central Desktop customers who weren't taking advantage of the new product
o Agencies not using any single software solution for project and file management
And the message for all these potential customers was to either "break up" with their vendor or current way of doing things and consider Central Desktop's new product as a replacement.
- Emphasize visual appeal
The look of the campaign was the first creative element considered. Given the target audience, Souza felt the campaign could have an edgier visual impact since the marketing space wasn't considered particularly conservative.
The result was a distinctive pop art-influenced, cartoon look that carried through every element of the campaign.
Matching this look, the marketing team also created two characters -- Jane and John. Jane suffered from various business issues facing marketers, while John provided Jane with solutions to those issues.
Souza explained why using cartoon characters served more purpose than just visual appeal.
"One of the things we were concerned about was (the campaign) is about a breakup and you are getting a breakup letter. Even though it says John and Jane, we didn't want to freak people out."
Step #2. Create a campaign microsite
The linchpin of the entire campaign was a Flash-based interactive microsite that introduced the two characters and made full use of the visual theme.
Everyone in the targeted campaign received a personal URL (PURL), so when they responded to either the direct mail or email send, Central Desktop knew who was visiting the microsite, and personalized the visitor's experience. The site could also be reached through a non-personalized URL by clicking an online ad or finding a link to the campaign.
The site contained several parts to draw visitors into the campaign.
The opening page was a black and white single frame cartoon of Jane crying, while saying (in a speech bubble), "Breaking up is never easy. It had to be done, but what's next?" with a "click to continue" call-to-action.
A popover asks the visitor to check off attributes they look for in a partner, and then forwards the visitor into a story developed around the checked-off parameters. The message was presented in a cartoon format, now in color, with Jane and John interacting via speech bubbles.
Ending the sequence is a conversion screen with a six-field form.
Step #3. Reach out to the target audience
The highly targeted group potentially received two touches: A direct mail piece and a follow-up email for those who did not respond to the first touch. The company also promoted the new product through advertising and less-targeted sends.
All of these efforts encouraged a visit to the microsite, either through a personalized URL for the targeted audience, or a general URL for the broader promotion, with a conversion goal at the site's sign-up form.
- Make your direct mail distinctive
The direct mail piece was designed to stand out in the pile of incoming mail.
The envelope was hand-lettered with an informal oversized stamp, and the letter itself used a handwriting font. An actual key was included in the mailing, keeping with the breakup theme, representing a returned key after a breakup.
The copy of the direct mail piece was designed to introduce the breakup theme and included each recipient's personal URL for the campaign microsite. Souza said the idea behind the direct mail piece was to create some intrigue.
One piece of evidence highlighting this effort's success came about when a Central Desktop board member -- who knew about the campaign -- was unknowingly placed on the direct mailing list.
Souza explained, "I guess he and his assistant were going through the mail one day and he was throwing things in the trash. His assistant said, 'Wait! Wait! That one is hand-addressed. You have to look at it.' He reached into the garbage can, pulled it out and opened it."
The direct mail send involved about 1,000 pieces and was staggered over two weeks to spread out potential responses.
- Follow-up with email
Every direct mail recipient who did not use their PURL to visit the microsite received an email follow-up after the direct mail portion of the campaign ran its two week course.
Whereas the direct mail was unique and eye-catching with an introduction to the breakup campaign, the email send was very simple, text-only from "Jane Blue." The subject line was "Something is missing" and the body, "Did you get my letter, (recipient's name)? I've moved on. You can do the same at (the recipient's PURL)"
Souza said, "We got a few humorous responses back which I think is just sort of a testament to the crowd we are going out to."
- Reach beyond the highly targeted audience
After the targeted group received PURLs through direct mail and possibly again in an email, Central Desktop created a non-personalized version of the microsite and used a variety of channels to drive traffic to this version of the site.
The channels included:
o The company's internal newsletter
o Company blog posts
o Facebook and Twitter
o Advertising on external industry newsletters
Step #4. Process the new leads
The newly generated prospects were divided into "hot" and "warm" leads.
A hot lead was defined as someone who visited the microsite and converted by filling out the online form and requested to be contacted. Hot leads also came from Web visitors who watched a product demo and filled out a form at the end of the presentation.
Warm leads were defined as anyone who visited the site via the personalized URL, clicked through and made it through the branding and messaging.
As both hot and warm leads were generated, the marketing team sent them to Sales. The leads immediately went into a calling campaign that focused on the hot leads, but also included the warm leads.
The sales team was making discovery calls, setting up demos and looking to create proposals, and it found that the distinctive aspects of the marketing campaign helped their efforts.
"Once they made the call and got to the gatekeeper, sometimes the response was a little bit chilly," Souza said. "As soon as the salesperson mentioned, 'Oh, by the way, I'm the one who sent you that letter with the key. Did you get that?' the tone of the conversation changed."
She added, "The gatekeeper would say, 'Oh, I know exactly who you are! That was pretty cool."
Step #5. Market the campaign internally to get Sales on board
This is technically the first step of the entire campaign because the marketing team determined close alignment with Sales, and buy-in at the executive management level, would help make the campaign more successful.
Even though the sales team was engaged with the campaign from its inception, Central Desktop's marketing team wanted to simulate the experience of the effort.
Before any prospects received the direct mail piece, Marketing scheduled sales training and the night before the training placed handwritten notes with a house key and a mysterious message -- "find out more at 3 p.m. tomorrow" -- on each salesperson's desk.
The idea was to immerse Sales in the campaign's look and feel so they would understand what the prospect was experiencing.
Souza explained the most important result of this campaign, "We have added another 29.8% in new opportunities."
She said some of those deals are already in proof of concept, and others are still in discovery calls, demos and proposals. She added the sales team believes there is a potential for double what has already been identified as an opportunity from this effort.
Other metrics include:
o 32.9% of direct mail recipients went to the microsite using their personalized URL
o 5.6% of microsite visitors from the direct mailing continued to the product website, and 2.6% of those went on to take a clickable product demo
o Microsite visitors from the direct mail send represented 87.4% of targeted companies
o 82.8% were considered warm leads and 3.5% converted to hot leads, a four times improvement over other campaigns according to Souza
o The follow-up email for non-responders to the direct mail send created a 4.39% response rate
o The email send promoting the non-personalized version of the campaign microsite had a 15.5% open rate with 1.45% clickthrough
o Internal newsletter advertising led to 2.2% open-to-click rate representing 17.7% of total clicks
o External newsletter advertising led to 1.3% open-to-click rate, three times the average for advertisers according to newsletter publishers
One final result of the campaign is how its success led Central Desktop to expand its use of the characters. "Jane Blue" and "John Smart" are becoming social media personas, used to Tweet industry information and best practices. Souza says the characters will be used in future campaigns marketing other Central Desktop products as well as other industries.
Useful links related to this article
1. Pop art and cartoon-influenced visual appeal
2. Microsite conversion screen
3. Direct mail piece
4. Humorous response to follow-up email
5. Newsletter advertisement
"The Breakup" campaign microsite
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MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011
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