Building a new product — let alone a successful one — is an exciting but challenging process. As a product manager, it’s your job to determine what products to build that deliver a valuable experience for your customers.
But your responsibility goes beyond the decision-making and building process. When you’re about to deliver a new product to the market, you need to coordinate the moving pieces surrounding the launch, including setting goals for development and promoting your product post-launch. A product launch plan helps you organize all the activities around this process.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to write a product launch plan step by step. We’ll follow a simple framework to help you align stakeholders when developing and planning to release new products.
You can reference this template when building a product launch plan of your own.
Working in product means spending a lot of time researching your market, competitors, and (prospective) customers to determine how you can deliver a valuable product. After setting priorities and determining your roadmap, an exciting process of prototyping, testing, iterating, and building takes place. You, as product manager, should take the ownership in guiding this process towards the desired outcome.
Aside from the process of building the actual product and making sure product requirements are met, there’s another essential part that you need to manage: the product launch.
A product launch involves a variety of factors that need to be aligned and activities that need to be managed to make your product a commercial success. This is where the product launch plan comes in.
The core of a product launch plan describes the commercial goals and the actual product as well as the promotion and communication surrounding your product. Usually, the detailed activities that need to happen are plotted on a timeline to manage the product launch over time and keep all stakeholders involved up to date.
As an owner of the product launch, the product manager is responsible for creating the product launch plan, but you’re far from the only person involved in the associated activities. Depending on your organization and how teams and roles are set up, this process is usually owned by a product manager or product marketing manager.
When creating a product launch plan, you should involve and align with people from, at bare minimum, customer success, sales, support, marketing, and engineering. At the end of the day, creating a product launch plan should always be a collaboration because launching your product is at the intersection of product and marketing.
To make your product launch a success, start with the core elements of your plan.
There’s a simple framework to capture the core elements of a product launch. This template is derived from and uses elements of Roman Pichler’s Product Vision Board Alexander Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Canvas.
The product launch plan framework consists of two pillars — product and goals and promotion and communication — which are each broken down into four categories.
Let’s examine what each of these elements represents in the context of the overall product launch plan.
Who is your product designed for? What types of customers/users are you aiming to acquire with your product?
Be as specific as possible. The more granular, the better you’ll be able to understand, target, and reach your audience.
What problem does your product or feature aim to solve for your target audience? What specific pain points is it designed to address?
What is your product offering and what makes it unique in the market? You could differentiate based on the functionalities of your product, but this could also focus on the service you offer or a competitive pricing model.
What are your commercial goals? Are you launching a product in a new market segment? Are you aiming for a percentage of market share?
Define what success looks like for your product. Set milestones to track your success and forecast in usage — for example, how many users should we have after six, 12, and 24 months post-launch?
What value are your customers getting from using your product? Remember, customers don’t necessarily want to use your product; they want to get the outcome your product offers.
Determine the pricing model of your product. Are you creating a new product, or is it an add-on to an already existing product or service?
Also, be clear about your pricing plans and the different options you want to offer — for example, flat rate, based on users, usage, etc.
Describe how you’re going to market and brand your product.
The best way is to describe your key promotional message. Are you creating a specific brand awareness or lead campaign? And how do you position your product in the market? Are you promoting a new (and innovative) product, a renewed product, or an alternative for an already-existing product?
How are you going to acquire new customers? Are there human sales reps involved or will your product be sold via a completely online and self-service process?
Describe your sales process and how your customers are onboarded after completing their purchase
When building a new product, as with any project, you should set some goals at the outset. Remember, you’re not just building a new product, you’re solving a specific user problem and adding value for your end users. That’s the customer value side of your product.
You also have your own business value to consider. What’s in it for your company? If you’re building your first product, it will most likely be to find product-market fit. If you already have a product and a steady customer base, you’re typically aiming to enter a new market segment, grow in customers, and/or grow in revenue.
Setting your goals is a vital element of your product launch because it determines when your product is successful. It’s also critical to define your business goals and corresponding KPIs to track progress after the new product is launched.
Take all relevant product metrics into account, such as customer acquisition costs (CAC), monthly recurring revenue (MRR), and average revenue per account (ARPA). Talk with sales, marketing, and finance to determine what numbers to work with in your forecast. As product manager, orchestrate the various factors involved and align the commercial goals to achieve commercial success.
While the commercial goals are necessary to set and track, it’s also important to look specifically at your product and its usage — i.e., product engagement. How do you expect your specific features to be used? What common activities will people undertake when using your new product?
Measure product usage and set KPIs to see if users interact with your product to reach the desired outcomes. In doing so, you define and discover your aha moment — the moment when your users are engaged with your product so they understand its value and return to experience this value and outcome repeatedly.
Determine the most important events or features that keep users engaged by tracking user events and flows. Determine drop-off points, bounce rates, and the sweet spot of your product’s most-used features. If you’re able to discover specific patterns, you can optimize your product and increase your conversions and customer retention over time.
When you launch a new product in the market, you ideally want to reach out to all potential users who fit your target audience. But how do you reach them? Moreover, how do you convince them to purchase and use your product?
In your product launch plan, write down the high-level approach and strategy you plan to follow when promoting the value you offer. This is the basis for your go-to-market strategy and a requisite for achieving your commercial goals.
The promotional message should derive from your value proposition. The value that your users will get from your product should be the fundament of your promotional message.
While it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same copy word-for-word, your promotional message should be recognizable and obvious to your target audience. It’s up to the marketers to get creative and come up with an enticing campaign to reach potential customers, make them aware of your product, and convince them to buy it.
Different types of content will help guide your target audience through the marketing funnel. A common method of coming up with your promotional messaging is called working backward. The idea is that you write a hypothetical press release before you even start to build your product. Clarifying how you want the market to see and adapt your product from the outset helps ensure you fulfill that promise when actually building it.
Once you reach your target audience, the next objective is to acquire customers. This is where sales comes in. Depending on your organization and product, this will usually involve sales reps. It’s your job to give them the tools and information they need to demonstrate the product’s value to interested individuals and convince them to buy your product — this is what we call closing the deal.
Aside from the sales playbook and the promotional message of your product, you, as the product manager, are responsible for communicating the product launch plan with your sales reps to inform them and share the expectations of your product launch. They need to know how to leverage the value of your product in acquiring new customers.
You need to take a similar approach with everybody involved in the post-sales phase. This usually includes your customer success and support teams, which manage the onboarding of new customers and customer service. These teams need to be informed of and familiar with the process of onboarding and supporting new customers for your product to be successful.
Your sales, customer success, and customer support teams need to know what and how to sell and explain your product and what pricing plans to use when acquiring or possibly upselling customers. It’s your job to determine how you plan to monetize your product and what pricing plans your teams can use. Decide what factors will influence your pricing and how your product plan builds up.
Product managers are responsible for organizing a smooth product launch and managing the internal process with stakeholders. Create a product launch plan and connect and collaborate with your peers from all departments involved to make sure everybody is on the same page, has the same expectations, and knows their role in achieving success and reaching your product goals.
Featured image source: IconScout
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