Nail Your Next Product Launch with The Tiered Strategy of a Product Marketing Pro

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Jessica Kezia

Obtaining G.O.A.T status—the Greatest of All Time—in SaaS rests largely on your ability to achieve one thing: product adoption. Full stop. Product adoption is the lifeblood of your business and your bottom line.

In fact, research conducted by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, who’s also responsible for creating the Net Promoter Score (NPS), found nearly a decade ago that a 5% increase in retention can increase profits by 25-95%.

While Reichheld’s research isn’t surprising anymore, it’s still true for SaaS companies, big and small alike. It also serves as a constant reminder that keeping your customers happy—largely via product adoption—can seriously impact your bottom line.

That’s easier said than done, but it all starts with a thoughtful product launch strategy like the one Megan Pratt, owner of Product Marketing House, outlined in her DEMAND 2023 session.

Let’s dive in.

Product launch vs. release: What’s the difference?

Before we get into the details of Megan’s tiered launch strategy, let’s take a step back and clear any confusion about the difference between product launches and product releases.

  • Product release: A release involves a finished product that’s passed through the Quality Assurance (QA) team, approved by the Product team, and is typically generally available (GA) to your customers. That said, there’s no big marketing push.
  • Product launch: A completed product you’re ready to take to the market with all your marketing muscles. The goal? Drive traffic and adoption. (This is what this article dives into.)

Why does the distinction between a product launch and a release matter? Because they determine the Marketing team’s involvement. We’re generalizing here, but a product release typically doesn’t require much of your time. At most, you upload release notes to your support center or email customers letting them know something new, albeit small, is available. Think of this communication as more of a “heads up” than anything else. You’re not trying to make a big splash.

A product launch demands all you’ve got to make sure you position the product correctly, your Sales team is ready to sell it, and your customers actually use it.

The graphic below from Megan’s DEMAND session outlines the product lifecycle. While we’d campaign for the Marketing team’s involvement throughout this lifecycle, that’s typically not how the cookie crumbles. In reality, your team probably steps in after product development and before optimization.

Back to why you’re here—to learn about a tiered product launch strategy. Here’s what you need to do.

1. Build a rockstar launch team

A product launch is only as strong and successful as the team behind it. Although launch teams will vary based on company size, budget, maturity, and a host of other factors, Megan notes a handful of non-negotiables that are in your control:

  • The team should be as small as possible: You want all the necessary stakeholders in the room, including Engineering and Sales, but try your darndest to keep the team as small as possible. A product launch has many moving pieces, changes quickly, and often forces you to pivot on a dime. You can’t do that if every decision must go through a dozen stakeholders.
  • Everyone must understand their role: Just because your team is small doesn’t mean there won’t be criss-crossed wires; confusion about roles and responsibilities is inevitable. To that point, set clear expectations with every stakeholder from the start. What are their responsibilities? Which action items and tasks do they own? How will everyone work together to make the biggest splash possible on launch day?
  • The entire team should be part of the planning process: While the product launch is primarily your responsibility, don’t make decisions in a silo. Instead, work closely with the entire team to get different perspectives.

Megan said, “Long before there’s even a launch on the table, figure out how you’re bringing your team into the process of figuring out launch tiers, activities needed, and timelines—all of that should really be a team effort. Yes, Product Marketing leads that, but that [the planning process] should be a team effort.”

2. Use launch tiers to set realistic timelines and expectations with the team

Each product launch will look different, thanks to a different set of expectations, marketing tactics, resources, and involvement from internal stakeholders. Launch tiers will help you get (and keep) your ducks in a row.

Megan says, “The goal of launch tiers is really to build expectations for timelines and activities. [With launch tiers], we want to give the organization and everyone we work with a solid reason for the treatment we give launches.” Said another way, launch tiers help you communicate with everyone outside the Marketing team about why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Here’s the matrix Megan uses to help her clients set those expectations and timelines:

To set your launch tiers, ask yourself two questions:

  • Is this product new and innovative, or will it help us match the market?
  • Will this product help us win new customers or retain existing ones?

Megan said she uses this matrix to have concrete conversations with the Product team. “After [my Product teammates] have their roadmap set up and understand what they’re building, I’ll look at their roadmap and say, ‘Okay, it looks like we have a priority #1, a couple of priority #2s, and a priority #3.’ How does that square up with your understanding of what you’re building?”

From a high level, this matrix—and launch tiers, in general—allow you to have thoughtful conversations with the teams building the product, prioritize Marketing resources appropriately, and understand what’s required to make the most noise possible when it goes live.

Megan’s Launch Tiers
Priority #1-All channels
-Takes 8 weeks to execute
-1 per quarter
Priority #2– Most channels
-Takes 6 weeks to execute
-2 per month
Priority #3– A few channels
-Takes 4 weeks to execute
-1 per month

3. The launch

It’s time. You’ve laid the groundwork and have most of the hard parts out of the way. While your job’s not quite done yet, Megan says this stage of the launch is more about keeping the train on the tracks than anything else. But to do that, you need to take another step back.

Define your product position and message

Before you launch your product or create any marketing materials, it’s important to define and document your product’s overall position and message. To do that, sit down with your Product team to understand what they’re building and the research that’s led them to these decisions. Then, put that information into a positioning and messaging doc.

What should that positioning and messaging doc include? Not as much as you think:

  1. A sentence or two that tactically defines the product. For example, our product does X to help our customers do Y.
  2. The primary users of your product.
  3. Your product’s top 3-4 benefits.

Here’s a graphic Megan shared during her session:

Keep this doc simple and avoid fluff at all costs so it’s easy for everyone involved with the launch to understand at a glance. Megan said, “This [the messaging and positioning doc] serves as the foundation for all the planning, whether it’s sales enablement, content, lead generation, etc.” From there, tie each benefit to specific product features and why they matter.

For Metadata, that could look something like this: Metadata’s Demand Hub helps B2B marketers automate paid campaigns, drive more revenue, and increase ROI by up to 149%. It’s not fancy, but it packs a punch and lets everyone know—internally and externally—what Metadata’s Demand Hub is all about.

Once you have this document in order, present it to the launch team.

Don’t forget to celebrate your success

We know, we know. Product Marketing is a very forward-focused thing, and we’re always thinking about the next big deliverable and launch. That’s part of what makes our jobs such a blast, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But there’s a downside to this fast-paced mindset: We tend to forget to celebrate our wins with our team and the rest of the company.

So, when a launch goes live, pop the champagne and let the rest of the company know what you’ve been up to and your impact on the business. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, either. A simple Slack message to the company channel can make all the difference, especially if you include metrics or stats showing how your launch drove product adoption.

Then, clean up the confetti and start preparing for your next product launch using this tiered strategy.

Want more DEMAND sessions? We’ve got you covered.

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