Aurelia Solomon

AMA: Drift Senior Director of Product Marketing, Aurelia Solomon on Product Launches

December 1 @ 10:00AM PST
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Drift Senior Director of Product Marketing, Aurelia Solomon on Product Launches
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Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
I look at leading and lagging indicators for product launches. Leading indicators are your marketing goals (website performance, ad performance, click-through rate, email opens, press pick-ups etc). And Lagging indicators are impact to pipeline (meetings booked, opportunities created, attach rate, deals closed -- both quantity (#) and $ amount. 
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Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
It's important to get cross-functional representation for every product launch. As product marketer, you lead the launch, and there will be more marketers on your team than other departments because they do most of the promotion (web, creative, content etc). But for the rest, I like to get a DRI from every department: Sales, Marketing, Legal, Support, CS, Services, Operations, Enablement, Product, Eng, and Pricing & packaging (if they don't sit in PMM). It's also critical to share updates with your leadership team/c-suite on some regular cadence. I think it's important to include sales and enablement as a DRI in your launch plan so that they know what is coming and can feel part of it. But it's also important that they don't discuss things too early with their teams so that sales doesn't get distracted. I like to kick off every product launch with a 'kick off' meeting where I outline the roles & responsibilities of being on this launch team. I ask every member to commit to them or assign a DRI from their team instead. 
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Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
Yes! I love this question. Betas are SO important. I think all 3 are great options. It depends what you are looking for. If you're doing a large Beta (50+ customers) I would rely more on surveys so you can get more feedback, faster -- and then hand pick a number (say 10) for deeper dive phone conversations to dig into some of their feedback. If you're beta is smaller, I would go live conversation all the way. In-app is good too but I think with a beta you need to gently nudge/remind customers to give the feedback. In-App is always a good option but I wouldn't ever rely on it soley (unless you have incredible response rates from it). 
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How do you think about bundling or 'holding' launches for a regular launch cadence vs releasing when ready?
What approaches have you tried, and did they work? How did you get buy in from the product team?
Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
I think there are two different thing - and both important. I think releases shouldn't be random (like daily) because your CS and Sales teams, and most importantly, your customers, can't keep up with them. If so much is coming out all the time, your customers don't know about the new stuff. And worse, your cs teams doesn't know either and then cannot answer customers questions! At Drift, we have a monthly release process. This means that we release features on the first Wednesday of every month. A week of ahead of release, we train the CS & Sales teams and arm them with customer facing slides they will need. We also include in-app messaging on release day and include it in a monthly customer newsletter roundup. Product launches, on the other hand, are meant to drive market momentum -- to built pipeline, create urgency, and deliver value. I've always implemented a Tiered launch strategy (tier 1 - market moving, tier 2 - feature add on, integration etc, and tier 3- backend update or 'monthly release'). Tiers 1 and 2 have big market impact, with goals to drive pipeline, revenue and win rates. I suggest seasonal Tier 1 launches (so 3-4 a year MAX since it's a major effort) and sprinkle in 2-3 Tier 2s throughout the year to keep building momentum between Tier 1s. 
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Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
Great question! First, I shedule a kick off meeting. In this meeting... * I outline what product launch is, why we do it, and how it works at this company. I do this every time because there are always new people on your team who might not be familiar with product launch and it's important to level set. * I then outline the roles and responsibilties of being on the launch team. I ask each DRI if they will commit to these or if there is a DRI on their team they want to take their place instead. * I provide an overview of what we are launching, what we are launching it, prooblems it solves, value it delivers, and high level timeline of launch date (and the key milestones to get to that launch date). * I acknowledge that there is a lot still to do, but getting this group together is the most important part. * I explain the meeting cadence (often starts biweekly and then moves to weekly as we approach launch) and explain what they are expectated to prepare ahead of each meeting (slide I mention below). * Lastly, I ask each member of the team to write down every that comes to mind to them about this launch. What questions and concerns do they have? What things do they believe their team needs to do to make this success? This is a very important process because it starts to get everyone thinking about their TO-DO list. And then you as the launch leader, have a master list of it all. I always use the same 1 slide template to organize product launch. It's weekly update slide. Each member is responsibile for listing the 1-3 things they are working on in that 1-2 week span (before the next meeting), what dependencies they have, any blockers, and status (red, yellow, green) to due date. I collect these slides from everyone the night before our weekly meeting and put them into one deck. We review each of these slides in our meeting. This is also important because it ensures that everyone on the launch team knows what others are doing -- and can identify areas they might be able to help or areas of redundancy/duplicative work. This meeting is not a working meeting. Instead, members are expected to meet in smaller groups outside our regular cadence to get the actual work done. Lastly, I always use Asana or a gantt chart to list every since detail of the launch up to launch day, and then the promotional actiivities happening after. I often create section/label to nest them under, but it's important to list every to do and keep track of it as PMM leader so you can hold folks accountable -- and make decisions on where to pivot/what to cut if need be. 
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How do you manage the internal communication of releases?
Any tips for this to happen recurrently and clearly for all stakeholders who need to know this information in advance?
Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
We communicate product releases via a number of channels: On-demand training for sales & cs, in-app messaging for customers, live Q&A day training for sales & cs, customer email, and monthly customer newsletter. It's important to stick to a consistent communication process and release cadence so your customers and GTM teams know when to expect new innovations from your company. If releases are random, your CS and Sales teams, and most importantly, your customers, can't keep up with them. If so much is coming out all the time, your customers don't know about the new stuff. And worse, your cs teams doesn't know either and then cannot answer customers questions! At Drift, we have a monthly release process. This means that we release features on the first Wednesday of every month. A week of ahead of release, we train the CS & Sales teams and arm them with customer facing slides they will need. We also include in-app messaging on release day and include it in a monthly customer newsletter roundup.
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How does a product launch differ depending on the size of the company?
How does a lean small startup launch look different than a product launch at a place like Loom?
Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
You can read my answer about taking a Tiered approach in one of the other answers. If you're a lean start up, I would suggest focusing on doing just 2 Tier 1 launches a year, and sprinkle in two Tier 2s throughout the year (rather than the 3 Tier 1s 3 Tier 2s I recommend for a more mature company). In addition to quanity of launches, you can use your "Bill of Deliverables" as a lever. Bill of Deliverables are the assets you are going to create for launch - think customers facing slides, messaging & positioning, one pagers, ads, landing pages, email campaigns, enablement training, press release, blog post, customer messaging etc). Instead of doing all of these, maybe you focus in on the 6 promotional activities that are going to drive the most momentum, awareness and pipeline for your business. You can also lean on others to help you. Empower your launch team members to use the messaging and positioning that you have created to do their work. For example, your head of SDR can write the prospecting scripts, your head of demand gen can write the email campaigns, etc and you can take the role of reviewing and editing. If you have budget to outsource anything, you can leverage great copy writing to write the blog post, think of witty ad blurbs etc. 
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Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
I don't know if this counts as a tool but I would say your overall plan. Whether that's in a gantt chart, excel, slide deck or Asana (or any other project management tool), it's critical that you have a full view of your launch plan from Day 1 to Launch day -- and then the promotional activities after (so that you can track lagging indicators of launch (your launch goals). 
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Aurelia Solomon
Aurelia Solomon
Salesforce Senior Director, Product MarketingDecember 2
I know this isn't tactical, but I would make sure to include them in the product launch kick off meeting (which happens ever before you have your entire plan built) because it helps them understand WHY you are launching what you are launching and enables them to feel part of the journey - part of the team - that will make this launch a success. Because ultimately, it is a team that makes launches happen. It can't be done alone. I know this isn't a tactic (quite yet) but I mention this step because it will help you get buy-in so you don't have to 'convince' anyone in marketing to launch this. They will be excited about the opportunity and feel empowered to share their POV on what acitivities/content they can create to support the launch (respsective to their function. So demand gen team comes up with their strategy and shares it with you to discuss, same ad content etc). Tactics -Set goals for the launch tied to quantitatve KPIs that impact the entire business and every function -Create a gantt chart (or Asana board) to track the key milestones (and every deliverable / to-do) of the launch -Schedule your weekly/biweekly meeting cadence -Hold each member accountable to getting their work done. And make sure you've empowered them to 'own' their workstream for the launch so they feel (and are) bought in. -Celebrate their success! And celebrate little wins along the way. Make the launch process fun - and make sure to give credit to your teammates (at the exec and peer level) along the way. 
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