Aliza Edelstein

AMA: Route VP of Product Marketing, Aliza Edelstein on Product Launches

September 28 @ 11:00AM PST
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Route VP of Product Marketing, Aliza Edelstein on Product Launches
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
This is a great question. When I worked at SurveyMonkey, I worked on the launch of TechValidate after we acquired them (third-party validated customer testimonials), and when I worked at Brex, we acquired Pry (financial modeling software), so I can speak with those firsthand examples in mind. The main difference is that customer sensitivity and branding play a much bigger role. * Customer sensitivity—How the customers of the acquired company feel is critical for the short- and long-term success of the acquisition. Often, the key business metric for an acquisition is to accelerate growth—whether that’s new users, paid upsell, cross-sell, a higher price point—and so it’s important to take great pains to ensure that the announcement and subsequent actions will feel especially good for the acquired company’s customer base. Disillusionment or churn would be a worst case scenario. Customers of the acquired company will have a lot of FAQs, such as “will you continue to support the products I rely on? Will the functionality stay the same? Will my main points of contact change?” It’s important to manage this change and help them understand what to expect so that they’re confident their business needs won’t be interrupted. You are working to build trust and loyalty. * Branding—The acquired company will either fully adopt or partially adopt the brand identity of the acquirer as the integration of the two finalizes over time, and this has more complexity because it’s a merger of both a front-end (the brand) and a back-end (the product). Think: will the acquired product function as a standalone product with a separate login forever, or will it be folded into the acquiring company’s techstack? Will the UI change to be uniform with the other products? Will the logos be merged, or completely swapped out? In some ways, an acquired product launch can be similar to a partner marketing launch, except the dynamics are different (covered above). The messaging is a bit easier for the acquiring company’s customer base, because it’s often a no-brainer value add, potentially only relevant for some use cases of the existing customer base (i.e., not relevant to ALL customers), and it demonstrates a position of strength and a commitment to continually improve the offering—all things that can only be considered “good news.”
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
There are two great resources I highly recommend, aside from Sharebird (which contains a true wealth of guidance): 1. Reforge’s Product Marketing course 2. Product Marketing Alliance I recently took the Reforge course and got a huge amount of value from it, even though my career is over a decade long. There are always so many ways to keep improving yourself and your work! Both of my suggestions above have a price tag, so work with your company to see if they’ll sponsor a seat for you. You can also find Product Marketing / Marketing leaders whose careers you admire and follow their content. Here’s a shortlist of mine: * Joanna Lord, many-time CMO and board member - produces great content (and is also quite funny and enjoyable to listen to) * Peep Laja, CEO of Wynter - produces lots of strong content on messaging (I did a podcast with him once, and he’s interviewed many other marketers) * Meghan Keaney Anderson, many-time head of marketing - her LinkedIn posts are relatable and helpful * Agustina Sacerdote - trifecta of a marketing, product, and growth leader * Christy Roach - exceptional product marketer and team leader with a healthy dose of pragmatism I’m hyperlinking their LinkedIns so you can Follow them, but they’ve authored a tremendous amount of valuable content so just google them and you can find what’s relevant for you. 
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
* Pre-launch: Communication is strong. Teams are hitting the milestones they’ve set. * Post-launch: Metrics are tracking positively toward the goals you set. Someone asked another question about measuring success, so check out that answer for a more in-depth response.
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
* Make it as easy as possible for your customers. Cannot emphasize enough that every decision you make should be prioritizing the customer journey and imagining how it will affect them. If it feels impossible, or as difficult as switching to a competitor, figure out how to fix it. No matter how exciting the benefits are, they may not outweigh the perceived “cost of switching.” * Research: Do customer research to deeply understand how the customer will approach what you’re asking them to do. Can they truly do it on their own? Is it too onerous or complicated? Lots of migration plans make perfect sense on a planning document and then hit roadblocks in practice. Pilot the migration with a few friendly and understanding customers. Update your plan with the learnings. * Phase the rollout: Complete the rollout in tranches so that you’re resourced to support each set of customers. * Ease the burden: Find ways to automate the transition and mitigate the manual work you’re asking them to do. It may be "less expensive" in the long run for your Relationship Managers or Engineers to help customers reconnect their setup or rebuild their dashboards for them, instead of asking customers to do the work themselves. * Social proof and benefits: Make a case study with the customers from your pilot program. Showing the business impact of being on the new API can help offset the perceived “cost of switching” for other customers you're convincing to migrate. * Make communication as clear and straightforward as possible. No one likes to be surprised or feel confused. They also need to understand timelines, the support they can expect to receive, and whether this migration is required or not (i.e., are you sunsetting the old API? If so, create a thoughtful deprecation plan with a reasonable/generous timeline). * Set goals that are tied to a smooth transition. In addition to whatever business goal is driving the move, set goals to measure the success of a smooth transition. For example, less than x% increase in customer support tickets; churn below a threshold of x%; x% increase in NPS for migrated customers within the first 3 months.
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
* I’m going to answer your question indirectly first: Going from a single product company to a multi-product company is a big shift, not just in your business goals but also in your company’s identity. It’s important to think through how this second product changes who you are, and I strongly recommend you pause before launch to think through your corporate-level messaging, which I’ve written about in a previous Sharebird AMA here (first answer). A quick example: when I joined Brex, it was a “corporate card company.” When we launched business accounts (an alternative to bank accounts), we had to reimagine who we were beyond our identity as a credit card company—we arrived at all-in-one finance, since we couldn’t call ourselves a “bank.” When we launched spend management software, we had to reimagine ourselves again—as a spend platform (which is the current messaging on Brex’s website). * To answer your question a bit more directly, it entirely depends on your goals. Is your goal to increase revenue or to increase market share? Is your new product relevant for your current customers, or is there only some overlap? With the Brex card and business accounts example above, we learned that the business accounts were most relevant for startups, whereas the Brex card was relevant for businesses of all sizes. Knowing that the audiences only partially overlapped changed how we set goals. You’ll need to answer these questions before you can determine your specific launch KPIs. My tactical advice would be to figure out the TAM for your second product and its overlap with your current customer base (think: Venn diagram). From there, you can craft your launch strategy and goals.
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
This is a 3-part question, so I'm giving you a 3-part answer: 1) The best tools: I’m going to answer the “tools” part of your question by talking about four documents I find critical for successful launches: 1. GTM overview doc—This is a pretty detailed, dense document whose only audience is really PMM and PMs. It’s the place to document the thinking for the following bullet points, and it ensures that PM and PMM are entirely aligned on what is launching, how it helps customers, how it will be messaged, and how it will be tested with customers and then rolled out. No one really likes this document, but this thinking does need to happen in an organized, well-communicated place. It contains: 1. GTM plan overview 2. Customer overview 3. Product overview 4. Competitive analysis 5. Pricing & packaging 6. Early Access Program plan 7. Messaging framework 8. Marketing promotion plan 9. Sales & CS enablement & training 10. Final assets 11. Post-launch debrief 12. Results and impact 2. Launch plan of record deck—This is higher level, visual deck that includes a summary of the goals and messaging, the launch timing (it can include a Gantt chart), and then a section for each of the launch-related activities (e.g., owned channels, PR/earned channels, paid channels, partner marketing, enablement, internal comms). This deck’s audience spans all cross-functional partners, and should be polished enough for the executive team to understand what to expect for launch, with an executive summary at the top. It is a living document: * 1st, it is a planning outline * 2nd, it becomes the central repository for final asset approvals * 3rd, it becomes an archive of the final details and assets, and * 4th, it becomes an impact report that shows performance metrics for each individual effort and for the overarching success of the launch compared to the goals 3. Creative brief—This document needs to be kept lightweight, and there will likely be multiple creative briefs for each launch-related activity that different cross-functional teams collaborate on. The audience is your creative partners and channel owners. It should include enough information about the goals, context, and ask so that your creative partners and channel owners can either collaborate on it with you, or feel they have enough space to run with the project as strategic partners to imagine how it could come to life. If you provide the right context, this document will feel more like a brief and less like a prescriptive task. I’ve created a 1-page template for this with the bullet points below. If you’re looking for something more robust, my friend and former colleague, Kira Klaas, developed this incredible Campaign Brief Notion template. Shorter creative brief content: 1. Deliverable 2. Background 3. Goal 4. Audience & their mindset * Build out the Get → To → By framework: * Get the target audience to take a certain action by [what action do we want them to take?] 5. Key Message 6. Creative considerations & look and feel (deliverables & specs) 7. Timing 8. Expected return 9. Budget 10. Distribution plan 4. Customer journey map—This is a diagram that you can work on within PMM or in partnership with your Design team. The audience is PMM, Designers, and anyone working on the creative briefs outlined above. I like to use Figma’s FigJams for this—the exercise of mapping out and sequencing how a prospect/customer will engage with the materials and messages you’re creating is a critical early step to ensure you don’t end up with a clunky user experience at the end. It should include all the “entry points” (such as, the user visits your webpage, a product page, a LinkedIn post) → the CTA you want them to click → the landing page(s) that opens → the CTA on those pages (e.g., request demo, contact sales) → the confirmation email they get → the content that email links to → and so on…until you’ve mapped out all the flows and are certain that you’re creating the right assets to make it a consistent and friction-less journey. 2) The biggest challenges: (1) Changing product readiness timelines. (2) Not enough communication. (3) Misalignment on goals. 3) When Product Marketing should get involved: As early as possible! PMMs can help inform the product roadmap.
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
* General answer: Revisit how the initial launch(es) performed. Scrutinize what worked well and what didn’t. How can you leverage those learnings to improve how you plan the GTM strategy for the re-launch? * Geo-specific answer: Conduct market and customer research for that geo. If you aren’t the expert in that market, find relevant experts and talk to them. What matters to that market and how they make decisions should influence which channels and messaging you use. * Example: SurveyMonkey operates globally. We localized every written word in ~7 languages, and we localized our core pages (e.g., the pricing page) into ~28 languages. What was interesting about the pricing page was that it wasn’t just a matter of translation but rather a rearrangement and reprioritization of features and value props that mattered in a given market. I specifically remember that the German variation of the page highlighted our privacy, security, and data protection information much more than almost all the other variations—because that was more important to that market.
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
* First, I always tie it back to a company OKR. The launch should be in service of at least one of them. * Second, I typically work cross-functionally to determine the goals. * Work with the Product team to define the product usage goal: most PMs’ performance is measured by product or feature usage/engagement/adoption, so the launch should aim to drive this. * Work with the Finance and Revenue (Sales & CS) teams to define the business goal: Is a certain amount of revenue expected from the launch? Work with Finance to determine the number and with Revenue to back into what it will take to get to that number (e.g., X leads drive $Y pipeline with Z% probability of closing). (Side note: once you know these goals, then you can start to estimate your launch budget ask.) * Work with your Marketing partners to define the marketing goals: Is your PR team aiming for a story placement in Forbes? Is your Brand team leveraging this launch to increase the brand awareness metrics. Is the social team counting on this to boost social engagement? Get very tight on what you want to measure—I like to not only set the goal, but also to establish the baseline (if possible) and measure progress to that goal at multiple milestones (daily at first, then weekly, then at a regular business cadence). Build the dashboards and tracking tools BEFORE launch so you are ready to start answering the “how’s the launch going” questions within the first few hours of launch. Because someone—probably your CEO—will ask you, and you should have a very informed answer :)
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
It’s a great question, and I answered this in part above. To elaborate on setting benchmarks, you’ll want to work with your cross-functional partners (across Product, Finance, Revenue, Marketing, etc.) to determine what historical performance is most relevant to compare success to. It’s much easier to do if your launch is relevant for current customers, because you should have a sense of how they’ve reacted to/adopted products in the past. It’s much harder to do with a net new market, and you likely will pick a goal based on industry benchmarks or limited data that may be wildly off—either way too high, or so low that you hit it within hours of launch (a very pleasant surprise, but somewhat meaningless). In these cases, you simply need to recalibrate the goal with the data you have. I’d encourage you to dream big and set what you believe is an ambitious goal while overcommunicating the unknowns and caveating that the goal is subject to change if you get data or see performance that indicates that it’s completely off the mark. The Reforge PMM course I mentioned in the first answer has an incredible module on this.
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
This is a great question and I’ll share an answer, but it’s a topic I’d encourage you to discuss with your manager if you’re looking to grow from an individual contributor into a people manager role. In addition to having advanced knowledge or mastery of domain-specific skills, I look for the following core competencies: * Problem solving & decision-making: You can take a high-level business goal, identify the problem, and come up with a strategy across multiple functions and the resources needed to succeed. * Influence & collaboration: You collaborate with key partners to influence outcomes and achieve team goals. You are trusted and regularly sought to help make or inform decisions for partners across the company. You drive planning at an inter-team level and are able to effectively involve all relevant teams and stakeholders. * Management (forward looking): * You could create an inclusive environment that builds trust in your team. * You could regularly provide feedback, set goals, discuss day-to-day challenges and career development on a regular cadence with your direct reports. * You understand the company’s people processes and could uphold expectations around performance evaluations and compensation conversations. * You would take full accountability for your team’s impact and well-being and ensure people can be proud of their work. You would enable your team to operate at a high-performing level. The other thing strong leaders I know have in common is that they prioritize the company first, then their team, and then themselves. In terms of my (abbreviated) story, I started my career in marketing as an individual contributor. At SurveyMonkey, joined as an IC Demand Generation Manager. I started “dotted-line” managing an employee who wanted to move into Demand Generation, and about 3-6 months later, I was formally promoted to manage that employee and build out and lead the Demand Generation team. When I transitioned into Product Marketing at SurveyMonkey, I went back to being an IC at first (although I informally led a cross-functional team focused on our personalization initiatives), before taking a position at Brex that would allow me to build out a team. I was the founding Product Marketer at Brex and built the team from one to 10 people in my time there. I’m most proud not of the team size but of its performance and engagement: our engagement and retention scores on quarterly pulse surveys were consistently above the company average, and the team members were high performers who genuinely enjoyed working together and built each other up to collectively do our best work.
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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?
Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
One of my favorite expressions is “repetition doesn’t spoil the prayer.” Communication—or lack thereof—is the element that makes or breaks launches (or really anything in any work environment or relationship). I always err on the side of overcommunicating for launches and I’m a stickler for written documentation (which is sometimes unpopular, but it’s the best way I’ve found for everyone to stay on the same page…literally). The “Launch Plan of Record” deck that I elaborated on in an earlier question is a great asset for this. It’s digestible, it’s as high or low level as the reader wants it to be (if they read past the executive summary all the detail they want is there), and it can be posted internally on a wiki, pinned to slack channels, and reviewed at regular check-in meetings.
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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?
Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28
It looks like Loom has ~250 employees (according to LinkedIn), raised a total of $203.6M in their series C in 2021 (according to Crunchbase), and was valued at $1.53B. I’m sharing this mainly for context for other readers, even though my answer to your question will be a bit indirect because the startups I joined early were at least Series B and well-funded (i.e., not super early stage or lean). The big differences between lean/small/early stage startups and bigger ones are: * Budget—money will be tighter if there’s less funding. Teams need to be scrappier and do more growth hacking. * Resources—you probably don’t have a team for every specialized function, and you may not even have a person for it (i.e., a copywriter, a social media manager). This means you will be wearing more hats. I joined Brex just before they announced their series C raise, when they were valued at $1B and had 175 employees, and we were still many months away from hiring a dedicated copywriter and social media manager. Fast forward to a series D raise, a $12.3B valuation, and 1,400 employees, and there are now entire dedicated teams and/or supporting agencies for these functions. In the early days, I was asked to design the art for some billboards in Figma; that stopped once we hired an in-house designer. * Process—the younger the company, the fewer people, the less process. Communication—I stressed the importance of overcommunication in the previous answer. At a much smaller company, communicating is easier because everyone knows what everyone else is working on. If you can all fit in one room or on one video call, you probably don’t need to worry about certain teams missing context.
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