Considering not all launches are created equal, how do you distinguish between the different types of product launches?
Amen, not all product launches are created equal. Some, such as releases, require 1-3 months of effort; others, minor and major, require 6-9 months on average, respectively.
Step 1 – Determine whether your launch is major, minor or a release. Establishing your launch tier will help correlate activities to your launch objectives before you progress through the three launch stages covered above (Groundwork, Launch Plan, Enable).
Major launches typically require more changes to existing processes and systems and are often the result of a new product, significant feature additions or architectural changes. Major launches require more planning for product upgrades for existing customers; therefore, the launch captain could focus on a new product within an existing line, a new module or a significant upgrade to a current product or an entirely new market entry in an adjacent market.
Minor launches pertain to an existing product and might include new functionality (with moderate impact on customers or the markets you serve), periodic product refresh or upgrade, current offer with new packaging or pricing, new service, a less significant upgrade.
Just like not all launches are created equal, not all companies will take the same approach to categorizing or prioritizing launch tiers. However, there are certainly patterns out there. Here are the most common variables I’ve seen:
- Audience: Will this launch open you up to a new set of prospects, or is it most meaningful for current customers? Is it broadly applicable, or specific to a certain vertical or geo? Will it matter to executive sponsors, or is it oriented towards day-to-day users?
- Impact on the market: Have you invented a totally new solution to an existing problem? Or, does this feature already exist on the market today (and perhaps you’re playing catch-up to your competitors)?
- Impact on your current offering: Does this launch fundamentally change your overall story, or is it another step on the path you’re already on? Would you have won more competitive deals or retained more users if you’d had this feature before?
Based on answers to those questions, you can then assign launches into different tiers. Again, this will look different at every company, but here’s a general framework for thinking about it:
- Tier 1: The monumental stuff. Brand-new, first-time-ever, leapfrog announcements. You’ll probably spend significant time training internal employees about this stuff. You might do a press release, major website overhaul, new pitch deck, analyst outreach, or make big investments in demand generation. Tier 1 launches change the game and often require a lot of downstream changes.
- Tier 2: The stuff worth celebrating. Major steps forward on an existing path. You might get the word out to your existing customer and prospect lists through emails, webinars, social posts, trade publications, or user groups. These launches are not going to catapult you into a new category, but they’ll likely make your current prospects and customers very happy!
- Tier 3: Incremental improvements or catch-up features. These things are important to your overall portfolio and to your day-to-day users, but they don’t change your overall marketing strategy. A lot of companies use their product to help get the word out about tier 3 features through pop-ups or other helpful notifications.
But, with all frameworks come exceptions: PMM is usually responsible for both internal and external launch activities, and you might consider a given launch in different tiers internally versus externally. Having a launch tier framework is super helpful most of the time, but you should be willing to be flexible on the specific tactics based on the nature of a specific launch.
Here’s an example: say that you’ve received high user demand for a feature that your biggest competitor already offers. Internally, this launch is a big deal: it will likely support better retention, and you’d definitely want your customer-facing folks to know about it! But, you may not want to “go big” with it externally, since you wouldn’t want your competitor to point to your press release and say, “We’ve had this for 3 years, and they just launched it last month”.
See answer about Launch Frameworks!
Product announcements are a growth lever, and everything the product team ships is a marketing opportunity. But, not all opportunities should be treated equally, especially if your product team is shipping at a high velocity (like we do at Loom).
We use a tiering system from 1-4, 1 being the most important type of launch. To determine what tier a product or feature launch is in, we ask ourselves two questions.
- Will this retain customers or attract customers?
- Is this a new invention or is it a table-stakes feature?
It's best to visualize it, there is a good blog post on this by Matt Hodges: https://www.intercom.com/blog/prioritizing-product-announcements-saas-world/.
We used this approach when determining the scale of our loomSDK launch back in June this year. So we asked ourselves the above questions. The answer was yes, the loomSDK will attract a new audience for us – Partners & Developers. And, yes, it's a new invention - the ability to integrate async video into your application.
Yes + Yes = Tier 1 launch! (See the 2 by 2 in via the link for clarity).
Tier 1 launch meant that we used all channels available to us at the time: Press, Social, Email, Product Hunt, Paid Advertising, etc.
This is where launch tiering comes into play.
To distinguish between different types of launches, you adopt the following steps:
Decide your launch goal (in decreasing order of impact)
Net New Revenue
Then you can use the 3 point Likert scale scoring method to land on a launch tier for the product. You can refer to this link: https://coda.io/@jasmine/intercoms-announcement-template/tiers-goals-worksheet-12
Based on the launch tier, decide on the types of activities you would want to include in your launch announcement campaign. Refer to the link here: https://coda.io/@jasmine/intercoms-announcement-template/announcement-tactics-worksheet-20