How do you build out a launch process where one didn't exist before?
Building out a launch process is actually fairly simple in concept. The hardest part is definitely getting cross functional alignment. This process can easily take 6 months in a larger organization, but I recommend being quick and scrappy and then iterating. The steps I take:
Understand what's been done before. What works, what doesn't? How do the teams in place feel about past launch efforts?
Map out your launch goals, at a high level. Why are you doing product launches at all? Are they for customers, are they for prospects? Think carefully here about nuance, when do the goals shift? Often different types of products or sized products may have slightly different goals.
What teams need to be involved? Here again you may note some nuance. It's helpful to think about past examples. So for example, at Klaviyo, when we launched SMS, we needed all the marketing teams and all the customer facing teams involved in getting the word out while Product and R&D worked to ship the feature.
Start to lay out your tiers. There are many ways to set this up, but I typically think about tiering in terms of the size of the launch. Here again past examples will help you. What types of features will you pull out all the stops for? What features will you keep fairly quiet, maybe because they're not exciting or because all your competitors already have them? How will you measure success?
Align a bill of materials to your tiers. Typically speaking, what assets will you provide for each tier? Determining this is the first step in cross functional alignment as it involves getting a commitment from each team. Also keep in mind this will definitely change a bit from launch to launch. The idea here is to give everyone their marching orders ahead of time so you're able to execute faster once the launch process is live.
Socialize, socialize, socialize. This can't be overstated enough. Present your launch plan to product, to R&D, to sales, to CS, to marketing. Get everyone's feedback, answer all the questions. Put the launch process on your internal wiki and then present it to your entire company at an all hands.
Iterate, iterate, iterate. That's it, your launch process is live! Yay! Now it's time to tweak and evolve it. It needs to fluctuate as your goals and resources change.
Ta da! Ok, maybe it's not THAT simple, but I promise it's fun!
Building a new product launch process can seem daunting. To do this, I recommend:
Focus on delivering value.
Scale once you have “process market fit”
Start small. Create 1-2 simple templates and process. This will help you get wins and keep maintenance / overhead low. For example:
GTM Template: A go-to-market template that can serve as source of truth for launch activities like messaging
Launch Calendar: A document and process to collect and share upcoming launches
Focus on delivering value. Does your process have “fit” with your users / stakeholders? Just like a product launch, evaluate if you are getting adoption and if those that adopt are getting value. Ask questions like:
Is your template being used?
Do people use your product launch calendar or attend alignment meetings?
Have you gotten feedback from sales that launches are better coordinated? Or feedback from product that transparency is driving better launch sequencing / helping to avoid conflicting product launches?
Once you know your process is delivering value, you can think about scaling. In my experience, you will naturally start to identify areas to improve templates and process. Just be careful not to create something so cumbersome that it can’t be implemented or maintained. More meetings and docs does not mean better.
The first step is aligning with your company leadership on a product launch strategy. To me, this includes:
partnering with product to understand the release management schedule (so that you can determine how often to run launches)
prioritizing your launches using a launch tier framework
clearly defining your KPIs
establishing a framework for leadership reviews and approvals during the launch process (I've seen the RAPID framework works really well here).
Once aligned, you can focus on individualized product launches. What's helped me at the start of any launch is partnering with product from the beginning and understanding their product vision and strategy. For example, I’ll typically ask my product manager questions like,
“Why are we launching this product?”
“How's it different?”
“What’s the roadmap?”
Once aligned, I’ll dive into the ins and outs of the product (setting up learning sessions with my PM, seeing a demo, getting hands on with the technology) and conduct research to validate our positioning.
For the GTM launch plan, this involves aligning with your leadership around a shared launch vision and strategy (a framework I've used that's been effective is Salesforce's V2MOM). I'll align with everyone around:
a launch vision
the values that support that vision
the methods that will help us achieve that vision
how we'll measure success
Once aligned, I'll have a kickoff with their teams (the launch group) to walk them through the plan, including the bill of materials, roles and responsibilities, and the timeline.
To maintain communication and alignment throughout the launch process (and to ensure we hit our launch milestones), I'll set up a weekly sync with the team to check in on status across the different workstreams, a slack channel where folks can ask questions, and I'll have individual syncs with folks as needed. Leading up to the launch day, I'll send out a weekly status update email to leadership (including the launch group) to build excitement and keep everyone informed on progress.