How do you distinguish your different launch tiers (provided that you do)? If you have been part of the process to define the tiers, what did that process look like?
Tiering and t-shirt sizing a launch should be based on "how impactful is this to my customer and the company?" If it's a brand new product suite, a new offering in the market either for the company or the space, or a material investment/improvement from what exists today--that's a Tier 1, full-court press (whatever that means for your company!)
Moderate improvements, new SKUs, bigger features that are exciting but not totally new and different for the company are the market are more medium-Tier launches.
Smaller features and incremental updates can be covered in release marketing only, maybe in-app notifications, or documentation because they're more for end-users vs buyers are Tier 3.
We JUST revamped our GTM framework & process at Momentive and you're in luck - I drove this process at the company & am coming off the project pretty fresh.
Ultimately, product marketing should own the go-to-market launch framework and process. So you or someone on your team should be a driver, with several cross-functional partners consulted. We got drafts in front of product leadership, marketing leadership, sales enablement (whole team in our case), sales & success leadership, and any other critical teams involved in product launches. In the roll out, we included a GTM launch framework reference deck that outlines our process, a GTM strategy overview deck that we copy & fill in for each major launch (doubles as a kick off deck + source of truth), as well as a execution plan template that's modular based on launch tier.
At Momentive, we found that a simple Tier 1-3 system didn't account for nuances across the types of features, products, and solutions we launch. We have cases where we may be launching major customer features (e.g. revamping our logged-in home) where we need extensive proactive customer communication but don't need a large market push. We needed a way to account for this.
SO we created a dual tiering structure: market launch tiers and customer impact tiers. Every GTM launch gets a classification for market launch + customer impact.
Market launch tiers account for the activities targeting prospects, analysts, investors, and the press/media. You know you need a market launch when the new product/feature allows you to capture new business, is a differentiated solution, supports a strategic partnership, and would ultimately improve the way the market/investors/analysts view the company.
- Tier 1 market launches would be reserved for new proucts or solutions (or a VERY significant update to an exiting solution) or a new strategic GTM partnership
- Tier 2 market launches would be leveraged for new features, integrations, or services with the opportunity to impact the market. Tier 2 launch plans could also be used to soft-launch a Tier 1 solution in a public beta program with additional Tier 1 activities to follow.
- Releases that would NOT require a market launch could include features where we're playing catch-up with the competition, updates to existing features, UI improvements, or end-of-life (EOL) of a product/feature. Note that this doesn't mean that customer communication isn't needed.
Customer launch tiers account for activities targeting existing customers.
- High customer impact launches would be reserved for new products/features that immediately and drammatically alter the customer experience for the majority of customers, affects the price they pay, requires admin or customer action, or involves EOL for a product/feature used by a significant number of customers.
- Medium customer impact launches would be leveraged for new products/features that changes the workflow for a subset of customers, or and EOL for a product/feature with minimal usage.
- Low customer impact launches would use minimal customer comms about updates/enhancements to existing features that wouldn't dramatically alter the customer workflow.
- Releases that may not require any customer communication would be things like backend or infrastructure updates that don't impact the customer experience at all.
For each of these market launch & customer impact tiers, we have a recommended set of activities. It's especially helpful for guiding more junior team members who haven't led many launches in their career. But, ultimately, our launch tiers serve as a guideline and starting point. For every launch, we will evaluate the situation, and may add/remove elements of a tiered plan based on what's needed.
When building a tiered product it's important to define the goals of the entire package and each tier. Once you set goals, you'll want to segment your target audience by tier to map benefits to each level. Each tier should have clear benefits and ideally one “hero benefit” to serve as the hook to get customers to sign up for the offering. While the tiers should feel distinct they should also feel connected so that customers feel motivated to earn/pay more to move to higher tiers. A clear example of this approach is building a good/better/best model where the base benefits get increasingly richer as you move to higher tiers. Once benefits/pricing is set a GTM plan that includes varied tactics and messaging will be key with flexibility to market the entire package + targeted campaigns for each tier.
Tier 1 has the most impact on the business. Tier 2 is gaining competitive advantage. Tier 3 is gaining competitive parity. And Tier 4 is simply bug fixes and minor improvements.
A Tier 1 launch is the most disruptive to an organization. It involves competition in new product categories and unfamiliar markets. Buyers and buying criteria change, which impacts what we say and how we sell. There is a higher degree of unknowns and, therefore, risk.
A Tier 2 launch is about one-upping the competition. It's typically a major new feature or capability that separates your product from the competitive pack. You're in familiar territory, and there are fewer unknowns.
A Tier 3 launch is about catching up to the competition. It's about filling big holes in the product and hoping to become more competitive. You're in very familiar territory, with virtually zero unknowns.
A Tier 4 launch is a catch-all for anything that doesn't fit 1 through 3. Since we often interchange "launch" with "release", I've used it to avoid clogging up the other launch tiers. It seems to keep everyone happy. This is the launch tier for bug fixes, performance improvements, and very minor enhancements. You can do this one in your sleep.
When you frame the launch tiers around impact (I agree with Jodi xyz), it's easier to guide the discussion. You also need the rigor to put a product launch in the right tier and the flexibility to move up or down, depending on the situation.
Here's an article I wrote with more detail - https://www.brainkraft.com/post/how-to-use-launch-tiers. Look for the boilerplate guide on my worksheets page to get you started - https://brainkraft.com/product-launch-tools.