How do you tier your launches, and what KPI's do you assign to each tier?
This question is very similar to this other one https://sharebird.com/ama/zendesk-director-of-product-marketing-teresa-haun-on-product-launches?answer=DjEBP934m2 so I'm sharing my answer from there here too:
At Zendesk, we use a launch template that includes key workstreams and teams to engage for different tiers of launches. We use two criteria to determine the tier of a launch: business impact and market impact. For business impact, we assess how much the launch benefits existing and new customers, including whether it makes a material difference in whether they select Zendesk or a competitor. For market impact, we evaluate how the launch changes our position in the market. We consider if the launch is a unique offering that no other competitors have or are offering in this way and if it’s aligned to major industry trends that analysts and buyers are buzzing about. Launches that have the biggest business and market impact are designated as our Tier 1s. These are usually new products, new product plans, or key new features that customers will significantly benefit from or that really differentiate us from the competition. Tier 2s are the next tier and have a medium level of business and market impact. They are usually new feature releases or enhancements to existing ones. Tier 3s are our last tier with the lowest business and market impact. They usually are minor updates to existing functionality that fill a gap but aren’t big enough to really broadcast.
In my first couple years at Zendesk, we would market all launches to at least some degree. Even Tier 3s would get a mention in our What’s New quarterly webinar and newsletter. As we’ve grown though, there are many more launches every quarter and so now we really focus marketing efforts on just the Tier 1s and Tier 2s. We’ve also become much more thoughtful about how we can group these launches together into a cohesive narrative with connected themes, so the intention and vision behind them is clearer for our customers. We also shifted towards timing them much more and pre COVID, that meant timing the big launches with our big in-person customer events.
As for teams to incorporate into a launch, it definitely depends on the tier since certain activities are only needed for your biggest launches and also how your company is organized. At Zendesk, for our big Tier 1 launches, we use a few buckets for the work needed that I’m hoping can help you to then think about what teams make sense at your org. Some of our buckets are:
- Launch education (think materials to help everyone at the company understand what this launch is about and why it matters, including the messaging and positioning PMM has created for the launch)
- Customer acquisition
- Customer expansion/retention
- Sales enablement and resources
- External communications (including to analysts/partners/other influencers)
- Internal communications
To measure a launch, we vary KPIs primarily based on what the launch is vs what tier it is. For example, is it something that will generate direct revenue or instead is more focused on adoption. Depending on what the launch is, we’ll have KPI goals across metrics like pipeline, bookings, web traffic, conversion rates, # of users, # of trialers, content and campaign engagement (open rates, click through rates, time spent viewing an asset, asset review scores), and sales satisfaction from enablement.
Having a documented tiering system across your full PMM organization is really important for a few reasons — it helps create consistency across marketers who might be working on different areas of your business; it creates efficiency to PMMs don't have to re-invent the wheel for each GTM; it helps set realistic expectations with product teams to know what to expect from a launch; it creates a useful internal shorthand to talk about how "big" GTM moments are; and it helps with benchmarking, so you can easily compare launches with the right comps.
I usually find four tiers to be the most helpful. If you have too many, they can quickly become semantic or meaningless. Your first tier is your biggest moments of the year where you light up all your channels with custom campaign work; your second tier is big, strategically important launches that you're going to activate most of your marketing channels for; your third tier is more routine updates that you might lightly market (a newsletter mention or tweet) and update customer documentation for; and your fourth tier is smaller updates you just want to internal comms on and maybe a Help Center tweak. To help build that internal short hand, you can give each tier a fun name that relates to your business — at Spotify, our four tiers are named after music terms from "Headliner" through "Backstage."
For each tier, you'll want clear guidance on what that means in terms of project timeline (how early will you start your marketing planning), scale of marketing work, stakeholders who get involved, and marketing channels that will usually be leveraged.
I'm going to break this out into two questions:
How do you tier launches?
Launches are tiered based on business impact (yes, I know, very "captain obvious.") My whole point here is that I make a judgment call based on data, company goals, competitive landscape, market opportunity.
For example, is this a feature/product/capability that is going to move the needle for your brand, competitive positioning, sales revenue, PR coverage, analysts?
I like to tier based on business impact, but another way to tier (if you haven't converged them) is to tier based on GTM resources that are going to be needed to support the launch.
I suggest not using an hard and fast rule for tiering. What's more important is aligning with your GTM stakeholders, your PM counterparts, and your business units. If you're unsure, send out a quick survey with a line asking why someone tiered it that way.
What KPIs do you assign each tier?
I'm going to answer this, without answering this. KPIs should be thoughtful and bespoke. Product marketing KPIs are typically qualitatitive so a good measure of success is always your GTM team's success.
PR pickup, analyst response, pitch deck downloads, blog traffic, time on site, CTR, pipeline generated... In areas for launch motions aren't mature (c'mon, we've all been there), I always ask team members for areas of improvement and track against them.
Ah-ha moment: If your GTM teams are successful, PMM is successful. Ask your GTM teams how to help them be successful and include those as PMM KPIs.
I've tried so many tiering methods! One that's working really well for us right now is something we made up based on the audience that "needs to know": Go Big, Tell Sales, Tell CS. Every quarter, we propose one story line to put in the Go Big bucket (typically several capabilities that ladder up to a unified story). That gets 80% of our efforts -- or at least, that's the goal! That's what we rally our marketing team around in terms of PR, social, analysts, content. If there are additional capabilities that are important to sales -- e.g., because they'll help sellers hit quota, competitively differentiate, or gives them a good reason to reach out, etc -- we put those in the Tell Sales category. That gets about 20% of our attention specifically around enablement and developing a few sales assets. Everything else lands in the Tell CS bucket, and enablement and communications happen through PM and tech pubs -- no PMM. I like this approach better than Tier 1, 2, 3 -- because it always felt like more things would end up in Tier 1 than we could actually support!
In terms of KPIs, one size doesn't usually fit all. Typically you want your Go Big items to be real needle movers for the company, which typically means they drive revenue. So pipeline, bookings, attach rate are often ones I've used. For smaller launches, adoption and usage are pretty common. If we're responding to a competitive gap, we would also track an increase in win rate or reduction in that item being a "reason lost". And sometimes, capabilities might lend themselves to NPS.
Most product marketers I've worked with are tuned in to new feature releases or creating effective comms for upcoming product improvements. For a product launch, however, it's almost always given the highest priority automatically. Most of the work is done to make sure the product itself is positioned correctly and that what we promise matches up in-product. All hands are on deck at a specified time for a large volume of page traffic and social comms.
With that said, I absolutely needed to prioritize various channels for the launch and assign KPIs per channel. When I was planning my launch strategy I evaluated ~25 different channels and placed them on a 2x2 grid based off of their relative effort vs impact. We had a small team and some channels barely made the cut, such as social channels.
I'm a big believer that marketing KPIs should more-or-less match up to what the product team cares about. For example, for Jira Work Management I worked with my corresponding PM to establish what we cared about (MAU), which sub-classifications of that goal were important (expand channel-driven MAU, conversion rate of top-of-funnel to MAU, etc), and monitored which marketing channels were most effective at driving those numbers. After the launch we evaluated the success of our bets to iterate for upcoming releases.
There are so many good responses to launch tiering here. I am going to focus on KPIs in my response here
I broadly categorize launch KPIs into three parts - Engagement, Adoption and Revenue
1. Engagement KPIs - measure engagement with launch content. Anything from # attendees, # visitors, # viewers, blog visits, email open rates/CTRs, PR pickup, social engagement (e.g. retweets) by channel. Irrespective of launch tier, super important to measure engagement of content leading up to the launch, actual launch attendance and post launch buzz (E.g. 7 day social mentions)
2. Adoption KPIs - For GA features, important to measure 7 day/30 day/90 day/180 day sign-up or adoption metrics. Could be no of users (e.g. WAU), or feature page visits, or other metrics you may have for your product's usage and adoption. For non-GA features, you typically want to look at sign-ups requests assuming you are running a limited preview/beta program
3. Revenue KPIs - Big fan of measuring ARR impact - particularly retention/expansion, and sometimes acquisition/new ARR. This is particularly important for Tier-1 launches with major market impact, and requiring major marketing treatment. Leading indicator here is pipeline / leads - either directly arising from launch events, or influenced by the launch. Not uncommon to accompany launch events with some physical ABM activations . Any new pipeline generated from those events is part of the launch impact. Any existing pipeline accelerated at those ABM events is part of the launch impact. That thinking can be applied to all new and existing opportunities influenced by ALL launch tactics - event attendance, webinars, trainings etc. Good launches are accompanied by thematic campaigns. e.g. at Qualtrics, when we launched our new AI features for our market research product, we ran campaigns/case studies/webinars/thought leadership on the importance of Intelligence. All marketing was working towards that message for a whole quarter. That led to a measurable bump in pipeline -- which we all quantified as launch impact.
Introducing a well-defined tiering system within the PMM organization presents a myriad of advantages, encompassing enhanced consistency, improved efficiency, clear expectations, and effective communication. For me, you can adopt a three-tiered approach to categorize launches, which is determined by a matrix aligning with the insights shared by @Teresa Haun, specifically focusing on business impact and market impact. For a more tangible understanding, click here to examine the matrix I use, where each launch tier is clearly indicated.
Regarding KPIs - they are carefully tailored according to the specific launch tier and the channels employed to reach our target audience, all while aligning with each activity across the different stages of the customer journey. Click here to see some of the KPIs we track for each tier.
I’ve seen many methods out there but what worked best for me in past companies was a category structure based on customer impact (taking into account existing and potential customers).
The lowest would be a functionality improvement and the highest would be a game changer in the market.
The way I think about KPIs is not by tier, it’s by launch. Your goals might be very different between launches even in the same category—or similar for some even in different categories.
A PMM leader I respect once said they choose 3 KPIs per launch and each of those are for different stakeholders in the business. I like that approach because it guarantees everyone has skin in the game and are working as one team.