Do you have a product launch template that shows what teams (and when) to incorporate into the preparation of a strategy/plan?
At Zendesk, we do 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.
Yes, templates can be helpful, as long as they don't limit your creativity and thinking. Sometime you can get into a "rinse and repeat" rhythm with product launches and miss bigger opportunities — and a really rigid launch template can create that dynamic.
One resource I've found to be effective to help other teams know how/when to plug in is a "Teams We Work With" document. Organized in phases (discovery, development, strategy building, GTM rollout), it details each of the teams that PMM engages with and 3-4 sentences about how we work with them. It helps create transparency about who's involved, awareness of just how many teams are involved, and clarity on when stakeholders should expect to jump in.
GTM brief templates can be helpful, too, with the right flexibility — with ample space to share target audiences, goals & KPIs, risks, timeline, GTM channels, creative assets needed, FAQ, etc.
We talked a lot about that in another question on this AMA - teams like PMM, product management, content, sales enablement, customer marketing, events, demand gen, and the Pricing and Packaging team that have to be involved.
PMM needs to involve people from the content team, from the sales readiness and the sales enablement team, the customer marketing team, events, demand gen, product management, Pricing and Packaging. So it's all across the board. Then when you do that, you build a Bill of Material (BOM) and you can try to break it down with the RACI for each and every asset. Clearly define who owns the production and the approval of each asset in the BOM.
Ryane Bohm and myself actually spend some time explaining these steps in details in our presentation given at a product bootcamp and called “Building the ultimate playbook launching new products”, check it out:
Every organization looks dramatically different, so I don't think there's one size fits all for a template. I would generally say:
1. Understand what problem you're solving
2. Understand what skills are important in solving this problem (ie., you'll need somebody creative, you'll need some research, you'll need some analytical fire power.)
3. Recruit the folks you need early.
4. Think about all the ways something can go wrong. Plan for paths of failure or contingencies. Where are there risks and soft spots in a plan. Make sure risks are known and have other teams (ie., support, account manager) aware of those risks so they're not caught off guard.
Over communicate in a launch. I've never had anybody in an organization tell me I'm communicating too much.
Yes! At HubSpot we had a template for this, and I’ve created one at Iterable as well. I think there are a few phases of a launch that include different people from your organization.
Phase 1: Research - Every product launch HAS to start with research. This is a phase I find many PMMs skip, but the importance can’t be overstated - it’s where you get all the detail that will inform all your next steps. Typically this phase includes PMM, PM, Customer Marketing (if you’re surveying existing customers), and CSMs (if you’re talking to existing customers).
Phase 2: Execution - Typically this is when the product team is building a product/feature, and as a PMM you should be working on positioning, messaging, launch plan, and beginning to get buy-in across teams. Towards the middle-to-end of this phase you’ll want to get Sales & Services/Support Enablement, Customer Marketing, Demand Gen, Brand/PR, Content Marketing, PM, and Analytics/BI all bought-in. Ideally you can start a cross functional meeting with a representative from each of these groups to discuss the launch.
Phase 3: (Public) Beta - Generally when a product goes to public beta, it’s not too far away from a full launch. Your positioning should be finalized, your launch plan should be buttoned up, and you should be having those cross-functional meetings more frequently now that the launch is approaching you’ll need to get approval, and begin to plan actual go-live times.
Phase 4: Launch - Plan a launch day “war room” with all of the key stakeholders needed from the teams mentioned in Phase 2. I’d also make sure executives are included here.
Also as a PMM, you should think about what the post-launch growth plan looks like (again, for large launches). It’s very likely you’ll need help from many of the teams I’ve mentioned here so you can keep up the momentum by having this plan early and getting their buy-in.