What are common mistakes you see Product Marketers make when launching products?
Using launch messaging that over-focuses on the nuts and bolts of the product itself, instead of using the launch opportunity to highlight the broader value of the product line. (Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, using launch messaging that is so high-level that customers and prospects can’t figure out what’s new and different and how they can use it for success.)
Not writing things down. Not providing broadly-available internal-facing resources to make it easy for stakeholders to learn about upcoming and recent launches.
Being order-takers from Product Managers. PMs are very important partners for PMMs, and the PM should feel free to express their suggestions and feedback on how new products are taken to market. (Just as PMMs should feel free to express their suggestions and feedback on which products are prioritized on roadmap, and how products are built.) But at the end of the day, PMs are the decision makers on product strategy, and PMMs are the decision makers on go-to-market strategy.
Not working as early in the pre-launch period to assemble a launch team of cross-functional stakeholders, and involve them closely in the planning for an important launch. A PMM who tries to execute on an important launch in isolation is setting themselves up for failure, even if their individual execution and quality of launch deliverables is strong.
Not setting up ongoing listening posts to continually gather info on what customers want and what's happening in the market. This info will prove valuable with every new launch.
This is something I discuss with a lot of product marketing leaders because we naturally want to figure out how to do better. I’ll offer 3 mistakes I see a fair amount - but if you have a particular challenge, reach out to me on LinkedIn and I’m happy to help.
Communication: Regardless of the size of your organiztion, you should be communicating relevant updates to all the stakeholders. In some cases, that may mean the entire company or a broader project team - or even an entire team like marketing, or sales. Oftentimes I see PMMs send an email and expect that everyone is then on the same page. Empathy is incredibly important to our roles, so understand that if you have CSMs, they are likely on the phone most of the day with customers. Your sales team is likely in meetings with prospects most of the day. So they may not have time to fully read and comprehend your email - so offering other ways and channels of communicating this can be important.
Deep understanding of the buyer/market: Product marketing is a unique group that sits at the intersection of so many teams, and as a result, often gets pulled in a lot of different directions. Because of that, sometimes it can be easy to de-prioritize listening to customer/prospect calls on Gong, or reading that latest thought leadership article, or even writing your own and getting feedback. But the act of doing these things will keep you connected to your market and is so important. Especially now with buying patterns and habits changing, the landscape is evolving quickly so it's more important than ever to do this. On Monday I spent the morning listening to some call recordings in Gong and then distilled the takeaways for my team and put them in our shared Slack channel. This is a way to ensure we're all on the same page and also learning from one another.
- Considering a launch a one-time, or one-day, event: I still do this from time-to-time as well to be candid. Big launches should be more than a single day event, it should be a series intended to educate and inform the market (and reach your business goals), and ideally it starts ahead of the launch with training your internal teams on the launch as well. A lot of PMMs think of a launch at a specific day and time, rather than a series of content or events that help grow momentum and your voice in the market.
1) Waiting for something new from the product team to launch vs. designing a launch around a strategic company goal
2) Going to market with messaging that matches what the produc team gave them vs. coming up with messaging for your target customer
3) Trying to do too many things (emails, content, channels, etc) in the launch vs. focusing on the few things that will get you to your launch goal
4) Not setting an attainable short term launch goal and then delivering on a brilliant launch but not being able to explain the success of it to your management team.
Probably the top one -- and one I've been guilty of in the past -- is not setting objectives and measures of success for a launch. I've seen this most often at companies that are earlier in their maturity, before a formalized business case process is in place to greenlight projects. But you don't need a formal process to at least sit down with your PM counterpart and discuss things like "is this a product that we expect to drive revenue? Or is it about reducing customer churn/increasing stickiness? Something else?" Then, ideally set a target around it. The targets help a lot when it comes to post-launch to figure out if you're tracking or if you need to make adjustments to your approach.
The other one I've seen is not socializing early and often with sales and customer success teams. Early in my career, I participated in a new product intro that we treated as kind of a "skunkworks" effort. There was a desire to minimize too many voices that the leader felt would slow down the project. But when it came time to launch, the product didn't have support from the field. It ultimately failed. It was a great learning experience for me, and now I know how important it is to bring people along for the ride and develop your champions early.
Here are a few common product launch pitfalls to keep top of mind:
- Lack of sponsor and executive buy-in
- Not communicating broadly enough internally
- Cross-functional meetings with way too many people
- Over-indexing on product vs. business pains
- Selling on features/functions, not benefits/value
- Messaging changes the week prior
- Competing outbound activations
- Underestimate enablement