What are some innovative launch activities you've done that were successful (or not so successful)?
- At Bluestacks in 2011, we were gearing up to launch software that let you run any Android app on a Windows PC. I had letterpressed wedding invitations made for the union of Android and Windows and sent them to around 100 thought-leaders in tech including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos etc. It included a link to an early VIP alpha version of the product. Around 30 of them went to the link and Kevin Rose wrote us a nice tweet. When we launched weeks later we ended up with 20X the downloads we expected. https://media.licdn.com/media-proxy/ext?w=800&h=800&f=n&hash=0SRr14RlusGwCMBdeP94gF3%2B%2Buw%3D&ora=1%2CaFBCTXdkRmpGL2lvQUFBPQ%2CxAVta9Er0Vinkhwfjw8177yE41y87UNCVordEGXyD3u0qYrdfyO9cM7Xf7amuVtEeiwclFI0f_L5QznpD5S-IovnK9V12MPicY24ZxUBbFImi24
- The next year we launched our Mac version. After the success of a "Mr.Android" infographic I'd put out the year before showing what the average Android user was like in a bizarre way, we followed up with Ms.Mac. Both went legitimately viral, leading to interviews on NPR and with ABC News. http://mashable.com/2012/12/27/mr-android-meet-ms-mac/#Lp3RsI82Igq7
- To commemorate the combination of Mac and Android, we threw an actual wedding for the same launch at Google I/O, complete with a tent, cake, bridesmaids and a Tim Cook lookalike. The tent was filled with press and it got great pickup. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZgE1_IHXNA
- Too many to list! If you don't have lots of these ("It felt so right, but the data says it was so wrong!") then try more ways to break through!
In a previous role, it had been awhile since the team I was working with had shipped anything. We were heading into the holidays and I was starting to worry about demonstrating momentum, especially as our sales team worked to hit their quotas. A ton of small features were in the works but nothing that was going to cut through the noise of holidays etc. I convinced the team to do a “12 days of Christmas” release schedule (which we ended up making non-denominational of course). Starting Dec 1 we released 12 features in 12 days. Sure did make a splash and got people to pay attention. :)
I think where I’ve been less successful in a launch is getting too caught up in the internal excitement and not spending enough time with customers—and then being that voice of reason internally. Honing this voice and sharing feedback on how customers perceive a feature can be little daunting earlier in your career, especially if someone else internally feels the feature is going to be revolutionary. It might be—or it might need that one extra insight you get from doing your due diligence with customers.
Success = Changed the behavior of the customer to embrace the transformative shift.
For every successful launch, we were able to change the behavior of the customer, and the customer created a habit to use that experience.
We think about metrics that will show a behavior shift of the customer, not just general revenue or product adoption uplift. For example, retention numbers on the new product matched with growth will show if this is a change in behavior, or if it's simply a blip due to strong marketing.
ex) When we launched Spotify Video Ads we tracked the contribution of revenue coming from the new product as well as repeat customers, not just overall revenue growth of the company. The company was gaining users all of the time and launching new markets, so we had to isolate revenue growth. After 1 year we had diviserfied our revenue so video accounted for 25% of our ads revenue for 30+days, which was a HUGE change shift and the number was growing.
Ensure you have a behavior metric of what you want to drive, and build the goals of your launch based on that metric.
Failures = Launches with no change behaviors, and led to confusion or spreading thin of resources that do not drive business benefit.
I've launched a few of these, and these actually tend to be rolled back or deprecated. I have managed several deprecations in my career as well. There tends to be be deprecations that are in or out of your control. Understand what factors are in and out of your control, and that will also help you make the right decisions on how to move forward.
In control: When I see failures that were in the product team's control it's due to a really poor alpha or beta test where you didn't recruit enough diversity into the beta or didn't really dig deeper into understanding the why the product. A strong, fast feedback loop to customers built with challengers (people you want to drive adoption with and who don't use your product) and cheerleaders (people who love the product) will give you earlier indications of this before you invest a huge amount of resources into a launch. They will give you the ability to pivot, and make the product better.
Out of your control: I've seen failures occur when the product was amazing and it was too early to market, and too late. Otherwise, a company or executive team ran out of funding and needed to divert resources. A lot of these are out of your control, and isolating the goal and expectations can also help your team move quickly in the analysis.
One of my favorite activations that we did was super early on Uber Eats was we produced a bunch of fortune cookies with fun fortunes and promo codes in them. Then we distributed them to drivers to give to passengers in the back of their Ubers. The idea was to help convert Riders to try Uber Eats. It was a fun idea, but it was largely unsuccessful simply because it was such a large operational lift. The saying is do things that don't scale, but sometimes, things that don't scale also don't work!