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What are your best tools to leverage product launches? Where do you find the most challenging? When is Product Marketing involved in the launch?

4 Answers
Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
Panorama Education Head of Product MarketingSeptember 1

Great questions. Product Marketing should be involved, or at least aware of, every launch in my opinion. I think it's important to establish launch levels, or some process around it though - a very minor feature update shouldn't get the same amount of time dedicated as an all-new product line. At Iterable we have extra small, small, medium, and large launches and the set of activities we do for each is different - and shared with the product team as well so they're aware.

As far as tools, it's always evolving. Here are some that I use frequently though:

  • Google Docs/Spreadsheets: This is where a lot of the templates, process docs, and ideation for a launch takes place. We use Google Spreadsheets for our launch plan template so it's collaborative and everyone involved in the launch can hop-in and add/edit content.
  • Google Slides: Called this out separately because it's typically used for sharing messaging, organizing meeting agenda's, or things like that. It's definitely one of the top tools we use.
  • SurveyMonkey (in the past I used QuestionPro though - both are excellent): Having a survey tool will be a priceless resource as you conduct research.
  • Slack: We have a specific team channel for PMMs, and separate channels for bigger launches that we can easily communicate in.
  • Spotify/Apple Music: We all need time to get work done and focus, right? 

Also, it goes without saying we use our own product at Iterable to help promote launches. 

Jon Rooney
Jon Rooney
Unity Vice President Product MarketingSeptember 26

The best tool for a product launch is a single system of record that captures both the strategic "why? what are the goals?" as well as the tactical "who's doing what, by when?" in one clear, easily discoverable place. This could be a tool like Airtable, Asana, Monday or something as simple and universal as a well-structured Google doc/sheet. Whatever it is, pressure-test and socialize the plan template as much as possible with stakeholders across marketing, product, sales, customer success, etc. before launch work heats up so that folks can find it and grok it on their own. Of course, over-communication in the form of meetings, emails, Slacks, etc. is critical and a plan on a page is no substitute for this kind of constant communication, but a single system of record is a load-bearing wall for any launch. Conversely, the most challenging thing you can face in a launch is the lack of a single system of record plan, either because fractured details are trapped in team silos or (be vigilant against this) there are multiple systems of record spun up by different teams with different tools that will only cause pain and confusion. As the PMM lead, you own the launch so not only are you involved from inception and responsible for driving through to the end, but you're responsible for ensuring that there's a single, definitive plan, so be prepared to stamp out any rogue competing plans.

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingSeptember 28

This is a 3-part question, so I'm giving you a 3-part answer:

1) The best tools:

I’m going to answer the “tools” part of your question by talking about four documents I find critical for successful launches:

  1. GTM overview doc—This is a pretty detailed, dense document whose only audience is really PMM and PMs. It’s the place to document the thinking for the following bullet points, and it ensures that PM and PMM are entirely aligned on what is launching, how it helps customers, how it will be messaged, and how it will be tested with customers and then rolled out. No one really likes this document, but this thinking does need to happen in an organized, well-communicated place. It contains:

    1. GTM plan overview

    2. Customer overview

    3. Product overview

    4. Competitive analysis

    5. Pricing & packaging

    6. Early Access Program plan

    7. Messaging framework

    8. Marketing promotion plan

    9. Sales & CS enablement & training

    10. Final assets

    11. Post-launch debrief

    12. Results and impact

  2. Launch plan of record deck—This is higher level, visual deck that includes a summary of the goals and messaging, the launch timing (it can include a Gantt chart), and then a section for each of the launch-related activities (e.g., owned channels, PR/earned channels, paid channels, partner marketing, enablement, internal comms). This deck’s audience spans all cross-functional partners, and should be polished enough for the executive team to understand what to expect for launch, with an executive summary at the top. It is a living document:

    • 1st, it is a planning outline

    • 2nd, it becomes the central repository for final asset approvals

    • 3rd, it becomes an archive of the final details and assets, and

    • 4th, it becomes an impact report that shows performance metrics for each individual effort and for the overarching success of the launch compared to the goals

  3. Creative brief—This document needs to be kept lightweight, and there will likely be multiple creative briefs for each launch-related activity that different cross-functional teams collaborate on. The audience is your creative partners and channel owners. It should include enough information about the goals, context, and ask so that your creative partners and channel owners can either collaborate on it with you, or feel they have enough space to run with the project as strategic partners to imagine how it could come to life. If you provide the right context, this document will feel more like a brief and less like a prescriptive task. I’ve created a 1-page template for this with the bullet points below. If you’re looking for something more robust, my friend and former colleague, Kira Klaas, developed this incredible Campaign Brief Notion template. Shorter creative brief content:

    1. Deliverable

    2. Background

    3. Goal

    4. Audience & their mindset

      • Build out the GetToBy framework: 

      • Get the target audience to take a certain action by [what action do we want them to take?]

    5. Key Message

    6. Creative considerations & look and feel (deliverables & specs)

    7. Timing

    8. Expected return

    9. Budget

    10. Distribution plan

  4. Customer journey map—This is a diagram that you can work on within PMM or in partnership with your Design team. The audience is PMM, Designers, and anyone working on the creative briefs outlined above. I like to use Figma’s FigJams for this—the exercise of mapping out and sequencing how a prospect/customer will engage with the materials and messages you’re creating is a critical early step to ensure you don’t end up with a clunky user experience at the end. It should include all the “entry points” (such as, the user visits your webpage, a product page, a LinkedIn post) → the CTA you want them to click → the landing page(s) that opens → the CTA on those pages (e.g., request demo, contact sales) → the confirmation email they get → the content that email links to → and so on…until you’ve mapped out all the flows and are certain that you’re creating the right assets to make it a consistent and friction-less journey.

2) The biggest challenges: (1) Changing product readiness timelines. (2) Not enough communication. (3) Misalignment on goals.

3) When Product Marketing should get involved: As early as possible! PMMs can help inform the product roadmap.

Holly Xiao
Holly Xiao
Salesloft Director of Product MarketingMay 28

Product marketing should be involved in the launch process as early as possible. In an ideal world, we’re involved before product development even starts to align on the perception the business wants to drive in the market and ensure that there’s a compelling, differentiated narrative. This also gives you the opportunity to do market research, customer interviews, and competitive analysis to help shape the product’s features/scope and positioning. However, that’s not always the case, and it really depends on the maturity of the wider business. So if you find yourself getting pulled in later, you’d still want to work with Product to define the go-to-market strategy, messaging, and positioning. You just might have a tighter turnaround time or need to do more internal change management. 

I firmly believe that PMMs are the quarterbacks of a product launch, so you’re always the SME and strategic driver of the launch. In that sense, you’re involved from the beginning to post-launch activities such as retros, metrics, and product improvements.

The challenges of launches really differ from company to company. But generally, the most frequent challenges I’ve seen are around: 

  • Cross-functional alignment and coordination: how do we bring everyone along as early as possible? How do we keep everyone informed on updates? How do we problem-solve as a group without having too many cooks in the kitchen? 

  • Internal enablement: How do we ensure that teams are all trained before launch? How do we ensure that GTM teams aren’t overwhelmed? How do we ensure that Sales and CS have ample time to execute strategies post-enablement?

The best tools I’ve used for launches are Asana for project management, for persona interviews, and Productboard for visibility into customer feedback & roadmaps.

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