What is the best cadence for gathering stakeholder feedback in preparation for a launch?
Not all launches are created equal, so it’s important to have a t-shirt sizing exercise upfront to determine how large a launch is (and hence what level of effort/mix of activities should be dedicated to launch). Once that’s done, the sooner we can put a launch plan in place, socialize that, and kick-off the launch process, the better.
The process can then include checkpoints like getting the messaging finalized, locking the website copy, etc. with each activity having a mini-process to get sign-off (ideally using something like the DACI framework) based on when things need to be ready for the GA date.
You just want to avoid surprises and last-minute launches where possible (easier said than done, I know :)).
This is a good question. It depends how much buffer time you have leading to launch and whether you’re in a comfortable place to execute on each phase and collect feedback at each step. For me, I often need different people’s input at different stages.
The two stages I need input in most are 1) after drafting positioning, messaging, and high level launch tactics and 2) about a four to two weeks ahead of the launch to ensure there’s time to make any last minute adjustments.
That said, stakeholders who are key to executing on that plan should be looped in much more frequently in the stages between step 1 and 2 above. Marketing colleagues and product and engineering stakeholders who own marketing surfaces should be consulted often.
One thing I’ve learned the hard way, is that you need to be very explicit about the type of feedback you’re looking for in a given stage. It can also be good to note if there’s a particular portion of the plan you’d like stakeholders to look closely at or if there’s a deadline for feedback.
I’ve found it helps to have a living document that you update as needed. If I make any bigger changes to the plan of record, I tag stakeholders who need to know and/or message a broader group in the Slack channel about the launch.
As often as possible. Launches are exciting for all departments - so questions and input can definitely start increasing the closer you get to GA, launch date. To help with this, create opportunities to communicate your launch plan to each team. Tailor the message to your audience as Sales will have interests around pricing, packaging, target audience, dates; while CS will have questions about customer environment changes, reporting impacts, and shifts to rules/established workflows.
Outside of communicating the launch plan, also work to communicate how your launch will run through stages such as Beta/Definition Partnership, Limited Availability, and General Availability. Those are key opportunities to infuse customer and field input into your plan.
Yes, there will be a time when feedback can no longer impact the launch, but there should be a clear path forward for how the feedback will/could impact the v2 of the feature/product in terms of the next release or sprint.
This is a great question. Managing stakeholders is such a huge part of the product marketing role - and it can quickly become unweidly if not managed properly.
I think the cadence is really personal to what kind of lead-time your team has running up to a launch and the size of your teams, etc. But I can give some insight into the key milestones where we are solict stakeholder feedback with clear guidelines on 1. what kind of feedback we're looking for 2. timeline 3. setting expectations around how feedback will be incorporated:
- Messaging guide complete
- Campaign concept & creative direction defined (for larger launches)
- Channel owners define their activation tactics
- LP wireframe (near-final copy and page outline/structure)
- Final campaign assets
- Pricing & Packaging decision
- 3 weeks prior to launch full End-to-End review
There may be a few other key moments but these are usually the most cross-functional and need the most alignment across sales, marketing and product.
It varies as you proceed in the various stages of the product development and GTM. For example, in the early product development phase, It is more ad-hoc where I rely heavily on the customer feedback through our customer interviews / focus groups / surveys to ensure our team clearly understands the customers' needs. I gather feedback with the core team that is in those same customer research sessions to help synthesize what we're hearing from the customer. Then as I prepare for the pilot and launch, I typically share my plan and gather feedback from all my cross-functional stakeholders (E.g., sales, customer support, marketing) to ensure we're thinking through all the details. For these sessions, i normally set a kick-off session and use the regular weekly or bi-weekly meeting cadence to get this feedback regularly. For senior leadership, we have key weekly exec Ops Co meetings where you can schedule time to get feedback.
Hey - Thanks for the question!
Short answer - Early. and. often.
Get stakeholders in a room early on and set the cadence with them. When I was at Zendesk, we used a RACI model when it comes to ownership and development of launch assets. Set this and then decide when you want folks to review. My take is that it's always best to share before you're ready. Sometimes it can be hard to do because you receive critical feedback BUT that feedback helps immensely with whatever you're trying to do.
As for major launches, we typically get everyone together weekly for an hour and have various stakeholders walk through their deliverables and give the group space to provide feedback. For deliverables that are a bit larger, we sometimes have a detailed track where we meet and talk through feedback on a bi-weekly cadence to ensure things are moving along smoothly.
There is no one-size-fits-all here; this depends on the size of your company (the smaller it is, the easier it will be to keep everyone on the same page) and scope of the launch (the smaller it is, the less necessary it is to get everyone together). What's most important is to set a cadence up-front w/ your XFN stakeholders that makes sense for your org.
Because a launch has so many different moving parts across very distinct disciplines, it is always handy to be agile as pivots may occur.
The best cadence for gathering stakeholder feedback is throughout the launch process - at the beginning, during the middle and definitely at the end.
There are different stakeholders that you want to involve at the various stages of a launch. If unsure, you can use a RACI to determine who is in the “need to get” vs “nice to get” feedback camp.
In the beginning, the alignment on launch goals, deliverables and roles/responsibilities of each department are crucial to get started. I spend more time on getting stakeholder feedback here to make sure we are all working towards an aligned vision and expectations. However, it has always been my experience that new information or changes in direction from the leadership team makes the middle checkpoint necessary.
In the middle, I “gut check” with the stakeholders to make sure the components for a successful launch are on the right track. Usually, these stakeholders are the “practitioners” who are doing the actual implementation of the different components of launch. If changes are needed, this is the time to gather those new requirements to minimize the impact on the launch timeline.
At the end, this is broken into 2 parts: the actual launch and the post-mortem/learnings from the launch. This group of stakeholder feedback is pretty diverse because I want to understand their point of view on how the launch impacted their teams or their account list in ways I did not anticipate at the beginning of the launch preparation. This feedback is the most valuable in terms of helping you refine your process, who to include for stakeholder feedback at the beginning of the next launch, and as a resource for creative ideas.
Different ways to get the feedback include: 1:1s, Office Hours, Workshops, Councils. Find what works best for you, the stakeholders, and the project depending on what type of feedback is needed.
We tend to take a pretty standardized approach for leading launches with my team. First we do a kickoff meeting with key stakeholders/deliverable owners across sales and marketing where we cover the target persona, problem and positioning of the new launch (shared early as a pre-read too) including a proposal of launch deliverables like emails, blog posts and their proposed owners. We then open for discussion on the proposal, requesting suggestions for additional opportunities and feedback.
Stakeholder feedback can get more complex with high-stakes messaging like for price increases or XL launches. In those cases we build a tiered review schedule with deadlines (can use a RAPID to build tiers), and often request teams comment their feedback in the launch plan/comms content/deliverables schedule at the same time to uncover conflicts in what may be subjective feedback across teams. Then we follow up with a meeting to hash out any conflicting comments.
Here’s a framework to build a cadence for gathering stakeholder feedback during launch prep -
Build some basic assets for team members to align on, such as:
Launch FAQ: A 2-3 page doc on key facts around the launch
Deck version of the FAQ doc: To get a buy in from business leadership, so that functional leaders can be looped in.
Set up one on one alignment calls (over zoom / MS Teams) with functional leaders (like heads of consumer marketing, branding, design etc.):
Get their input & feedback on the launch plan, deliverables & timelines.
Goal is to enroll them as your sponsor, so that you get the required from functional team members.
Nudge the functional head to nominate a POC from his / her team.
Set up a call with functional head, functional POC and other team members for a detailed alignment call:
Have a discussion on four key areas:
Context Sharing a.k.a a preliminary call / meeting where PMM shares adequate context with team members, so that they are on the same page with us.
Input Gather a.k.a call out inputs needed from functional team members (such as feedback on messaging, inputs on campaign plan etc).
It has two benefits -
It gets them invested into your launch project
You can incorporate their feedback, course correct and avoid push-backs at a later stage.
Projects a.k.a launch campaign related deliverables that are to be jointly driven by functional teams & you. Get feedback on key tasks & due dates.
Dependency & Call Outs a.k.a probe channel owners for dependencies & constraints that might be a blocker for project deliverables. This could include items such as:
Other high priority projects running in parallel
Once you align across these four key areas (also called Alignment Types) - you could set up a launch prep kick off call with all functional heads, function wise POCs and other team members.
Post this kick off call - you can set up:
Daily standup with your pod members ( smaller groups who are actually working on the deliverables)
Bi-weekly standups with POC to remove blockers
Weekly / Bi-monthly meetings with functional heads to call out issues where leadership intervention is needed for off-track projects.
To achieve this goal, I’m building a **Notion based Asana alternative for PMMs to help them run such cross-functional cadence for launch prep, from a single dashboard.