Teresa Haun

Teresa HaunShare

Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, Zendesk
Content
Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

When I think about the most successful launches my team and I have done, they all included 1) a clear go-to-market strategy with leadership and stakeholders bought in, 2) strong communication and partnership across cross-functional teams, 3) effective sales enablement, and 4) success metrics and estimates for what we expected to deliver set in advance.

Having a clear go-to-market strategy that includes all the key considerations and all stakeholders aligned sets the stage for a successful launch. It’s so much easier when all the critical teams for the launch have had a chance to weigh in and feel confident in the determined approach. As part of this, it’s especially important that leadership across these teams is in agreement early in the launch process. Without leadership buy-in early on, I’ve seen launches have a last minute shift in direction that then significantly impacts the launch, as it’s hard to change course so late in the game. It definitely adds more work upfront to get stakeholders bought in early, but in my experience, it’s well worth it.


Strong communication and partnership across cross-functional teams also leads to a great launch. If there is a change suddenly to the approach, everyone that’s impacted is quickly informed and can work collaboratively to figure out how to adapt. When teams are also acting as true partners, it’s so much smoother to get each step done. When there’s a gap in what’s needed from one team, another is willing to jump in and help, viewing the entire launch as a shared effort vs a piece from this team and another from that team.

Effective sales enablement is another hallmark of a successful launch. Your sales team has to adequately understand what is launching, why it matters, and how to sell it. One of the ways we ensured enablement was effective for a big launch of a new product plan was through a completely separate session than the way the sales team was usually enabled, so they knew it was especially important. We did a ton of vetting in advance with sales leaders to ensure what we presented would work for their teams and we also made it fun and engaging. We had 10 different speakers from across the company, including the President of Sales, and lots activities and learning checks to ensure the team was truly absorbing everything from the session.

Lastly, I would say establishing success metrics and estimates for what you expect to deliver in advance of a launch also sets you up for an effective launch. Beyond how well the team worked together and how smooth of a launch it was, ultimately what determines if a launch was successful or not is if it actually delivered impact for your customers and business. Deciding how you’re going to measure that impact and what you predict you will deliver is key to aligning on in advance of the launch, so you can fairly evaluate if the launch performed and exceeded expectations. By creating estimates for what you expect to deliver in advance, you’re forced to evaluate if all of the planned activities in the launch are actually enough. Using past performance for similar tactics, you can create a bottom-up forecast for how much pipeline, bookings, etc the launch should deliver and evaluate if it meets what the business needs top-down. If it doesn’t, it’s an opportunity in advance of the launch to then reevaluate the planned tactics to ensure they have a fighting chance at delivering what’s actually needed to be deemed successful.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

I would suggest establishing process and structure around launches, like determining the tier and then based on the tier having a launch template with the typical activities and teams to engage. More detail in my response on this question: https://sharebird.com/ama/zendesk-director-of-product-marketing-teresa-haun-on-product-launches?answer=DjEBP934m2

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

I think adequate demand for a launch comes down to ensuring all of the planned activities for the launch are actually enough to deliver what’s expected and needed for the business. Sounds like you might already have top-down targets for what the business needs to deliver on that launch, so now it’s about ensuring when you roll up a bottom-up forecast from all of the tactics planned, you think you’re in a good position to deliver what’s needed. You can create a bottom-up forecast for pipeline, bookings, etc using past performance for similar tactics applied to your expected audience sizes in this launch.

In case you don’t have any top-down guidance, a good way to set expectations is to still do that bottom-up roll-up and establish success metrics and estimates for what you expect to deliver in advance of the launch. Deciding how you’re going to measure impact and what you predict you will deliver is key to aligning on in advance of the launch, so that it’s fairly evaluated. I’d suggest making sure stakeholders in the launch are bought into this expected performance, so you can make sure everyone is aligned on expectations upfront. In case anyone thinks what’s forecasted is not enough, you have the chance in advance of the launch to reevaluate the planned tactics to ensure they have a fighting chance at delivering what’s actually needed to be deemed successful.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

An iterative release can still count as a launch, just likely a small launch (in case you’re curious about the tiers we use at Zendesk to determine size, just talked about that on this question https://sharebird.com/ama/zendesk-director-of-product-marketing-teresa-haun-on-product-launches?answer=DjEBP934m2). It comes down to whether you want to go ahead and announce iterative releases as they’re ready or if you want to wait until enough are done to make a bigger announcement together. I’ve done both before but do tend to like making some noise about an iterative release to share what’s coming and to start to build interest and excitement for the longer term vision. To do that, Product and Product Marketing need to have enough confidence about what’s coming next and when, so they aren’t painting a picture for development that won’t actually happen. When we do have this confidence though, the build up can be very effective. Often I think it gives more attention and promotion overall to those collective iterative releases than they would have had if they were all saved to just announce in one big moment together. They still ultimately get that big moment when all of the pieces are ready, but they also got lots of little ones along the way and built more interest and anticipation for those pieces coming together.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

This question is very similar to this other one https://sharebird.com/ama/zendesk-director-of-product-marketing-teresa-haun-on-product-launches?answer=DjEBP934m2 so I'm sharing my answer from there here too:

At Zendesk, we 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.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

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.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

This question is very similar to this other one https://sharebird.com/ama/zendesk-director-of-product-marketing-teresa-haun-on-product-launches?answer=mZxqPwjEr5 so sharing my answer from there here too:

At Zendesk, the vast majority of our functionality is global so almost every launch is a global launch. We determine the general approach and strategy that we think should work across all regions, but then partner with regional teams to understand how they may want to adjust specifically for their areas. Our regional teams localize pretty much everything, including campaigns and assets, so they’re determining what’s relevant for their markets and what isn’t. There are definitely times where they deem certain functionality isn’t relevant for their market. For example, one of the products my team owns only covered limited languages for a long time, so our APAC region in particular didn’t find much benefit from it. To address this, we worked with the APAC team to find ways to still promote the product where it made sense. For example, splitting their audience further to segments that did use the supported languages and therefore would still find that product relevant. We also would collaborate on how to address those gaps for the other segments through workarounds where we had them.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

At Zendesk, the vast majority of our functionality is global so almost every launch is a global launch. We’ve had some very specific regional launches like GDPR, certain voice partners, and messaging channels that are primarily concentrated in select regions, but those are pretty rare. When it is one of those more rare regional launches though, we definitely rely more on our regional teams to understand the nuances and important considerations for that area. For global launches, we determine the general approach and strategy that we think should work across all regions, but then partner with regional teams to understand how they may want to adjust specifically for their areas. Our regional teams localize pretty much everything, including campaigns and assets, so they’re determining what’s relevant for their markets and what isn’t. There are definitely times where they deem certain functionality isn’t relevant for their market. For example, one of the products my team owns only covered limited languages for a long time, so our APAC region in particular didn’t find much benefit from it. To address this, we worked with the APAC team to find ways to still promote the product where it made sense. For example, splitting their audience further to segments that did use the supported languages and therefore would still find that product relevant. We also would collaborate on how to address those gaps for the other segments through workarounds where we had them.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, ZendeskDecember 2

I’ve heard two terms used before to describe product marketing’s role in a launch that really resonate with me and I think accurately sum up what we do. The first is “launch captain” and the second is “momentum maker” (credit to @Marcus Andrews for that one). Product marketing is the “captain” that brings all of the other cross-functional teams together to bring a launch to life. We sit in the middle of Product, Marketing and Sales and are the bridge between them to determine how we can best market a launch across all of the many workstreams and activities that go into it. I think the second term “momentum maker” is also a perfect way to describe this work as product marketing does so much to explain and convince other teams why each launch matters, building that momentum and excitement across the company.

As for how to ensure a launch is smooth, I think the most important elements are clear communication, strong collaboration, and solid organization. Especially in a big launch, there are so many different teams involved and tons of different workstreams, that it’s incredibly important that everyone impacted is quickly informed when there’s a change, teams are working cohesively together, and everything is tracked well to understand progress and potential risks.

As a launch gets started, some of the biggest deliverables from PMM are an overview of what is launching and the messaging and positioning for why it matters. At Zendesk, we usually do this through a couple docs. The first is much more concise and an overview of what is launching, how it works and who it’s available to/will appeal to, screenshots or demos, why it matters, and value props. The second is much more meaty and what we call a messaging source document. The messaging source doc dives into those same elements in the overview but in much more detail and is usually only used by teams like campaigns or content that need to know much more detail around areas like messaging, positioning, and target audiences. For the majority of teams though, the overview is the level of detail they need. We also separately pull together other resources like customer testimonials and validation for example for PR, content, and sales enablement.

In terms of what gets handed off to other teams, product marketing is pretty involved in every step of the launch, even if other teams are the main drivers of certain parts. We use those docs mentioned above to educate other teams on the launch and give them a go-to resource, but then PMM stays involved in the strategy and reviews of almost all of the workstreams as they’re developed and executed.

Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications, Zendesk
Credentials & Highlights
Senior Director, Technology Marketing and Communications at Zendesk
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Top 10 Product Marketing Contributor
Lives In San Francisco, California
Knows About Product Launches, Product Marketing / Demand Gen Alignment, Product Marketing Intervi...more