Some companies have a great engine for developing products. Approval, requirements and the development process all work well to reliably develop new stuff. But then things go wrong. Something happens at launch. The product isn’t anywhere near as successful as expected. So to fill the revenue gap and hit revenue targets they try and speed up their release of new stuff and rush to build the next thing … and the next.
This can happen regardless of whether Waterfall or Agile development is being used. So what’s going wrong and what should product managers be doing about it?
Of course, the products need to be addressing problems that are important to customers. We talk about this issue in our requirements, market analysis, and propositions journals. And there’s the natural hype and subsequent lull that goes with launching anything new. However, the focus of this post is another area where many companies struggle – having a strong launch to give products the best possible foundation for success.
In the manic period running up to launch, when development & trials are still being completed and you start working with more and more people to take the product to market, it’s easy to ‘drop the ball’. So, the first thing is to get yourself a launch checklist.
This should include everything necessary to bring a product to market. Typical sections include proposition; development; internal processes; legal; pricing; channels, promotional activities, collateral, and support. A comprehensive list can be found in our Launching Journal but you should tailor this to fit your company and products.
In addition to the checklist, here are 7 things we see going wrong at launch and some product marketing tips to help:
1. Plan ahead
A lot of marketing and training activities take time to set up – you need to understand these timescales and make sure you’re engaging different teams in good time. Manage the stakeholders with a regular status update (we’ve got a great template for this). And use scenario planning and dry-runs on processes to find and resolve any problems in ordering, delivering or supporting the product.
2. Sales and marketing material
needs to be available where people will be looking for it: websites for your customers, SharePoint or other repositories for internal teams. Keep to a standard format and layout so it’s easy for the reader to absorb.
3. Motivate and support your sales teams and channels
Selling something unfamiliar can be risky and difficult. The risk of being embarrassed in front of a client or of letting them down with poor product delivery can jeopardize long-held relationships and the sales of other products. Salespeople need persuading the new product will be well received by their customers, that they will be supported if they talk about the product and that they’ll be rewarded for success.
should be kept as short as possible, at convenient times, focused on the needs of attendees and refreshed regularly with new insights. Do your sales team need to know much about features or just how to identify a prospect, sell the benefits and where to go for extra help? Do technical pre-sales need to understand how to architect complex solutions or are there specialists they can turn to for support? Remember sales and support teams should be trained as close as possible to launch to help build momentum and minimize what gets forgotten.
5. Identify sales champions
likely to bring early sales success because they’re keen and have customers with a great fit for your product. Whilst everyone in your sales channels might need to know the basics you should provide more intensive training and support for your champions.
to respected people in your sales channels and to the market. Some in sales will always think your pricing’s too high and that your product’s deficient and impossible to sell. If you’re confident in your market insight you can ride out this initial skepticism. But be flexible, you might need to tweak messaging, targeting, pricing or some other aspect of your proposition because they’re not working as expected.
7. Share your successes
When you get the first trial, first sale or other significant commercial milestones tell people about the success, explain why it happened and what others in sales can do to replicate the success. Keep stakeholders and other interested teams updated – it’s great for their motivation and will help next time you’re working with them.
Have you any other tips you’d like to share?
Director, Product Focus