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With Jason Demeny

Product launch basics for climate startups

When you’re releasing a new product, or a major new version of a product, getting noticed is the first step to making sales. From creating compelling content to engaging the press, spreading the word about your product isn’t something you should do lightly. So where do you start? Should you hire a PR team? And what do you do if things don’t go to plan?

Jason Demeny is a marketer with experience launching products and developing messaging for companies like Microsoft and Patch. We sat down with him to discuss putting together a plan for your product launch, tips for hiring external teams, and why your customers are a goldmine for insights.

Develop your product launch plan

Start with your goal
To create a plan for your product launch, start by asking what you want it to accomplish, and decide on your KPIs and timeline. For example, you could target an increase in website traffic of 50% or generate 100 new qualified sales leads within 60 days of the product announcement, or sales to 30 new accounts within the next quarter. 

When you’re creating your launch plan, the activities you do and the tools you use should all be coordinated to help achieve your launch goals. Don’t get caught up in chasing individual tactics like placing an article in TechCrunch unless doing so will actually help you hit your launch goals.

Scope the size of the launch 
Product launch ≠ Press release! Product launches aren’t a ‘one size fits all’ activity - they come in different tiers, which require varying levels of effort and resources. For example “Tier 1” launches typically are the highest priority, are the most comprehensive, and are typically reserved for products that are expected to have the most impact. Launch activities could include alpha and beta programs, an updated website, a press release, revamped sales content, and a webinar series to raise awareness of the newly announced product. “Tier 2” launches could include activities like an updated product web page and blog post, and “Tier 3” launches could be as simple as a blog post or updated product content. Clarify what tier of launch you’ll be carrying out early on in the process in order to manage expectations and make sure everyone at your company is on the same page. 

Create a launch timeline
You might focus all your efforts towards raising awareness on your product’s actual release date. Or, maybe you have something else planned, and this launch is just the first step of a longer process that will reach a crescendo later down the line. 

Product launches are often designed around the launch announcement and launch activities often fall into three phases.

Pre-announcement activities are focused on preparing for the announcement. These could include executing early adopter programs and generating case studies, updating product and company messaging to inform the announcement content, and enabling internal teams to be ready on the day of the announcement to both respond to requests from the market and to amplify the announcement activities. Announcement activities are focused on communicating the release or availability of your new product - and could include social media posts, updates to your website, a press release or even paid media. Finally, launch activities often continue beyond the announcement. These post-announcement activities are often focused on amplifying awareness of the new product and driving sales leads. These could include activities like webinar series, blog posts or ongoing social media campaigns to remind your target customers of your new product release. 

Identify the launch team
Identifying the launch owner(s) and launch team members is key to a successful launch. This often includes members of the products, marketing and sales teams. Within a startup, this may be just a launch owner and 2-3 team members who design and execute the launch. But large product launches within enterprise organizations could include many more teams and subsidiaries within the company and include dozens of individuals. Having clear “owners” of the launch execution is crucial to ensuring that the execution of the launch plan is coordinated across the launch teams. 

Executing the Launch

Engage your customers 
Engaging your alpha and beta customers early on will not only help with the product development itself, but you’ll also gain insights into where and how these stakeholders learn about new products, which you can use to inform your own launch plan. It’s free market insight that would otherwise be very expensive to procure from a PR team, and since the respondents are your exact target market, it will probably be even more valuable. 

You can also ask your customers for quotes or anecdotes to use in the launch or product announcements, where they’ll talk about the new product and show they’re excited about your approach. This has the added benefit of helping you build deeper relationships with your customers, because they’ll now be invested in your success. 

Develop your content
You’ll need to create a collection of content for this product, the scope of which will depend on which tier of launch it is. It might include a demo, a pitch deck, a case study, or a one pager. The things you want to highlight from a product capability standpoint will form the backbone of your content, so think about how you want those points to be communicated. You’ll also need to make sure your internal teams, like your sales reps, understand this messaging and can pitch the product through that lens. This will ensure delivery of a consistent message to your target audience. 

Choose promotional channels
If your goal is to raise awareness about your new product, the channels you’ll use could include social media, a page on your website, paid media or a press release. When deciding, think about who your ideal audience is, and where they consume information. Use whichever the combination of platforms and channels that  are appropriate for communicating to your target customers. 

Finally, determine the timing and sequence of the promotions. You can either schedule posts on each site in advance so they’ll all hit at once, or roll them out over the course of multiple weeks. Whichever path you choose, do so intentionally - think back to your KPIs, and decide what will bring you closer to them.

Tips for outsourcing launch support 

Get the timeline right
In a small startup, bringing in external vendors to support your product marketing and launch efforts can have a huge impact. You can engage some of these outside partners (like copywriters and designers) late in the process, after you’ve figured out your messaging and developed your case studies or customer testimonials. 

But if you’re bringing in an outside firm to do your product marketing from scratch, do so as early as possible. They’ll need time to understand the product in order to develop the strategy and associated collateral, plus you’ll get the best results from having them onboard if they’re able to provide input and support along the way.

Complimenting launch activities with external vendors
To gauge the capabilities of an individual or organization you’re considering hiring, ask for a portfolio of work, or introductions to founders who’ve worked with them in the past. You can also ask them what launches have gone poorly and why. If they can’t tell you, work with someone else - everybody’s had at least one case where it didn’t work out. 

You should also look at whether these outside vendors already have a solid knowledge of the space you’re in. If they don’t, you’ll have to bring them up to speed - this can pay off, but you’ll need to ask whether it’s worth the extra effort and time.

Remember they can’t invent magic
If you’ve hired a PR team because you want to place a story in the press, remember that above everything else, the newsworthy moment has to actually be there. You can’t get coverage just by hiring someone to write a few paragraphs - there has to be a real story that’s worth people’s attention. 

Optimizing launch execution
Once you’ve pulled the trigger on your launch, you need to monitor its ongoing performance relative to your KPIs, and iterate as needed. Let’s say your objective was to raise awareness, which you planned to measure through engagement on your Twitter or LinkedIn posts. If it turns out you’re only hitting 50% of your target, you’ll need to try and get back on track by either switching to other channels, tweaking your message, or getting other people to amplify your posts. On the other hand, if you’re flying past the goals you set, keep doubling down on what you’re already doing. 

Jason has spent the last 2 decades in Product, Marketing and Business development roles in software organizations of all sizes – Microsoft, Apptio, Qualtrics and Patch. A husband, dad and outdoor enthusiast - Jason is dedicated to leaving a planet for future generations so they can do the same.


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