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One of the biggest mistakes I see Product and Product Marketing teams make (and a mistake I’ve made myself) is forgetting that a product launch isn’t a singular moment in time. Instead, it’s an opportunity to create a drumbeat of momentum around whatever you’re attempting to highlight: a new product or feature, revamped pricing and packaging, a new brand you’re unveiling, whatever it might be.
Regardless of what you’re announcing, as a product marketer it’s on you to ensure the energy level remains high after the initial launch day splash has subsided. Since every launch is different, the particular way you accomplish this will vary from launch to launch. However, the most important thing to do is position your initial splash as the beginning of a journey, not the end of one. In fact, I’ve found that the most impactful product launches can extend 4-6 weeks after the initial launch date. My team and I refer to this final phase of every launch as the response stage.
So what does a great post-launch strategy look like? What activities should you be engaging in during the response stage? Here’s my list of the top five things every PMM team should do after launch day.
I can’t stress this enough!
A great content strategy is often at the heart of great marketing campaigns, but this is especially true when you’re trying to drive continued momentum after a big launch. In the spirit of heartbeat marketing, plan to publish multiple content pieces in the weeks after your launch. I’d recommend 2-3 pieces of content a week for several weeks after the initial announcement, but this depends on how many resources you have at your disposal. The post-launch content can be anything from blogs, videos, ebooks, AMAs, webinars… even a tweet storm. Anything that can and will continue to engage your audience and draw their attention to what you’ve recently launched.
A lot of people ask, “How do I decide what content to create?” Well, in the weeks leading up to a launch, it’s best to focus on creating domain authority around whatever you’re launching. For example, if your company is introducing a new way for users to communicate that aims to replace email, I might create content in the weeks leading about the future of communication at work, the many problems with traditional email, why real-time communication leads to higher productivity, and so on. All topics that feed into the idea that your organization is an expert on real time communication.
Warning: during your initial content push be careful not to reveal the new product or feature that’s about to be released. I’m not saying you shouldn’t foreshadow, but you do want to retain a great deal of secrecy prior to your launch date to ensure that:
1. You don’t lose the ability to surprise people and create a splash the day you announce
2. You don’t disrespect an embargo date and have the press lose interest in your topic
Later, in the weeks following your launch, it’s important to double-down on why the feature or product you just launched will change your users' lives for the better. This is the time to go into specifics and connect the new product or feature to the higher-level domain pieces you published prior to your announcement. Create how-to guides, dive deeper into how your users’ workflows have changed, and hammer home why what you’ve just released is the future of your industry. Think about each piece of content as another opportunity to reach more eyeballs.
I’ve also found that audiences—especially more technical audiences—love getting a glimpse into how features are created. Even if you aren’t serving a more technical audience, consider producing a “how we built it” series of articles (or short videos), describing how different parts of the new product/feature/brand came together. If you can get your product managers or engineers involved, it will make the content that much more engaging, as users will see it as “straight from the horse’s mouth.” An AMA is also a fantastic venue for this kind of content, as ask-me-anythings are the ultimate way to connect and engage with users in a 1:1 format, especially if you can leverage a member of your leadership team that your audience might be excited to hear from.
Pro tip for selling to technical audiences: developers love nerding out with other developers on how innovative technology was built. If you can involve some of the engineers in your “how we built it” series, it will almost certainly double the level of interest you receive, as they can dive deep on why they made certain technical choices and create excitement with your end users around innovative technical decisions.
A lot of product marketing teams, especially in their first few launches, forget to measure what’s working and what’s not. Prior to any launch, ensure you have a dashboard where you can track metrics like:
Setting up these dashboards before you launch is critical to establishing a baseline to compare against during and after your launch. Having the right dashboards in place sounds simple, but it is so often overlooked in the craziness of launch prep. Don’t skip this step!
Following a big announcement, I like to check these dashboards at least once a day to see if I notice any trends. When you do spot a trend: act on it! If your ads are performing better than expected, quickly work with your design team to get a refreshed version out and put some additional dollars in your ad budget. If one of your videos gets 3x the views you were expecting, create another video on the same topic and ship it as soon as possible to keep the momentum going. If signups to your webinar are going through the roof, create a plan to re-engage this audience following the webinar (hint: advertising a more personalized venue like an AMA to a webinar audience is usually a slam dunk).
Prior to a big launch you need to ensure every I is dotted and T is crossed. But in the weeks following any big announcement it’s vital that you transition to being more agile in your approach. Don’t be afraid to rework plans if they’re going to help you continue amplifying your launch through channels that are showing a ton of promise. Treat every marketing channel like a mini-experiment at first. Then quickly double down and iterate on the ones you see working.
Sometimes I see product marketers forget the value of collecting and incorporating customer feedback into their marketing. In the weeks following a launch you’re usually inundated with feedback, and almost anything you see or hear about whatever you’ve just launched is gold. Monitoring feedback gives you fantastic insight into what functionality users are most excited about, what might not be working with your current messaging and positioning, and where your product and/or launch may have missed its mark. It’s the ultimate learning experience as you continually refine your work.
Here are a few easy ways to review customer feedback and measure the overall launch sentiment:
Based on the above data points, determine if more work needs to be done. If you do want or need to circle back to address any of the above items, this can be one of the most impactful post-launch activities to engage in. In my experience so few product marketing teams take the time to close the loop on things like this that if you do it will make you stand out in a very powerful way.
Whether it’s spending time arming customer-facing teams with assets they can use to get back with customers or engaging in social conversations to answer outstanding questions and ensure frustrated voices feel heard, this level of customer engagement is so rare (and such an amazing opportunity for PMM teams to shine!).
One final note on measuring sentiment and closing the loop: every launch is an amazing opportunity for you and your product marketing team to learn, improve your craft, and grow. Even though circling back and dealing with the unintended consequences of your launch can be rough, it’s when you learn the most. This is an invaluable opportunity to learn about your users, the audience you’re trying to reach, the market you’re selling into, and even ways to improve relations with different internal teams at your company. Each of these things is going to make your next launch that much smoother and more impactful.
While there’s always a new burning priority following any launch, circling back and providing support wherever you may be needed is one of the most powerful post-launch activities you can and should engage in.
This is going to be my most contentious suggestion. Sorry, folks!
I’m a strong believer, especially with SaaS-based products, that you need to test pricing changes on an (uncomfortably) large audience.
Because of this, I would recommend decoupling pricing from your launch as a dependency. You can do pricing research in the months leading up to your launch by speaking to users and prospects in industry about what they’re currently paying for similar tools, their perception around specific price points, what they prefer to be paying, and who the stakeholders in their organizations are that sign-off on pricing. Ultimately you want to learn any information that will help you find the most frictionless path to closing a deal.
That said, it’s important to remember that pricing is not about reinventing the wheel. It’s tempting to innovate on pricing, but resist that temptation. You want pricing to be the thing no one asks about. Instead, it should skate under the radar and be widely accepted by your users and their procurement teams. Because of this, it can be beneficial to keep your pricing somewhat high-level on launch, and then use the weeks after launch to validate it.
What do I mean by “somewhat high-level”? In short, it means just enough detail that a user knows the starting price point for each tier, and three to five bullets on what’s included in that tier.
Another way to approach this is by providing users with a freemium option that is zero cost to start and an enterprise option that says “contact us” for more information.
If you do choose to validate pricing post-launch, here are a few things to think about:
Pricing can be a beast, but I want product marketers to know that it’s okay to not fully reveal concrete pricing on your launch day, and instead see this entire process as a major part of your post-launch strategy. You still have to put in the leg work to understand your COGS and price floor, but you have wiggle room to respond to what your market likes, and doesn’t like, about your pricing model. And if you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated pricing lead within your organization, come up with a plan together far in advance of launch day and align on what you're each comfortable shifting post-launch.
Each of these steps seems simple, but in my experience they’re the ones that are most often forgotten.
Don’t iterate too fast; let everything bake!
Remind stakeholders across the business that a launch isn’t a moment in time and will likely not immediately move the revenue needle. A launch is the catalyst for a number of related activities to be set in motion; each of these activities will have varying impacts and may take time to bear fruit.
That said, if necessary, you can make those stakeholders a bit more comfortable by keeping a close eye on the following warning signs post-launch:
A basic retro goes a long way, and you should never consider any launch complete until a retro is conducted. This can be as simple as collecting stakeholders’ feedback on what worked and what didn’t. But, as I mentioned above, each launch is an opportunity to learn, and a retro is a phenomenal way to ensure your next launch is that much better.
What I’ve found particularly valuable about retros is that they provide an activity log, or a timeline record of what happened for big projects. You can write it yourself and ask stakeholders to edit asynchronously or you can write it live.
Pro tip: If you opt for conducting a live retro I'd recommend splitting it up into two meetings: one in which you review and collect feedback on “what worked” and a second meeting in which you review and collect feedback on “what didn’t”.
Even though conducting a retro is usually the last thing you want to engage in after the exhaustion of a big launch, the ROI is well worth the time. Think about it this way: across the business you probably spent hundreds (if not thousands) of collective hours executing your launch. In comparison, one additional hour to reflect upon what worked and what didn’t to improve your future process is an invaluable use of time.
Launches are a huge undertaking. Celebrate!
Once your launch is a week or two in the rear-view mirror, don’t forget to take a step back, gather the team who worked hard on making the launch a success, and celebrate together.
In the weeks leading up to a launch I like sending my teams (not just product marketing, but all stakeholders involved) gift cards to order food, their favorite drinks or snacks, or anything that will make their inevitably long hours easier. After the launch, I recommend planning a team lunch, dinner, or fun day activity that will get everyone out of the office and spending quality time together.
Not only have you and your team earned the right to celebrate after a big launch, but you can and should also see it as a down payment for keeping the team motivated and excited for the next launch :)
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