As consultants who build software, it’s sometimes easy to forget that, for our clients, the software itself is only one piece of the larger product launch. You could build the best software in the world, but if no one knows about it, that doesn’t matter.
In the past, I’ve been in a few meetings where someone said, “I don’t understand why there needs to be a firm date for the release.” When I hear that, I cringe a bit. In my previous role as a product manager, I was all too familiar with everything that goes into launching a product, outside of the actual software.
Here are five initiatives that go into launching a successful product. (Note: The software itself is only one of them!)
1. Build Good Software
A product wouldn’t exist without software, so building good software is definitely a key component of launching a product. The product and engineering teams will work diligently for months (or years) on the first release. They’ll be working on things like maintainability, correctness, reusability, reliability, etc. There are many blogs, articles, and books about building good software, so I won’t try to pretend I can articulate all of those nuances here. The key point to remember is that there are many other initiatives going on while this is underway.
2. Messaging and Positioning
- Positioning explains the unique benefit of your product and why it’s better. It usually stays the same over time.
- Messaging is how you tell the story of the product. It focuses on the benefits you identify in positioning.
The product marketing or marketing team works on conveying these aspects to users. Typically, the product team gives the marketing team a list of the release features several months in advance, and the marketing team develops messaging based on these assumptions.
3. Content Creation
Content creation includes anything from blog articles to email/ad copy to demos and videos related to the product. It also covers non-digital formats like brochures, infographics, and one-sheets—anything the marketing team can use to boost SEO before launch or hand out at trade shows to build interest in the product. These campaigns and efforts are tied to release dates, and teams work on them well in advance of a product release date.
4. Go-to-Market Strategy
The go-to-market strategy is the way in which a company brings a product to the market. It contains a checklist of all of the steps involved to coordinate the effort. It also outlines the specifics of target users, the plan for launch, and the sales and marketing strategy.
This strategy also shapes the way content will be launched. Will it be through email campaigns? Social media? Ads?
5. Internal Training
Even though the content and messaging are complete, you still need support from your internal team. Your sales and customer service teams need to know the ins and outs of the product–what the features will do and how to support it. These teams need training before the launch so that they can feel comfortable selling the product and new features, as well as answering questions and supporting customers after the launch.
Every organization is different, and these activities and the groups that are responsible for them may vary. Product launches typically have many moving pieces that need to be carefully coordinated, with the software itself as just one piece in that puzzle.
Do dates get pushed or changed? Sure. Are things reprioritized as you get into building the software? Absolutely! And that’s okay. Understanding these other efforts will help your team better communicate changes, understand the repercussions those changes may have, and contribute to a more successful launch.