I ran a half marathon last Sunday. It was a big endeavor for me. I hadn’t run a distance like that in over a decade. Obviously I didn’t just wake up that morning and decide it looked like a lovely day for a 13 mile run. My journey towards the finish line actually began in December 2009 when some friends asked me to join them in the run.
Just as training for a half marathon requires meticulous pre-planning and staged execution so does preparing the marketing elements for a product marketing launch. In fact I have been doing the two in parallel for the last several months and have drawn a few parallels that I hope you will find valuable.
Assess Your Terrain
I think this is perhaps one of the most frequently missed steps in a product launch so I want to emphasize this should be the first thing you should do. Very rarely is a business launching something that is 180 degrees from what they have done in the past. Typically you are repackaging an existing product for a new target market, expanding your base product with a new feature or function for a specific market or a new product to an existing customer base.
Because you have some prior experience with either the customer or the product you need to first review what has worked well in the past and what lessons you could learn. Tap into resources both internal and external to gather past campaign literature, competitor collateral and make industry contacts.
Use tools like LinkedIn to see who in your network might be able to help you. I recently contacted a former co-worker via LinkedIn for advice about the type of traffic I could expect at an upcoming tradeshow. I noticed her company was listed as an exhibitor and asked if she would be attending and hoped we could reconnect. It led to me getting a wealth of information including an attendee list from last year to evaluate for the type of job titles, etc I should be targeting. This was great advanced info because the show organizers don’t share the registry list until 2 week prior to the show when it will be of little benefit.
Map Out Your Plan
When I first signed up for the half marathon I found a number of on-line websites that will produce a training schedule for you based on the number of weeks out and the number of miles you hope to run. While I have never run across a “wizard” like application to create a product launch marketing plan I do think it is worth the time and effort to build on for organization and to socialize it to all the dependent organizations.
Tasks like “create landing page on website” often require resources from multiple departments (IT, Marketing Communications, Graphics) and at times outside vendors. Creating a detailed plan that shows dependencies and the impact of task slipping will help hold everyone accountable.
Measure Your Pace
Are you a sprinter or a long distance runner? Launch campaigns need durations too. Some organizations use a slow steady six month approach to building brand awareness, buying print ads and exhibiting at industry shows. Others sink the whole budget into one big Super Bowl ad and let it rip. I am not going to debate the pros and cons here because both have obviously worked in different product scenarios but every campaign has a beginning and an end so those need to be defined up front. Otherwise you might find yourself in one continuous never ending launch for the next 18 months and it is hard to measure success over such a long period.
Monday Morning Quarterback Yourself
On Monday after the euphoria of finishing was done and the celebratory carbs were consumed I was left with the sore muscles and the lessons learned. A key part of Assess the Terrain above was to talk to people about lessons learned of past launches. Be a good steward of corporate success and take some time immediately after the launch to hold a stakeholder meeting and capture what worked and what didn’t. The power of perception changes over time so it is important to assess shortly after the launch. Then continue to measure at intervals such as 30, 60, 90 days for the medium and long range effects of your efforts on your brand perception.
What are your best practices for a successful product marketing launch?
About the Author: Heather has spent the past 15 years advocating for the customer perspective in her approach to software development and product marketing. Her penchant for collaboration is what drew her to the Savvy B2B team. Read more of Heather's posts here or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.