Building great products is difficult. Not only do you have to balance the needs of a diverse set of internal stakeholders and users, you also have to deal with constraints. Engineers. Time. Resources. Cans of Redbull…
Given the amount of focus and effort required to build the product, the process of successfully getting it to market and acquiring users is often given relatively less thought. This is a mistake.
An effective product delivery strategy covers not only the acceptance criteria for “code complete” — it should also include a plan with specific, measurable goals for getting users to use, love and pay for your product.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of seven common mistakes when it comes to launching new products and features.
Mistake #1: Set Vague Goals
Worse than not setting any goals is setting vague ones. Amid the rush leading up to a product announcement, goal-setting is often treated as an afterthought. If time is limited, are you going to finalize the messaging, or book time with the team to align on goals? Nine times out of ten, most product and product marketing teams tackle the messaging first.
What often results is a set of goals that are vague and difficult to measure. For example:
- Increase leads for the product by 15%
- Grow weekly web traffic from the announcement by 50%
- Get at least five pieces of techpress coverage
These goals sound good — who wouldn’t want 50% more web traffic? But when it comes to grading our performance, I guarantee we’ll be lost. Fifteen percent more leads — over what timeframe? And what do we mean by lead? Is it someone who signs up for the product? Or is there a product-engagement threshold that we should hit? What happens if a lead signs up but is interested in a different product or feature? Do we count it?
I’ll spare you the rest of the analysis, but you get my point. In the end, it’s better have no goals than vague ones. At least that way you can reduce confusion and save your calories for the next release.
Related: See the following Medium post on SMART goals by my teammate, Matt Pasienski: How JFK Got Us to the Moon
Mistake #2: Assume Everyone Wants to Know
Rather than assume that everyone wants to know about your product release, try thinking about who specifically would want to know about it. If you’re launching a new feature for, say, your analytics dashboard, it would make sense to identify all users who have used it before. It would also be sensible to gather a list of prospective leads who fit the relevant user or buyer persona — a systems admin, perhaps, or a sales manager.
Being more targeted in your launch strategy will yield higher response rates and, in the end, more active users.
Note that this doesn’t mean that you’ll never want to shout it from the rooftops. It just means you should think specifically about who wants to hear your product news. At Wizeline, for example, we have four sizes of release announcements:
- Small: Active users of the specific feature should know
- Medium: All Wizeline customers and prospects should know
- Large: Everyone interested in technology should know
- Huge: The WORLD MUST KNOW
Mistake #3: Assume People Know What You Know
Keep your messaging clear and as concise as possible. Avoid marketing fluff and jargon. Emphasize benefits over features. And always ask people who don’t know your product to read key materials before launch — having a lay person’s feedback will help you identify places where you can tighten up your messaging.
Also, keep in mind that effective product marketing requires empathy — just like product management, you need to put yourself in your target persona’s shoes. As a general rule, assume they know far less than you expect they do.
One fun exercise we’ve used at Wizeline: force your team to write clearly and concisely by having them compose a product launch haiku.
Mistake #4: Think of Launch as a One-Day Event
Once you’ve gone live, it’s tempting to look through your goals, pack up shop and move onto the next milestone or project. As is almost always the case, driving user adoption and revenue is an exercise that spans weeks and months, if not quarters and years. Make sure your product launch strategy defines a number of points in the future for post-launch reviews. Your goals should account for this. For example:
- One week out, measure new web sessions and press mentions
- Two weeks out, measure sign ups and activated users
- One month out, new pipeline or revenue
- Six months out, churn and inactive users
Mistake #5: Fail to Measure, Learn & Adjust
Imagine your team just finished an intense, three-week sprint running up to a big product announcement. People pulled long hours to make sure everything went smoothly. But after you press “go,” you get… crickets. What do you do?
The temptation is to schedule some additional social media posts and maybe up a paid campaign or two — then move on to the next project. This is a mistake.
Instead, you should dig in and understand why your announcement fell flat. Was it just a bad press week? Maybe the end of a quarter? Did you reach a big enough addressable market? Is your messaging is off? Or maybe you’re targeting the wrong persona?
Assuming you’ve set clear, measurable goals, you’ll be in a good position to know which parts of your launch are failing. Rally the team and devise an updated follow-on release strategy. You may need to revise some of your original goals — and that’s OK. Just be transparent about why they’re being changed.
Mistake #6: Use Descriptive Project Names
Avoid using a descriptive name for an internal project unless you’re 99% sure that it’s the name you’ll use publicly in the end.
For example, if your engineering team is starting work on a feature that will improve file-upload times, a potentially bad project name would be “Fast File Uploader.” Why? Because without fail that’ll be the name that everyone remembers. If you don’t want your sales team pitching “fast file uploader” in the future, do everything in your power to pick a different internal project name.
While not perfect, picking a thematic or aspirational name — e.g., names from Greek or Pokémon characters — can help avoid this type of problem.
Mistake #7: Forget to Celebrate Wins
Finally, delivering product to market is no small feat. Make sure to make time to celebrate everyone’s contributions!