Product Launch Date – What’s Best for Your Launch?

Marketing Plan/Timeline

The all important milestone of a product launch plan is the launch date. For many product launches establishing a launch date in the product launch plan involves a lot of discussion, negotiation, and gnashing of teeth. Sometimes the launch date appears to be arbitrary while at other times is carefully planned to coincide with an important market event, like an industry tradeshow. While the ‘perfect’ launch date for your product launch plan could be debated ad nauseum, I’d like you to consider one often overlooked, yet critical technique.

Each week I have the priviledge of teaching our Product Launch Essentials class and the topic of establishing a launch date for the product launch plan always comes up. Through the years I’ve learned great techniques from others and there is one thing I had to learn the hard way, that I want to share with you. And that is, before you recommend a product launch date, consider where it is within the fiscal quarter.

The bulk of my career experience has been within the software industry. I’ve done just about everything in a software company except accounting and legal stuff. I’ve seen a lot of product launch train wrecks along the way and I’ve had the joy of seeing some successful product launches. Setting and managing expectations is a big part of a product launch owners success. The secret? Establish a launch date for your product launch plan at the beginning of the quarter. Never at the end of a quarter.

Why, you are probably wondering should the product launch date be at the beginning of the quarter? There are two important reasons to have a product launch date at the beginning of the quarter.

Development Delays

If you have a launch date at the end of the quarter in your product launch plan and you have a development delay your product launch is now pushed into the next quarter. While that may not seem like such a big deal on the surface, the sales momentum that was hoped to be generated can be significantly impaired. When your product launch plan launches at the beginning of the quarter, you still have the flexibility of launching in the current quarter.

Lost Sales Momentum with Early Adopters

I’m not a proponent of allowing the sales team (or channel partners) to sell what isn’t shipping. That said, enterprise software companies with complex and long sales cycles have long discovered that preselling can be very effective in building sales momentum. If the launch date is at the end of the quarter and there is a slip in the launch date, deals in the pipeline that were ready to close are now pushed out into the future. This can have a devestating affect on the sales channel. I can assure you if the launch slips, the sales team’s quota won’t be reduced. When your product launch plan launches at the beginning of the quarter, you still have time to recover lost momentum and regain mind share with the sales team.

What product launch challenges are you struggling with? Let me know either by commenting below or sending me an email at ddaniels@pragmaticmarketing.com .
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Jim Semick

Jim Semick

Jim Semick is co-founder of ProductPlan, a leading provider of cloud-based roadmap software for product and marketing teams. For more than 15 years he has helped launch new products now generating hundreds of millions in revenue. He was part of the founding team at AppFolio, a vertical SaaS company. Prior to AppFolio, Jim validated and created version 1.0 product requirements for GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting (acquired by Citrix). Jim is a frequent speaker on product management and the process of discovering successful business models. He contributes at www.productplan.com/blog. Follow Jim on Twitter at @JimSemick.


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