The Product is Built - Now What?
Product marketing managers that are responsible for launching products don’t always get the lead time we need to adequately plan a winning product launch. Usually we are busy with the day-to-day grind of supporting Sales in their quest to close deals (that’s a whole other story).
A new product is coming and then that fateful day happens. An email arrives announcing that Product X is ready to launch and we should drop everything and get busy (like we’re not busy enough). The product is already 60 days behind schedule and the Sales team needs Product X to hit their numbers this year.
So, we go into List Mode. Building a list of the stuff needed for launch…
- Build sales collateral
- Update the sales presentation
- Create content for the web site
- Trade show planning
- Write the press release
- Email blast
- Blah, blah, blah
There’s absolutely nothing strategic about the process. Although it would be ideal to have been involved with process much earlier, we didn’t get that luxury. Now it’s all about getting the "stuff" done, not about selling. The list of stuff evolves over a period of product releases and no one ever questions whether the stuff is good or bad. So we trudge through getting the list done. The faster the better.
Don’t panic. By taking a short strategic time out product marketing managers could get the right stuff done, in less time, shorten the list and have more impact on their organization. How?
Who’s the Buyer and Why do they Buy?
This is the starting point. You’ve probably heard it at least once before. If you have a really solid understanding of your buyer and what their problem is all about, you will have solved more than half of the puzzle. Where we get tripped up is that we focus all our energy on product features that have little alignment with the buyer’s problem.
Look at your collateral. Look at your web site. Do you see feature, feature, feature or do you see the answers to problems?
During our strategic time out we’re going to create Buyer Personas for our buyers. You may already be familiar with User Personas. I remember using them as a software developer to get a better understanding of users so that I could build a better product. Buyer Personas are different. They are generalized descriptions of the buyers in the buying process, who they are, their daily challenges, what’s important to them, where they get their information and what makes them tick. A Buyer Persona is written from the Buyer’s perspective, not the perspective of your product features. For more on Buyer Persona’s I suggest you visit Adele Revella’s Buyer Persona blog.
Understand the Sales Cycle (Buying Process)
Armed with a solid understanding of the Buyer we will turn our attention to the Sales Cycle. Working with people from your sales team, identify the steps of how a sale is made. In some organizations this can be a real challenge because the sales cycle is undocumented and ad-hoc. If you’re fortunate to already have a documented sales process you’re going to be ahead of the game. If not, don’t make it a huge project. Document the basic steps of the sale. Your goal is to build better sales tools not re-engineer the sales process.
Define the Launch Objectives
Launch Objectives give us something to strive for in the Launch. A measurement of success. This is fundamental to demonstrating our impact and driving revenue. Our Launch Objectives should be in total alignment with our management’s objectives. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. There is a tendency to overstate the Launch Objectives and be totally unrealistic (hero complex). Look at past launch performance and go from there. Also, we need to be sure that we have a way to capture the data to measure our progress.
Develop Your Plan of Attack
We know our Buyer and why they buy. We know how a sale is made. And we’ve defined our Launch Objectives. Now we are prepared to develop our Launch plan of attack.
Look at your organization and evaluate the marketing assets you can leverage. Exploit those assets and develop an understanding of the weaknesses. If our buyer uses Google to search for answers to problems, we will want to have good Google rankings. If we don’t have SEO expertise in our organization we will need to get it from the outside.
Avoid the tendency to "do what we did the last time". If it worked brilliantly before, great, we’ll repeat it. Otherwise, we will be looking for tactics that can most efficiently (faster, lower cost) achieve the Launch Objectives.
Our plan doesn’t have to be complicated. At a minimum we should include the Buyer Personas, the Sales Cycle, the Launch Objectives, how the Launch Objectives are measured, the activities that we will do in order to achieve the Launch Objectives, and how much we will spend.
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