Having a game plan which aligns team members across departments––and which organizes often complex tasks and goals into a clear build order––is critical to the successful execution of a new product launch.
Launching a new product is an exciting time. There’s potential in the air, the shared sense of anticipation and hope. At Skylum, we’re preparing right now for the launch of our Luminar 4. We’re all eager, and we’re working hard to ensure it’s a success.
But here’s the thing: We’re also working strategically, tapping into a key lesson we’ve learned from product launches of the past—to succeed, you need a game plan.
Simply put, having a game plan which aligns team members across departments––and which organizes often complex tasks and goals into a clear build order––is critical to the successful execution of a new product launch. It empowers everyone on your team to work together. If you don’t have a game plan, the launch process spirals out of control. It’s like trying to win a soccer game without informing your players who will be playing each position. It becomes messy.
So, where should you start in putting together your game plan for your upcoming product launch? Easy. You start with putting together a checklist of tasks you need to accomplish (and mindsets you want to abide by) before the launch is scheduled to happen. Here’s what my checklist looks like––in broad strokes––and how you can adopt it, too.
1) Start early.
We started launch activities for Luminar 4 in July, even though we won’t officially launch until November. Why? Because perhaps the most important ingredient in a successful product launch game plan is time. You need to ensure you give your people enough of it. And you should always assume you’ll need more of it. The product team will need more of it, as will the marketing team, in issuing pre-announcements and teasing campaigns.
Giving yourself more time is also good practice because it gives you a little extra breathing room in beating your competitors.
It’s not enough to simply get everything done; you have to entice people to care. This is something which, at Skylum, we’re viscerally aware of. Most photography companies launch new versions of their products in the fall. So, for us, we not only need our launch to be seamless, but we also need to generate more excitement around it than the launches of other products on the market. Additional time allows us to invest more creative energy in getting customers more interested in our product launch.
2) List everything you did in the past that’s led to results.
Next, on day one, sit down and write out everything you did for the last product launch that worked really well. Be as detailed as possible around every process or step you can duplicate, document it, and flesh it out so that your execution this time is just as seamless.
Doing this is more than just a means of safeguarding, though; it will also prompt you to think about how you can expand on existing processes to achieve bigger and better results. This is important because with every new product launch, you’ll want to think about how you can scale up. Everything you write down, consider carefully whether there’s a way you can execute it better, or invigorate it with new tools, features, or approaches.
3) Allocate 20% of your time for new experiments.
To this end of achieving bigger and better results, you’ll need to designate time and energy for trying new things. This is how you’ll find what flourishes and improvements you want to add––which is one big way you’ll gain more traction and attract new customers.
These new experiments should not be limited to one department, either. They should span from new ways of attracting customers, to means of improving UX, to more impactful forms of marketing.
4) Break down for each department very exact steps regarding what specifically they’ll need to accomplish.
You should divide your product launch into different developmental stages and, even further down, into individual steps that need to be completed in accordance with the product life cycle: from early-stage, to development, to maturity. These steps will also need to be specific to each disparate department, meaning you’ll have several iterations of these “development stages lists,” each complete with their specific set of individual tasks, like figuring out who’s in charge of production, pricing, product availability, marketing campaigns, PR, and so on.
As the leader of this operation, you’ll need to know all the while where each department is at progress-wise, along with when their responsibilities will be complete. Personally, I keep track of this by working with a product manager who conducts daily catch-ups with each department.
5) Always keep your audience in mind.
A well-planned product launch will be for nothing if you don’t communicate what you’re doing effectively. To ensure you do, plan different messaging strategies and offerings for the different dedicated segments of your audience and user base––from those who are already loyal (and who might enjoy “early-bird packages”) to folks who don’t know who you are.
This differentiation is critical. You can’t treat all your customers as one big gray mass. You have to segment and target all groups.
6) Don’t rely on just one channel.
Similarly, to reach all your various users (both existing and potential), you have to find them where they are. Don’t rely exclusively on one communication channel. Instead, single out 3–4 different channels that will drive the most traffic or sales––from email, to press, to social.
Your marketing strategy cannot simply be: reach number one on Product Hunt or the App Store. That limits your reach, which limits potential awareness of your launch.
Also: realize that no matter how great your product is or how flawlessly you execute your checklist, there will still be confusion in your audience.
Folks will have questions. Even your target audience will misunderstand some aspects of your new product, or their activation codes won’t work, or they’ll be confused about pricing. All told, something will––inevitably––be misunderstood.
For this reason, it’s crucial that for every product launch, you ensure you have strong customer support available. Everyone on the team should be prepared to assist with this.
At Skylum, we’ve even turned the marketing team into customer support specialists during past launches, like that of Luminar on Windows. We’ll be doing the same thing this fall when we launch Luminar 4. And that’s because, at the end of the day, being organized by way of a checklist and having all hands on deck is what makes for a successful and seamless product launch.
If you ensure these pieces are in place, it’s likely you’ll be in good shape.