Tag Archives: launch

Launch a Product – Step 5: Communication

This is the final installment in our blog series “what does it take to launch a product?” If you are interested in the previous posts, we covered Product DefinitionPricingSales Announce2Enablement and Making Hard Choices.  This blog will highlight the communication plan that is required with a product launch. Like many elements of Product Management, it requires more thought and care than might initially be expected.

Here are some tips and tricks regarding communication:

Involve Marketing

If you have a Marketing department that is separate from Product Management, include them in a discussion about launch communication. We all have our skill sets and you want the best players in the right positions. Many product managers are excellent marketers and writers, but they may not have the depth of expertise and relationships that your Marketing team does.  This is an opportunity for close collaboration.

Identify your audiences

You may have several “masters” to serve and they may need to be communicated to very differently. Internally, you have to think about your sales force, executive team, customer service representatives and other company employees. Externally, you have to consider existing customers, prospects, the media, Analyst firms and possibly investors or shareholders. Each audience may need a slightly different message so it is prudent to think through this ahead of time so you aren’t left scrambling right before launch.  Also, some audiences can promote your message so you want to get to them early in the process.

Determine appropriate amount of communication

How much is too much or not enough? Communication can be tricky because you don’t want to over-message something that is small, thus diluting your Marketing credibility. Nor do you want to under-message something big and miss a potential opportunity.

We solved this, like many other companies by creating Launch Levels.  An “A” launch is a big deal – Press Release, videos, micro-site, sales training, etc.  In order to qualify as an “A” launch, it has to be a brand new product or a significant enhancement that will drive revenue.  Depending on your innovation cycle, you may only have one or two “A” launches per year.

A “B” launch is less impactful; it might be only available to existing customers, or it might be an inexpensive add-on that won’t drive significant revenue, or it might be a version 1 product that you are testing on a smaller target market before making a big splash. “B” launches will have fewer marketing assets and activities than an “A” launch but still require thoughtful consideration of content, audience and timing.

“C” launches are more like product enhancements.  You definitely want to get the word out but it isn’t worthy of an Analyst Briefing or new website.

The way we manage the different launch levels is to have a Launch checklist and whether a task is required, optional or ‘as needed’ varies by the launch level.  For example, in our company, a social media campaign plan is required for an “A” launch, ‘as needed’ for a “B” launch and not applicable for a “C” launch.

Have a plan

Even if your organization isn’t mature enough or big enough to have a Marketing department or need the sophistication of launches levels, take the time to craft a communication plan.  It is important to let the world – or at least your sales people and prospects – know about this great new offering.  If you aren’t purposeful about it, or you slap something together at the last minute, it can devalue the product and no one benefits from that!

Launching a product is a highly orchestrated effort that requires thought, planning and follow-through to be successful, but when it is successful, it is a great feeling to see your “baby” hit the market and start generating sales.  There is such a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from it.  I hope every reader gets to experience that feeling.  Happy launching!

 

Originally posted on a now defunct site on 4/16/13

Image source: http://www.powerelectronicsworld.net/article/0/79963-gigoptix-producing-gaas-e-band-pa-chipsets-in-volume.html

Launch a Product – Step 4: Hard Choices

This is the fourth in a series called “What does it takes to launch a Product?” and this entry focuses on the hard choices that need to be made between Product Management (Product Owner) and other stakeholders.  There is never enough time, resources or money to deliver everything that is desired in a product. But in order to actually launch something – to get the product out the door – difficult choices need to be made. Here are three rules to tough_decisionshelp with the process:

Don’t build for the 1%  (or 10% or maybe 20%)

This is one of the most difficult rules to adopt and live by because it is in our human nature to solve problems. But in order to get the product out of the design phase and into the marketplace, you have to be willing to say “yes, that might happen, but the odds are low so we will handle them manually or not at all.” Here is an example – what if a customer places an order for a product they already have. Will we issue an immediate refund? Will we notify them via e-mail? Will we convert them to another product? Before you build a complex, automated solution consider how often this will happen. If it is an ‘edge case’ or something that will not be a common occurrence, put a manual process in place and move on.  Some in your company will probably fight you on this saying that it will be it harder for operations or customer service and that is true. The trade-off should be worth it because new products should equal new revenue and revenue solves most problems. Honestly, if a manual work-around really becomes cumbersome, it can always be automated post-launch. (Lean Product Development calls this the Minimum Viable Product or MVP.)

Launch a Product – Step 2: Pricing

This is the second in a series on “What does it take to launch a product?”  This blog is about pricing which is a critical exercise in the process of launching a product. The observations shared here are focused solely on B-to-B sales (business to business, not business to consumer which has many different nuances.)

Golden Rule #1: Sales cannot set standard pricing

Every once in a while, I will hear from someone that their executive team wants sales to set the pricing because they are most aware of the marketplace and the competitive pressure. And while PricingI agree that Sales should have a tremendous amount of input in the pricing process, they shouldn’t have the final say in setting *standard* pricing. It is a bit like having the fox watch the henhouse. Anyone with a quota has different incentives with regards to pricing than someone who is objectively trying to express the business value of a product.  Once Standard pricing is set by Product Management (PM), then Sales will have an active role in deals-based pricing or ICB pricing.  But Standard pricing must be owned by an organization without a quota.

Golden Rule #2: PM (or Finance) should define both Published Pricing and the floor

In the b-to-b world, like most other markets, pricing is negotiated.  It is often the case that you want to publish your standard pricing which is the price that you would love to get, but you understand that there needs to be some wiggle room for the Sales force to negotiate. Our experience has been that when PM sets the standard and the floor, Sales has clear boundaries that they can move within.  Some skeptics will say that Sales will always go straight to the floor and that may be true but it depends on a number of factors – namely their comp plan.  If good salespeople will make more money by pricing closer to the standard/published pricing, then they will.  Less experienced sales people or folks who are compensated on volume and not margin will likely go straight to floor pricing. But if PM defines it, the company should still be confident that adequate margins are maintained, even at floor pricing.

Launch a Product – Step 1: Define it

Today starts a series of blogs on launching a product.  If you have heard me speak or been around me for 10 minutes, then you have heard me say thatdefine we recently launched 6 products in less than 3 years.  I talk about it so much because I am so proud of this organization for accomplishing such an awesome feat.  What does it take to launch a product? You have to define it.  That sounds pretty basic, huh?  Who would have a product that they couldn’t define?  But the devil is in the details and there are several ways that products need to be defined.  Let’s look at the nuances to better understand why this is harder than it looks.

Define for IT (Engineering)

You have to articulate each feature in detail so IT (Engineering) knows what to build.  This could be a prioritized list of 10-15 things or perhaps 100 small features.  The point is that Product and IT need to be on the same page as to the critical features, and what are the nice additions to be added, time and resources permitting.  But for product management, the product definition doesn’t end there.

Agile and Product Mgmt – Year in Review

I committed this year to write 52 blogs and I did it!  There are 16 on my previous employers website and 36 on www.runyanconsulting.com.  As I look back and review and reflect on the posts, here are my favorites.

Product Management Blogs

I am very passionate about Product Management and I think it is sometimes an undervalued skill set.  Where I have a chance, I always try to share the strategic and practical benefits that come from having great product management resources.  This year, I wrote a five part series about how to Launch a Product and recently completed a 3 part series on how to sunset or decommission a product.

Image Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/

Image Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/

 

Agile Blogs

I am equally passionate about Agile because I have seen how it can improve people’s job satisfaction and raise the level of productivity and effectiveness for the whole organization.  This category was harder to choose my favorites, so I came up with four.  First, there was a series on creating an Agile Culture and what it really means for management.  This series generated some controversy, which I love because it means we are talking about important things.  Next, I am surprised that many organizations are not familiar with Fist of Five.  We use the Agile technique all the time and it is a difference maker in driving productive conversations.  Many organizations also  struggle with how to incorporate Agile into the day-to-day business, so I offered three options for incorporating bugs and maintenance into your Agile teams.  Finally, I am a big believer in the sacredness of the Sprint and I believe that organizations that are disciplined enough to honor a sprint commitment will typically be more successful than those who are loosey-goosey with the guidelines.

Other

Finally, I care deeply about leadership and family so some of my blogs were dedicated to those topics.  One that has been particularly fun is documenting our evolution to an Agile Family.  We have learned (and laughed) a lot together.  Also, I spent some time really thinking about Innovation and what drives an innovative spirit in some people but not others.  This particular blog might be my favorite of the year.

I hope you have enjoyed some of these blogs and maybe learned something new.  I know that I have learned with each post and I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue growing and exploring new ideas.  What is in store for 2014?  Who knows for sure, but it is going to be a great year!

 

How to Launch a Product

Product Management roles are challenging and fun and I am a self-professed Product Management geek.  One of the critical responsibilities for a product manager is to successfully launch new products that are built in concert with the IT and Operations teams.Shuttle_launch  In my experience, there are several key steps in the launch process that must be considered.  Here are five posts that walk through these steps.

What does it take to launch a product?

Product Definition

Pricing

Sales Enablement

Making Hard Choices

Developing a Communication Plan

I hope you find this information helpful and interesting.  If there is anything that was missed, please let me know. Happy Launching!

CDS Global in the rear-view mirror

It has been a month since my last blog and I actually have a good excuse for my lack of prose, which will also explain my new website. I am in the midst of a job change. I had three wonderful years at CDS Global and now I am looking forward to the next great adventure.

rearview mirror

Image Source: http://lifechallengesemi.org/the-rear-view-mirror-2/

Before I focus solely on the windshield though, I always think it is beneficial to spend a moment looking in the rear-view mirror to savor and appreciate what was accomplished and learned. Here are the three things I am most proud of during my tenure at CDS Global.

1. Technology Roadmap

When I arrived in April of 2010, there was a keen awareness that we needed a technology story to get us to our next stage of evolution. Working with super-smart technologists, we started putting together plans. We had at least two false starts, but in September 2010, we unveiled a vision that has shaped our technology decisions ever since. The reason I am so proud of the Technology Roadmap is that we thought it through and then we stuck to it. Delivering on a tech vision is extra-challenging because the business and the technology changes as you are in the midst of implementing. Our vision was both solid and flexible, allowing us to adapt to new information while providing a strong foundation that advanced our capabilities. To be able to look at a document, nearly three years later, and realize that what were once boxes in a powerpoint diagram are now live, working elements in a layered architecture is pretty darn cool.