Tag Archives: Marketing
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 Definition, Pricing, Sales Enablement 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:
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
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 that 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.
As a Product Manager and an Agile Enthusiast, I have lots of conversations about prioritization. It is really tricky. Well, that’s not always true. If you really only have one thing to work on, then I guess it’s easy. For the rest of us that live in the real world, we have to balance multiple number one initiatives in a way that will deliver the most value to the business. This is a first in a blog series about Prioritization.
The First Question
The very first question that should always be asked when considering something for prioritization is – Should we do this at all? People are too often moving too fast and trying to be responsive to the point that sometimes we stop thinking. One of my mentors had a saying: “This is top of mind, not top of list.” I love that. I first heard this when he called me after just having talked to an important client about a feature they wanted. He was excited and it was a good idea. I asked him if he felt like we should reshuffle our priorities and execute on this newly introduced concept. He paused and took a moment to really think through my question. And then he responded with the now often quoted “Top of mind, not top of list.” That is a fantastic barometer to keep in mind when you have a flash of brillance. It might just be a flash and you need to stick to your existing priority list. Bright, shiny objects can come into view, but they do not always warranted our immediate attention.
Our Agile textbook is just weeks away from being a real, tangible thing and it is so exciting. Continuing with our blog series with excerpts from the book, this one comes from the final chapter titled Agile Beyond IT. One might wonder why an Agile textbook would dedicate a whole chapter to marketing products developed by Agile teams or even how Agile has been deployed in Marketing and other corporate departments. My co-author, Sondra Ashmore and I believe that it is important to remember that a product is not successful because it was created by an Agile team. Successful products have to be launched correctly too and that can be an equally significant challenge. Here are the learning objectives from this chapter as well as an excerpt on marketing with agility.
- Learn how the Agile values apply to bringing products to market, beyond the development efforts
- Understand ways to systematically collaborate with the marketplace through discovery and validation
- Explore the changing dynamics for marketing of products with the proliferation of new channels and the complexities of brand management with social media
- Review how wireframes and prototypes can be used in the marketplace to inform priorities for Agile software development teams
- Learn how to be Agile when launching products by managing features, limiting the initial audience, and pursuing continuous enhancements
- Take the Agile concepts beyond IT and product development and see how other corporate organizations can benefit from Agile values and principles
- Discover how Marketing has taken Agile to a whole new level of discipline by creating their own manifesto
Marketing with Agility
There are a number of ways to effectively market products built with Agile development teams. Some Agile purists are uncomfortable committing dates and features to the marketplace, but in most industries, it is not optional: Existing customers and late-stage prospects demand to know when and how the product will evolve. We outline several ways to balance these two sides.
If you are considering sunsetting a product or platform, you need to proceed with caution, as all good Product Managers will do. Our previous blog addressed the data that you need to make an informed decision. Once you have that in hand, you need to think about a well-organized and well-executed communication plan.
Create a communication plan
If you are going to alter the customer’s experience, you need to think through how that will be communicated and you will likely need to over-communicate to make sure the message is received and no customer is surprised. There are a number of factors that will influence your communication plan. How many customers are impacted? Do they have active account managers involved (more on this below)? How do the customer receive information today? Through Bill Inserts? From the Website? E-mail alerts? Make sure that you know all communication vehicles so you carefully consider how to handle each one. The messaging is also critical and must be very action oriented and clear. This is not a marketing campaign or a sales slick. The verbiage needs to be simple to understand and clearly articulate the steps that need to be taken. You also need to consider the repetition. Sunsetting a product is a big event and you will need to tell customers over and over again to ensure that the message is received and digested. The easiest way to create a plan is to grab a calendar, pinpoint the desired date of the decommissioning and work backwards. For example, if you are relying on bill inserts as your primary mode of communication, then you will need to factor the billing cycle into the calendar. You will also need to ensure that your systems have the ability to differentiate the customers with the product targeted for sunsetting. Otherwise, you may have to inform the entire customer base and that may have larger implications.