The easiest part of launching a product is building the product. It doesn’t matter if it is software, hardware, a brand of potato chips or a new snowboard, this is the fun stage. You have an idea, it is (obviously) brilliant, you are passionate about it, you know it is going to be successful. Turning your dream into a tangible product is fun, fulfilling, and the challenges are ones that are able to be overcome because you (by and large) have control of what you are building.
Getting people to know the product, getting people to like, care, or want the product, getting people to buy the product, that is the hard part.
Because of this our CEO, Cort Buchholz, emphatically discusses with prospective clients the realities of launching a software product as the start of a software company. This is done as an effort to highlight that building the solution is only a step in a long journey.
To aid our clients in this journey, we build prototypes as part of the design phase. This allows our clients to experience what we have discussed in terms of the site map and interaction design, prior to making final decisions going into visual design. Prototyping is a great way to not only ensure that discussions around the features and functionality align, but also is a great tool to leverage for user testing. And user testing is a great opportunity to connect with prospective clients of the product.
With user testing, we work with clients to identify prospective users of their products and then work with them on an outreach campaign to connect with them and have them interact with the prototype we’ve built. This allows for feedback from the target market pre-launch, which informs the MVP as we move into visual design.
Leveraging the output from user testing, our clients can then finalize the needed features for MVP which allows them to build and hone their launch plan, while we build the software.
What goes into a launch plan? There are a number of different thoughts to be found on a launch plan, what goes into one and how to execute one. The agreement, however, is that creating one is an important step in launching a product. What we believe are the most important aspects of our experience are below:
How are you going to measure success? What in your mind is a successful launch? 5 users? 50 users? 5 million users? Do you have revenue targets that you are looking to hit? Do you have performance metrics you are looking to track? Defining the success criteria for the launch is important and informs the overall launch plan.
A Sales and Marketing Strategy for launch
A sales and marketing strategy should include how you are going to leverage both your sales team and your marketing team for the launch. It should include buyer personas and target audiences (including those that tested the prototype). It should involve creating content and messaging about your product (what your product or service is, what problem and pain points your product solves. It should include a go-to-market plan with the messaging that has been defined specifically for each media outlet that you are going to leverage for the messaging (ex. an initial landing page, social media, press releases, blog posts, influencers, etc). It should include a launch event. And it should include analytics tracking.
A Support Plan
A Support Plan for questions or issues that arise when adoption begins. It is almost inevitable that you will get questions from your users, as well as questions about the product itself from potential users. Have channels to intake those questions and team members prepared to respond.
A Disaster Plan
Don’t forget that things can go wrong with a launch and thinking through those possibilities and documenting the mitigation strategy for those risks is beneficial.
A Product Roadmap
If you have built your product right, you are launching with the MVP. Which means that other functionality is still to be built. With the product launched and team members of your organization marketing and selling to prospective clients and supporting new ones, the product team is working on the next iteration of the product. Having that prioritized product roadmap is your guide to drive your product evolution and helps the sales team in conversations about the product.
By creating a launch plan while building the software, you are creating a duplex communication system where the data from the building of the software informs the launch, and the launch plan efforts refine the software.