When we mention Go-to-Market strategy, there’s one thing that comes to mind. Product launches.
While you may assume bigger is better, when it comes to product launches this isn’t always the case. Effectively scaling a launch can make or break a company, so you have to be tactical or risk over launching, putting your budget, resources and customer retention on the line.
We found that over 50% of companies launch quarterly, with 2-4 launches a year. 43% (still a majority), also launch quarterly for feature/non-product releases, while 34.5% are launching up to 12 times a year. That’s a lot of resources and a lot of investment.
You need to be smart with your Go-to-Market budget, and recognise that large launches take up a huge amount of time and resources. It can easily take three months to get to launch day, nevermind the months of post launch activities you’ll need to achieve successful customer adoption.
The other danger is that your customers will be fatigued by constant launches, and can run the risk of them churning. When you make a big splash with an innovative new product it’ll get lost amongst a quagmire of feature updates.
How do we avoid this, you ask? First things first, you need to define what a launch is.
What is a product launch?
This might seem obvious, but across an organization a launch can be interpreted in a variety of ways, leading to misaligned expectations of size, demand for resources, and desired outcomes. It’s important that you define what a product launch is within your business, and communicate this to all of your stakeholders.
For a successful launch, you need alignment across your stakeholders on what the end goal is and how that goal will be achieved.
To solve this problem, Holly Watson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services, breaks Go-to-Market into two categories: launches and releases.
I’ve worked at organizations where launches occur 1x per month. And even now at Amazon Web Services, it’s not uncommon for each product category to have a release every 2-3 months.
Note that I use the term ‘release’, though. Release to me relates to the update of an existing product vs. a net-new addition to a solution offering. It’s common to have multiple releases a quarter vs. large launches 1-2x per year.
As you can see, Holly is launching far less frequently on average than the majority of our survey respondents. And it’s working; the success of Amazon Web Services speaks for itself.
Let’s break down the difference between a launch and a release.
The difference between a launch and a release.
A launch, in its simplest form, is an announcement of a product/feature to the market and its consumers. A release doesn’t need to be announced in the same way, it can be rolled out without the song and dance of a launch.
It can be hard to know if something should be a launch or a release, but there are a few factors we can use to determine this:
- Does the product/feature further your brand narrative and storytelling?
- Does the product/feature help you achieve your goals for the year?
- Is this a new project or the continuation of an existing one?
- Is this resolving pain points raised by customers, or simply meeting expectations?
If you answered ‘yes’ to these about your new product or feature, then you’re probably looking at a launch rather than a release. Let’s take a look at the criteria in a bit more detail.
Is it consistent with your brand narrative?
Brand storytelling is really important; if you have a clear and well communicated vision consumers are more likely to take notice of what you’re doing. If a product is consistent with your brand narrative and furthers the story you’re telling, then it’s worth announcing to the market.
On the flipside, if you’re putting out a feature or an update that isn’t congruos with your brand narrative, then launching is more likely to detract from the consumer perception of your company.
Does it help you meet your goals?
Whenever you Go-to-Market, you need to think about how you’re achieving your company’s goals. If a new product has the scope to disrupt the market, drive revenue, or secure a new core customer group, then a big launch will enable that.
As an added bonus, it pays to show the market that you’re delivering on what you’ve set out to do.
Is it a new project?
This is an area where, as a leader, you’ll want to get involved.
Your product or tech team are going to care about everything they bring out, they’ve put time and effort into work and it’ll feel like a priority. Your job is to bring perspective to the size of launch a product justifies.
If it’s a brand new product that’s going to make a splash in the market, then by all means launch away. But if it’s just a new feature, update or bug fix for an existing product, then a big launch isn’t necessary and’ll just waste resources.
How does it serve the customer?
Lastly, is it resolving customer pain points? Customer feedback is super important to your Go-to-Market strategy. Without it, your products won’t last in the market.
If a product solves a customer pain point then a launch can demonstrate that you’re ahead of competitors and improving user experience. In this instance, a launch can help you reach a new audience as well as boosting customer retention by showing your existing customer base that you care about them.
The tiers of product launches
It’s important to define the difference between a launch and a release with your stakeholders, but you also need a launch framework if you’re going to want to not just keep up, but get ahead of the market.
At Go-to-Market Academy, we break launches down into four tiers.
These are your big kahuna launches. These’re all encompassing, pull out all the stops, all hands on deck level launches. Save these for new game-changing products or capabilities and don’t forget to include a solid post-launch roadmap to ensure customer adoption.
File new products for existing markets, or existing products for new markets, under tier 2.
You don’t want to put serious budget investment into this level of launch. Instead, stick to traditional marketing tools, i.e. blogs, email announcements and new websites.
This is where you put updates which improve customer experience. Now we’re shifting from launch to release territory.
It’s the tier where most companies risk over launching. If you do a full launch, you’ll be bombarding your customers with irrelevant information. Just add the update to an existing website, mention it in a monthly newsletter or include it in a quarterly round up.
Bug fixes, UI updates, software modifications, you know the drill. If Apple did a full launch every time they brought out ios 13.1.1.whatever, we’d all be bored to tears.
Align your stakeholders
When you’re mapping out your Go-to-Market strategy, it’s key that you have alignment across stakeholders on where your upcoming products fit into this launch framework.
So to wrap up:
- Set clear goals for the year and for your launches, make sure everyone knows what the company is working towards. Without that organizational alignment, you’ll end up over or under launching.
- Prioritize what you launch. It’s crucial that leaders bring much needed perspective to launch size and cadence to keep brand narrative consistent.
- Have a framework for your launches. Without this, you won’t have the agility and adaptability you need to scale up, scale down and get ahead of a fast paced market.
Of course, there’s a lot more to a launch framework than what we’ve covered here. Want to find out more and get access to ready to use templates for your GTM teams? We’ve got you covered👇
How to improve your Go-to-Market strategy
Our Go-to-Market Certified: Masters course will give you all the information and knowledge you need to up your GTM game.
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