13 Product and Marketing Experts Reveal Their Secrets to a Winning Launch Plan
December 18, 2018

13 Product and Marketing Experts Reveal Their Secrets to a Winning Launch Plan

by Brian de Haaff

It was your last great product launch. Maybe you would even call it “brilliant.” I can bet I know why it went so well — all the pieces came together seamlessly. And so did all the players. Breakthrough launches happen when teammates work together. This is especially true for two teams in particular.

A successful launch hinges on both product and marketing. Sure, the rest of the organization is critical too, but these two groups power great launches.

I began thinking about this recently when I heard Nathaniel Collum, one of our teammates at Aha!, share a story about one of his most memorable product launches. He said what made it great was that product and marketing were able to align on the customer challenge — specifically how the new feature would help solve it.

Here is how it went, in his own words:

“At my past job, I was working on an IT product, so the problems we solved were often foreign to anyone who was not an IT admin. To get around this, the product team set up several in-depth sessions with marketing to walk through what life was like without this new feature. We made the pain real, so-to-speak. This resulted in us being able to collaborate much more openly and creatively on how to position the new feature.”

A savvy solution, right? His story got me thinking that there must be dozens of other anecdotes like this from our team. After all, Aha! is made up of seasoned product and marketing experts — who collectively have hundreds of years of experience.

So, I asked the team to share their best launch stories. Below are the actions that were most successful and what they will continue to recommend again and again. Their insights could help as you think ahead to your own launches.

Here is the Aha! team’s advice on creating brilliant product and marketing launches:

Identify the goal “My best launches occurred when the goals of the launch were clearly defined and shared with the team. Clearly defining goals was important when multiple ‘cool’ features could have distracted from the core benefit we wanted delivered to the market.” — Scott Goldblatt

Understand the customer “Beyond the kick-off, product managers need to meet with marketing teams on a regular basis. This time should be used to understand the personas and customer journeys. Product comes to the table knowing the customer and the solutions they need, while marketing weighs in on how to best message that audience. Having these conversations regularly (especially before a big launch) provides both teams with the information they need to deliver real value.” — Tahlia Sutton

Sync up immediately “Marketing teams have jam-packed calendars. As a product manager, I have learned that you need to give them as much advance notice as you can on when you plan to launch enhancements. This way, they have the time they need to look ahead and refine their creative ideas into a strategic plan.” — Amy Woodham

Hold a kick-off meeting “The best way to be aligned from the start is to set up a kick-off meeting with cross-functional leads. You want to be able to collaboratively discuss whatever product has drafted. Marketing will likely have ideas on how to help finalize and communicate the feature more effectively. This meeting is also a good opportunity to agree on milestones and associated due dates, which you need for accountability across teams.” — Julie Price

Define early “My best launch was with a major new release that was well-defined in advance so we could use our early cross-functional meetings to create the proper messaging and go-to-market approach. Plus, the product was called ‘Connect’ and the version was four — so we had sets of the Connect 4 board game in the office for the team.” — Karen Maslowski

Align on the problem “Product management needs to have a deep understanding of the problem the new functionality solves for users. Even better if they speak to specific customers and have actual examples to share with the marketing team. This enables marketing to craft clear, relevant campaign activities that resonate with customers.” — Claire George

Get buy-in “Both product and marketing need to have buy-in on the plan. This requires each side to listen to the other, hear feedback, and adjust plans based on that feedback (if necessary). When teams take the time to proactively explain the ‘why’ behind the work, everyone feels heard and invested. Teams believe in the value of the launch, and as a result, work incredibly hard to make it a success.” — Bonnie Trei

Collaborate in one tool “My former product team used to coordinate everything with marketing via email, which was a big hassle for everyone — it was impossible to keep track of the status of everything. We then got smart and started using one tool to organize and track what each team would provide. We had to coordinate this very early in the planning stages of a new launch so that marketing had enough time to prioritize their work against all other teams they supported.” — Deirdre Clarke

Set recurring meetings “My most successful launches were when we had a strong cross-department launch team with people from product marketing, content marketing, product, support, and engineering — who met on a regular basis to review launch plans. We worked together to ensure that expectations were in check, messaging was on point, and that everyone understood what we were delivering.” — Todd Meyer

Train other teams “Product marketing and product management should team up to train sales, support, and marketing. This is helpful as product often is best at explaining what the product is and why we are building it — while marketing is helpful at teaching how to sell and communicate the value and provide helpful sales tools to support the team.” — Lisa Crowell

Show empathy “It can seem like the only thing that is certain in product and marketing launches is change. In fact, the very concept of a launch is bringing about change in a product. That is why the best launch I was involved with had teams that stayed flexible and patient with each other as work progressed. Even a single person who starts to play the blame game can derail an entire team.” — Bryan McCarty

Celebrate “At my past job, we used to deploy in the middle of the night so we tried to make it fun for all those involved. It was tradition to order breakfast pizzas and get matching launch team hats for the whole group. Now that I work on a remote team, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate our big accomplishments — such as hosting virtual parties or surprising each other with funny gifts in the mail.” — Jennifer Bloom

Share gratitude “A big launch is a time to celebrate another milestone for the company. So, I always try to take time to acknowledge that across all teams, especially product and marketing. You do not get many opportunities to celebrate tangible steps towards delivering on your company mission. When you launch something new, reflect on it with gratitude.” — Jessica Groff

The success of your next launch depends on how well you can create a shared vision and collaborate with the team.

No matter your role — whether it is in product or marketing — you need to put in the hard work to think collectively about what needs to be done. Share your plans, communicate daily, and work together to create something brilliant.

What is your advice for a successful launch?

We love you already. But you might need more time before committing to Aha! How about 30 days free?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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