Step-by-step product launch checklist for product managers
It is the moment all product managers savor. Nothing is quite like the exhilaration and satisfaction you feel after a successful product launch. Seeing all of your hard work come together and celebrating with teammates is a joyful experience. You know you are part of creating something that will delight customers and bring value to the business.
But planning and delivering a new product experience is a complex process. There are engineering features to define, marketing campaigns to coordinate, and sales trainings to plan. And those are just a few of the typical activities in a product launch plan.
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As a product manager, you are in a unique position to oversee all the cross-functional work required to bring the new experience to market. You sit at the epicenter of the organization — you collaborate across teams to deliver on the product vision and ensure that product launches go off seamlessly.
Explore topics that will help you improve how you manage launches:
What is a product launch plan?
A product launch plan is a document that captures all the work that must be completed in order to release a new product or new features on time. Launch plans are useful for aligning the entire organization around what you will be delivering, when, and why it matters. A product launch plan includes everything from design, positioning, and development to campaigns, training, and support.
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The value of having a launch plan
A product launch introduces a new or updated offering to the market — it is a pivotal moment for driving early momentum for your product's growth. Doing this successfully involves developing a strategy, defining product features, building, and delivering all that you have planned. This is where your product launch plan comes in.
A product launch plan provides coordination and clarification. Everyone can quickly see exactly what work must be done to successfully prepare for the launch. Besides keeping the team focused, a launch plan can also help you see the dependencies between each cross-functional group's work. Product, marketing, sales, engineering, and customer support activities must all be coordinated in tandem. Each group impacts the ultimate experience that customers have with the product.
Your integrated launch plan should encompass everything from QA testing and drafting blog post announcements to updating billing options and training the customer support team. While some product managers create these plans in spreadsheets, others use purpose-built roadmap software like Aha! Roadmaps so they can easily coordinate with teammates and share updates across the organization.
Product launch planning should be a collaborative process that includes multiple teams. When everyone understands how their role impacts other teams, it is easier to deliver a frictionless customer experience that your users will love.
Where to start
Drafting a solid product launch plan starts with a retrospective of prior launches. What went well? How can you improve collaboration? Was the team clear on expectations? Capture the good and the bad so that you can improve iteratively.
Once you have reflected on past launches, turn your focus to the upcoming one. Define a product launch strategy so everyone understands what you aim to achieve and how the launch supports the high-level product and company goals. Then you can outline the tactical work each group will complete to deliver the new customer experience.
Using a product launch checklist or template
Break down all the work into specific tasks and list them in your product launch checklist. A repeatable checklist or template makes it easy to organize the activities required to launch a new product — helping the team coordinate and track release activities, deliverables, and dependencies. A checklist can also be used as an indicator of launch readiness.
Below are some common elements of a product launch checklist, grouped by the type of work required — product, go-to-market, systems, sales, customer support, and feedback. Organizing your product launch checklist or template in this way saves time, holds everyone accountable, and lends repeatability to your planning process. While the following outline is a good start, you will want to customize your launch plan based on your product, company, and target audience.
You can also download and use this free product launch checklist. Customize and cross off each task once you complete it.
What to include in your product launch checklist
Not every product launch plan will require every item below. Think of this product launch checklist as a framework for evaluating what various teams across the organization might need to do:
Feature definition: Ensure that engineering teams have all the prioritization, sizing, and documentation needed to start building.
UX / UI design: Provide designers with the UX research, wireframes, and specifications needed to start crafting.
Engineering: Build the key features, most likely in a series of sprints.
QA and operations: Test and deploy the new functionality in production.
Launch date: Set a target date and time for the launch and communicate to stakeholders.
Pricing and packaging: Approve the pricing for the new product experience. Design and approve how it will be bundled or presented to your target audience, including upgrades if relevant.
Positioning: Draft a positioning document or creative brief that covers the key messaging for the product launch based on the product vision, the new functionality, and the value it will deliver to end-users.
Communications plan: Decide how the launch will be announced both inside and outside the organization.
Marketing content: Create new messaging for the product’s website, advertising, and campaigns. Map out all product launch emails, blog posts, webinars, and landing pages.
Social media: Prepare the launch announcement and campaign content to be posted on social channels.
Media relations: Set up meetings with the media and provide updates on key capabilities that are coming. Leverage customer testimonials if possible.
Analyst briefings: Reach out to industry analysts or other influential personnel if appropriate to brief them on what is new and why it matters.
Infrastructure: Make necessary changes to internal monitoring systems, such as analytics, traffic, and product administration.
Billing: Update existing billing options and functionality to accommodate the new product experience.
Finance: Set up key systems to track financial metrics associated with the new product or upgrades that generate add-on revenue.
Sales and support
Documentation: Complete and approve all product documentation, including release notes, help and troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and technical datasheets.
Sales strategy and training: Conduct training and enablement for the sales team. Create sales collateral and update existing materials to include what is new.
Customer success: Train customer support and service teams on the new product functionality and provide them with necessary technical support materials.
Partners: Update and enable partners and affiliates to help communicate and promote the product launch.
Review: Gather the team to discuss what everyone learned from the launch and how the process could be improved next time.
Follow up: Identify and submit bugs for engineering attention. Survey users for their feedback. Solicit testimonials or success stories from customers if relevant.
There is also one critical phase that is not in our product launch checklist: Celebration! Your team should feel an enormous sense of accomplishment after a successful product launch. Have a special product launch event with your teammates on launch day and share your appreciation. It takes hard work to deliver a lovable customer experience.
Frequently asked questions about product launches
What is a product launch strategy?
A product launch strategy defines the "why" behind your launch — with clear goals for what you want to achieve. For example, you may want to generate more interest in your brand or attract new users. Beyond the top-level goals, your launch strategy should also define your objectives across each stage of the launch, including the product positioning, development work, QA testing, promotion, and launch event timing. A launch strategy helps you stay focused on your goals as you begin to plan all of the more detailed work to bring your product to market.
When should you launch a new product?
It depends. Launch timing will depend on your product, market, target audience, and team. Generally speaking, you should launch when you are confident that you have created a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP). Cross-functional teams need to be prepared to market, sell, and support the new customer experience.
How long does a product launch last?
Not every launch is a major sensation. For instance, launching a new set of features likely does not take as much coordination as launching a brand new product. Think of the launch as the entire process of delivering the new customer experience. Launching a product is not just the one-day event when the product experience goes live. Positioning, feature definition, and development work may start many months before the launch date. Sales and support team training could occur a couple weeks prior to the launch date. This is why it is important to build a roadmap that visualizes dates and deliverables to keep everyone informed, in sync, and on time.
What is a product release?
A product release is the delivery of a new experience to your customers, in both functionality and added value. Internally, a product release embodies all of the cross-functional work required to deliver this new product experience and the customer support that goes with it. Product releases can be used to manage completely new product launches or enhancements to existing products.
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