Definition: A product launch refers to a business’s planned and coordinated effort to debut a new product to the market and make that product generally available for purchase.
What is a product launch?
A product launch serves many purposes for an organization— giving customers the chance to buy the new product is only one of them. It also helps an organization build anticipation for the product, gather valuable feedback from early users, and create momentum and industry recognition for the company.
Product launch checklists
Businesses need to plan their product launches strategically and well in advance of their planned launch date. This is because a successful product launch requires the coordinated effort of many teams and departments across the company—not only product management and development, but also marketing, sales, customer support, finance, PR, etc.
Every organization’s circumstances are unique, but a typical checklist should include at least the following:
1. Make sure the team has successfully executed on the strategic vision outlined in the product roadmap
2. Test and QA the new product
(Note: Product launches for software products typically happen only after several levels of testing have been completed. Alpha testing is a product’s first round of end-to-end testing, usually done by the company’s employees. When the product clears this level, the company will send for beta testing, which involves real users but is still before the official commercial release of the product.)
3. Draft and distribute sales and marketing collateral
4. Train the sales team on the new product
5. Train the customer support department on the new product
6. Complete the product’s support and/or technical documentation
7. Let your entire organization know about the approaching product launch
8. Develop and review the customer journey to buy the product, make sure the process is as smooth as possible
9. Devise a plan for tracking user behavior and/or gathering feedback from early users
10. Decide on the metrics you and your team will use to judge the success or failure —for example, revenue or new users within a certain timeframe.
11. Conduct a product launch pre-mortem— where your product team thinks through possible problems or missteps that could hurt your product launch and prepares plans of action for each potential problem in advance.
Read our post on product launch checklists.
Is there a product launch formula?
If there were a one-size-fits-all formula for a successful product launch, then there would be no failed products.
For example, the best strategy for a large SaaS company will differ from the strategy that works for a biotech startup. However, just because there are differences in strategy for different products, does not mean that there aren’t proven ways to improve launches, across the board.
There are some proven strategies product managers can use to increase their chances of a successful product launch, regardless of the industry they’re in.
1. Launch before you’re 100% ready.
In the digital age, with so many competitors in so many industries, businesses can no longer afford to take their time and make sure a new product is perfect before they launch it. By that time, a competitor (or several competitors) might have already taken up much of the market.
One strategy that often works is to launch your product as soon as you’re confident it provides value to your users—even if it’s before you’ve perfected it or developed every feature you wanted to include. You can improve and iterate on the product based on early user feedback.
2. Build for the whole user experience.
Another proven strategy is to focus not only on the product itself but also on every aspect of your customer’s experience—review your sales literature and ads, buy the product, contact your company for support.
When an organization broadens its thinking and builds a product launch (and post-launch) plan to make the best possible experience for every aspect of the customer’s journey, that business is far more likely to enjoy a successful launch.
3. Start with the end in mind.
Finally, product teams should avoid the temptation to jump right in and start building a new product. Success begins with a lot of upfront strategic thinking and decisions on a long-term vision for that product.
When businesses use this approach, that vision helps to set a number of product goals. These goals should be designed to solve the unique problems of your target users. Once you have those goals for the product, you can begin to translate those goals into a strategic blueprint: the product roadmap.
Finally, when you’ve built your roadmap and your stakeholders have approved it, you can begin to break the roadmap’s high-level strategic plans into specific user stories and features and put these task-level items into your product backlog.
The difference between product success and failure
A successful launch requires much more than simply activating the “buy” button beneath your product. It needs to be a company-wide effort that involves the coordination, effort, and enthusiasm of departments across your company.
Product launches require a great deal of planning and lead time. You need to make sure that the many key components—marketing campaigns, sales collateral, trained sales and support reps, and of course a fully tested product—are ready to go before the big day.
When you and your team can plan and execute a successful product launch, you’ll greatly increase the chances of your product resonating with users and generating momentum on its way to market success.
Need extra support for developing your product launch template? Get started with our free product launch template.