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What is a Product Launch vs. Feature Launch
Both a product launch and the launch of an individual product feature are complex undertakings. In each case, the launch requires a lot of research, planning, and coordination across the company. For both types of launches, the organization should also build in a lot of lead time. A product launch vs. a feature launch take plenty of preparation and communication with the market and internal team to build awareness and momentum.
But a product launch and feature launch are two different events. Each has unique goals and requires a different execution strategy for success. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between a product launch vs. a feature launch. We’ll also suggest best practices and resources and help you launch your new product or feature.
What is a Product Launch?
A product launch refers to all of the coordinated steps in a company’s plan to deliver a product to the market. It involves far more than releasing the product to customers. For example, a product launch includes pre-launch market research and messaging to the company’s targeted users. It also involves developing plans for user onboarding, and preparing the support team to help users after the product goes live.
What is a Feature Launch?
A feature launch refers to the coordinated steps in a company’s plan to make a new feature available in its product. Like launching a new product, a feature launch requires a lot of market research, internal coordination across the organization, and communication with the public before the new feature generally becomes available in the product.
How do Product Launches vs. Feature Launches Differ?
The main differences between these launches are the goals of each.
What are the Goals of a Product Launch vs. a Feature Launch?
Product launch goals:
With a product launch, a business is hoping to accomplish several objectives, including:
- Find a product-market fit
- Capture new customers
- Increase in revenue
- Build the company’s reputation in the industry
In many cases, the company also hopes to use the new product to upsell users of its less-expensive (or free) products, or to cross-sell customers using different solutions the company offers.
With a feature launch, the business also wants to achieve these goals. Companies often introduce new features to their products, for example, hoping to capture new customers who were not sufficiently persuaded to buy the product with its previous feature-set.
Feature launch goals:
Organizations often have other primary goals for their feature launches. As CEO Pulkit Agrawal explains, the goals of a product-feature launch include:
- Reduce churn: Adding a new feature can re-engage users who have lost interest in the product and might even be considering switching to a competitor.
- Improve customer loyalty: When customers see that you are continuing to improve and add value to your product, they might feel more positive about your company and the product itself.
- Boost retention: Releasing new features to your product can increase the chances of users discovering the functionality they cannot live without. The feature can increase the average length of time your customers stay with your product and boost your average lifetime customer value.
How do You Execute a Successful Product Launch vs. a Feature Launch?
In his article 18 Tips for Planning a Flawless New Product Launch, Hubspot’s Product Marketing Leader Marcus Andrews advises breaking the product launch into three phases:
Phase 1: Pre-Launch
For Andrews, this stage requires the most steps and the most extended timeframe. It includes researching the market and your user persona, developing the messaging and creative assets for your new product, and developing your go-to-market strategy.
Phase 2: Launch
During the launch phase, you will activate everything you’ve set up in your pre-launch planning. You’ll send your communications to your user personas, enable your social media messages, and turn on the other marketing and sales channels you’ve prepared. You’ll also tell sales to contact their prospects to let them know the product is now available.
Phase 3: Post-Launch
After you’ve delivered the product to the market, your company will shift into a new mode to keep the momentum going. The new mode will include supporting users, gathering their feedback, and refining your product’s messaging based on what you learn to make more of an impact with other potential users.
Carlos G de Villaumbrosia, the founder of Product School, suggests taking a different approach by creating pre-launch checklists for each department that will be involved in the launch:
- Make sure the team is working from a complete and updated user persona
- Understand the content strategy and planned marketing-channel distribution
- Learn the basics of press distribution and media coverage
- Familiarize yourselves with FAQs and responses
- Clarify sales strategies, channels, key marketing messages
- Know all partnerships that are participating in the product launch
- Review all product tutorials, demos, and any relevant technical documentation
- Familiarize yourselves with FAQs and responses
- Learn the escalation protocol for problematic cases
By planning your product launch this way, and involving all of the right people from the start, you can reduce your chances of suffering a product launch horror story.
As Pulkit Agrawal explains, his software company Chameleon uses the following four-step process for launching and announcing new features:
This first step gives the team a chance to set the key metrics for the new feature. When they’ve agreed on the goals, the team will know what is a success (and failure).
Next, the team will identify the target user persona for its new feature. Sometimes a feature will be useful only to a subset of the product’s user base. Figuring out who these people are will help the company create and distribute the proper messages through the right channels.
Each time it plans to introduce a new feature, the company should evaluate how valuable the target user persona will find the feature. For a feature that’s useful but not a game-changer, the company might want to limit its messages to users, so it doesn’t overwhelm them. On the other hand, a significant new feature that could add tremendous value to the product might deserve a high level of promotion to all users.
Finally, the team will figure out which channels to promote its new feature. For software apps, this can include messaging built right into the solution itself. It can also include direct messages to users, blog posts, webinars, and other content.
Bonus Tip: You can find another helpful discussion of how to implement a successful feature launch in this Q&A with Nick Smith, Geckoboard’s product marketing manager.
For both product launches and feature launches, we also recommend you capture your team’s strategic thinking and planning in a purpose-build product roadmap app. You can get started with our free Product Launch Template: