Getting started with your first go-to-market plan can be overwhelming. Expectations for the launch to go smoothly will be high, and it may seem like you’ll never be ready in time for launch. But by planning ahead, it can be more manageable, and exceed your team’s expectations. Based on my experience with over 50 product and feature launches, here are 5 tested product launch best practices for getting set-up for success for your first go-to-market (GTM) plan.
Product Launch Best Practices
Product Launch Best Practice #1: Make a list, and check it twice
First things first – get organized. A GTM plan essentially starts with a checklist of everything you will be doing for a product launch. Start with a list of all the possible channels where your product message can appear – social, the web, your blog, etc. Creating a master list where all stakeholders can track your progress is a great way to get on the same page and build confidence in the process. I prefer Google spreadsheets to share with stakeholders to easily keep them in the loop with what’s happening as well as receive comments.
Product Launch Best Practice # 2: Set up a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed)
You may have heard this MBA – speak in other contexts, but the RACI is incredibly important when it comes to having a successful GTM plan. By defining the RACI -essentially your contributors and stakeholders – you will have a better handle of who is doing the work, when everything is due, and who you should keep in the loop. You can have a RACI for each deliverable on your GTM plan, or just for each larger milestone. The basic premise is as follows – and a person cannot appear in more than one bucket.
- R – Responsible – The person doing the work
- A – Accountable – the manager or executive sponsor, ultimately held accountable for the outcome
- C – Consulted – Someone whose opinion you want to make sure that you get, i.e. the content area expert
- I – Informed – Anyone that should know about what you’re doing
Product Launch Best Practice # 3: Talk to your customers
Talking to customers or prospective customers is the most overlooked part of a GTM strategy. It blows me away every time I hear that people have not talked to customers before developing or launching a product. Ideally, if you’re working with a product manager, they will have customers that they are testing a product or feature with at different phases of the product lifecycle (i.e. Alpha and Beta). At each of these stages, the number of customers you are testing the product with increases. This is a great time to piggyback on the conversations that the product manager is having to make sure the messaging is working, the pricing matches the customer expected value, and that there is product/ market fit. Talking to customers can also help you realize the places that they are absorbing content, and how they would like to see the information presented (i.e. a demo video vs. a one sheet – or both).
Product Launch Best Practice # 4: Be realistic about your launch timing
Hands down, THE most difficult thing to master with a Go-To-Market plan is the timing of the launch – or the “go live” date. In the digital world, so much is up in the air and timing can be really fluid. While “agile” thinking helps teams accomplish great things, it can also be incredibly frustrating as a marketer, as we sometimes have date-dependent things that cost real money (e.g. planned media buys or events). In my experience, there are a few things that can help nail the timing:
- Back into it. If you’re pushing for a launch date 3 months out, that may seem like plenty of time now, but do some quick calendar reviewing to make sure you will hit your milestones and the ultimate launch. Gut check with the product manager (PM) – “If we are aiming for a June 15 launch, that means the alpha will need to wrap no later than April 15 and the beta by May 15 in order to hit that date.” – when laid out like that they may be able to give you better context and see if that’s reasonable.
- Understand if your PM is more conservative, aggressive, or clueless about timing. Do this by asking around, and also asking the PM directly on their past experience hitting deadlines with launches. I know from working with certain PMs, for example, that they over-promise on their launch dates and are never ready for that date. Others are more conservative, and you might find yourself pushing them to get the product to market. Some have never done this before, and need some hand holding with making sure they understand all the dependencies of how to get a product out the door.
- Get leadership support on the date. This is especially important if anything is launch dependent (i.e. as previously mentioned you are putting real money behind this in an event or media buy). Having this oversight, especially when budget is attached, puts the added pressure on a launch date that can be really helpful to push the PM to hit this target date. This adds extra pressure to everyone but if you can really launch in a special way (i.e. pairing your launch with your CEO’s planned speaking event at an upcoming industry conference) – this is worth the stress.
- Have weekly check ins. On slack, in person – whatever works for your team – but give everyone who is launch-critical the opportunity once/ week to raise any concerns about not hitting the launch date – before it’s too late.
Product Launch Best Practice # 5: Know who you are launching to
This may seem obvious, but ask the dumb questions – it’s highly probable that no one else has. Are you launching this product to all of your customers around the world, at one time? For larger businesses and those with a global reach, this can add weeks to your timeline if you’re trying to do this all at once (hello translations!). It’s perfectly acceptable to stagger launches – i.e. launching in the US first then followed by English speaking countries outside of the US, then finally the world. This helps you get a better handle on timing.
Similarly – make sure you know if this is for new or existing customers, and if there is anything to segment them even further (I constantly hear founders saying their products are “for everyone.” – sorry, they’re not!). A major marketer’s dilemma is making sure that you are marketing to the right group with the right messaging, and the further you can segment this, the better.
Finally, remember to take a deep breath! Something unexpected always happens during a product launch, but this should help you get set up in the best way possible. Good luck 🙂
Written by Mary Sheehan, founder of the Go-To Marketer. YourGoToMarkter.com