It feels invigorating to build awesome products. If you are a product manager, you have the unique chance to lead an idea from conception through completion. This opportunity inspires product managers to get out of bed excited each day.
A major achievement for any PM comes on the day that they launch their product. This is the day when months of hard work is placed into customers’ hands. There is little more rewarding than watching an idea come to life for end users.
But make no mistake — product launches are stressful. Product managers are pulled in several directions at once and have endless people to please. In the lead-up to launch, this can cause burnout.
Before you get in over your head, take a moment to step back and reevaluate. Product launches are most successful when you plan ahead for them from the start — well before your product goes to market.
Think of yourself as your product’s captain: to bring a product to market, you must motivate colleagues to build, market, sell, and support it. This strategy is your secret weapon, and the first essential step to have an awesome product launch.
Are you on the right track towards a successful launch? Make sure that you follow these techniques — and always begin with the end in mind.
Set Clear Goals
Product managers must lead cross-functional teams with conviction while managing requests from colleagues and customers. This means it’s essential for PMs to know where they should be investing their time. The only way to do this effectively is to internalize their product’s goal.
All amazing products have a clear goal in mind — a “true north” for the whole team to work towards. This “goal first” approach involves writing down what the product should achieve. Once written, share it with everyone working on the product launch, from sales managers to c-suite stakeholders. This way, everyone knows what they are working towards and what they are expected to achieve.
Without a clear strategy in mind, every new request will seem more urgent than the last. That’s why it’s essential for product managers to set clear goals for all involved with a product launch.
A “goal first” approach is about defining what work is most important and must be addressed immediately. It helps product teams can stay on the same track from the start.
Have a Detailed Plan
Product launches can be unpredictable, and product planning even more so. That’s where detailed plans come in. PMs receive increased requests as launch dates approach, and these requests will come from diverse teams. Without a launch plan in place, these can easily get out of hand.
Product launches rely on the work of many teams, and each unique contributor will want to see what they are responsible for. That’s why cross-functional plans are essential; they help teams think holistically about the customer experience. The cross-functional plan should account for how each team will track and complete their work throughout the product planning phase.
To maximize launch plans, start planning up to six months in advance. The initial planning stage will define:
- Target audience
- Goals and metrics
Without completing these steps, teams cannot proceed with day-to-day tasks. Misaligned expectations lead to unclear communication—the number one barrier that takes teams off track towards product launches.. Throughout the following months, these high-level efforts will dri ve everything from product roadmaps to content calendars. They will also help PMs assess if incoming requests are feasible or valuable.
Always assess requests against this launch plan. If requests will not enhance any of these initiatives, then they should be de-prioritized.
Know Your Positioning
Is a competing product already on the market? Don’t worry about it. That might sound contrarian, but the truth is that a product doesn’t need to be the first of its kind.
There were plenty of social networks before Facebook. To succeed in market, a product doesn’t need to be first. It just needs to be better.
To build lovable products, PMs need to know whether they are serving the right market at the right time. They also need to know what separates their product from its competitors. To make sure that teams build what matters, clearly explain and document how to tell the product’s story. This allows everyone to speak about the product in the same way, and with conviction.
Before launch, know what makes the product different. And make sure everyone else knows as well.
Lean on the Team
Products are not built and launched in a vacuum. PMs rely heavily on cross-functional teams, from sales and support to engineering. That’s why the first step is to share the product vision and make sure everyone understands the launch positioning. But it doesn’t end there.
As PM, your job is to be a customer advocate. But each team offers unique insight that will help everyone excel.
Sales knows which new features prospects are requesting. Engineering knows the most effective way to build these features. Support knows which problems users struggle with most often. These three perspectives each add unique value to your work, as well as the end product.
Trust and delegation are crucial aspects of a successful product launch. They allow PMs to focus on high level efforts and help everyone see how they contribute. Never forget that without the work and insights of many people, product vision cannot come to life.
The best product managers are evangelists and detailed project managers in one. They empower cross-functional teams to build lovable products — and understand what must be done to get the product out the door.
Product launches are daunting. But when they go wrong, it’s usually due to weak planning and worse communication. Product teams have the best product launches when they work according to clear goals, deliver goods on time, and understand what makes their product lovable.
Above all else, product teams are most successful when all involved in the planning stage feel included and respected. It means that on launch day, everyone will champion a product that the whole team is proud of.
Lauren Maffeo is a graduate of GA London’s Spring 2013 Digital Marketing course. She oversees content strategy at Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software.