Agile Software Launches for Your Cloud Platform

Remember the days when a software launch was a big deal? They happened about every six months, or maybe even once a year They required cross functional teams, big project plans, and meetings–lots of meetings. Product marketers were as important to the success of the platform as developers. But those days are behind us now. We’re in the cloud. We’re Agile. We embrace change, code fast, and deploy often. No more need for launches, right?

Of course not, but even the best cloud companies with the most advanced development methodologies tend to falter when it comes to product marketing and software launches because they fail to modernize their marketing along with their development processes.

Let’s review some objectives of the old-school product launch and see if they still apply today:

  • Differentiate your product in the market and build brand recognition.
    Yeah, that’s important.
  • Communicate benefits to users and manage change.
    Client satisfaction and retention are more important than ever.
  • Create sales opportunities and prepare your sales force to sell it.
    Demand gen and sales enablement haven’t gone away.

And these are just the beginning. What if our new features require pricing and packaging changes? Perhaps they are up-sell or add-on features. Won’t they need codes in your CRM? Is your development team integrating the new features with your licensing framework? What about contract or EULA changes? The product marketer still needs to assemble and lead the operational readiness team.

The product launch is far from dead; it has evolved. Product marketers now need to be agile and embrace change too. We need to work in sprints, and often with little lead time before new features ship. There is nothing worse than dropping new features on your sales team without preparing them to sell them and the same goes for dropping new features on your clients without preparing them to use them.

Remember that one of the principles of Agile software development states, “business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project” and the product marketer is key to making this happen.

These are some of the topics I plan to cover on this site and I will update this post with links as I address relevant topics. For the early days, I’ll leave this post stuck to the top of the blog.

Related Posts:

Deploying Is Not Launching

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Get Out of the Office and Give Something Back

It’s a principle of Pragmatic Marketing and just good practice in general. Marketing leaders, especially product marketing leaders, need to be out of the office and in their market on a regular basis. You need to be an expert in your solution so you can present at conferences and user groups, as well as supporting sales calls. Yes, present.

It’s common knowledge that marketing leaders need to listen to the market, but communication is a two-way process, give and get. It’s one thing to show up at a client site with a list of questions and listen to responses. It’s quite another thing to show up and present something meaningful, perhaps your product roadmap, before you start asking for free information.

All too often, senior leaders leave the presentation or demo to their staff or another SME, but you need to be the subject matter expert, the authority, before you gain the respect that will get you the real information you need. Some compelling topics that marketing leaders can present are:

  • Your product roadmap aligned to user feedback and market needs.
  • Thought leadership about the drivers and direction of your market and product.
  • New innovations and their competitive differentiation.

The list can be endless, but just remember that when someone sees the word, “marketing” in your title, they think your are there to sell them something or ask them for something. Surprise them by giving first and when you do ask, you will get the real thing, valuable information.

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Deploying Is Not Launching

Cloud software is developed in short sprints and it is often ready for deployment before you are ready to launch. Even if a new feature or full capability is fully deployed, you should still launch it to market if it will contribute to your company’s reputation, generate demand, enable your sales force, or increase adoption. Often your first priority will be to prepare and educate your existing users (a subject for another post), but just because your feature has shipped, doesn’t mean you can’t still launch it. It won’t go away.

Product marketing for cloud platforms often requires launching after deployment. You still need to tell the market what you built and why it is important, even if your tactics are not aligned with the deployment date. Some key tactics to consider for your major features and capabilities include:

  • Press releases: while many buyers don’t read press releases, they are often picked up by industry publications that will use your exact text as the body of the article. Your PR firm or division should ensure you get pickups of all your press releases. They are a good way to increase your concentration of media ownership over your competition and to increase awareness about your company’s innovation. That’s building reputation. And while you shouldn’t issue a press release on every new feature, you should consider one whenever you can create an angle, such as an innovative feature that your competitors don’t offer or where you have an advantage over how they offer a similar capability. If you can get picked up by an industry publication, you have external content to link to in your other tactics.

  • Blog posts: your blog is the agile version of your website. It’s where you can publish frequently without rethinking the larger structure of how you represent the entirety of the platform. A short blog post on the benefits of a new feature, especially with a short explainer video, offers quality reusable content that you can promote through other channels and use as an enablement tool that your sales force can email to prospects. The downside of blog posts is that they are less discoverable by search engines or by prospects reviewing your website, but if you write and promote them correctly, you can increase their effectiveness. The most effective blog post is one that highlights a client’s adoption of your new feature if you can get one.

  • Social media: It is all too common to just tweet out new features, but your tweet or post will be far more effective if you have content to link to. That’s why the press release and blog are more important early tactics. You should also know which hashtags to apply to your posts. If your feature solves a known problem, see if there is a hashtag associated with it. Don’t limit yourself to your industry and company hashtags. You should also know if your company has social influencers among its ranks and have them post from personal accounts so that all your social influence is not posted under the company’s main account.

Product marketers are often caught off guard by short sprint cycles and early deployments, but don’t be. You haven’t missed your opportunity to tell the market about what you’ve built and why it is important. In a future post I’ll discuss ways to align your agile roadmap with your marketing plan so that you can better align your launch with deployment and avoid surprises.

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