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.
Deploying Is Not Launching
Cloud software is developed in short sprints and 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 help differentiate your offering in the market and generate demand for your sales force. 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. They are a good way to increase your concentration of media ownership over your competition and to increase awareness about your company’s innovation. 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 is 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 video demo, offers quality reusable content that you can promote through other channels and use as a sales tool that your sales force can email to prospects. The downside of blog posts is that they are less discoverable by prospects reviewing your website and by search engines crawling your site, 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 to 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 accounts.
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.