So often in product marketing, you build over time to a big reveal. Classic demand generation marketing operates on a monthly cycle, but product marketing more closely resembles a marathon. Okay -- maybe not a marathon so much as a 26-mile full-on breathless sprint. You can (and should) do all sorts of research ahead of time to make projections about that launch -- for example, whether your messaging will resonate or the product will ultimately gain traction.
You can never really know whether you did a good job with the launch until the day the product is out in the wild. That may leave you, a product marketing leader, wondering: Are we doing enough? Do we have the right plays to give this product the strongest possible shot at success?
Over the years, we’ve launched hundreds of features, products, and partnerships at HubSpot. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is the importance of evolving your launch strategy for each new product.
Most product marketers know the standard playbook of launches: Events, email, social, teaser pages, and so forth. Following the same playbook will quickly lead to stale launch days. At times, you’ll feel like you’ve exhausted every channel or checked off every tactic in the book, those are times to question your approach -- not rely on it. Here are a few points of amplification that are often overlooked.
Finding New Markets
Our path to becoming a global company has gone through a number of phases, each with its own implications for product marketing.
In our first phase, we predominantly launched products in English and from a North American perspective. Looking back, I remember thinking we’d done everything possible to spread the word about our new features, and that adjusting our messaging and tactics to different regions wouldn’t improve results. I was wrong. This isn’t just about having a product that can be translated to different languages; it’s about optimizing for each market you sell to -- even within one language. Not every English-language market is the same, and adjusting your strategy for each can lead to better outcomes.
Our next phase in becoming a global company focused on translating our product and launch materials to different languages. This step is necessary, but not sufficient. It can be painfully obvious to would-be customers when they’re not the primary audience, and getting secondhand launch materials adds friction to their experience. A truly global launch approach starts with the question: In which markets will this have the best product-market fit? Where are the needs that this product solves the greatest? That may be every market, but more often than not, it’s a subset.
Once you identify the strongest markets for a launch, create a native and targeted strategy for each rather than using the same translated approach everywhere. Your outcomes will more than justify the investment. For example, rather than launching everything at the same time, you may find that it makes more sense to launch a product first in Spanish for a LATAM market and then a few months later in English for a North American one. For us, this has meant leading with different products in different markets, and spacing out the timing of launches.
Finding new markets is not just about new regions or languages. The biggest mistake product marketers make in launch strategy is that they over-focus on net new users at the expense of existing users or customers. Or they launch every new feature to a familiar persona, rather than understanding who each feature should be marketed to. You may have done everything under the sun for a product launch for one audience, but there may be an entirely different audience for whom you’re just scraping the surface.
Broadening Your Launch Team
If you were to ask me what the single biggest turning point in our product launch strategy at HubSpot, I would say that it was when we started offering a sneak peek of product announcements to our agency partner network. Our product is a software platform that helps growing businesses market, sell and serve their customers better. Some of our customers use HubSpot by itself, but others engage agencies to help build out their marketing, sales or overall business strategies. There are thousands of HubSpot partner agencies around the world working with thousands more growing companies.
We started giving our top agencies a sneak peek of upcoming releases and early access to new features so they’d be fully equipped to work with clients of theirs. What we didn’t fully realize was just how much these partners would add to the buzz and awareness of our features on launch day. Our partner agencies all have robust publications, social media platforms and audiences of their own. By giving them early notice and access to new software, we also afforded them the time to develop their own launch strategies for those platforms and audiences.
In year one, we noticed the difference immediately. We were no longer launching alone. Suddenly, we were all launching together and the surround-sound was significant. In the following years, we got better at this. In addition to early access, we gave them a drop box of supplies -- graphics, videos, training materials. This coordination started to drive greater consistency and a cleaner, more potent message across all content. Often, partners found angles and stories that were better than our own, and we started amplifying their content in addition to ours.
What if you don’t have a network of partner agencies? You can still broaden your launch team. Find out who you do have that could be just as excited to announce your new features as you are. If you have a big company, equip every employee to help spread the word in a coordinated way. If you had early testers or beta users, enlist them in the announcement in fun ways. If you rest the extent of the launch entirely on the backs of your product marketing team, your launch will only go so far as they can throw. By bringing others into your launches in strategic and exclusive ways, you add breadth and diversity to your narrative.
Repackaging the Launch
If product launches are a 26-mile all-out sprint, then it makes sense that the overwhelming impulse after release is to collapse on the floor, sleep for a few days and then refocus on next one. I confess, there have been times when I’ve worked so hard on the build up to an announcement that I never want to see the launch materials again after the release. Concentrating all of your marketing efforts on the week of launch without a plan for how to extend that initial pop of attention truncates your opportunity.
There is still a lot of life in your launch materials after their initial release. If your product launch includes an announcement event, record and repackage the keynote address for follow-up webinars or micro-cuts on social media. If you pitched a story to the media surrounding the launch, make that narrative theme a continued focus across your content, research and events throughout the following six months to reinforce your expertise in the product area. We’ve found been able to exponentially increase views of a launch message, just by repackaging launch content in interesting ways in the months following a product roll-out. As product marketers, we focus so much on the day of the launch itself, we risk forgetting that it’s just the beginning of a life for a product or message.
The underlying message in a lot of these points of leverage is that the product marketer’s role is much broader than launch execution alone. It’s about knowing the larger context of a product and the intricacies of a business enough to spot the greatest areas of opportunity even when they’re uncommon. It’s about understanding the motivations of teams across the entire company so that you can put the product’s potential in their terms and solve goals that span far beyond the week of release. If you can do that, the opportunities for amplification will spring eternal.