What product managers need to know about launching products
Today we are talking about go-to-market planning and what is involved in planning the launch of products.
Helping us learn about this is Karthik Suresh. He is a technology product leader who has led teams as founder, early hire, and executive at companies including Facebook, Craft.co, and KCG holdings. He studied computer science at Carnegie Mellon and business at the London Business School. Now, he is the co-founder of Ignition, which has helped organizations launch more than 200 products. Ignition is the world’s first go-to-market platform for managing all stages of the product life cycle.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:50] Can you share a story about getting a product to market?
My last role at Facebook was as a product manager in the Facebook Reality Labs, which is now Meta.
Six months later, we had another launch with a new product marketing manager who did it differently. We had to learn everything again. It was a highly fragmented process, with assets and copies delivered in various different ways. Eighty percent of the time, product marketing managers are managing stakeholders rather than planning the launch.
[9:48] What factors contribute to failures in launching products?
One of the biggest issues is not having a strategic planning process for go-to-market. Companies dedicate most of their resources to engineering and product development and very little to messaging about their value propositions. Sending an email to customers is not a launch. You need a multichannel approach to reach your target users.
Another reason is lack of experience. Company founders tend to be product managers or engineers who value product and engineering over marketing. Many product marketing managers don’t have previous experience doing launches at a large scale.
Your go-to-market process should be tiered. Spend the first tier planning as a team, setting objectives, thinking about the target audience, talking to users, and figuring out messaging and positioning channels. You need to communicate your value proposition to your customers. Product managers talk a lot to users, but marketing doesn’t have that experience, so they often copy everything from the product specs and make that the launch. That doesn’t work because it needs to be a completely different process.
You also need to know what marketing objective you’re going after and have a game plan for each objective. If you’re trying to get customers to switch to your product from a competitor or you’re trying to grow your category, you could invest in SEO. But if you’re creating a new category, don’t invest in SEO because people aren’t searching for it yet—instead, invest in content generation.
Another problem is being rushed. Marketing teams and engineering teams rarely communicate about delays. There’s a problem with coordinating timing.
[15:54] What elements should be part of go-to-market planning?
At the macro level, go-to-market includes the company-level GTM strategy set by the executives. The micro level is a plan for the specific product and features. First, you need a tiered process in place to put your launch in the correct tier depending on whether you’re launching an entirely new product or enhancing an existing product with a small feature. Then follow these steps:
- Have clear business and marketing objectives and KPIs.
- Figure out who your target audience is. Have a clear idea of your ideal customer profile.
- Determine how to position your products to differentiate from competitors.
- Create copy to communicate your value proposition to your target audience. Have a 40-character message that pitches the value proposition and top three features. Clearly define the messaging strategy.
- Choose which channels to use to get your messaging to your users.
- Put together campaigns for each channel.
- Check everything on your launch checklist. Communicate with engineers and other stakeholders to make sure everything is ready.
- Align all your stakeholders before launch day. Get approval from leadership and resolve conflicts.
- Post-launch, take clear measurements and run a retrospective survey.
[23:33] What kind of testing do you do to validate your messaging?
Before starting messaging, talk to as many users as you can and record insights. Use qualitative and quantitative data. Test different messages. You could run Google search ads with different messages and see which has the highest click-through rate.
[24:53] What differences have you seen in go-to-market processes based on the scale of the organization?
Early-stage startups have less expertise and fewer resources. They need to balance their speed of execution and strategic planning, which is a huge cost for early startups to invest in. The biggest mistake I’ve seen is companies investing in SEO when they’re creating a new category.
Late-stage companies have huge go-to-market teams and lots of experience, but they need to make sure all the stakeholders are aligned. Getting approval for copy, assets, plans, etc., can be an issue.
Product managers have very different jobs in early-stage startups compared to in late-stage companies. Product managers in established companies have many resources, so most of their time is spent on stakeholder alignment—reaching out to partner teams, figuring out the roadmap, and removing roadblocks for engineers. In early-stage companies, PMs have no resources. They’re doing user research, analyzing data, and figuring out product-market fit. There’s little issue with stakeholder alignment; the main challenge is hustling to deliver results with very limited resources.
Action Guide: Put the information Karthik shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
“If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.” – Charles Kettering
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.