Successful product launches are led by product marketers who understand the significance of continuity in branding and messaging, and alignment cross functionally.
Blake Emal recently sat down with product marketing expert, Alex Virden, to learn more about the repeatable framework she utilizes to enable teams and maximize the impact of new feature launches.
Alex Virden shares how product marketing acts as the strategic glue between departments, and in managing branding oriented to clearly communicate product value, builds high-performing launch teams.
What are Product Marketers?
Product marketers play a critical role in connecting different departments and enabling unified product launches. They act as the strategic "glue" between teams like sales, product management, and customer success.
Product marketers understand that consistent branding and messaging across the board helps to communicate product value clearly, eliminating factors like customer confusion.
By driving cross-functional alignment, consistency, and readiness, product marketers can execute launches that meet business goals and provide a seamless customer experience.
Consider these tips to unify your teams for a your next launch:
- Create a shared launch calendar across sales, marketing, product, and customer success to align on timing, assign owners, and track progress.
- Hold regular cross-functional launch meetings starting 90 days prior to launch to discuss positioning, plan activities, and identify risks.
- Develop launch readiness scorecards for each department to track progress on assets, training, and launch preparedness.
- Create a shared messaging document, FAQ, and sales collateral on the product launch so all teams use consistent language.
- Equip the sales team with branded pitch decks, demo scripts, objection handlers, and competitor guides to effectively sell the new product.
- Schedule dry-run pitches and roleplay sessions for the sales team to practice positioning the product.
- Conduct training workshops on product value prop and customer personas for client-facing teams.
- Map out customer onboarding journeys and success milestones to align post-launch.
- Analyze launch KPIs like lead conversion, sales cycle, and customer retention across functions.
- Gather launch feedback and lessons learned to improve processes for the next release.
Product marketing roles also own the branding and messaging that convey a product’s value. They must develop compelling positioning and narratives, create branded launch assets, and equip the sales team with the right tools and language to communicate the product to others convincingly.
Overall, experienced product marketers must be able to manage cross-functional launch responsibilities and ensure brand messaging alignment to drive powerful product releases.
Importance of Researching the Product First
To lay the foundation for a successful launch, product marketers must have a strong command of both the technical product details and the customer perspective. Fluency in both realms is crucial for helping product marketers articulate technical details in ways that resonate and address the true needs of their customers.
Here are few suggestions on how to go about doing this:
- Conduct exhaustive product research: work closely with devs to explain how features technically function. Attend product demos and testing to see capabilities in action. Understand why engineering built it this way. Document detailed technical knowledge for internal training.
- Immerse yourself in customer research: interview target users to map workflows and challenges. Ask probing questions to uncover root frustrations. Observe users interacting with the product to pinpoint confusion areas. Analyze support tickets for enhancements requested.
- Distill key benefits and outcomes: avoid industry jargon and technical terms, keep your language around the product simple. Use analogies and metaphors to relate complex concepts to simple ideas. Create explanatory visual assets to demonstrate functionality.
- Simplify messaging architecture: develop tiers of messaging from technical to friendly. Train stakeholders on adapting messaging based on audience technical knowledge. Maintain a FAQ using natural language to explain features conversationally.
- Apply learnings continuously: test messages and positioning with target personas through surveys and interviews. Iterate based on feedback. Adjust language to resonate best with each customer segment.
By combining deep product expertise with customer empathy, product marketers can unlock a features' value as it directly relates to their customer. Communicating these benefits to the customer in a language they understand is key to a successful launch.
How to Successfully Launch a Product
Alex Virden recommends having a repeatable launch process for new feature releases.
One of the frameworks she uses is below:
- Rate product features by importance. Is it going to be a big launch or a small one?
- Make a timeline listing tasks for each team.
- Share materials early so teams learn how to talk about the new features in a consistent, clear way.
- Don't just focus on ads and website pages. Train the sales and support departments too.
Virden asserts that having defined, repeatable processes makes launches more scalable and effective and enables continuous optimization over time.
Here are some more ideas on how to streamline your launch process:
- Categorize feature launches based on launch size, complexity, and goals: define criteria like expected revenue impact, customer segments affected, new messaging required to rate launches as small, medium or large. Tailor processes based on launch size.
- Create a shared project plan and calendar: map all key activities across departments on a shared calendar from briefing to launch. Include owners and time estimates. Activities may include briefing, positioning, creating assets and tools, training, QA, and go-live.
- Develop templates and reusable assets: maintain templates for launch plans, email campaigns, demo scripts, presentations to reuse for each launch. Update with each launch's specifics. Build a library of visual assets like icons and diagrams.
- Conduct regular launch meetings: hold cross functional meetings at predefined intervals over the launch timeline. Discuss progress, positioning, demo feedback, and launch readiness.
- Create a pre-launch approval process: define quality gates that must be cleared before launch e.g. sales training completed, messaging tested, all assets complete. Conduct readiness reviews.
- Develop online launch knowledge hubs: create centralized confluence pages or wikis with all launch details and tools for sales enablement, support, and customer success.
- Gather feedback post-launch: conduct surveys to get cross-functional input on what worked and improvements needed. Feed findings into future launch processes.
How to Build a Product Marketing Team
Virden states that it’s important to build your product marketing team to match business goals.
Take time to fully understand your company's go-to-market strategy.
Identify the major customer segments you target and the programs focused on each.
For example, small business buyers may require more education and awareness-building versus large enterprises where the focus is on targeted sales plays. Analyze what roles are needed to support these strategic programs. For small business, you may need content marketing and partnerships and for large customers, the focus might be on sales enablement and account-based marketing.
Consider how your sales organization is structured as well.
Are customer segments assigned to specific sales teams? Are there defined nurture and growth programs?
Align your product marketing roles to mesh.
Define responsibilities across the product marketing team that map to business priorities and have product marketers’ own specific segments, channels, or programs as their area of expertise. Put in place a means or process for sharing knowledge across the team.
In order to optimize campaigns, assets, and enablement tools for each product marketer's area of focus, do not take a one-size-fits-all approach. Customize messaging and campaigns for maximum resonance with your customer base.
Continuously evaluate new business initiatives and adjust Product Marketing roles and responsibilities accordingly. Evolve the team structure as the company strategy shifts. Keeping the team flexible and aligned while synergizing product marketing with broader company goals and go-to-market will ultimately optimize your business goals.
Successful product marketing expert, Alex Virden, shares how cross functional alignment, communication and team structure drive powerful product launches.
She shares the following key insights:
- Product marketing connects different departments and teams.
- Research helps explain complex features simply.
- A repeatable system is key to a successful launch.
- Build a team that matches business needs and sales goals.
Using these strategic tips will help you enable powerful and unified product launches.