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How to lead a successful product launch
A company’s product launch can be a make-or-break situation. Without a strong launch, there’s a good chance the product won’t build enough momentum to acquire and delight users, and will ultimately fail on the market.
So how can you avoid this scenario?
Keep reading to learn what the best product launches have in common and how to lead a strong product launch.
What is a product launch?
A product launch is a set of strategic efforts to introduce a new product on the market.
Every product launch is different, just as every product is different. But here are four key aspects of a successful product launch:
The 4 principles of a stellar product launch
There’s no one-size-fits-all product launch solution. For example, a company releasing a biomedical self-tracking app will have a different launch experience from a company selling data analytics software.
But these four product launch principles will give you a head start at ensuring a successful launch for your product.
1. Start with a strong strategy and vision
Product strategy is key. The best product launches have a rock-solid product vision behind them that shows how your product fulfills your customers’ unmet needs and jobs to be done (JTBD).
Remember: product experience insights tools like Hotjar help you better understand your customers so you can feel confident your product is solving the right problems.
A lot of companies are very secretive and don’t tell users what product updates are coming.
Instead of this, we love to get our users involved early on, whether it’s by completing a Hotjar survey with some questions about a feature in developments or having them actually join us on calls.
Getting your users invested early on gives them something to look forward to once it is launched and also helps ensure you are building the right features.
Successful launches are usually the result of a well-designed product roadmap that infuses user-centricity into the product development process.
Excellent product teams validate their product ideas with customers and engage in continuous product discovery. They’re always learning more about their users and how to create products and updates that will generate customer delight, from the earliest design stages right through to launch and post-launch.
Knowing the problem you’re solving is fundamental to launching a product that’s successful on the market. Starting with a well-defined product brings you one step closer to a smooth launch.
2. Launch quickly, test, and improve
Though strategy is critical, it’s important to balance research and planning with the pressures to get your product out quickly.
In a fast-moving digital age, the cost of delay can be high. If you wait too long, competitors could swoop in and take over your planned user niche, or you could run out of money before you’ve gone to market.
That means you need to launch before you feel 100% ready or sure that the product’s perfect—and here’s a secret: you’ll never feel 100% ready.
As soon as you’re confident the product you’ve developed provides significant value to users, launch!
Then, collect feedback from early users to improve the next iterations.
Pro tip: use Hotjar’s Incoming Feedback widget to ask early users quick questions without interrupting their product experience.
Unlike many feedback tools, which take users off your product page or distract them from what they’re trying to do, our Incoming Feedback widget lets users experience your product and share small chunks of feedback on the go.
3. Prioritize excellent product communication
The best product launches are defined by excellent communication: the story you tell about your product matters.
Ensure you have a clear product narrative that defines the 'why' behind the product and what makes it unique from competitors.
But remember, product storytelling isn’t just for customers—by unifying communication within the company, you ensure that everyone is on the same page and telling the same story when it’s time to launch. You can overcome many of the most common product management challenges by aligning your team.
When you launch your product, make sure your product story goes beyond the facts and figures to build an emotional connection with users. Focusing on the problems it will solve for them—and what it will feel like to experience solving those problems—is a great place to start.
To tell an effective story you need to understand why and when people buy your product.
Consider what problems they have experienced that have led them to search for a product offering a solution. Think about how to craft a story that can position your product as the answer to these problems, and show them how their lives will change for the better.
4. Improve the whole user experience
It’s easy to get so caught up in the product design and development process that you forget about the other aspects of the product experience (PX).
Product teams should consider the entire user journey, from deciding whether to buy through to onboarding, using different features, seeing ads, or finding solutions to technical difficulties. Then, try to make every step as seamless and enticing as possible.
Work closely with sales, marketing, customer support, and other departments to ensure you’re united in providing an excellent experience for users as soon as you launch.
8 steps to launching your product successfully
1. Start by knowing your product’s purpose and positioning
This comes down to knowing your users and market: you need to deeply understand what your users want so you can work out how to give it to them through your product.
Run a competitive and SWOT analysis—paying particular attention to where you stand out on quality, functionality, and price— to feel confident in your product-market fit.
If you develop a unique product that brings value to users—and know how to position it on the market when it comes time to launch—you won’t have to do much to convince users they need your product. By ensuring your product meets real user needs at the ideas stage, you lay the groundwork for a successful launch right off the bat.
2. Translate your vision into a strong roadmap
Once you’re sure you have a valuable product idea and you’ve validated the market, translate your vision into a concrete set of goals and a strong product roadmap to guide development.
This will help you prioritize and ensure the product team has a shared vision. Successful execution of the product roadmap is a key precursor to a successful product launch.
The key to a successful launch, in my opinion, is to spend enough time on planning and preparation.
Work on the project baseline, work out the steps, resources, budget, etc. Think of 'what if' scenarios and your action plans. Talk to all stakeholders and get them on board before starting the actual work.
3. Test, test, and test
The next step in gearing up for a strong launch is beginning the process of idea, prototype, and product testing.
This process will vary depending on the industry—for example, medical products or products using sensitive personal data may need to undergo a more complex testing and approval process.
Here are some fundamentals of testing for success:
Start by validating your product plans and gauging interest from potential users through interviews and methods like fake door testing. Once you have a prototype, test some more—this time with more user interviews, focus groups, surveys, and A/B testing techniques that show you which product options will be most successful.
Run user testing and QA testing on your minimum viable product (MVP) and final product pre-launch to weed out issues as early as possible and improve the product.
Don’t stop testing after you’ve launched. Use product experience insights tools like Hotjar to unearth statistical user data and give your early customers a chance to tell you what they think in their own words.
4. Collaborate with sales, marketing, and other departments
A successful product launch involves multiple departments and skillsets.
Engage in stakeholder analysis and get buy-in from key departments like sales, marketing, and finance early on in the product process.
Once the initial product development process is scheduled for completion, connect with product marketing and sales departments to plan a coordinated approach, fully understand the customer journey, and train the sales team on the product.
Work with the marketing team to generate buzz through ads, press releases, and social media campaigns. Draw on their in-depth knowledge of your users and ensure you’re targeting media and methods popular with the audience you need to reach.
For example, a corporate product geared at executives might be best advertised on LinkedIn, while a restaurant discount app aimed at a college-age audience might be better suited to TikTok and Instagram.
5. Create robust technical documentation
Creating robust technical documentation is the next step to ensuring your product launch goes smoothly.
Take the time to explain all the details of the product thoroughly and make sure it’s clear to everyone—even those without a lot of tech experience.
Ensure your support documentation is similarly robust, and set aside time to train customer support on the technical aspects of the product so they can provide an excellent user experience.
6. Decide how to track and measure success
Before you launch, agree on company-wide measurements to test how well the launch has gone.
First, define what a successful launch looks like. Decide which metrics are most important—this could be acquiring a certain number of new users, attaining high CSAT scores, gaining a specific ranking on the app store, or meeting a revenue target.
Then, monitor user behavior and gather user feedback to get a sense of whether the product is meeting customer needs.
Remember: Hotjar offers a rich mix of quantitative data—on how customers are using your product—and qualitative data—which shows you why they’re using it that way. For a full perspective on how successful your launch is, combine heatmaps and session recordings with surveys and incoming feedback from users.
Keep track of everything, but only report on the most critical information.
When you report everything, it all becomes noise, which is why you should only report on metrics that are important. This isn't a particularly unique concept, but it's one to keep in mind when launching a product.
You're ready to launch once you have a product that can provide user value.
But now you need to decide whether to run a hard launch or soft launch.
With a hard launch, you release your fully-baked offering to a wide market of users. For a hard launch, run extra-rigorous testing to ensure your product is bug-free and ensure your marketing campaign is ready to go.
With a soft launch, you release either an MVP or a full version of your product that fulfills user needs to a small, limited market. It’s a good idea to offer early-use incentives or inform customers they’re using an early version. You can then use feedback to inform continued development.
Figuring out which type of launch is best for you depends on several factors, including:
Your development budget
Your marketing budget
Your product methodology (agile vs waterfall, for example)
How fast-moving your market is
Like many launch decisions, this decision is best made collaboratively with marketing, design, development, and UX leads.
8. Measure and improve
Launching your product isn’t the final step in the process.
Whether you go for a soft or hard launch, measure user response and constantly iterate and improve.
Follow up your product launch with a continuous discovery process that brings you closer to your users and allows you to stay relevant and adapt your product to changing market needs.
Use the right tools to successfully launch new products
Hotjar’s product experience insights tools help product teams launch and improve products for the best chances of success.
Measure quantitative outcomes
To test the success of your launch, use Hotjar Heatmaps and Session Recordings for an objective sense of which parts of your product are popular and unpopular, and to see whether users are successfully navigating your product or are experiencing blockers, which might be indicated by rage-clicks and u-turns.
Gather qualitative user feedback
Go deeper by setting up Hotjar Surveys and Incoming Feedback widgets to learn why certain features are popular and why users are satisfied or dissatisfied. Collecting VoC data helps your team and organization to get inside your users’ heads to build and launch a product they love.
To understand user needs and product positioning we run multiple Hotjar Surveys for several purposes, from having users rank potential features we should build, to asking for their feedback on mockups we have. We like to use open-ended questions so that we are not influencing user responses and instead really understanding what they need and why.
Run comparative testing
Hotjar’s Heatmaps can help you analyze A/B tests or multivariate tests before you launch. By exploring product experience data from a prototype or MVP, you can learn which options users prefer and decide how to shape the final product.
You can also use Session Recordings to see exactly how test users navigate your product, and Incoming Feedback widgets to gather feedback in the moment—as they’re using different features or pages.
Strengthen internal communication
For a successful launch, the whole organization needs to be on the same page. Regularly sharing key pieces of user data across different teams can keep everyone aligned and engaged.
Use Hotjar Highlights to update teams with the most important user information. You can integrate Hotjar’s tools into your regular communication channels—like Slack or Zapier—to make organizational communication even more seamless.
By using the right tools, you can create organizational alignment, test different product options, and better understand your users before and after launch.
Following tried-and-tested product launch methods, combined with powerful product experience insights tools, will set you up for success throughout the full lifecycle of your product.