How to Plan an Effective Product Release

In this article, we’re going to talk about what makes for an effective SaaS product launch. I’m gonna be telling you about exactly what your sales, customer success, marketing, and product team need to be doing in order to have an awesome launch.

I’ve run tons of launches over the last decade. Having been a part of a variety of different SaaS businesses, and these sorts of launches have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue.

Product team

The first team I wanna dig into is the product team, because I think that if this team does not get their stuff together, then every other team is set up to fail.

So in my opinion, when there’s a big product release, it is on the product team in order to make sure that change logs are updated in the product, as well as communication is prepared for all the other teams. There’s two key questions that your product team needs to answer before anything goes out to other teams, including the marketing team. And that is what is the feature or set of features that are being released and how is it unique from your competition?

The second question is what exactly is going out in version one and what are potentially some of the shortcomings or questions that people may have based off of this first release.

The reason why you need to be able to answer this question from the eyes of the product team is because that is going to shape the confidence of your sales, your marketing, and your customer success teams in terms of communicating the value that your product team has created.

So if you haven’t gotten your product team on the same page yet, it can be really great to just start a Google doc, share out all the different features that are being released and answer those two key questions.

Sales team

Assuming you’ve already done that though, the next step is to prep your sales team. This is gonna be one of the most important teams with relation to the launch because your sales team are essentially your hype people.

And so if you’re hype, people are not really amped about this release, then it’s something in which you’re really not positioning your business for the most success with this launch.

In order to prepare your sales team, there are a few different tactics that I’ve used in the past. The first tactic that I’d recommend you try is to reactivate your old trials. In the case where you offer some sort of seven day or 14 day free trial, it can be great to reach out to these people and to reach out to them under the premise of this new product release.

Typically, I like to position the product release as something like a seasonal thing where it might be the summer release, the fall release, or maybe even the winter release. But this can be a great way to reach out to people that have previously tried your product or service.

The reason why you wanna do this is because they’ve already demonstrated intent more so than potentially reaching out to cold prospects and hoping that they’re interested in your release. And it can also give them a reason to potentially retry your product because maybe you’ve released a new feature that was really the deal breaker for them the last time that they tried your product or service.

So it’s useful to create a two or three stage campaign, inviting people to retry your product.

What I recommend here is that you create an opt in process. The reason why I say this is because I’ve tested, just giving free trials to every single expire free trial, as well as an opt in process and I’ve often found that the opt in process can be significantly higher in terms of conversion percentage of the number of folks that actually become customers after that retrial.

Aside from free trials, I recommend your sales team also pre-sell the feature release. A month or two before your big product release, I recommend that your sales team is already talking about these sorts of features.

It can be really useful to have your marketing team prepare a simple slide deck for your sales team to screen share when they’re on different calls with your prospects, but it’s really useful to hype these sorts of features in order to build anticipation for this big release. It’s also useful because it can be a great way to accelerate a deal in which if one of the features that you’re releasing is something that is really gonna close a particular deal it could be something where you do the third tech that I share with you with your sales team, which is to have some sort of early bird discount.

By having some sort of nominal amount knocked off of the total deal here, you can essentially close some early sales before your product has even been released. And this can be a great feeling for everybody across your team because it validates that what you’re building is actually something that people will pay for.

So typically what I’ve done in this case is I’ve either added some sort of additional benefit, like extra users or an extra month off an annual plan by upgrading before the release comes out.

The fourth thing that I’ve done in the past in terms of the sales team is have sales educational events. These are specifically not positioned as sales demos. Instead, they are positioned around some sort of problem that the new product release is going to solve for.

In other words, if I had a new product release around a calendar view, I would talk about some of the benefits of organizing your work in a calendar and then talk about the product release after I’ve talked about the different ways that people can solve this problem that they may have around their calendars.

Notice the new once there. By positioning your product in a very tactful way in these presentations, you’ll be able to re-engage past prospects effectively and then still get them excited about your upcoming launch.

And then the last two things that I’d say about the sales team is that what you can do is you can schedule one-on-one quick calls to check in and update people and explain the sort of new feature releases that are coming up. Those have been really useful to rebuild rapport with prospects that have previously demonstrated a lot of interest.

And then the second thing that I’ve also done is I’ve reworked demo flows in which if I know there’s a big product release coming up, I will work in into our demo process, a place where at least one of those new features is being featured by these sales reps.

By starting to train your sales reps, to talk about these new releases, you’re really starting to expand out the scope of what they’re going to cover in their sales calls and it’s gonna lead to more sales for you because it’ll mean that your prospects are getting even more value out of your product.

All right, we’ve tackled a lot with the product team and the sales team and what they should do.

Marketing Teams

So the marketing team is arguably just as important as the sales team with relation to a launch, when it comes to your product release, you’re gonna wanna make sure that you’re thinking about every single possible way that somebody is learning about your business or service and having your marketing team work on that.

That means doing things like creating blog posts, where you detail all of the new product releases that are coming up. In this blog post, you’re gonna wanna include GIFs as well as explainers to what these features are and why you built them. You might also find it useful for your marketing team to put together a product release video.

This will be a place where a marketer is going to explain some of the new features and why people should get excited about these sorts of features. If you wanna see a company, do this really effectively, check out what Pipedrive does with all of their releases for their CRM tool. I’ve also often had the marketing team push out email newsletters to people that are on our opt in and email marketing list.

For example, on the blog list or on freebies list in the past, and also launch live events where I’m sharing some of the things that might connect with some of the sales related events that the sales team released too.

If you do some sort of marketing live event, I encourage you to do the same thing that I said in the sales section, which is to really focus on the sort of value or transformation that your new product release is going to have. Sell transformation as opposed to features and that will always get you a higher conversion rate from your prospects.

What I also recommend you do is to work in some social media posts around your product release, do it before it actually comes out the day of the actual release that links to that blog post, as well as even afterwards. You’ll often find that people often don’t hear about product releases just in the first week or two. So don’t be afraid to still be talking about your product release a month or even a few months after your initial release.

When it comes to marketing, you’re often going to be educating past initial launch and that means that you wanna be working in a content strategy even three months or even six months after your initial release. Aside from a social media calendar, it can be also useful to spend some paid advertising with relationship to your launch. This can be a PPC campaign where you target people that have previously visited your site, but maybe not created accounts yet, or it can be past expired free trials to really drive people towards those sales workshops or those general marketing workshops.

And then the last thing I’d recommend with respect to your marketing team is that in the case where you have some sort of partner marketing effort out there, what I recommend is that you educate your partners on the upcoming release.

This can be as simple as hosting one or two different mini training sessions to make sure that they know how to communicate the new value that your product is going to have. It can also be useful to line up some sort of giveaway here with your partners to get them and their email list excited about this release.

Customer Success team

We tackled three of the four teams. The last team that we need to talk about today is the customer success team. The customer success team can be an underrated team when it comes to product releases, because one of their core focuses is often customer education.

The first thing that I recommend your customer success team focus on is pre-sell the launch and start building a hype list. It can be really useful for example, if they’re running a weekly live customer workshop to start talking about the features that are coming up and get customers excited and opted into being notified when the release drops.

Aside from building a hype list, it can be useful as well to start planning a customer only event. These are gonna be events where you’re going to want to have some sort of appreciation aspect to the event where you’re gonna thank the customer for them continuing to be a loyal customer of yours. But then also talk about all these exciting new use cases that experienced users of your product or tool are going to be able to experience now with the new release.

Notice how this is a little bit different than the sales or the marketing advance. In which what we’re doing is we’re thinking about what are some of those intermediate or advanced use cases that customers can now realize with this new feature. And then what you’re gonna find really effective here is to tie that sort of customer only launch event to a giveaway or a launch only offer.

Typically, I’ll work that into the very end of those live events, because that can be a great way to really hook the customer on taking action today.

In the past, I’ve offered an extra month off an annual plan, or I’ve even offered something where it’s been like a 30-day money back guarantee where if the customer upgrades, because they think they’re interested in the new product release and they aren’t satisfied for whatever reason, we will credit whatever they paid us to their original plan.

So this way it completely mitigates any form of risk to the customer in choosing to want to take part in this new product release and this upgraded package. The other things that can be useful for your customer success team to focus on are targeted in-app queus. This can be something like a post announcement where you share some of the things that the marketing team put together, as well as to create new onboarding tours of some of the new features in order to educate customers about what you’ve just release.

The last two things I’ve had customer success teams do in the past is reach out to previously canceled or churned customers. These can be great customers to re-engage because it can be something where maybe they left your business because you weren’t able to do the one thing that your feature release now does. It can be a great way to, again, reinitiate contact with people.

And then the last thing I’d recommend your customer success team do is to do some target outreach. It can be really useful to take a look at some of your product usage stats and see exactly who are some of your super users or users that simply are going to get a lot of value out of this new release. From there, just invite them to the customer event and then convert them from that sort of giveaway or launch only offer that you’ve prepared.

Overall, when it comes to your product release, I recommend that you try to start planning at least a month and a half in advance. At least three weeks out of your launch, start to have everything in place and start to be building that pre hype. From there, when it comes to the launch, I recommend that you launch it for at least three to four weeks and then continue to work things over the next three to six months.

In the marketing world, they say that it takes people seven times as seeing something before they really understand or see it. And so keep that in mind when it comes to all the different things that your teams should be doing.

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