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A Product Launch Checklist For Your Next Release

As a startup, every new product launch or feature release is an opportunity to win over new customers or improve the retention of your existing users. After weeks or months of designing and developing a new product, launching it to the world includes many moving parts—from setting up beta testing to developing marketing materials.

A 2019 survey of product managers found that only 55% of product launches take place on schedule, with 45% being delayed by at least one month. Roll out your next feature seamlessly—and on time—by creating a product launch checklist for your team.

A product launch checklist is an itemized list of all the tasks to complete ahead of a product or feature launch. While the specifics attached to each product release will vary, a product launch checklist can serve as a starting template across every launch so that you never miss a step. This planning tool will support your team in successfully releasing your product and executing a go-to market strategy that increases customer experience and drives user adoption.

The benefits of a product launch checklist

A product launch includes multiple steps and multiple teams: the software developer fixing last-minute bugs, the designer finalizing the launch video, and the marketing manager drafting a blog announcement. Team members need to work in tandem to pull off the singular goal of a successful product launch.

Here’s how product launch checklists can help your startup:

  • Break your product launch process into smaller steps. Help your team to better understand the necessary tasks, identify potential bottlenecks, and allocate resources effectively with an itemized checklist. By dividing the process into smaller steps, you’ll ensure every task is accounted for.
  • Avoid errors and oversights. A comprehensive product launch checklist minimizes the risk of making mistakes and avoids costly or reputationally-damaging missteps.
  • Align your team on expectations and responsibilities. By outlining roles, tasks, and deadlines, each team member—from product managers to designers—will work together more effectively, avoiding confusion and creating accountability.
  • Create visibility and transparency internally. Having a comprehensive product launch plan checklist promotes visibility and transparency within your organization, providing visibility across the company so that everyone is on the same page. That includes your product team, broader team, c-suite, and any other key stakeholders.
  • Develop a repeatable process to ship more quickly. A new product launch checklist can later become a template for future launches that you use again and again. With each release, you can iterate your checklist and improve it over time for product launches that are more efficient and less time-intensive.

1. Conduct market research and competitive analysis

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Research and assess the current market landscape of your product, identifying key competitors and understanding their offerings as compared to your own. This research will yield insights into how to differentiate your product in the market and promote its unique selling points, through compelling positioning and competitive pricing.

  • Determine your product positioning: Define the place your product or feature occupies in the market, relative to your startup’s competitors. This should include identifying your target customer, understanding their pain points, and determining how your product or feature can address those needs more effectively than existing solutions on the market.
  • Set your product pricing: When defining pricing, consider the value your product or feature offers, your target customer’s budget and expectations, and your competition’s pricing. Consider different pricing models, such as annual or monthly recurring subscriptions, a freemium model, or a tiered pricing based on usage.

2. Gather feedback and testimonials from beta users

Rolling out a nearly-finished version of the feature to beta users—often internal employees or a select group of power users and early adopters—is an essential part of the launch plan. Beta testing ensures that your startup can deliver a bug-free feature that elevates your customer experience, while detecting any performance issues or usability concerns that could negatively impact broader user experience.

Be clear on the type of feedback you want from beta testers (e.g. bugs, performance, user satisfaction) and provide a dedicated feedback channel where they can share issues or areas for improvement with your team (e.g. Slack, in-app, email). Use this feedback to make any necessary adjustments to the feature, resolve any outstanding issues, and continue to improve the user experience until the feature is ready for a full-scale launch.

Harsh Banwait, the Manager of IaaS Product Management at DigitalOcean, runs a beta for almost every major product release as a way to validate a product’s functionality. “During the development process, we make several assumptions about the intended use of a product, and beta testing allows us to ensure that the product integrates seamlessly into the customer’s workflow and effectively addresses their specific issue,” he says. “Our goal during the beta is to validate the functionality, performance, and market readiness of a feature.”

Banwait and his team at DigitalOcean also ask beta users the following questions:

  • Were you able to easily deploy or use this new feature?
  • What were your performance expectations, and how does this feature or product meet them?
  • Were you able to stress test the product’s performance and scalability under realistic conditions?
  • Based on the proposed pricing model, would this be valuable to your current workflow?
  • Did you encounter any bugs or issues throughout your entire experience?

Beyond feedback, ask early beta testers who have provided you with positive feedback for testimonials that you can use publicly in your launch promotional materials, like your landing page and social posts. Avoid quotes with generic praise and dig for success stories that demonstrate the tangible value that your product provides.

Here are a few questions to ask beta testers to source useful customer testimonials:

  • How have you integrated this new feature into your existing workflow?
  • How much time or money do you estimate this feature has saved you or your business?
  • What was the solution you used before this product feature was released?
  • What would you tell someone considering using this new feature?

3. Build a dedicated landing page

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Your new feature should have a dedicated landing page on your websites that serves as the focal point for your upcoming marketing and promotion. On this landing page, showcase the new feature, add key details about the product, highlight its benefits, clarify your pricing and positioning statement, and include any of the testimonials you collected from beta users.

Ivan Tarin, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at DigitalOcean, often starts creating landing pages for new products by thinking about who the product is for and who it will help. “The landing page is often used by sales to convey our messaging to users. Also customers doing research will compare different providers’ landing pages,” he says. “For those reasons the messaging on the landing is one of the most important introductions to your products. Running A/B tests on your webpage is one way to find out if your messaging is working.”

Tarin suggests several key components to an effective landing page. “Items that you cannot do without on your landing page include a memorable statement of what your product is about to tie together all of your messaging, like a slogan or your product’s mission statement. Images and diagrams are sometimes better than words at explaining complexity and worth the effort, he says. “Your product’s landing page should also have a place to contact your sales and support teams.”

Ensure new landing pages have the following attributes for the highest conversion rate:

  • Clear messaging: Your target audience should understand the value proposition of your new release and how it will support their business or personal goals, summarized into a succinct positioning statement. Make it clear how to sign-up or access the new feature with a standout CTA and include testimonials and social proof whenever possible.
  • Visual representations of the feature: Include screenshots, product diagrams, or a video walk-through of your product feature to illustrate how it works.
  • SEO and discoverability: Include relevant SEO keywords in your body text and headers to improve your search engine rankings and increase organic traffic. Prioritize technical SEO across your entire website, ensuring your website is easily accessible, mobile-friendly, fast, and that your pages can be crawled and indexed.
  • Analytics and tracking: Track metrics such as click-through rates, conversions, and user behavior with a Google Analytics landing page report. This data will provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and allow you to iterate for the future.
  • A/B testing capabilities: Consider A/B testing different landing page copy and call-to-action messaging with a platform like Wynter. By testing various iterations, you can optimize for sign-ups.

4. Create sales enablement materials and train your sales team

If you have a sales function at your startup, set them up for success and initial sales by creating sales enablement materials. These resources should help your sales reps understand and articulate the benefits, use cases, and value proposition of your new feature to prospective customers.

Tarin suggests that materials for sales are conversation pieces, a way to connect with customers and help them through challenges. “At DO we have an incredible team that focuses on enabling our sales team. When training sales it’s always good to have material on the competition. It will save them time from having to look up the differences and prepare them for inevitable questions that come from customers,” he says. “One thing to keep in mind when preparing materials is that people may have a wide range of technical backgrounds. It’s important to inform at every level possible and provide resources accordingly.”

Tarin also recommends creating sales enablement materials that can be easily customized. “When preparing materials for sales to use with customers, the most important aspect is personalization. At the least, each sales person should be able to add their contact information,” he says. “Sales is great at helping customers reach their potential and every customer has different needs. They should be able to modify their materials to address each customer’s unique situation.”

Here are various types of sales enablement materials to develop for your team:

  • One-pagers. Create a one-page document that succinctly summarizes a new release, including details about the feature, pricing, benefits, and how it integrates with your wider product suite.
  • Slide decks. For larger and more complex releases, develop a multi-slide presentation that sales representatives can walk prospects through. Include all relevant information, as well as any graphics or diagrams.
  • Case studies. Before or after your release, gather feature-specific case studies or testimonials to provide sales prospects with examples of real businesses already using your feature.
  • Demo video. For more complex products that require some level of training or onboarding, create a simple walk-through that educates viewers on how to use the product.

Ahead of your launch day, meet with your sales staff to walk-through the upcoming feature, explain the sales enablement materials, and answer any questions they might have to confidently pitch the new feature and effectively address any customer queries.

5. Develop documentation and FAQs for your support team

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Alongside sales enablement materials, develop product documentation and FAQs related to your upcoming release for your support or customer success team. This step in your product launch checklist ensures that your customer support staff can readily assist customers and answer any questions after the launch. Also, remember to update existing materials to reflect product additions and changes.

Here are a few resources to develop for your support team:

  • Documentation and help pages. If you have support pages or user documentation on your website, create a new section that explains the key features and nuances for your customers. This will reduce support tickets by allowing customers to find answers first.
  • FAQs. Anticipate potential questions and create a list of frequently asked questions with clear and concise answers that your support team can use. Overtime, as you get real questions from customers, refine and add to the list.
  • Suggested snippets. Help your support employees be more efficient by providing canned answers they can use with customers about your new features, encouraging them to modify as they deem appropriate.

By anticipating and addressing these questions ahead of time, your support staff can provide swift and efficient assistance to customers, ultimately enhancing the user experience and fostering customer satisfaction.

6. Set success metrics for your product launch

Ahead of your launch, set goals that will determine what success looks like for your upcoming release. Establishing success metrics at the onset of the project ensures that your team has a shared understanding of what the feature is intended to accomplish, and will help to guide decision-making throughout the entire process.

Consider whether your goal for a product launch is increasing user engagement, improving user experience, driving revenue growth, or enhancing the product’s competitive position in the market.

Here are the success metrics that Banwait and his product team at DigitalOcean use:

  • Engagement: Number of users, session duration, conversion rate, new vs old users, demographic trends, acquisition channel
  • Customer Satisfaction: churn Rate, NPS scores, support tickets
  • Revenue: Direct product revenue, impact on overarching product group revenue, impact on revenue of complementary products, net dollar detention

Prior to setting your success criteria for these metrics, establish a data baseline prior to the release to allow for pre- and post-launch comparison to provide a clear understanding on user behavior and overall product performance.

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As part of your product launch planning, ensure your startup’s new product or feature complies with all relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards by undergoing a review with your legal team or outside counsel. Legal review can identify potential legal risks and offer guidance on mitigating them before the product goes live.

The legal team should evaluate data privacy and security, intellectual property rights, licensing agreements, and terms of service. Opt for legal representatives with strong familiarity with your industry so they can also assess any specific regulations that apply to your industry, region, or target demographic… While it might be tempting to skip this step, including a legal review in your product launch checklist minimizes the risk of encountering legal issues post-launch, which could lead to lawsuits or costly fines.

8. Set and communicate your launch date internally

Determine a specific date for the release of the new product or feature, considering factors like your timelines for design and development, plans for beta testing, and resource allocation for marketing campaigns. Once the launch date is set, clearly communicate it to your entire team and any external stakeholders, like your investors.

Setting an internal launch date will create accountability and alignment internally, as well as building a sense of urgency and momentum as you move towards launch day.

9. Develop a PR and communications plan

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Launching a new product or feature is an opportune time to develop a communications plan and leverage PR as a startup. Planning PR for your product launches, including creating press releases and outreach lists, can maximize exposure and increase the positive perception of your brand.

An effective PR plan for an upcoming release should include the following:

  • Identify aligned media outlets and journalists. Keeping your ideal customer profile in mind, compile a list of key journalists and writers at relevant news outlets, blogs, and newsletters to reach out to.
  • Develop a strong pitch related to your product. Find the news-worthy angle of your product launch or its significance to the wider market. Then, develop an engaging and interesting pitch that’s tailored to each journalist and outlet.
  • Execute on your media outreach strategy. Send out pitches ahead of your product launch. Don’t be afraid to follow-up when you don’t get a response. If you do receive a response, make yourself available for interviews and questions, providing the outlet with relevant information or supporting materials for the media placement.

10. Create promotional content for launch day

Capture the attention of potential users and create buzz around your feature release by creating a marketing strategy that includes launch day—or even launch week—promotional content across various distribution channels.

Your promotional content should be designed to showcase the benefits and unique selling points of the new feature, inspiring your target customer to try it. By incorporating the creation of launch-day promotional content into your product launch checklist, you’ll increase the visibility, excitement, and ultimately, the adoption of your latest feature.

Here are several marketing promotional tactics to develop ahead of launch day:

  • Blog post. Publish a blog post on launch day that announces the feature, focussing on the benefits for your customer’s business or lives. Include imagery, like screenshots, videos, and diagrams. Include a CTA that drives traffic to your dedicated landing page.
  • Press release. For substantial releases with a newsworthy angle, draft a press release for circulation that announces your new feature or product.
  • Email campaign. Send an email—or series of emails—to your subscribers on launch day, announcing the feature. Similarly, add a CTA that drives subscribers to your product landing page.
  • Social media posts. Schedule a slew of updates across social channels like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram to announce your new feature on launch day and beyond. Lean into engaging visuals and short concise copy.
  • Product demo video. Create a product demo video that you embed in your blog post and circulate on social media. Skip a highly produced expensive video, and instead create a simple walkthrough on Loom that explains how to use the product and humanizes your company.
  • Product Hunt launch. Consider launching your next release on Product Hunt and incentivizing new users to try your product with a discount for members.
  • In-app banners. If your startup is building a Windows, macOS, web, Android, or iOS app, design and trigger an in-app banner announcing your new feature to existing users on launch day.
  • Release notes. Include a line or two about your new feature in any release notes you maintain for your application.

11. Measure product launch metrics

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As part of your launch plan, track and evaluate the success criteria you set originally. By monitoring these metrics, your startup will gain valuable insights into user engagement, adoption, and satisfaction, as well as identify areas for improvement.

Analyzing product launch metrics not only helps in identifying the success of a specific feature release, but also aids in making data-driven decisions for future product development and enhancements. By consistently measuring and evaluating these metrics, your startup can refine your product launch strategy and ultimately drive more successful feature releases.

12. Collect feedback and iterate

One critical component of successful product launch checklists is collecting post-launch feedback and iterating on the product. Gather actionable insights from users and internal teams to identify areas where the product can be improved.

Here’s where to gather feedback:

  • Customer reachout: Note what customers who reach out to you via email, phone calls, and support tickets are saying about the new product or feature.
  • Social media and online feedback: Gauge the response from social media users by monitoring the engagement on your launch-day social posts or other posts mentioning your release.
  • Sales and customer support interactions: Check in with your sales and customer support teams about the feedback they’re seeing.
  • In-app analytics: Gather quantitative feedback by monitoring the in-app activity within your application.
  • Customer surveys and user interviews: After your product has been out for some time, create a customer survey or conduct user interviews that includes questions about your new feature.
  • Cross functional teams: Host a product post-mortem where internal employees—across the product development team, marketing team, sales team, and customer support team—can reflect on what went well and what went wrong with the product release.

Once feedback is collected, prioritize areas improvements based on their potential impact, urgency, and feasibility. By incorporating user feedback into the development cycle and making data-driven improvements, your startup can build a stronger, more user-centric product that wins you long-term customers.

Grow your startup in 2023

Check out all of DigitalOcean’s resources for startups and SMBs in The Wave, our startup resource hub, for more product, go-to market strategy, and company-building advice to help your startup thrive.

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