Planning a product launch and wondering where to start? As a SaaS company ourselves, we know all about the pressures and challenges of releasing new products. As we continue to release new versions of our product, we’ve found the key to success is comprehensive launch planning, also known as your “go-to-market strategy”.
So, in this article, we’ve put together a complete guide to launch planning and included a template that you can use to plan your own product launch and prepare for success!
How Important is Launch Planning?
Benjamin Franklin may not have been talking about SaaS product launches when he said that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. But the words apply nonetheless.
The statistics show that just 11% of businesses meet their internal targets for product launches. Without good planning, a product launch is likely to fall into the other 89%. And we don’t want that.
Alongside comprehensive, continuous onboarding and actively listening to user feedback, strategic launch planning sets your business up for success. Sometimes that success is way beyond your expectations, as in the case of digital marketer Chris Jordan. Her “instant” success, selling $400,000 worth of new product in just 40 minutes, was actually down to months of dedicated planning and teamwork.
With that said, let’s take a look at what to include in your product launch plan and the best practices to leverage launch planning for success.
What’s Included in a Launch Plan?
We’re not going to mislead you, there’s a lot involved in SaaS launch planning. But the more planning you do, the more manageable every aspect of the launch will feel, and the more prepared you’ll be for success. To set your business up to succeed, you want to cover every eventuality. A great launch plan includes:
- Business case: use your market, competitor, and user research to justify why you are launching the product and how it meets market needs. Collecting and analyzing this data in-depth is key to your product’s success. Ask:
- What are my target user’s pain points?
- What already exists on the market to resolve this issue?
- Where does my product fit in?
- What is my company’s USP or the key value that we bring to users where competitors fall short?
Defining your launch’s key objectives, positioning, and messaging based on this research will not only keep all teams focused on delivering your core value in everything they do, but it will also provide you with useful marketing collateral.
- Product description: define your product’s positioning, what it does, and how it resolves the user pain points you’ve researched. Writing a short brief and a longer, more detailed description will help in prioritizing the value of each aspect of your product. As above, these descriptions will be invaluable in driving your marketing campaign.
- Clearly defined target user: for your product launch to succeed, it needs to prioritize solving user needs. Researching, clearly defining, and segmenting your target user personas will help you personalize your UX and keep your product launch focused on meeting your user’s needs, thereby driving adoption and retention.
- Critical success metrics: in order to succeed, you need to define what success means for your product launch. Whether it’s a number of sales, the retention rate, or the percentage of positive product feedback, include your key performance indicators, or KPIs, in your launch plan.
Your key success factors should be realistically achievable within a given timeframe with the resources you have. Develop them alongside the team who will own their success.
- Key dates & milestones: keep your product launch on track by defining critical deadlines and milestones for each step. As with your success metrics, ensure these dates are achievable: agree on realistic deadlines for the different aspects of the launch with the teams responsible for them.
Sticking to your pre-defined timeline is essential in coming in under budget and proving your reliability to all stakeholders, from your team to investors to the users themselves.
- Internal commitments: there should be clear ownership of every step, task, and feature in your launch plan, from ideation to user support.
Involving your team in every step of your SaaS product release will foster ownership as well as helping them keep your core messaging in focus. Use color-coding or roadmap swimlanes to define who owns each task within the plan.
- Marketing plan: launch planning is different from your marketing strategy, but the two should be intrinsically linked. Your ongoing marketing plan should drive your product launch just as your launch needs a dedicated marketing plan to succeed.
Incorporate each step into your launch roadmap: from generating buzz in product development to maintaining momentum after the big launch.
- Onboarding flow: a key factor in ensuring your SaaS product launch is successful is helping your users understand how to use it and see the value in it. Design the onboarding flow for your new product while you’re planning the launch to maintain focus on your core messaging and ensure consistency with the rest of your brand.
Expert onboarding software like Nickelled will help you design a segmented, personalized onboarding flow without having to worry about coding. You can also use it to promote your new product with onsite widgets and website banners. Plus, it’s been proven to treble support capacity, reduce onboarding time by weeks, and drive user retention and product adoption!
- Budget & resource allocation: calculate how much money and resources, including people power, you’ll need to achieve success for your product launch and get the best ROI you can. Incorporate decisions on pricing early on in your product launch plan to maximize profits: read our article on SaaS pricing optimization to learn more.
- Product launch roadmap: feeding this information into a product roadmap provides a visual interpretation of your launch plan. Launch planning roadmaps should include the different tasks and projects ahead of you; their ownership, priority level, budget, and deadlines.
Best practice: involve the entire team when you’re creating your product launch roadmap. This will help ensure that no part of the launch planning process is forgotten: from the most obvious tasks, like product development or marketing, to beta testing, creating onboarding flows, and gathering user feedback.
While there’s dedicated software that will help you build a product roadmap, you can also DIY it using Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and other similar tools. And of course, even SaaS businesses love a good pen-and-paper note from time to time – maybe it’ll help to create a post-it roadmap too!
Office Timeline’s product launch roadmaps can be used in desktop tools like Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.
Product Launch Plan Template
The below template can be used as a guide to plan your SaaS product launch.
|Briefly summarize the product launch plan, key objectives, positioning and core messaging|
Market Research & SWOT Analysis
|Summarize your market & competitor research and why there’s a need for your productInclude a SWOT analysis of your product|
|Give a brief description of your target user persona(s): be careful not to assume an average user if different types of people will be using your product.||Which segments can you use to personalize and analyze this persona’s UX and onboarding flow? |
e.g.: loyal customers, new users, etc.
Core Messaging & Positioning
|Product description||Short description|
|Brief positioning statement||25 words|
|Detailed positioning statement||100 words|
|Define product promise||Describe how your product meets this promise|
|Define user pain points||Describe how your product resolves these issues|
|Define product proof points||Describe how your product features meet this proof|
|e.g.: ROI||e.g.: the number of sales or revenue needed to reach this goal||When will you achieve this?|
|Price point||Package or subscription option||Rationale|
|Price||What do users get for this price?||Justify your pricing structure based on your product value and user, market, and competitor research|
Product Launch Roadmap
Create a plan detailing each task and feature needed to execute your product launch. Use the below table to guide you: you can add or remove columns, depending on your needs. For example, you might want a column to add any notes on the task. You can then use this table to design a product launch roadmap using the software of your choice.
|Name of task||What project does this belong to||Which team / individual owns this task||Deadline / milestone||High / medium / low||High / medium / low||How much will this cost?||Not started / in progress / complete|
Best Practices for Launch Planning
Having looked at what to include in your launch plan, this section will emphasize the best practices to implement to leverage your planning for success:
- Do your research. We can’t stress enough how important it is to know your market, competitors, and most importantly, your users in every step of your product launch. Leverage the data you collect to define your core messaging and product positioning, in order to create your business case.
- Prioritize your core message. Keep that core focus at the heart of everything you do to ensure your product launch remains on track to solve user pain points and meet market needs. This will also help drive your marketing campaigns.
- Involve your entire team. Make sure each stakeholder and owner has their say in the launch planning process. This is the best way to ensure you take every aspect of the product launch into account and define realistic objectives in terms of deadlines and budget.
- Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Your launch planning objectives should be:
Specific – detail exactly what you want to achieve.
Measurable – quantify your progress indicators by defining your success metrics.
Assignable – specify who is responsible for each goal.
Realistic – make the objectives achievable, based on the available resources.
Time-related – specify when the result(s) will be achieved.
- Have an effective marketing plan. As we discussed earlier, your marketing plan is one of the key factors in ensuring a successful product launch. The campaign should both drive and be driven by the product launch throughout:
- Before and during development, you can draw on marketers’ knowledge of your product’s users and its competitors to suggest potential product features.
- Before the launch: create hype around the new product: dropping teasers, creating press releases, etc.
- Make a big deal of the product launch!
- Leverage collateral from the launch plan, like product promises, to maintain momentum after launch.
- Onboard your users. As the top user onboarding software in 2021, this was always going to be on our best practice list at Nickelled! However, we’ve seen other SaaS businesses leave creating their new product onboarding processes till the last minute.
Incorporate designing your onboarding flow into your launch planning to ensure it remains a priority, increases your support capacity, and drives product adoption. It’s a win-win-win!
- Review, analyze & improve. Launch planning shouldn’t end on launch day: there’s always room for improvement. Collecting and analyzing product feedback from your team and users should be part of your launch plan. Actively listen to the people who know your product best and leverage this qualitative data to improve your processes and plan future product releases.
An added bonus? Your positive user feedback makes for excellent collateral for your product launch marketing plan: testimonials as social proof have been shown to increase conversion rates by 34%.
Optimize Your Planning For a Successful Product Launch
Executing any product launch is a lot of work, and ensuring yours is successful requires a dedicated team and a huge amount of planning.
Balancing the numerous different tasks, priorities, people, and goals can be overwhelming even for the most experienced of project managers. However, implementing these best practices to create a comprehensive product launch plan sets your business up for achievable, repeatable, and sustainable success.