This post comes from first-hand observations and experiences Swyft has had assisting B2B technology companies with product launch promotions over the past decade.
Whether your product is SaaS, PaaS, device or on-premise matters not. Planning for a product launch is a complex, multi-month endeavor that takes coordination across multiple teams and often 3rd parties like PR firms and digital marketing agencies like Swyft.
Fortunately, with the right kind of planning, these are five PR and digital marketing mistakes you can easily avoid in order to maximize your product launch’s reach and buzz.
Mistake #1: Failure to plan
Formalizing a product launch marketing campaign with a planning document will serve to keep all stakeholders on time and target. For convenient reference on the topic of planning, see our post on how to plan for a trade show media campaign to get some useful tips. By the way, as it turns out, planning for a trade show or a product launch, while different in terms of their marketing objectives, do have a lot in common. Most notable, product launches often take place at key trade shows a company attends on an annual basis. So planning for one often encompasses the other.
The key to a successful launch plan is to organize your entire group of internal and external stakeholders once a product has been green-lit. Utilizing an effective project management tool like Teamwork, Trello or Zoho will help you keep track of your objectives, tasks, milestones, etc. What’s more, these tools integrate with email apps like Gmail and Outlook, as well as popular internal communication apps like Slack, to maximize efficiency.
It’s generally advisable to create your product launch marketing plan in a living document (we use Google Docs but larger companies may prefer using a document on Sharepoint) that key stakeholders can review and revise as needed. The planning document can be fed into the project management tool and all players will be kept current on their respective tasks and responsibilities.
The marketing plan can and should include sections covering product marketing (approved product names, descriptions, etc.), target audience, plans for marketing collateral (and owners), PR messaging and timeline, plans for paid advertising (platforms/outlets + budgets), etc.
Mistake #2: Lack of integration
A product launch has to be integrated across all marketing and communications channels to deliver the best results. Companies with larger marketing teams and staff in various departments (product, social media, customer experience, corporate communications, etc.) run the risk of taking a siloed approach to supporting a product launch. The worst case scenario is that the left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, resulting in the company missing a golden opportunity to successfully launch with a unified message across all channels. Companies with few marketing resources, on the other hand, run the risk of getting overwhelmed and forgetting to include key marketing activities or doing a poor job of one or several of them, giving an inconsistent and unprofessional view of the product to the end buyer.
Integrating your marketing strategy so that they dovetail into a seamless launch package will maximize your results. Execute your communications across PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned) and ensure they occur in lock-step rather than willy-nilly to create the reach, buzz, and response you are seeking. Lean into your project management software to ensure all key marketing efforts get completed and put in place before the big product reveal.
You’ll be amazed at the amount and quality of traffic you’ll drive to your website, not to mention the response you’ll get from existing customers, prospects, and influencers like journalists and bloggers.
Mistake #3: No goal setting and measurement
Goal setting should take place early on in the planning of the product launch. What do you hope to achieve with your overall marketing and PR campaign? The more detailed your outcome objectives the better you can determine how successful the campaign was.
One obvious objective is sales (either in SKUs if you are a hardware provider or new subscriptions if you are a SaaS provider). That kind of top-line, macro measurement matters the most to the leadership team, but don’t forget to capture the smaller metrics as well. Website visitors, website conversion goals, media pick-ups, social shares, click-through rates, the list goes on. Each one matters and should be compared to the original goals to see how well they performed.
Mistake #4: Waiting to the last minute to plug in PR
For many B2B tech companies led by engineering and software programmers (that’s a lot of them), marketing often takes a back seat to product development. It’s not uncommon for companies to put together a product roadmap and supporting marketing activities and forget to plug in media relations into the plan. As an agency, Swyft has had our share of 11th-hour, hail-mary calls from companies seeking support for an upcoming product launch or trade show. At times we can help, at times we have to give them the bad news that they waited too long to adequately prepare for an effective PR campaign.
My advice? As soon as you start developing marketing content for a new product or service you should involve your PR resource, whether internal or external, so that they can properly formulate the proper messaging and media outreach strategy. And no, sending out a wire is not a substitute for running a well-planned and meticulously executed PR campaign. The wire rarely delivers media pick-ups of any substance and credibility these days.
Mistake #5: Post-mortem
This step is every bit as important as planning for a product launch. Why? How can you know what truly performed well and paid off from an investment perspective if you don’t dive into the details? The post-mortem is a completion of the measurement process mentioned in #3 above. The problem is that post-mortems are easy to delay by the stakeholders involved in a product launch. Most are exhausted by the end of a product launch, especially when it’s part of a trade show. Others get caught up with trying to catch up on work that may have gotten pushed due to the demands of executing the product launch. Whatever the case, make sure a post-mortem gets scheduled on a date that all key stakeholders (or at least a quorum) can agree to. Also, get it set up during the planning phase to lock it in on the calendar of your stakeholders.
Bonus – Mistake #6: Unrealistic goals
Some companies set unrealistic goals for getting the product to market. Whether it’s a launch deadline that puts the entire organization under extreme stress or expectations of spectacular sales, the stakeholders should be honest with themselves about what is realistic based on past performance and how much money is getting invested into the product launch. Applying the same realistic expectations — driven by hard data — to every marketing activity involved in the marketing plan will ensure that a post-mortem analysis of actual results will offer meaningful insight.