9-Step Product Launch Checklist for a Successful Lift-Off
Do you know about Slack’s Wall of Love? It’s a Twitter page for the thousands of love notes Slack users have tweeted, which ultimately led to the company’s viral growth.
But it didn’t happen overnight. It took Slack months upon months of careful launch planning to achieve such a massive feat.
If you’re launching a product you’ve sweat your guts out for, here is how you can get all your ducks in a row before the launch day arrives. Without further ado, let’s understand how to create a product launch checklist to get a successful lift-off.
What is a Product Launch Checklist?
A product launch checklist breaks down the complete process of launching a product into the world into smaller, more manageable tasks and necessary steps to be performed by each team member before, during, and after the launch.
With a thoughtfully done checklist, your team can set measurable goals, allocate tasks, and assign roles along with deadlines to see through the launch – without worrying about possible obstacles or missing a crucial step in the process.
The 9-Step Product Launch Checklist for a Successful Lift-Off
What is the secret sauce to a successful product launch? To find out, we spoke to founders, and product marketers across businesses. And compiled their learnings into a 9-step, actionable product launch checklist:
- Run Usability Tests to Collect Initial Feedback
- Do a Soft Launch & Get Feedback from Beta Testers
- Define the Characteristics of the Target Audience
- Develop a Go-to-Market Strategy
- Get the Support Documentation in Order
- Train & Align the Internal Teams
- Create Content for Marketing Campaigns & Customer Success
- Define Success Metrics for the Launch
- Gather & Implement Feedback
✅ Run Usability Tests to Collect Initial Feedback
Does the product meet user expectations? Can the infrastructure support the initial traffic influx?
“As software developers, one of the steps we never miss is usability testing.”
shares Stoyan Mitov, CEO and Co-founder, Dreamix.
“Running several usability tests with representatives of your target audience is a must. This will give you the opportunity to fix bugs and errors that your team hasn't noticed. Ultimately, you will have more satisfied clients and will save yourself negative user feedback, which would be bad for your company’s reputation”
Adding to the importance of usability (or user) testing, Jin Young Woo, CEO of Like Dreams says,
“A sudden increase in online traffic might occur when a product is released to the market due to anticipation.
It is crucial for firms to have a product that is not just flawless but also infrastructure that has been strengthened to accommodate the influx. To achieve this, thorough testing, reliable monitoring systems, and the foresight to use solutions like load balancers are required.”
A typical usability test has the following steps:
Also, when testing, you want to focus on five factors: Efficiency, Memorability, Errors, Learnability, and Satisfaction. This will ensure you’ve got a viable product to sell. And if you’re looking for detailed guidance, this template has a detailed plan for structuring the test.
✅ Do a Soft Launch & Get Feedback from Beta Testers
Product releases come with a fair share of worries. But the biggest one? What if the product fails the users? This is where pilot tests or soft launches come to the rescue. This type of beta testing can help gather honest feedback from early users who come without expectations.
As Alex Senn, Founder of SKUSavvy WMS shares, “In the beginning, you need to be scrappy when launching your new product.”
“Don't worry about building up this huge launch party. Just publish the early version and get rapid feedback. Find online groups related to your product and look through comments until you find the ones who are directly or indirectly asking for help with the problem your product solves. Use this as a springboard to directly convert your first users then get feedback and improve rapidly.”
And how do you do a soft launch? Here is a step-by-step breakdown by Async Labs.
This is exactly how Y Combinator-funded Positional has been operating in a private beta mode, by providing early access to invite-only users. Such a soft launch with a limited number of beta testers also ensures a controlled, well-organized run.
Plus, the exclusivity for a YC-backed startup definitely adds a touch of intrigue.
✅ Define the Characteristics of the Target Audience
“A good product launch starts with a thorough understanding of your target customer. You need to know what they want and how they want it, so you can create a product that is going to resonate with them.”, says Will Yang, Head of Growth & Customer Success, Instrumentl.
To do so, you can draw from a set of technographics, demographics, psychographics, or all, and create well-defined personas of these ideal customers.
Rand Fishkin, Founder of SparkToro, suggests building a list of 10-100 real users, along with the traditional buyer personas. This can help you visualize the buyer as flesh-and-bones, someone with needs and wants, rather than a mere lump of data or a vector sketch. To do so, he recommends including:
- Past buyers you’d like to do repeat business with,
- Personas you’re already targeting,
- Influential prospects who never became buyers,
- Potential customers you’ve lost to competitors or otherwise.
Here is one, detailed example.
✅ Develop a Go-to-Market Strategy
How will the product reach the market? Will there be a soft launch first? What promotional channels can get the word out faster? What success metrics are we tracking? A GTM strategy will help you answer all such questions and more.
When brainstorming a GTM strategy, Draven McConville, CEO of klipboard.io, recommends you to:
- Know what you're selling and be specific with your product marketing.
- Find the greatest influencers to work with.
- Consider giving something away for free to stimulate interest.
- Tell customers everything they need to know about your product.
- Establish marketing objectives to identify what constitutes a successful launch.
- Begin early and develop a detailed product launch plan that outlines your marketing activities.
Adding to her last point, one way to go about the launch schedule and planning is to use the SMART goal-setting framework.
Do note: While there are proven GTM strategies, what works for you will directly depend on your industry. For instance, before Dropbox catapulted to a billion-dollar behemoth, here’s how Drew Houston, the founder of the company, got the startup off the ground.
- He created and posted a simple demo video on Hacker News, a community backed by YC and frequented by many tech enthusiasts. This was April 2007. It earned the company its first users and seed funding from YC.
- By 2008, Dropbox was running in private beta mode and had roughly 5000 users. But they needed at least 5000 more to validate its growth hypothesis. That’s when they made a second video, "Google Drive killer coming from MIT startup”, but this time for Reddit and Digg. And boom! They now had 75000 users on the waitlist.
✅ Get the Support Documentation in Order
Ahead of the D-day, it’s wise to create, review, and organize the support and technical documentation in one place. Product Requirement Documentations (PRDs) for the software/product team. Self-service and user guide for the new users. This is a crucial one, as the right support is crucial to drive adoption and retention.
To ensure users get the right support and guided flows, Jen Taylor, Head of Product, Cloudflare, recommends answering these questions:
- How do I help users get started?
- How do I onboard them easily?
- What sort of product documentation and tutorials can I make available?
- How can I make it easy and intuitive?
You should also include legal and regulatory paperwork, along with the customer contracts when getting the documents ready and reviewed.
✅ Train & Align the Internal Teams
Next up on the product launch plan checklist is training and team alignment. But why bother so early in the process?
“There is nothing that kills a launch faster than a team who is not comfortable talking about what's new. It's especially important to find your internal partners on the sales team, and get them to help you to deliver enablement materials. If you find a great rep to buy in and help, enablement will go much better.”, shares Taylor Udell, Head of Growth and Strategy, Champify.io.
Seth Besse, CEO of Undivided.io, suggests: “Before launch day, use internal communications to update everyone on the launch plan and hold small group meetings to make sure they understand the positioning. Select a few key advocates to help build excitement internally and externally. Provide sales and marketing teams with the tools and resources they need to influence interested prospects.”
Also, staff training should be done at two levels:
- Product: They should understand the product functionality and value proposition to the T. So that they can easily assist, troubleshoot, handle objections, answer queries, etc. Sharing guided product tours can cut short the training here.
- Customer: They should understand the unique needs and pain points of each buyer persona to communicate using their language.
✅ Create Content for Marketing Campaigns & Customer Success
While your marketing mix will depend on your GTM plans and ongoing needs of the launch, we can broadly divide the marketing materials into two types:
- Promotional for media and marketing use. This includes press releases, social media posts, landing pages, email campaigns, micro demos, and tutorial.
- Resources to drive adoption and customer activation. This could be FAQs, user guides, onboarding walkthroughs, interactive demos, or product-led blog posts.
Another way to look at the content creation process is through the now-famous ‘Press Pyramid’.
To give you a few examples, when running a beta test for its AI chat feature, Taskade shared the update via X (Twitter) and its newsletter.
Create interactive product demos: Another versatile asset is to create interactive product tours. From capturing leads by showing the product in action to enabling quicker deals with demo leave-behinds, they can help you stand out at every touchpoint.
And if you’re building the tours using Storylane’s no-code, HTML editor, your team can also build demos for different use cases, personas, and features in only 10 minutes.
Related Read: 16 Ways to Increase Your Landing Page Conversion Rates
✅ Define Success Metrics for the Launch
Before you can call the launch a “success”, you must define what it looks like. Pre-launch, setting realistic goals and KPIs can help bring alignment between stakeholders, and improve internal communication. Here are some of the most commonly used product launch metrics.
But how to choose which metrics to track? Taylor Udell of Champify.io shared her own method of setting success metrics:
1. Launch requirements: As a step to collaborate with product teams, I like to set a threshold of 3 customers willing to go on record about the feature for a big launch.
2. Determine audience & goal of launch: This determines the list of assets and activities needed. For example, you need very different external and internal enablement if the goal is to drive customer adoption of the feature or the goal is to expand into a vertical.
3. Have a game plan: A lot can happen during your launch. Pre-launch make sure you have defined:
- Action items with due dates + owners
- Metrics (both leading indicators + key metrics)
- Your cadence of measurement
✅ Gather & Implement Feedback
Lastly, as James Smith, Founder of Travel-Lingual, shares, “You should build a feedback loop. Ask users what they think. It's a great place to learn and grow. Also, be open to updates. Our customer satisfaction increased by 15% when we started being honest about our updates and immediately responding to people's concerns.”
In the initial days of the launch, only focus on product critiques, both positive and negative. Create feedback forms and run surveys across touchpoints.
For example, Hubert Palan, the CEO and Founder of Productboard, shared in an interview with First Round about how they, “centralized the feedback collected in various systems such as Intercom and Zendesk, linking those feedback requests to specific features on the product roadmap and then providing a user impact score so the business could rank the importance of each item.”
How to Launch a Product Online: 5 Easy Steps
After ticking off every item on your product launch plan checklist, it’s time to hit the target market with a bang. But how? Follow these five easy steps.
- Develop a Media Plan: When launching publicly, start with a media plan. This should cover social channels, paid, and free PR communication to spread the word.
- Set Up a Landing Page: You must have a dedicated page to capture the traffic coming and PR from the marketing campaigns. It should highlight the product value upfront. For example, Stairwell provided an ungated product tour right on its homepage and received a 50% engagement rate.
- Provide a Special Offer: This will go right along with the promotional materials and convert the visitors landing on the product pages. For example, a time-limited premium offer for trial users.
- Prepare for common obstacles like poor pricing and lack of customer support.
- Collect Feedback: Whether a lead becomes a customer or not, there will be lessons in marketing, sales, and product. Make sure to ask for feedback at every touchpoint. For example, when a trial or freemium user unsubscribes.
Steal These Product Launch Checklist Templates
Starting a checklist from scratch can take up precious time. If you’re preparing for a product release soon, take a leaf out of these product launch checklist templates.
Notion’s Product Launch Checklist
What we love
- This is a one-pager, easy-to-replicate product launch checklist (nuff said!).
- It breaks down the entire process into easily comprehensible tasks and subtasks.
ClickUp’s Product Launch Template
What we love:
- Pre-built checkpoints for quick and seamless product launch planning.
- Organize work items by different launch categories.
- Easy to assign tasks, check status, and track activity.
Roadmunk’s Product Launch Roadmap
What we love
- You can illustrate the entire launch process and keep tabs on progress and key milestones.
- Organizes the tasks by teams and departments.
Before you go…
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions when making your own product launch checklist.
Q1. What are the 4 Ps of product launch?
Also known as the ‘4Ps of a marketing mix’, the 4 Ps of a product launch are as below:
Product: How does the product or service meet the needs of the customer?
Price: How should the product be priced?
Place: Where do potential customers search or buy your product?
Promotion: Where, when, and how can you reach your target audience with the marketing messages?
Q2. How do you structure a product launch?
Here are 10 steps that experts recommend for a successful product launch:
- Test out a beta version of the product to get user feedback.
- Define the product’s pricing structures.
- Develop a go-to-market strategy.
- Create a product launch roadmap.
- Fix the launch date and share the timeline with the whole team.
- Outline the roles and responsibilities for different launch phases.
- Train the sales and customer success teams.
- Develop the messaging and value proposition for positioning.
- Create a memorable marketing and PR campaign for the launch.
- Build a system to track and gather user feedback.
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