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March 1, 2023
What makes a winning product launch? Derek Osgood shares specific tactics he uses to plan, execute, and succeed at product launches.
According to Derek Osgood, it takes a "great product and product marketing collaboration" to get people to adopt products. But with such a small window of opportunity and many moving parts, it's easy to get it wrong. So how do massively successful brands execute a winning product launch?
Join Erin and JH as they welcome guest Derek Osgood, CEO of Ignition, to examine the key components of a product launch. Derek shares his perspective on branding at scale as he outlines critical aspects to consider before, during, and after launch. He also provides a step-by-step walkthrough of a successful go-to-market strategy, complete with specific marketing tactics for planning, targeting, collaboration, and research.
In this episode, we discuss:
Derek Osgood is a product marketing specialist, entrepreneur, and Founder & CEO of Ignition, a platform that helps brands streamline go-to-market strategies. He has launched several products that have collectively generated over $1 billion in revenue. Before Ignition, Derek worked as Director of Product Marketing at Rippling, Director of Marketing and Growth at BBVA, and as a Product Manager at Playstation.
Derek - 00:00:00: Just make sure that, when you are launching products, you are thinking about it as a team. You know, it's far too often I see companies where they do, you know, the product marketing team is kind of left on an island and they're trying to bring all these other stakeholders in. But everybody has some flipping priorities, and everybody is busy and it's just hard for them to get the support cross-functional as they need in order to effectively launch these things.
Erin - 00:00:28: This is Erin May.
JH - 00:00:30: I'm John Henry Forster. And this is Awkward Silences.
Erin - 00:00:35: Silences. Hello everybody and welcome back to Awkward Silences. Today, we're here with Derek Osgood, who is the CEO of Ignition, a go to market platform. Today we're going to talk about product launches and how to make them super successful using research. So, Derek, so excited to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Derek - 00:01:00: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Erin, excited to chat through this.
Erin - 00:01:03: We got you too.
JH - 00:01:05: Yeah. Product launches are a topic near and dear to my heart and my role. So be taking some notes as we go here.
Erin - 00:01:11: Awesome. It's always fun when we can selfishly learn a little bit from our guests, which we typically do. So, let's start with the kind of end in mind. What is a successful product launch? It seems maybe obvious, but we could all improve how we approach product launches. And so curious to get your thoughts since you think about this all the time.
Derek - 00:01:32: Yeah, of course. Successful product launches. Ultimately, it boils down to you have introduced the new thing to the world and you've introduced it to the world in a way that is actually driving adoption and revenue and all business metrics that you care about, but also that your whole internal team is prepared for that launch. And that your whole internal team. It's not just that customers know that the thing exists, that everybody else within the company knows that the thing exists, and that they know how to talk about that thing. They know how to promote it to future customers who come to you and that you are actually crafting the company's positioning around that launch. So, you're not just introducing it and like fire and forget but you're actually weaving it into the broader narrative that the company is creating. And so discussable launches. There's lots of ways to measure it and most companies tend to look at just kind of adoption. Ultimately, the hope is that things that you're launching are actually driving top or bottom-line metrics though and you're actually tying it back to real business impacts. So, at the end of the day, we're all launching things to grow revenue. So hopefully when you are launching them, that's what you're doing.
Erin - 00:02:40: Right. And to that point, that's where it starts at the beginning, right? Like if you're trying to launch something to drive revenue, there's some theory in that road mapping of how this will drive revenue that you can either directly or indirectly measure.
Derek - 00:02:52: Right.
Erin - 00:02:52: The time to ask that question is not post-launch.
Derek - 00:02:55: Yeah, it's definitely at the earliest stages and that's why you should be making sure that those things that you're building are really informed by deep customer insight and they are really going to translate to business performance, and not just the things that you're building for internal vanity metrics.
JH - 00:03:13: Yeah. Do those things that you're mentioning in terms of the successful launch, do those hold up across the different types of products launches you might experience? So, there's obviously like the big headline fanfare and new products, and like that we're going to really go to market hard about it. Then there are some smaller things that maybe are going to be a softer launch around a big usability improvement or something like that. Are the ingredients of success kind of the same across those or do you think about it differently depending on the type of launch?
Derek - 00:03:37: Yeah, I think the ingredients of successor are the same. When we think about different types of launches, we're not always just talking about net new product launches. A lot of times we're dealing with, as you mentioned, feature releases or even things like rebrands or pricing updates or really anything that kind of requires a good market motion. I think generally you are trying to probably move. At the end of the day, all of the things that a company is doing are really designed to try and drive incremental revenue. So, at the end of the day, the end goal for all of those things is pretty much the same and a lot of the different pieces that feed into it are actually similar. Like the real elements that lead to a successful product launch. It's a great product and product marketing collaboration. It's making sure that product marketing is brought in really early in the process. So that they're able to help inform the roadmap items that are being built with deep research and customer insight. That they're able to help apply a growth lens to the things that are getting built so they have more viralities that they have more that you're identifying proper ground cell opportunities. The second big element is that you're making sure that you're communicating effectively both internally and externally around the launch. Ultimately, launches have a lot of moving pieces. And so, making sure that you are effectively getting the information from the people who are kind of driving the launch, which tends to be the product of the product marketing team, to all the different stakeholders, both internally and to customers, so they can actually action, it is incredibly important. And that applies no matter what type of thing you're watching. And then lastly, you are trying to tie all this work that you're doing into really deep customer insights. So, you have done your legwork, you've done your research and you understand how you should be positioning this thing, how you should be pricing it, how you should be packaging it, and all the things like, they're pretty consistent. No matter what type of watch you're doing, the real differences end up coming about at the more tactical level. So, it's how much upfront work are you doing at the strategic planning level? When you're looking smaller than a feature release, you're probably not going to have enough to stand with internally to go do all the same amount of legwork that you would do for a big, like, tier one product launch, but you're still going to do most of the same stuff. You're just going to do abridged versions of them.
Erin - 00:06:01: Yeah. And interestingly talked about was how when you launch a new feature, a new product, whatever it is, big or small, your kind of bit by bit, changing the narrative of what the overall product and company does. That's an interesting one to think about. You talked about, you know, there's the internal comms and the external comms when you launch anything, making sure that the market and the internal market, if you will, sort of know what's going on and how to talk about it. How do you think about messaging that on that incremental basis of how that story, that larger story, is evolving?
Derek - 00:06:34: Yeah, I think anytime you're launching a reasonably large launch, whether it's a product launch or whether it's just a big feature, you need to be thinking about the fact that positioning is shaped much more by the things that you do than by the things that you say. And so, a lot of companies are like, well, we put this in the press release. And so that changed our positioning. And that suddenly made customers think about us in a different way because we told them to think about it in a different way. But the reality is, when you look at companies, you're drawing a lot more conclusions about who they are as a company, what they're doing, and what you're really believing about them by looking at what are the things that they actually built, how are they pricing and packaging their products. And so, when you're creating these launches, you really need to be thinking about all those downstream kinds of assumptions that are going to get impacted when you actually put this thing out in the market. And you should be reassessing the corporate-level positioning at the same time as you're doing the individual product positioning for that launch. And so, when you're like, these two things are just inextricably linked. And when you're doing the positioning work for that new product or feature, you need to then compare that against the overall positioning and the overall packaging of products for the company level, which is basically just gut-checking. Is this going to change things? If so, then how do we need to change all of the other materials that we created at the corporate level in order to marry, to this new world that we've just introduced based on the thing that we just built.
JH - 00:08:10: Yeah. You were talking about you're going to kind of probably do the same steps, but just how bridge they are is going to depend on the scale of the launch. What does that look like? Do you have a kind of a playbook or something there? So, I'm on the product side, and Erin on the marketing side. My team's going to launch a big new add-on to one of our subscription offerings. We're really excited about it. We think it's going to resonate in a work with Erin’s team to have a successful launch. Like, what are the steps? What are the things that we should do to make that work?
Derek - 00:08:34: Yeah, so, I mean, the whole checklist is 100 plus lines long launch checklists are a mess. But end of the day, it really boils down to you. First, you're going to go set some kind of objectives. And so obviously, the end goal is to drive revenue, but there's a lot of sub key results that feed into that. So, what are the objectives that you want to measure this against and what are you going to try and drive? Then you're going to go and you're going to do some research to inform, like, what is the best way to drive those metrics. So, you're going to go research your competitive environment, understand what your competitors are doing, understand how they're talking about themselves, understand how your product stacks up against their product, and where you really are truly different and able to position around. Then you're going to do a bunch of customer research, and you're going to go understand, hey, based on the thing that we're building and based on your specific needs, how is this going to marry those? And then you're going to do multiple stages of customer research throughout this process if it's a larger launch. So, you're not just doing, hey, did we build the right thing? How is this going to stack up from a PMS perspective? But you're also going to eventually be doing message testing as you're starting to shape your positioning and messaging. So, you're going to be checking, is the way that we're telling a story about this thing really resonating with people? You're also going to be doing pricing research to understand, are you packaging the product appropriately and combining features in a way that makes it an appealing and product for people? You're going to be doing actual price sensitivity research to understand, are you pricing at the right price point for those people in order to maximize revenue? And then you're going to actually go and plan out all your strategies. So, you're going to figure out, what channels are we using? You're going to figure out how do we want to position it, how do we want to message it, what assets do we need to create in order to support all of that? Positioning and messaging. And then what's the actual rollout and phasing plan for how we're going to actually introduce these people? Are we going through a soft launch and shipping to a beta first to a smaller subset of people so that we can collect input from them, start developing customer stories, and then feed that into a larger ga release? Or are we just shipping it, getting it live, and then going to do an announcement after the fact that will change based on the type of launch? But ultimately, you should have a tiering system in place. So, you should be able to identify based on how important the thing is to the company and then how important is the thing to the customer, whether or not there should be like a big tier one launch where you're putting all of your company's effort behind it, and you're doing every step of research that you possibly can make sure that it's as successful as humanly possible. And you are going through, you're using many more channels to announce it and you're communicating with just a lot more like flashiness. Or is it a tier two launch where you are kind of in the middle or is it tier three launch where basically it's a smaller release and the goal is to get it out fast and minimize your time invested while still getting effective adoption. In which case you're probably just going to ship it, maybe do some communication in product or through a couple of own channels to customers. But it's basically just changing the T-shirt sizing of the launch.
JH - 00:11:52: Previously you had mentioned also the internal communication piece like making sure everyone internally knows how to talk about it and is prepared. Probably some support elements there and stuff. Where does that fit into the process? Is that something that's happening in parallel? Do you want to do that towards the end when some of the stuff is like baked so that it's a little bit crisped up or is there good input to what you need to understand? How do you think about that?
Derek - 00:12:11: Yeah, ideal world, you are having some degree of communication with teams across the company throughout the process. So, in an ideal world, what you have is you have like one or two champions from a couple of these other stakeholder teams, from the sales team, from the support team and they're providing feedback into the planning process. So ideally, like sales and support and everybody else kind of has a voice in the positioning work that you're doing because they're the ones who ultimately are talking to customers every single day and are going to have insight to help inform it. So ideally you have somebody involved in the process and they are getting at least some baseline updates on what's going on so they can start to kind of like prime the pump and prepare their team. Then you need to communicate much more tightly once a lot of the stuff is baked, as you said. So, I think you really don't want to go blast all the launch information to everybody when it's still work in progress because what you're going to end up with is a lot of people using incorrect assets, incorrect messaging, incorrect positioning. And so, you do need to wait a bit until it's a little bit more put together and ready for prime time. But I think one of the big mistakes that a lot of companies make is they assume that all those teams are going to come find the information. And so, they'll put it together, they'll drop it in some source of truth, whether it's like a bunch of docs or it's a single doc or they created or they have some tool for it and then they'll just like say, hey, this stuff here, come find it if you want it. And the reality is most of those teams will never go find it. And if they do, oftentimes it's one big giant launch plan. So, it's just way more information than all those teams need because if you're a salesperson, you really only care about how do we talk about this thing, what happens? Do I have to go and sell it? So ultimately, the biggest thing that we see really great teams do is that they are pushing information outwards to teams, and they've really systematized a way to at every kind of step throughout the launch process be able to push updates to cross-functional teammates, notifying them about where the launch stands, progress wise. But then also to help share just the important information with those folks, like what messaging are we using? What assets are available and finalized and approved. Ideally, it's kind of a pulsing motion where you're pushing things out on a sunny regular cadence to the folks who need it.
Erin - 00:14:39: Yeah, it is a great point. One thing I think marketing teams can forget to do is to market internally. It's as important as marketing externally and most folks are not waking up every day, like looking for what other interesting things has everyone else done I can go out and actively find, right? So that pushing it out in context over and over is really important and.
Derek - 00:15:01: The internal marketing is super important because honestly, your internal team is your best marketing channel, right? Your salespeople, your support people, they're going to tell the story better than anybody else can and they're the ones who are talking to customers every single day. And you have an entire audience of, in many cases, like hundreds or thousands of people within the company who all have their own LinkedIn networks, they all have their own social networks. And them being excited about the thing that you built and being ready to go promote it just results in tons and tons of free promotions. So, teams totally forget to leverage their internal teams nearly as much as they.
Erin - 00:15:37: Should be and in both directions. Right to your point earlier, you're getting a lot of feedback in terms of how we are going to talk about this launch, how are we going to position it from your go-to-market teams, from your customer service teams, etc. So, you're using that to inform your roadmap, you’re positioning and then informing those teams in a more packaged up way. Okay, this is what we heard and synthesize, this is how we're going to roll this out. And then the loop continues over and over again, right?
Derek - 00:16:02: Totally, totally. And they can also help with getting research lined up too. I think one of the challenges that exist in this process oftentimes in today's shipping cadence for new products and most companies, it happens so fast, and the product team is operating on a motion where they want to get the thing out as fast as possible so they can start collecting feedback on it. And iterating on the products they build that oftentimes it's tough to actually squeeze in the time to do the real research that informs the go to market planning. Oftentimes the product research will still happen up front because the product team is on their own timeline. So, they'll do that work prebuild. But then the go to market team doesn't actually get they don't even know the things getting built until further down pipe, at which point there's not enough time to actually go and do the research they want. So, if you're leaning on those internal teams as feedback mechanisms within this process, they can help say, hey, I know this customer that I was talking to the other day that really cares about this problem. You should talk to them. And they'll just organically bring up that opportunity for a user interview and pull them into the process, which can be a pretty critical insight for that launch plan.
JH - 00:17:17: You mentioned people not doing enough of that internal marketing and stuff, that can be something the teams get wrong. What are other things teams can mess up when it comes to not having a successful launch?
Derek - 00:17:26: Yeah, I think the biggest one is it's not doing research. Like there's so many teams that they skip that step because they are trying to move quickly and they think that they know how the things should be talked about because they're like, oh, we've been selling something that's kind of adjacent to this for a while and so it must work this way. And then they'll go ship the thing and they haven't done any message testing; they haven't actually got checked whether their assets are telling the story that they think that those assets are telling people. They haven't understood how their pricing stacks up against competitors. They haven't even paid attention to competitors in many cases. A lot of people don't even go look at what other products are out there in the market that do something similar. So, there may be some status quo that 90% of customers are using and the company doesn't even realize that it exists. When you don't do that research, you just end up with messaging that falls flat, you end up with communication that feels tone deaf in many cases to customers and you end up with poor adoption. So, I think the biggest one is just forgetting to do that stuff. We're thinking that it's more important for them to move quickly than it is for them to do the leg work to get that stuff right. I think the other big one is they try and not having that kind of tiering system and not being able to actually teach the size of launch planning that they're doing. So, they end up over investing time in the stuff that doesn't matter, and they end up under investing time in the stuff that does. There's a lot of pressure internally in any company from the product teams that have built the stuff, from the Exec team to just make sure to make a ton of noise on every single thing that gets built within the company. But that's actually not just a problem from a bandwidth perspective internally because the product marketing team, they just can't execute everything with the same level of effort. But it's also a problem from a customer perspective because customers then are hearing you just constantly shouting. It's a bit of a boy who cried wolf situation where customers are constantly shouting about every single thing they got built. But the reality is they only care about probably one or two of those things at a really high level. And so when they are drowned with all this information about new things that are coming out from the company, it is beneficial and that it shows that you're shipping a lot of stuff and like you're constantly improving the product. But the things that really, really are going to move the needle for the customer and it's going to cause them to want to upsell or cause them to want to cross sell into another product, those things are going to slip through the cracks, and they're not going to pay attention to them because they'll get blindness to the announcements that you're making. So, it is important to be able to create this tension between making sure that the small things are getting announced and the customers can access that information, but then making sure that the big things are really cutting through. The noise of all the other things you've built, and you're shining a spotlight on them and saying, hey, these are the things that these are like two or three things this year that we built that are really, really important to you. And we know we're going to completely transform your experience with our product.
Erin - 00:20:39: Yeah, and it feels like segmentation is really important there too. It's one thing I wanted to ask you about because we're very much in the business of participant recruitment here. So, the idea being who you talk to really matters. So, when you're doing all these different forms of research throughout the lifecycle of a product launch, you might want to talk to different people depending on what the product is, right? And obviously that changes as your product matures and you're serving different audiences. But maybe you could talk to us a little bit about how does you think about we talked about tier one, two, three in terms of just like the size of a launch, but what about how you segment your launches and your research accordingly?
Derek - 00:21:17: Yeah, 100%. I mean, segmentation is hugely important in this process. And I think a lot of companies have a fairly simplistic way in the way that they think about segmentation when they're announcing stuff to customers. And oftentimes they'll tie that segmentation to roles that they have permissions in their products. So, if you think about SaaS products, oftentimes you have like an admin. And then in our case, for example, we have admins, and we have editors, and we have viewers in our product. And so that's the way that companies will think about segmenting their launch efforts. They're like, okay, well, this launch is only applicable to editors because editors are the ones who can access the feature that we built, but they don't go a little deeper and say, hey, within our set of editors, there is some specific segment of roles and industries that are going to care about this product a lot more than others. And the rest of them, that's not really important. And so, they're never actually they're just announcing everything broadly. And part of this is the bandwidth limitations. Like, a lot of teams don't have the tooling in place, they don't have the number of people needed in order to really get granular in announcing certain things to certain people instead of announcing everything to everybody. So, it's kind of tough for them to execute. But if you're able to do it right, what you should be doing is you should have those different tiers, but then each of those tiers should also have a subsequent action of we're only launching this thing to the people who really, really care about it. Ultimately, the way that you get better adoption of products is by being more laser targeted and by being better at saying, hey, we're going to create this one very small group of passionate users of this thing that are then going to be kind of mavens to the rest of the audience that we are targeting as a secondary audience. And that's how the best products have grown. That's how like when we were launching PlayStation 4, when I was at PlayStation, we targeted the smallest possible segment of gamers, and we knew that that segment of gamers influenced everybody else in their purchase decisions. And so, we basically targeted them. And that led to the most successful console launch in history at that point. And it was mostly because we had chosen to really get tight on segmentation. It was the first time in the company's history that we've gone through a full segmentation exercise and done months of user interviews, months of research work to feed into this thing and it was hugely successful. So, yeah, I mean, like segmentation, you do need to do it. And I think you can do it at the top of the funnel and actually change the positioning and messaging of that launch, or you can go all the way down and do it at the very end at the last step and tweak the communication that's going on. Like if, for example, you don't have the bandwidth to really actually create whole separate launch plans for different audiences. What you can do is just have different versions of the announcement emails and communications that are going out that are targeted to those segments that you've identified and then you're just maybe mixing matching components of that announcement email for those audiences.
Erin - 00:24:29: Yeah, that's great. I think it's important, too, that those segments can be different from launch to launch. Right. You probably have some notion of different personas or company sites or like you said, admin different, but important to kind of for each launch, think about what the meaningful segmentation for this launch is, what are they going to be the key differences in terms of who's going to care and why they're going to care.
Derek - 00:24:47: Yeah, and oftentimes that segmentation can be as simple as they have a tool or they don't have a tool, or it doesn't have to be crazy complex. You don't necessarily have to get down to psychographic segmentation, although if you can, it's the most powerful thing you can do. But if it may be as simple as saying, hey, these people do or don't have a tool, or they are considering a tool, or where are they in the buying process? So yeah, you don't have to get crazy with it, but having some degree of insight that's a little bit deeper than the way that you've actually structured your product per missioning is always going to lead to better us to be.
JH - 00:25:28: All right, quick awkward interruption here. It's fun to talk about user research, but you know what's really fun is doing user research and we want to help you with that.
Erin - 00:25:36: We want to help you so much that we have created a special place, it's called userinterviews.com/awkward for you to get your first three participants free.
JH - 00:25:48: We all know we should be talking to users more, so we went ahead and removed as many barriers as possible. It's going to be easy; it's going to be quick; you're going to love it. So, get over there and check it out.
Erin - 00:25:56: And then when you're done with that, go on over to your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review, please.
JH - 00:26:05: When you were calling out the things that are really important to get right, you. Mentioned research and one of the examples of research has come up a couple of times is like message testing. If I'm a product marketer listening to this and I'm not super familiar with message testing and maybe I don't have a UXR team available to me, how do you do that? What's good message testing look like? What are some tips for those people to be able to go out and do that?
Derek - 00:26:25: Yeah, for sure. So, the number one tip that I would give is it's not just A B testing. Everybody kind of thinks that when they're doing message testing, the right way to do it is you create two messages, and you just go out and send that. Like either push them out to ads or whatever channel you're using and see which one performs better. But the reality is that messaging has a lot of other qualitative impacts that are not necessarily going to show up in that kind of testing. So really what I like to do when I'm doing message testing is combine qualitative and quantitative. So, you go out, you create a couple of options that you've created around messaging and ideally what you do is you go show that to a segment of users and you say, hey, here's this message. And the first thing you do is just leave it open ended and say, what does this tell you? What are your takeaways from this? And have a conversation with them and have them explain that to you what the messaging you've created is communicating because I guarantee you it is different from what you think is communicating. And so, you come away with a lot of qualitative learnings that will quickly probably cause you to change some of your messaging into something that's a little bit tighter. And then from there, you can start to get into more quantitative comparisons where once you feel like you've got a couple of messages that are telling the story that you're starting to hear customers regard you, the message that you want them to be taking away from that, then you can start comparing those at a more quantitative level and start to AP. Test them, send them surveys, say, hey, here's message A. Here's message B. Which one are you most likely to buy? How do you stack up and resonate on specific like brand parameters if you're trying to compare against brand attributes and how it's going to actually shape positioning at the larger level. So ultimately, it's about having that push and pull between qualitative research and quantitative research.
Erin - 00:28:26: I have a bunch of questions about this. So, when do you do message testing in the process? Like early in the game, late in the game a bunch of times?
Derek - 00:28:34: Well, yeah, so I think it's a bunch of times and typically what I like to do is I like to do the message testing kind of in the middle where, I mean, obviously there's a lot of work that you have to do before you can ever what are we testing? You have to go do positioning work. You have to have done the upfront research on understanding, like what customers care about in general. So, you do all that stuff. And then ideally, once you have any messaging that you are getting close to thinking is ready for print, I mean, you're ready to start actually briefing the creative teams that are going to be developing the assets. Once you're at that stage, you probably want to do some of the qualitative research and that's when you want to start just getting feedback from customers on, hey, what does this tell you? Then you can do the other testing, the quantitative stuff, kind of as assets get finalized. Because really, you're not a B testing messaging that way. You're typically a B testing actual assets and actual ad creative or actual email creative or whatever channel you're using. So as each of those assets get again close to getting finalized, then you just start running a bunch of AB tests, running a bunch of surveys, collecting that feedback kind of continuously throughout that process you're developing it. Ideally, you have a system set up where you can easily, just as things get created, run tests with customers and get that feedback continuously so it's not one big bulk send with everything you've created. So ideally, you're doing it kind of throughout the process and even past launch. Like this testing should not end when you've actually put the thing prior to putting the thing out in the market. After the thing is live, you need to be doing the same thing and you need to be going out to customers and saying, hey, we just launched this thing. We're talking about this way. What's this telling you about our company, about our product, what we're doing? Is this messaging compelling to you? Is it actually helping you to be curious about buying this product? So, you need to be doing it continuously. It's not it's done once you got your initial feedback.
Erin - 00:30:42: Great. Okay, next question. What launches do you do this message testing for? Is this a tier one, tier two, tier three? Do you always message test everything? When do you recommend incorporating that kind of testing?
Derek - 00:30:54: Yeah, for any tier one launch for sure. I think tier two is where it gets a little fuzzy and you end up kind of some tier two launches. You probably will if you have enough lead time. Some tier two launches, you probably won't if there's not much lead time. So again, that kind of comes down to just how much bandwidth and time you have between whenever you're starting and whenever you're going to go launch the thing. Tier three, typically I'm not doing it. That's where you start to look more kind of like just AV test results. And in many cases with tier three stuff, because you're trying to just optimize for seed, there isn't even any AV testing going on. It's like you kind of create the one message and that's all the communication you're doing. But I think every time for a tier one launch, tier two launches, it's 50 50 and it kind of depends on the time.
Erin - 00:31:42: Got it. And the last question on this, how do you do it? So you talk a little bit about how you do it, but in terms of really like are you using a tool like winter or do you just sort of like hand spin it up or are you actually like mocking up a home page with a hero and a subhead? Like what are you testing and how do you test it? Let's say it's a tier one lunch.
Derek - 00:32:02: Yes. Great question. So, when it comes to schooling, winter didn't exist back when I was a product marketer, unfortunately, so I wish that it did. I do like some of the tools out there today for doing this, but I was doing it pretty ad hoc. So back when I was going through this process, I had some surveys that I created in SurveyMonkey that were based on just the quantitative side of things. And then when it came to the qualitative side, I was unfortunately having to just go chase CFM and asking them to put customers on calls with me. And then I would have conversations with people. Sometimes I would do focus groups too. Like if I had a well-structured beta program, I would have a set of people who had already kind of opted in and were pretty readily available for kind of larger group sessions. But when it comes to the content that I'm sharing so at the message testing stage, I don't like to share like quote unquote assets. So, I don't like to actually use full landing pages. I don't like to use ads or anything like that. I like to keep it very basic where it's like words on a page. And so, I simply will make a slide with the different messaging angles that I'm approaching things with. And sometimes that will be just kind of a headline style message. Sometimes it'll be with some bullets that are identifying kind of core value props within that as well. And I'll ask people to react to that first because ultimately the goal of this early quantitative or qualitative message testing is to inform the assets that are going to create. So then once I've got feedback on is the core of the methods that I'm trying to get across conveying the right thing, then I'll go start flushing it out with landing pages. And landing pages are typically where I like to share, if I'm sharing real assets. Because you can have headlines, you can have visuals tied to those, but they'll either do a landing page or if I'm creating Facebook ads, a kind of short format with just a single visual. And those tend to be kind of like the two angles that I'll use if I'm comparing actual real assets.
JH - 00:34:14: I love when we get into tactical examples like this with very specific advice. I'm curious, did you have other things in your tool kit? There's some other testing that we talked about like pricing research or more generative stuff like what are other things you think might be useful for product marketers when it comes to research that informs launches?
Derek - 00:34:29: Totally. I mean, pricing research is a deep rabbit hole, but I think a lot of people think, like, pricing is some dark art that, you know, they aren't really familiar with how you actually come about to the way that you should be packaging features up or the way that you should be pricing - applying a price point. So, there are a few tools that do some of this research well. So I've used Price Intelligently before. Unfortunately, it's pretty expensive if you're a product marketing team with limited budget. So, Price Intelligently is great. Conjointly allows you to do conjoint research to basically understand how to package products. I actually like to use a much lighter weight version of conjoint research though. So, I mean, true conjoint is pretty complicated, you actually need like a dedicated tool for it. But if you are trying to just get a basic understanding of which features have we built and how should those be packaged into different products, what I like to use is they're called MaxDiff surveys. And you can essentially just stack up all the different attributes of your products in different subsets. And so, you basically create three or four different sets of three or four features or attributes in different combinations. And you ask people, you know, to pick one of each of those sets of attributes in terms of whether it's the best or the worst, and most important are the least important to them. And then what that's going to give you is a chart at the end of it. And there's a whole bunch of blog posts out there on the internet about how to chart this stuff, but it's going to give you a nice chart that will give you very clear stratification between those features in terms of which ones customers really, really care about. Then there's a little bit of art there where you do need to then determine, okay, based on the things that are most important, you probably want to have one or two of those really important things in your lowest tier because you want people to buy the thing in general. But then you want to hold out a couple of those really important things for premium tiers. So when you're actually building out your pricing model, you need to then use that input to factor into the way that you're factoring products, so that you can put as much value as possible needed to migrate people from different price points into each of those packages and get them also to stick at the base level. But then from there, the process of once you figure out your packaging, you need to figure out your actual price point. And so, there are kind of two really quick and dirty ways to figure out price point. My favorite ends up being Van Westendorp surveys. So, you're essentially asking people for questions. You're asking them, like, here's the products that we're considering selling, what price point would this be too expensive for you to consider buying? What price point would it be starting to get expensive, but you'd still consider buying it? At what price point would it be a bargain? And at what price point would it be too cheap for you to actually trust it and not want to buy it? And then you basically chart those on four-line charts, and you're going to get a diamond, which includes kind of the range of acceptable prices. And then you can kind of pick any of the corners to price around. So that's like the simplest way to do this stuff. It's not perfect. There are problems with Van Westendorp and there are some other methodologies, like David Grainger and whatnot that can give you different pricing insight, but it's enough to at least get you in the ballpark. And then from there, you can kind of continue iterating and optimizing pricing based off of live customer feedback.
Erin - 00:38:07: Yeah, exactly. It's a lot better than just guessing and throwing something out there. And then you do, you'll get feedback. People will buy it or they won't. Yeah. So the proof is in the pudding. We've talked a lot about how you get to that point of launching a product or feature, and hopefully, it's been very successful based on all the research you've done and planning you've done, and internal marketing you've done. So now your products are out there in the world, let's talk about ongoing research, right? Like, how do you mix continuous research, benchmarking, whatever methods, and internal feedback you're using, to continue to develop your roadmap as your product matures, but also to iterate right on your existing features and products.
Derek - 00:38:48: Yeah, so, I mean, unfortunately, too many teams, they treat launches very far and forget it's just the end. And that is totally the wrong way to do it, unfortunately, but it's pretty common. It's interesting that you mentioned in your question internal feedback, and I think this goes back to the internal marketing conversation we were having earlier. One of the most underrated ways to measure the success of your launches is through internal retrospectives. And so, ideally, the second that you like, or not necessarily the second after you launch something. But, you know, a week or two after you launch something, you should be sending an internal retrospective survey to all the different stakeholders who were involved, trying to gut-check how well-prepared everybody felt like they were for that launch. How much did they feel like they understood the product that was built? How did they have access to all the assets that they need in order to go and do their job around it. And then also collecting feedback on things, basic things like what could have done better, what have we learned? And then you should have, like, on a more kind of irregular, probably quarterly basis. You should have a deep dive retrospective session with all the key stakeholders across the company, around how your launch process is going. What are the big things that you took away from all those different things that you launched over the course of the last quarter? What are the things that you need to do to iterate on your process and make it better over time? So ideally, what you're doing is you're collecting rapidly and quantified feedback from everybody internally after every single launch so that you can iterate on the fly, but then you're having deeper dives on a slightly slower cadence. And when it comes to the ongoing customer research, ideally what you're doing is for one thing, you have a good mechanism for collecting feedback continuously from them on both kinds of new ideas for products, but also feedback on the existing products that you've watched. So some companies, what they're doing is they're hosting external product idea pages where customers can go and nominate new feature ideas, vote on those, discuss them, and then they can actually have live conversations with the product team around potential concepts that they're curious about having built into the product. A lot of teams, when they're publishing announcements, they have some location where whether it's a blog or whether it's a public change log page or something like that, they're publishing these announcements to customers. And then there's some happy sad mechanism on that where customers can say how excited or how excited they are about that new release or how well serving them. And then ideally, you have pretty tight communication with your internal sales and support teams that are talking to those customers on a daily basis too. And you have some like what I've done in the past is I've had weekly reviews with our customer success team where I'm just collating all the learning, so they have from a given week and all the things that they've heard on, things that we recently launched, things that we have launches upcoming around. And ideally, you have kind of an agenda where you're running through just a set of questions that are pretty standardized so that they can come prepared with batches of insights from all the customers that they're talking to on a regular basis. But beyond that, it's kind of just having regular conversations with customers. Ideally, if you're a product marketer, you should be on the phone with customers at least once a week, if not a lot more than that. And you should be having day-in, day-out conversations with them, understanding what their pain points are, what other tools they've used in the past and why your product is better or worse than It, and understanding what their big gripes are with current products and what you need to be building and how you could be better serving them.
JH - 00:42:40: Yeah, this is all throughout this; it seemed like a very collaborative process. Lots of people involved, lots of stakeholders. Who's owning the launch at the end of the day, like who's deciding it's tier one versus tier two, or who's going to be spearheading that retrospective and some of these other things you're mentioning?
Derek - 00:42:53: Yeah, good question. I mean, typically it's the product marketing team. However, that does vary a little bit depending on the structure and the way that the product marketing team is actually set up. There are some product marketing teams that end up skewing a lot more on the kind of content and sales and side of the house, in which case they may not be quite as tightly integrated into the launch process. But in most orgs, the way that I see it is like the primary and team is really owning and driving the launch. Product is the primary collaborator with them. And so, in some companies, the product is the one driving it. But ultimately those two are product marketing and product are two sides of the same coin. And so, whoever is driving it, the other one is like kind of riding shotgun, and they are pretty much tied at the hip working through this process. You obviously have tons and tons of other stakeholders though, like me on average product marketer reports that they work with nine other stakeholders on every launch. So, you have sales and success, you have demand gen, you have comms, you have a design, and you have all of your executive stakeholders as well. So, you have folks from almost every single department within the organization that needs to be involved in this process. You also have legal who needs to sign off on everything that gets created in this process. So ultimately what you have is you have a little bit of a task force for every single watch that gets created and it's somebody from all over the company. But primary should be driving this and ideally, they are close enough with products that they're able to understand exactly what's going on with the road map at all times and be that conduit for everybody else to understand what's going on with that launch. So, the product doesn't mean the product can continue focusing on actually getting the thing built and shipped on time.
Erin - 00:44:44: Derek, you've been a wealth of information. Any closing thoughts to leave folks with as they think about both? As you pointed out right, the product marketing and product launches are absolutely a team sport across an organization. So, anyone in an organization who wants to see their products launches be more successful, what should they be thinking about heading into the new year?
Derek - 00:45:07: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is just make sure that when you are launching products. You are thinking about it as a team sport. Far too often I see companies where the product marketing team is kind of left on an island and they're trying to bring all these other stakeholders in, but everyone has conflicting priorities and everybody's busy, and it's just hard for them to get the support cross functional as they need in order to effectively launch these things. Whether it's collecting feedback from the market or whether it's helping to actually execute the planning process, one person can't drive the whole thing. And you really do need everybody involved. And that product marketer is going to need to kind of delegate some of this stuff to folks across the team as well. The product marketer is probably under the gun to create a bunch of assets, and so they may not be able to handle sales training, so they may need to lean on the sales managers to go and train the other sales team based on some kind of upfront briefing the front marketer gives them. So, treat everything as a partnership. It's a collaborative effort. Everybody's kind of pulling the same direction on this stuff and you really need to think about it as something that touches every single part of the organization, and everybody is responsible for at least some degree of ownership around it. So, it's probably my biggest thought to leave.
Erin - 00:46:28: Great. It's a great one.
JH - 00:46:29: Nice.
Derek - 00:46:29: Yeah.
JH - 00:46:30: Good spot to close.
Erin - 00:46:31: Thank you, Derek.
JH - 00:46:31: Thanks for hanging out.
Derek - 00:46:32: Yeah. Thank you so much. This is awesome.
Erin - 00:46:38: Thanks for listening to Awkward Silences brought to you by User Interviews.
JH - 00:46:42: Theme music by Fragile Gang.
VP, Growth & Marketing
Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.