Part 6 of the series written in Partnership with Auxilia Global to explore the various steps entailed in product development in going from idea to product to launch. Last week, we explored how to build your MVP and your feedback loop. This week we will explore how to prepare for your product launch.
You can find the previous articles below:
- I have an idea for a product, what now?
- Part 2: Making sense of early problem discovery conversations
- Part 3: Ideating and getting ready to define an MVP
- Part 4: Define an MVP, build a dummy one and test, test, test
- Part 5: Building your MVP and your feedback loop
Mentally prepare your team and yourself for your product launch
Before I dive into the nitty-gritty, I’d like to take a moment to reflect. You’ve done a great journey to get here together with your team. You connected with people and their problems, you ideated solutions, you experimented in building and you’ve heard a lot of feedback. Some of it may have been very encouraging, some quite critical. You adjusted your course a few times and built a great MVP guided by your awesome customers. Congratulations, this is a great milestone!
You have been running a marathon but probably feeling like it’s been a hurdle race. It is important to prepare yourself and your team for what’s about to come. It’s not something terrible or bad, but it is something that is most likely unfamiliar and thus, uncomfortable. Launching your product may feel like you’re making yourself vulnerable to the whole world. It is important to prepare for this feeling and help yourself feel comfortable being uncomfortable. You need to keep reminding yourself who you are building for, why you are passionate about it and what drives you. Mistakes will be made, but learnings will also be learnt, and successes are ahead.
There is also one more thing I’d like to highlight before we get started on preparing for a product launch. Take a moment to think:
What is going to happen the moment you release your product into the world?
Most probably your product will just be publicly available, and nothing will happen. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that your product is picked as the cool new app of the week in the mobile stores or product of the week in Product Hunt, but most probably your product won’t be any of those. Keep this in mind when you feel like it’s never a good time to launch and you say: just one more thing to do to get ready, one more feature. It is ok to launch a non-perfect product, it will never become perfect, unless you give your potential customers the chance to use it and tell you how it can become perfect for them.
Prepare a launch checklist
One way to avoid delaying your launch is to prepare a checklist together with your team. What is the absolute minimum you need to have in place before you release your product into the wild?
I’ll mention a few general guidelines below, but you also need to consider the industry you are in and the product you are building to tailor this to your needs. Review again the feedback you have from your BETA testers and identify what is the minimum set of product features you need to add that will bring enough value to your perhaps, less forgiving new customers.
Below are 10 things you probably need to include in your checklist:
- Build a decent website (who you are, what you are doing and why).
- Create some basic branding for you product and keep it consistent across the various platforms (product, website, social media, etc.)
- Implement a way to track and measure your product’s use. I can’t highlight enough how important this is, especially for digital products. Without a way to understand how your customers use your product, what features they find useful and where they struggle, it’s like flying a plane without any instruments. We used Firebase to start with and then changed to Mixpanel for our app.
- Prepare your story and your narrative. Have a short and a longer version. Be consistent.
- Implement a way to understand where your customers are coming from and which means is the most effective for you. Any acquisition test you want to run or campaign, this will help you understand whether it was successful or not and what works best. We used Appsflyer for our mobile app.
- Prepare for the legal stuff (some great tips to get you started from Amanda): create your legal entity if you haven’t done so, build your T&Cs and privacy statement.
- Any security features you need to build to make sure your product is secure enough for your current scale.
- Technically prepare your product (if a digital one) for autoscaling to avoid releasing a non-working product if too many people use it simultaneously.
- Test your product and make sure that all functions are bug free and also do some misuse cases to cover unexpected usage.
- A way for your customers to reach out to you and any other areas you think are applicable to your product and industry.
Having this defined early one ensures a few things: you have received feedback from your team and taken into consideration the various aspects of your product that need to be ready before launching, you have set a target of when you all feel comfortable releasing your product into the wild, and prepared yourself mentally to know when the launch is going to happen.
I’ll be honest, your launch will probably not look like the photo! It will probably look like a bird flying out of the nest! It’s not a billboard type of launch across the world, it’s a simple turn on button. This is not to say that no publicity is to happen, but some low — key targeted approach.
Some things you can do to create buzz around your launch and start attracting new customers could be:
- Identify the places (virtually or not) where your potential customers could be and share your narrative and product.
- Work with some bloggers or journalists to see if they would be happy to test your product and write a review.
- Hunt your product in Product Hunt, or even better get someone else to hunt it for you, and prepare your close circle, friends, family and BETA testers to share their experience and upvote.
- Build a waitlist through your website and let them know your product is live.
- Use yours and your team’s networks to spread the word.
- Identify any industry-related blogs, websites, groups where you could share your launch story.
- Identify any podcasts, talks, conferences where it makes sense to share your product launch.
Having identified the various places where you can steal some of the stage light to share your story, vision and product launch is a big step, but it is also important to create a timeline of these. It would be a good practice to do only a few of these each week after your launch to be able to both track their effectiveness, but also be able to focus your efforts to get the most out of each one.
Keep improving your product
Together with your launch, hopefully you’ll start getting some new customers, but also reviews and feedback. Keep a track of these in your feedback loop system, prioritise them and feed them into your next developments. Always respond and do so with empathy.
Start reviewing how people use your product and what areas of improvement you can identify. Keep improving your product’s offering and keep aiming to get more customers each week.
Define your north star metric
Each week have a clear north star to focus your team and your work on. Whether this is how many new customers you want to bring, how much you want to increase the retention or the sign-up rate or anything else that makes sense. I hadn’t realised how important this was until we implemented it in our team. It really helps everyone work more effectively and autonomously.
Launching a product can feel uncomfortable but preparing yourself and your team and having a clear plan will be crucial to feel comfortable about it. It will be an amazing journey with lots of learnings, surprises and mistakes and a great milestone for everyone. Take the time to celebrate it!
Next week I will come back to explore the next steps after your launch and how to improve your feedback loop. Until then, I wish you a wonderful week ahead.
I want to say special thanks to Illai, as most of the things I talked about are things I learned from him and the team at VYVE and I will always be grateful for that.