Last updated 16 November, 2020.
Should a product launch only be for brand new products? Definitely, not!
In this episode of the Growth Hub Podcast, Dan Murphy, Director of Marketing at Privy and creator of The Product Launch Masterclass, debunks this myth and walks us through seven steps to help you crush your next product launch.
Psst! Click here for a full interview transcript.
Dan knows all about this as he's launched over 60 products to market throughout his career to date. We'll cover his product-launch framework including:
- Audience and positioning
- Launch activities
- Internal marketing
- Launch day
- Post-launch activities
Dan will also share how he recently relaunched Privy Email because of a competitor opportunity that popped up. Stay tuned to the end of the episode where Dan takes on our fast five challenge and shares his advice on the most important growth metric.
Make sure you subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Spotify so you never miss an episode of The Growth Hub podcast.
And let us know what you think by tweeting us at @SaaSGrowthHub or @NordicEdward.
The Product Launch Masterclass >> www.theproductlaunchmasterclass.com/
Privy >> www.privy.com/
Ben & Jerry's: The Inside Scoop >> www.goodreads.com/book/show/261822.Ben_Jerry_s
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing >> www.goodreads.com/book/show/33449.…aws_of_Marketing
Follow Dan on Twitter >> twitter.com_danieljmurphy
Advance B2B >> www.advanceb2b.com
Follow The Growth Hub on Twitter >> twitter.com/SaaSGrowthHub
Follow Edward on Twitter >> twitter.com/NordicEdward
Edward: Welcome to another episode of The Growth Hub Podcast. It is my pleasure to welcome Dan Murphy, Director of Marketing at Privy and creator of TheProductLaunchMasterclass.com.
Today super excited about this as we are jumping into the world of product marketing and we are outlining seven steps to crush your next product launch, which is something you know a lot about having done over 60 product launches to date. I think to kick things off let’s talk about the strategy behind a product launch. How should you align product launches with strategic objectives that your CEO actually cares about?
Dan: I think one of the myths with product launches that I always try to debunk and that I spend a lot of time talking about in the course is a product launch isn’t just for something that’s brand new. In fact, we just had a launch at Privy. We relaunched Privy Email (we called it Privy Email 2.0) and we had a strategic focus on a competitor. We wanted to go to the market and customers and let them know, here’s our solution to one of these competitors, and here’s why it benefits you if you choose us over them. A launch is a good way to draw attention to whatever strategic goal you have.
Another good example that I’ve seen and done a lot in the 60+ launches that I’ve done, is solving churn or retention issues by driving product adoption through a launch. For instance, if you’re working with a good VP of Product, VP of Product Strategy, or maybe a good CEO, and has a good sense of what are the things in the product that need to be adjusted, improved, or revamped to keeps customers coming back and using those features. If you launch a new feature, go design a launch around that new feature. Figure out who your audience s that you really care about, which customer segment you care about really using that feature. See if you can prevent churn by driving product adoption.
Product marketers talk a lot about how the role should be more strategic than tactical. And I did a presentation last year on this, the 3 stages of product marketing. There’s a lot of conversation around product marketing being more strategic and it should but I think one of the things that product marketing traditionally owns, is product launches. If you’re thinking about how you can help the company hit their strategic goals, whether that be reducing churn, increasing product adoption, acquisition top of the funnel... thinking about how you can use launches to hit those strategic goals, that’s exactly where product marketers should be spending their time and effort.
Edward: Right, so it’s not just about new products, but also relaunching existing products for strategic purposes, which I love and I haven’t really thought about before, to be honest. So for SaaS companies about to launch a new product, how should you go about setting goals, and what are good goals to set as a way to measure success? Any specific key metrics that you like to thank about or focus on?
Dan: Goals will vary on the launch. You start with your strategy, and I teach a lot of this on the course, but I’m going to give away as much as I can on this podcast. The rhythm you should get into with your product team is you should be meeting every month. You’re understanding what they’re building and what customer problems they’re trying to solve. And that’s where you as a product marketer, or a marketer doing the activities of a product marketer, that’s where you should be designing launches based around what they’re building and what problems they’re trying to solve for their customers. In those meetings is usually where launch goals get set.
Let me break down how I would define a launch goal. I don’t think a launch goal is “Hey we want to increase retention for one of our products in the 2nd half of this year.” That’s a big lofty goal, that’s the company’s strategic goal. A launch goal is much more short-term. So if you were trying to solve churn by product adoption, a launch goal should be “Within the first week we want to get 200 customers to set up this integration. We think this integration is going to make the product stickers and is going to make people want to stick around and use our product. So with this launch, we want to get 200 people to set up this integration between our product and the other product they’re using.”
By having a launch goal, that’s when you would design activities around that and we’ll talk about that in a minute. That’s how you design basically the plan for, we want to get 200 customers to set up this integration, so here are the 10 things we’re going to do as part of this launch, email, training, in-app messaging, etc., to try and hit that launch goal. So that’s how we think about setting the goal. Sit with your product team, figure out what are they building, what are the strategic goals you’re trying to hit, then design a launch around that strategic goal, and then you can come up with a list of activities to try and hit that goal.
Edward: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the other starting points for any launch in addition to the strategy and the goals, and for marketing in general, is of course your customers. So how do you decide and understand your audience segments for a new product launch?
Dan: Audience segments and the audience of a launch is really important. Traditionally I think a lot of product marketers are thinking a launch is you go really wide and you cast a wide net and you try to bring everyone in to hear about your launch. But that’s not going to work as effectively if you’re trying to launch a new feature that’s designed for customers.
And so once you have your launch goal and you figure out this is what we’re trying to achieve, 200 people with this integration. Then you can figure out who are the types of people that have this integration. Well, probably people using this other product. So if it’s a marketing automation system and you sell a CRM, you want to look up anybody who uses that marketing automation system. That’s already focusing on maybe 1,000 customers versus 10,000 customers or versus the infinite universe of your market. I don’t know how big your market is, but the more focused you are, the better results you’re going to get. Everybody knows that.
Setting the launch goal is the first step in deciding your audience. And then once you have your audience, and let’s say it’s 1,000 people using this marketing automation system, you know that they set it up and they integrate it with your CRM, they’re much more likely to be retained as your customer.
The next step is within that 1,000 customers, which ones of them are on the right plan? Which ones of them have a dedicated resource within the company? So within that group, an even smaller, detailed segment comes up that you can focus on. So maybe its people that can’t get this integration, because it’s in the next pricing tier. So for that audience, you’ll send them a slightly different message, or you’ll slightly customize the launch for them because they have to upgrade, this is an opportunity to get them to upgrade.
Versus another audience who might already have access to this integration. But it’s a little different because some of them have a dedicated customer success manager and some of them do not so that changes things slightly. So there are really two levels: Who is the universe of people that you care about communicating with this launch? And within that, there’s probably different segments that you want to break down and customize the launch based on some of their attributes and their relationship to your business.
Edward: Following from this end, how should you position your new products and what kind of frameworks do you use to craft that compelling launch narrative?
Dan: I love talking about positioning. Actually, I tweeted yesterday, once you fall in love with writing positioning, it’s all you want to do. I got back from vacation and I just wanted to spend all day yesterday writing positioning for a couple of different things. And I spent a good amount of my vacation writing positioning too. So I love this question, I love positioning, I’m really getting into it more now. As a product marketer, I feel like it’s something I need to invest more of my time in.
But I do teach a couple of frameworks specific to product launches. There are 3-4 frameworks in the course, and I’ll talk about one of them which is really straight-forward. All the frameworks I teach in general are simple. I think someone posted the other day that I love this course because it’s really snackable and easy to digest. It’s not over complicated. It’s basically a system and framework that you can use time and time again for all your product launches.
This framework, in particular, I call the NHS positioning framework. That’s because it focuses on three things: name, headline, and story. A year ago, I actually taught how Apple does this in press releases. I looked at a couple of press releases when they launched the iPod and MacBook Air. They focus on three things: the name of the product, the headline, and the story.
The name is obviously something that you want to resonate. When you think about the headline, pretend you’re doing a press release for the 1,000 people that have that marketing automation that you want to integrate with your CRM. You want them to see this headline. What is that headline? That helps you, kind of like tweeting, narrow down the most important information and make it really easy to consume.
The third part is the story. The story is really a collection of all the benefits of your launch. The way you do it is to basically put together 3-4 paragraphs of what is the story of this launch. Why do people care about it? In the course, I actually break it down and I teach this framework and how to find the benefits. How to do stuff like pain-mapping, how to put it together in a deck, how to share it with your team, and how to test the idea with certain audiences. This is all in the course, but the NHS framework, that’s really one of the key parts of any launch when it comes to positioning. Figure out the name, the headline, and the story. If you focus on those three things first, you’re going to be a lot more successful with your launch.
Edward: Yeah that’s super good. I think simple frameworks are a marketer’s best friend. They just really help you, almost like cheat codes for your day-to-day work that you can pull out of a hat. I think that our next episode is also going to be on this topic with Marcus Andrews from HubSpot, about building strategic narratives into your product marketing. So I think a good follow-up to this episode there.
I think this first set of questions covers a lot of the strategy side of product launches. So let’s get a bit more tactical. How should you then plan your actual product launch activities?
Dan: Once you’ve put together your launch goal, and you have your audiences in mind, then you want to start thinking about your activities. And really the most important thing here is that your activities, everything you’re doing, if you’re going to send an email, do a training, create a video tutorial, or build a new landing page, anything you’re doing needs to be tied to the goal of a launch. You might have a couple of goals, ideally you have one. Everything you’re doing has to be tied to a goal because that’s how you make sure that you’re as focused as possible on the right activities to drive the right outcome, which is hitting your launch goal.
This is a really important part. I share a framework, again I’m all about the frameworks, and there’s actually a printout of how I put together the activity list and how I manage. The other part of product marketing is, you are the glue of a launch, but you are not everything in the launch. You have to depend on maybe your creative team, sales team, sales leadership, demand generation, content, depending on how big the company is. And if it’s not your internal team, then it’s your consultants and contractors.
You have to make sure everyone is aligned. So I actually have a framework and printout that you can use in the course that breaks down how to manage your launch plan, which is your activities. And how you get everyone aligned on them and how you get people to take responsibility for each of them, and how you get the whole team organized around a launch. Especially when you don’t own the whole team, you’re not the VP of Marketing or CMO, you’re not in charge of everybody, but there’s a way of setting it up so you get everybody responsible for different activities, and I teach that in the course as well.
Edward: Yeah for sure, and following from that, new launches are as much about internal communications as external. You mention there about being the glue that holds everything there. One important aspect of a new product launch is not just the external marketing, but internal marketing. So how do you go about the internal marketing of your new product before a launch and make sure that everyone is on the same page?
Dan: The biggest thing with internal marketing, is it’s not really about an activity list of like here’s the 10 things to do for internal marketing. The more important thing is if you’re going to take internal marketing seriously, have the attitude that it’s going to help, that it’s important. So internal marketing is more of an attitude, rather than an activity list.
It is very time consulting, and I’ve said this numerous times before. Of all the areas to spend your time prepping for a launch. Internal marketing is one of the areas where you can spend the most time and actually get the best reward, Because if you think about it, pitching your team and getting them excited about a launch, getting the sales team thinking about how this is going to make them more money, getting the CS team thinking about how this is going to help them retain more customers, getting the engineering team fired up and excited so that they’re going to put in the extra work and build the extra features in time, and build the midnight oil.
Those elements are really important, they’re hard to quantify. But in every launch I’ve done, getting the team excited is the difference-maker. It is how you get to your launch goal. It is how you get a big enough splash with your launch, whether it’s a really big or targeted announcement. It is how you get the right results and create an effective launch.
It’s a lot of conversations so the biggest thing is taking your positioning and making sure you have a pitch to your internal team and making that as important as your external pitch. So the people within your office, how ever you’re working these days. The people within your company, make sure you’re focused on giving them a pitch. I usually send a video around, go to a lot of meetings, or someone on my team will go to a company meeting and pitch the story. We’ll do takeovers of company meetings to talk about the new feature. We’ll run sales spiffs to get the sales spiffs to focus on this new thing we want them to sell. We’ll do a lot of one-on-one and hand-to-hand work with the customer success team, maybe work with the CX leadership team, do a lot of training.
All of those things are important if you’re going to do internal marketing. But the most important is to decide, okay this is going to help me. And I’m telling you from 60 plus launches, I wish I knew this from the beginning, how important internal marketing is, and how much of a difference-maker it is. If you have the attitude that this is going to help me and if I go work with my team and get them excited and it’s going to help me hit my goals, then you’re going to win, you’re going to be better off with your launches.
Edward: I think that’s super good advice, and some great ideas. Very important for sure when it comes to product launches. Let’s move to the next step. Let’s say we’re on launch day. What happens now? Can you talk us through your typical launch day?
Dan: I love this question too. I like the framing of this, what is a typical launch day? How does a product marketer execute the day of launch after all this hard work? So a typical day is you gotta wake up early and make sure everything is on. Blog post is live, emails are being sent out, everything is connected, whether it’s product hunt, a new landing page, announcement bar on your website, you have to make sure everything is on and live.
The second most important thing after you make sure everything is turned on is have an ask of your team. Give your team a CTA. Make sure your team knows what to do with the launch, whether that’s share something on LinkedIn, email a customer, post this on your own LinkedIn feed or Twitter, upload to Product Hunt, or introduce a sales spiff. Have an ask of your team. If you’ve done your internal marketing right, you’ve got everyone excited about the launch and now, on the day of launch, you want to unleash them. You want to get them involved and give them an activity to do so they get to be involved with them.
The other thing is sharing insights, everything that’s coming in, good and bad. You’re going to get reactions. Create a really fast feedback loop. When customers or prospects are reacting, make sure you’re sharing that with your team, whether that’s email, slack, or some other way. Make sure you’re sharing that information so everyone knows what’s going on.
And then of course sharing the numbers, metrics, whether you have Google Analytics, Heap, Product Data, or something else, and you’re sharing “Hey we’re at 100 people have set up the integration” Make sure you have that follow-up and make sure people are aware. On the day of, maybe a customer success manager is not convinced of this launch or doesn’t understand it, or you haven’t done a good job of getting them excited, but if on the day of they’re seeing all these emails from the customers being like “Wow, this is awesome, let’s book a meeting, let’s talk about it.” Another customer success manager might see it and say “Wow, ok this is important. This is something the customer really values. I’m going to go make sure I email all my customers right now. I want to make sure they all know about it.”
I think it’s doing a lot of extra legwork. I think that the internal marketing doesn’t stop before the launch day. You have to unleash people the day of. And just make sure you're sharing insights and data so the rest of the team can be involved and can know what the outcomes look like.
Edward: How do you actually maintain the momentum of product launches, after launch day. So it’s not just a one and done kind of thing.
Dan: The easy answer is "have a plan". So hopefully before a launch, you’ve compiled your plan and hopefully, you’ve taken into account your launch isn’t just one day. Always plan on announcing it one day but have a bunch of stuff going on. Too often product marketers will do the one day and then that’s done and they forget about it and don’t create momentum. When you launch something, you’re creating momentum, and you want to follow-up and create more stuff and keep the ball rolling.
This is a good opportunity to partner with other teams: content, demand gen, sales, CS, sales enablement, you know whoever to help continue that momentum after. As a product marketer, you can’t do everything, but you can plan webinars, training, create more pages, double down on SEO and try and rank for a term you haven’t been able to before. Or maybe you launch something and all of a sudden it’s starting to rank, wait a minute, let’s double-down we may be able to own this term, and this is a new acquisition channel for us. Let’s create a new landing page, video, YouTube ads.
Thinking about how you can continue momentum after the launch day is really important and if you’ve planned your launch right, you’ve started thinking about that before you get to launch day so you’re not scrambling afterward. Again this is something we talk about in the course and how to plan this stuff and how to be prepared before it because it can be hugely impactful if you can actually keep the momentum going after the initial launch day.
Edward: Definitely. What typically happens post-launch? Do you have some sort of retrospective or team review to look back and see how things went, and identify if there are things you could do better? Could you tell us a bit more about this?
Dan: There are really two things you should care about after launch day, or there are really two things that might change that you should care about. The first is product strategy. After you’ve investigated, maybe you’ve listened to some calls, you’ve jumped on Gong, which is a tool we use to record and listen in on calls. Or you’ve gotten a response from customers or emails. There are really two different things that you should focus on that might have changed. Does this change your product strategy? Based on the reaction of the market of your customers, did you learn anything? Well, actually strategy changes a little bit.
Or, does it change your demand generation plan? Does demand gen change based on the reaction of what’s happening? An example of that, is you think you’re going to launch a really valuable product to net new customers. But you end up booking 50 customer calls. It turns out your existing customers are more interested in this product than a different audience you were focused on. So this changes our demand gen plan, maybe we should be selling this new product to our existing customer base and you didn’t realize this before. So those are the things you want to pay attention to. And then after launch, once you get insights from the reaction, you have enough data to go to demand gen leaders and share what you learn and they can decide to change the plan.
And the same thing with product strategy. You might learn a feature within a new product launch was a lot more popular and that’s really the reason people decided to show up. Let’s double.-down on that. Let’s invest more in it, increase bandwidth there, more engineering time to make that feature more prominent or more accessible.
Those are really the two things that you should be paying attention to after your launch, product strategy, and demand gen. I teach this in the course, do a report on it, and make sure you’re collecting all the insights that you have at your disposal, whether that’s customer calls, or email replies, or tweets, or whatever, and using those to inform those two things, product strategy and demand generation.
Edward: Yeah super good advice. I think before we jump into our fast 5 challenge. Let’s look at a case example. At Privy, you just recently relaunched Privy email which you mentioned earlier. Can you talk us through the launch and in particular the story you built around it, because I think it’s pretty cool?
Dan: We relaunched Privy email. It has been around for a year and a half or so prior to this. But we never really launched it. What happened was Shopify, who is one of our biggest partners, we have a lot of customers using Shopify. They’re a huge 127 billion-dollar company, and they have billions of customers, and they’re small businesses. We also have 100,000 customers also using Shopify at Privy. They had an integration with Mailchimp and for whatever reason, the two companies broke up. The Mailchimp Shopify integration no longer worked. And a lot of customers were using Mailchimp for their email automation.
This happened in early 2019, we basically relaunched telling that story. How there’s no integration between those two systems and we actually do integrate with Shopify with our Privy email product. It’s a pretty simple story, we have the integration, here’s what you can do. We really built a narrative around email automation, which is the thing small businesses really care about. They really want to automate their emails, and just set it and forget it, they should just work for them. Card abandonment, order follow-up, these emails just send, you build them, you set them up, and they run automatically 24/7.
And they’re making you money, it’s e-commerce. Particularly card abandonment, you’re making money back every time you send those emails. So if you integrate directly with Shopify, then you have that data and it pulls in the email, you can just have that run 24/7 and it’s making you money. And we’ve had customers where this has made them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I think the lesson there to share is that your narrative, and I’d be interested in what Marcus would say on this because he has a lot of experience here, but the narrative here is not complicated. And I think a lot of times product marketers overcomplicate it. They try to tell a different story for the launch and in different pieces of content. Or after the launch, they keep changing the story. When this story is really simple.
The challenge was actually not overcomplicating it, and telling a simple story that we are a better alternative to Mailchimp for Shopify users, and here’s why. And not trying to overcomplicate it with too much stuff. Not going into special features and all this other stuff that we build that’s pretty amazing behind the scenes.
The story is simple. So I think if I were to share a lesson on this, the takeaway here. It’s easy to think we have to add in all the features and talk about all the reasons. No, the thing that people really care about is that it integrates with Shopify, so let’s just double-down and focus on that.
Edward: Yeah I think it was a super cool product launch, so definitely go check it out to see an example of one of Dan’s product launches. And there was a huge amount here, so to recap the 7 steps that we had:
- Audience and positioning
- Launch activities
- Internal marketing
- Launch day
- Post-launch activities and retrospectives
And I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. So if you want more product launch goodness from Dan, then definitely check out his new course, theproductlaunchmasterclass.com. I think this was insanely good and I’m kind of catching my breath here but I have a huge amount of notes here. But let’s move to our closing questions and our fast five challenge.
What’s the one book you would recommend others to read?
Dan: So I read three books over vacation, so I’m going to give you two books. Hopefully, that doesn’t screw up anything. But the two I highly recommend are: “Ben and Jerry’s: The Inside Scoop.” Which is behind the scenes of the legendary ice cream maker, Ben & Jerry’s. It’s a great story. So many marketing lessons in there, they were actually brilliant marketers early on. Everything from free cone day to a bunch of other things.
The second one is a marketing classic, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” Highly highly recommend. It’s actually a relatively short book, only like 140 pages. I think I read it one day. And it just has really good context, thinking bigger than campaigns, weekly metrics, what is the marketing strategy of your business. Highly highly recommend it.
Edward: A classic there. And I just saw a photo of you reading the Ben & Jerry’s book last on vacation and I immediately went to go check it out. I’m looking forward to digging into that one, and I love their ice cream like everyone else.
Second question, SaaS company you love and why?
Dan: I’m going to keep with my pattern here and give you two that I’ve been following because they’re great at product marketing. The first one is Superhuman. I just upgraded and bought Superhuman and I’ve been using it. It’s great, the experience of buying and the way they did the launch last year got a lot of attention. They did a great job with it. And the experience of going in and buying, you get a 30-minute consultation with a real person who was awesome and walked me through everything. And the experience of using the product, and the product marketing emails they send you to teach you how to use their product, basically teach you and nurture you. They’re amazing, they’re super simple but effective.
The other one is Basecamp. I did a 20-minute teardown of the new email tool they built in my course. They’re amazing at product marketing, great copywriters, great guerrilla marketers. They’ve done so many things, press releases, and other things. They’re like the Mark Benioff of the 21st century, although I guess Mark Benioff is from the 21st century too. When he started getting Salesforce off in the early 2000s then what they’ve done with Basecamp and the guerrilla marketing is really awesome. And they’re also two examples of great product launches. So Superhuman and Basecamp are my two SaaS companies I love.
Edward: Third question, favorite place to read about marketing online
Dan: So I don’t read as much about marketing online but I’ll give you a podcast I’ve been listening to. I really enjoy the Marketing School podcast with Eric Siu and Neil Patel. I’ve been listening to those 5-minute episodes every day. I also really love listening to Russell Runson and his almost daily podcast because he’s got a lot of marketing insights as well. I mostly listen, I’m not reading as much anymore. Although I do love being part of Dave’s DGMG Patreon group, which has a lot of great insight as well. A new podcast as well, I thought it was great, I’ve been listening to that. His new B2B marketing leaders, but he also shares some stuff on his community and Facebook group that’s helpful as well.
Edward: Fourth question, most important growth metric?
Dan: Ugh, this is a good one. I don’t know how to pick one. I almost want to say nowadays so many companies have shifted that are focused on profitability. I almost feel like profitability is like the new VC funding, instead of growth metrics, one of the biggest things is profitability, although that’s not really a growth metric.
If I were to really get into growth metrics, I would say retention is so important. We’ve seen an explosion of SaaS companies out there. THere’s so many, and there’s so much competition within each vertical and industry. Retaining customers is really the name of the game now. Customer success has really become the hero. And then customer experience, and all these other areas, we’re going to see a bunch more disciplines built around helping with retention on the product and marketing sides. So I would say the most important is probably retention.
Edward: Super good advice and good to see profitability making a come back. Fifth and final question, the best piece of advice for fellow marketers.
Dan: There are two ways of becoming a great marketer, there’s experience and actively learning. Experience is more passive. You go and do stuff, you experience something, this thing worked, this thing didn’t work, you learned from this person, you found a good mentor, etc.
And then there’s actively learning. Reading books, listening to podcasts, everything like that. I know that’s a simple thing to say and this is obvious, but let’s be real. This is it. Go get amazing experience. But if you really want to be a great marketer and grow your career fast you have to go actively learn. So go find podcasts, books, and contextualize them and then bring them and use them in your day to day job.
I wish I had spent more time actively learning in the first couple of years of my career. I think I did learn a ton and got a bunch of experience, but I wish I spent more time on some marketing fundamentals like copywriting, demand, direct response, all those things. But I would say go find ways to actively learn.