Many product teams mistakenly think about product launch at the end of the product process. It’s typically the last step in the product management process. One last milestone resulting in a passing of the baton from product to sales/marketing. A chance to breathe a sigh of relief that the product team can now move on to the next new idea.
When the scenario above unfolds, product launches fail. The new product’s business case is not realized. The CEO has to provide difficult answers to questions regarding the ROI on his R&D investment. The sales team is typically blamed for not selling the new product. The product team is off the hook. But sales did not fail the new product. The product team did. A disappointing outcome given all the efforts that went into the new product development.
The launch of a new product is not the end of the product management process. It’s simply the beginning of the selling phase of the product’s lifecycle. The need for product management engagement does not go away. It simply changes.
A successful launch is not an event. It’s a journey. The product management team must be thinking about launch from the inception of a new product. This begins with understanding the new product’s buyers, users and sellers. After all, why invest in a new product if you have not considered how the world is going to use, buy and sell it?
When it comes to understanding the users, user personas are a must. A user persona describes how the new product is going to improve the daily life of the user. It addresses how the product will help them accomplish their job. The key question to be answered is – why will a user hire our new product over the alternatives to do a given job?
With no users, there is no need for the new product. So start there. Then turn your attention to buyers. A buying process map describes the buyer’s journey in making a purchase decision of the new product. It outlines the phases, the questions being asked and who is involved in each phase of the decision process. The key question for you is – why will a buyer purchase this new product over the alternatives?
Good product teams know the value of understanding their users and buyers. But only the great ones consider their sellers. In taking a new product to market, the sales and marketing teams stand in the way of engaging the marketplace. Neglecting this group will put the product launch on a path to failure. A seller persona is the answer. It describes the seller’s environment, mindset, decision process, etc. The key question to answer is – why will a seller allocate mindshare to this new product over the alternatives?
Call to Action
User, buyer and seller research must happen before any product investments. The product management team’s goal is to understand these 3 audiences better than anyone else in their organization. Only with this understanding can the appropriate product decisions be made.
CEOs need to hold their product management teams accountable to this objective. Overlooking any one of the 3 groups will result in a failed product launch. If this occurs, do not blame sales. Do not blame the product launch. Those are symptoms. The root cause of the problem is in the research that was overlooked:
- Users – resulting in a product that will not accomplish the job in the users operating environment.
- Buyers – resulting in a product that is too hard or expensive to buy.
- Sellers – resulting in a product that fails to gain mindshare with sellers.
The other benefit of understanding users, buyers and sellers is a properly scoped product launch. A product launch is not a standard checklist of artifacts to produce. It is not the same from product launch to product launch. It’s a custom plan to meet the specific needs of each of the 3 stakeholder groups for this new product. The decisions come right from the personas and process maps – the messaging, the content to produce, the routes to market, the enablement required, etc.
And in today’s rapidly evolving world, the needs of your stakeholders are constantly changing. The product launch materials cannot stay static. Nor can the effort be viewed as a one-time event. It’s a constant battle for traction. Not just with the external stakeholders but the internal ones as well. The product team needs to be allocating bandwidth to continue fighting for their new product.
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