Launching a product is exciting. It's often the culmination of months, if not years, of work--not to mention the skills, talents, and aspirations of dozens or even hundreds of people.

It can also be an immensely frustrating, difficult experience—particularly for product managers.

One of the main reasons product launches fall flat or miss the mark is due to a lack of planning; specifically, the lack of a product-launch plan. As the saying goes, failing to plan is like planning to fail, and this is especially true of product launches, regardless of the industry or the vertical to which your product belongs.

In this post, we'll be taking a look at how to put together a product-launch plan. We'll examine the most important factors to consider, and then we'll determine how to structure your plan to be as manageable and stress-free as possible.

1. Define What Success Means to You

The first step in creating a product-launch plan is to define exactly what you want to happen. What does a "successful" product launch look like to you? Will the success of your launch be measured in sign-ups? Downloads? App installs? Page views?

A solid product-launch plan includes a concrete definition of success. Identifying yours is as simple as identifying your "North Star" metric. Once you have a single dimension by which to measure the success of your product launch, it'll be much easier to gauge whether the launch was a success or just appeared to be a success. (Or whether it was a dismal failure—but that's not going to happen to your product.)

Whatever you select as your North Star metric, make sure it's ambitious but attainable. Pursuing an impossible goal will only lead to (a) guaranteed failure and (b) low morale across your team.

2. Think Carefully About Messaging

Like so many aspects of product management, deciding upon product messaging in anticipation of a major launch is as much an art as it is a science. Although there are exceptions, the language your company uses to describe and promote your product should be clear, concise, and, most importantly, consistent.

Nailing down product messaging is often a multidisciplinary task, typically involving many people across several departments. To figure out what kind of messaging will be most appropriate for your launch, talk with your product team as well as your marketing team. What sets your product apart from competing products already on the market? What pain point does your product solve? Are the benefits of your product immediately obvious to consumers?

Once you've decided upon the appropriate messaging for your product launch, make sure you document it. This ensures that the sales and marketing teams use consistent, approved messaging in their work. Whatever your product's "voice" sounds like, it's vital that it's seamless across multiple platforms.

3. Create a Dedicated Product Landing Page

The next step in your product-launch plan should be to create a dedicated landing page for your new product somewhere on your company's main website. This will be where you'll direct incoming traffic in later steps.

Landing pages are an opportunity to showcase exactly what makes your product great and how it can improve your prospects' lives and solve their problems. But take care not to go overboard. The idea isn't to overwhelm your audience with information. Focus on the most important facts first—what the product is, what it does, what problems it solves, and who it's for. That's it.

Similarly, ensure that the calls to action on your product landing page are both crystal clear and singular in purpose. The last thing you want to do is confuse prospective customers by giving them conflicting CTAs.

4. Tease the Launch on Your Blog

Now that you've identified your goals and agreed upon the messaging for your launch, it's time to start building some excitement via your blog. The goal at this stage isn't to go on a hardcore sales offensive—it's to prime your audience in anticipation of the launch by publishing content that speaks directly to your prospects' pain points.

In the weeks (or even months) prior to the actual launch, start publishing content on your company's blog that shows your audience that you're invested in helping them solve their problems, which in turn can help prospective customers realize and appreciate the true value of your product.

It probably goes without saying, but you should strongly consider publishing a blog post and accompanying press release on (or very shortly after) launch day. Ideally, this post should be written by your CEO or head of product—or at least published under their name. Your launch-day post should lay out your company's vision, the specific problem your new product aims to solve, and how the product itself addresses that problem.

Finally, this post should include a clear, strong call to action that links to the dedicated landing page you created in the previous step.

5. Include an In-Product Tutorial

Now it's time to turn our attention to in-app messaging—specifically, the in-app tutorial your product should have.

There are dozens of ways to guide new users through your onboarding UX. However you choose to do it, be sure to keep the messaging simple and straightforward. Tooltips and modal windows can be excellent and subtle prompts to help your users find their way around. The goal here is to give your users just enough help to demonstrate the full value of your product without overwhelming new users with extraneous information or excessive hand-holding.

Check out our guide to the most common pitfalls in onboarding UX to learn more about how to achieve this delicate balance and avoid common mistakes that could hurt your retention.

6. Build Hype on Product Hunt

For whatever reason, some product purists and naysayers turn up their noses at Product Hunt. The fact is that Product Hunt is still one of the most effective ways to create hype and generate buzz about a new product. However, as with comedy, timing is everything.

Product Hunt offers amazing exposure to a vast potential audience of early adopters—those dedicated, tech-savvy individuals who can serve as invaluable product evangelists. Best of all, listing on Product Hunt costs absolutely nothing, and it's hard to argue with that.

To maximize your visibility on Product Hunt, be sure to use a strong title and tagline to describe your product. Also, be sure to include irresistible, eye-catching visuals in your listing. Animated GIFs, teases from infographics, and other visual assets can make your listing significantly more attractive—which can boost your visibility. Also consider posting your listing at 12:01 a.m. PST on launch day to give your product an even better chance of trending.

7. Don't Neglect Email Lists

Sites like Product Hunt are great for gaining additional exposure for your product, but neglect your email list at your peril.

Email blasts are another highly effective way of promoting your product launch. But this isn't a numbers game. The goal here is to maximize the impact of your email blast by properly segmenting your email list. Once you've crafted your launch email, consider segmenting your database to identify individuals who are most likely to be receptive to your message. This might include:

  • Blog and newsletter subscribers
  • Content-download sign-ups
  • Free-trial registrations
  • Existing customers

By targeting these segments, you're giving yourself the best possible chance that these individuals will open and actually click through to your announcement, free trial, or landing page. These people have already demonstrated an interest in your products and/or content, which makes them prime candidates for a targeted email blast.

As with any email, your subject line plays an outsized role in the likelihood of success; if it's too subtle or understated, it'll probably get lost in the noise of your recipient's inbox. Too aggressive or salesy and you risk alienating or irritating your prospects—or worse, having your email go straight to the spam folder. Try to achieve a balance between those two extremes.

When it comes to body copy, the same principles apply. You've got a little more leeway than you do with a subject line, but the body of your product-launch email should be punchy and enticing and have a strong hook that grabs the reader's attention. Finally, your email should conclude with a strong, simple call to action that encourages the recipient to visit the dedicated landing page you created earlier.

8. Make Sure Everyone's on the Same Page

The final piece of the product-launch puzzle isn't a specific task per se, but it's crucial to the overall success of your launch: ensuring you have buy-in from every stakeholder and every team involved in the launch.

Cross-departmental alignment is essential not only for the launch itself but also for those vital first weeks and months following the launch, when sales, support, and technical personnel have to work hard to ensure things go off without a hitch.

Given that your sales team is often the first human point of contact a prospect has with your product or company, it's crucial that your reps are fully versed in the messaging and positioning of your product. After all, they can't sell it if they don't know and understand it. Every single sales rep should be able to quickly and clearly articulate the product's unique value proposition, the problem that the product solves, and where the product fits in the overall landscape of similar products in your industry or vertical.

Similarly, your customer support team needs to be deeply familiar with the messaging of your product. This is because the messaging of your product will likely inform how support tickets are handled, especially if a user feels that your product didn't deliver on a promise in your promotional material.

Team-wide, cross-departmental alignment isn't just good sense from a business perspective; it's a great way to build excitement about the launch internally. This often results in stronger designs, better interactions with new and existing customers, a more engaging social media presence, and ultimately, happier customers.

Beat the Post-launch Blues

The eight steps outlined in this post are far from all you'll need for a successful product launch. The best product launches also involve extensive internal documentation, earned and paid media campaigns, ongoing content-production responsibilities, and more.

It's also important to bear in mind that even the best, most well-funded product launches still involve a good deal of trial and error—far more than most companies would be willing to admit. What works for one product may not work for another.

Whether your product launch is wildly successful or an unmitigated disaster, it's crucial to document every stage of the process so you can preemptively identify potential problems for future product launches. Over time, you'll learn what works for your company, your product, and your customers.