Great marketing is not something that should be done AFTER a product is built or launched but during its development.
By Ellie Cachette (VP of Product Marketing, Koombea)
Launching a new product or feature is certainly a race best known as “GTM” or Go-to-Market, but so often the focus is on the product itself and the marketing of the product or ‘market penetration’ seen as an afterthought or something planned toward the end. What most people don’t realize is that great marketing requires layering or storytelling, audience building, and getting the maximum amount of users, which is not something that should be done AFTER a product is built or AFTER a product is launched but during its development, otherwise known as "Agile Marketing." Great marketing starts early and requires careful preparation.
At Koombea we see this with both enterprise and small business customers who spend most of their resources and energy focused on building a great product. We try to recommend that some bandwidth be available for the marketing of this awesome product and that planning be done in advance. As app stores get filled with thousands of apps and more content floods the interwebs, simply having a great product isn’t enough. If your product isn’t talked about or listed in as many places as possible then you are limiting your reach. Listing a product takes careful planning and time. If you are building your product using Agile Framework then why isn’t your marketing plan Agile as well? User and customer feedback is also a great way to have a conversation with actual users, iterate and keep the product lean. Don’t make the mistake of keeping marketing in the background. (For tips on how to hire and find the right marketing person read here)
Here are some tips for getting your marketing ramped up before you even have a product out the door:
Central (Web) Location
Is there a landing page, splash page or central place with information on the product? Even if it's vague or without screenshots, having a central place to direct links and traffic or get signups will make it easier to update product information, drop in more information, and eventually launch the product.
Don’t know the product's name yet? Not sure when it launches? Even better. Start crafting the language around what you are building and give potential users the opportunity to contact you with questions or feedback. Often questions will give an indication as to what features will be the most important.
Do you have an email list of signups in Mailchimp or a list of pre-signups? Whether you have hundreds of users waiting for your product or two testers, make sure to create an organized place for keeping track of users outside of the product itself. Why? Because marketing and sales should be able to make notes, sort, filter, and email users, which is different than most product Dashboards that list users. Product Dashboards are great for resetting passwords and understanding last logins and activities, but having a separate email list of users can allow marketing to break up interaction in chunks and test various wording and framing of the product.
For instance you could put all signups between a certain date into one user group category i.e “Beta” or “Pilot” and users after that date in a different group like “Beta 2.” Then you will be able to clearly show the difference in activity and requests. If all users are in the same email group then how will you know if the most recent adds are excited about your product or if those metrics are including users who signed up months before? It's not mandatory but for lean products or companies experimenting, it's good to not only reach out to users but watch what they do as you make changes to the product and marketing.
An area that can be overlooked while in development mode are the templates supporting the product, not just for email marketing but also any alerts, errors, or FAQs. Even if the product is 40% done, run through a test scenario as a user. Do you know what errors should happen and when? What kinds of messages or emails should go to the user? What kinds of emails will Sales be sending out regarding the product? Are there any special links? Templates should be made for sign up emails or content, reset password emails, and emails or blog posts announcing the product launch. Also imagine what questions a user or customer might have. If you cannot come up with ten on your own pre-launch then your product vision isn’t clear enough and you will not launch on schedule.
Images / Branding / Logos
While the end product might vary from the original vision, all fonts and logos and colors should be compiled together as a quick "branding guide." This is another step that can get overlooked. Imagine if a journalist contacts you for a screenshot and logo, do you have something ready and on hand? Do you know what is "approved" vs "not approved" for distribution. The brand of the product should be consistent and quotes, one liners, and any "digital assets" on hand. (For more tips on minimal viable products read here)
Do you know what browser or mobile type your product will be mostly used on? If not, guess and pick one. Most people think that, for mobile apps especially, you need to launch across all platforms at the same time. Wrong. Pick a particular iOS or mobile device and focus on that before building another app. The reasoning is that users will give you data and indicators of what is working and not working which can be applied to any additional versions or app types built. Save yourself the time and cost. Having hundreds of users on an iPhone app and Android right at launch could also end up giving mixed signals about the next direction of the product which can confuse marketing on how to frame and pitch the product and where to advertise. The best way to pick which distribution channels to use or app type to build is to think about the problem you are solving and what types of technologies this user is likely to be using. (For more tips on picking vendors read here)
GTM Marketing Suggestions
- Product at 10%: Central Location (web)\
- Product at 30%: Branding, logo, one liners
- Product at 40%: FAQs, templates, emails
- Product at 50%: UAT or User Acceptance Testing
- Product at 80%: Ramp up any blog content or email marketing
- Product at 90%: Reach out to press and bloggers, test urgency or favor
- Product at 100%: Create central place to collect feedback
About the blogger: Ellie Cachette is an advisor at Koombea and contributor for Huffington Post and Inc.com. An alumna of Springboard Enterprises and listed as one of the Top 7 Women in Tech to follow, Ellie is passionate about public health, technology and helping companies reach “Product market fit.” Find her on Twitter at @ecachette. Image credit: Steven Depolo via Flickr.