How to launch a product in 5 steps
Instead of the standard product launch strategy, use a more detailed, five-part loop based on TBH's approach to growth: Launch a vastly different product experience to specific communities in order to reach critical mass.
When these elements are combined, you’ll find the right users to target and improve long-term retention. Here's what the product launch process (or “loop”) looks like:
- Define your scope
- Access who needs the product
- Filter your list for the best users
- Use a success signal
- Leverage your signals for the next user group
We define these launch strategy steps in more detail below.
1. Scope the launch
Start by defining your target audience. Brian explained that instead of blasting your entire audience with your product or feature, you should use product development to build products and features for specific audiences.
This requires narrowing down your target audience within your user base as much as possible.
Once you've scoped out your audience, define it so that you're targeting the people most likely to have already had an experience with your products that exceeded their expectations.
2. Access your target audience
Next, get in front of these people. Use tactics like Hacker News, email, paid ads, press releases, a changelog to announce product changes, referrals, Medium blog posts, and Product Hunt to promote your product or feature to your audience.
3. Filter to your best users
Once you have your audience's attention, find the users most likely to appreciate and understand the beta version of your product or feature. Who are your early adopters?
Brian explained that sharing your launch with your target group is a little like casting a net. You're going to find some people who fit the scope you've defined, and others who aren't an exact fit. Filtering helps you get to the right audience.
To find your audience, gather information from the following sources:
This gives you access to “passive data,” so when users sign up, you can use their email addresses to learn more about your audience. For example, their company, its size, their role, and the location.
This includes information you gather from sales and support conversations if you're launching a feature within an existing product.
This offers good friction and helps you find your target audience. For example, use surveys, wait-lists, and special-access lists that incentivize the right people to join.
4. Identify a success signal
Brian pointed out that narrowing down your target audience makes it easier to get to success signals than if you target everyone at once.
The result is more accurate, less noisy qualitative and quantitative signals that give a stronger indication of whether you've achieved product/market fit.
If you're launching a feature inside a larger product, go one step further to find feature/product fit. Casey Winters, former growth lead at Pinterest and Grubhub, explains feature/product fit this way:
"Feature/product fit requires the feature to improve retention, engagement, and/or monetization for the core product... If it doesn't, this means it is cannibalizing another part of the product."
Without feature/product fit, you end up with lots of new features but no lift to retained users.
A better scenario is to introduce features that support the product and have a positive effect on the retention curve. Feature/product shifts the curve up to show that the adoption of new features results in higher customer engagement and retention.
5. Leverage for your next launch
The final step of the loop, once the success signals have been identified, is to figure out how to leverage these signals and launch to the next group of defined target users.
It takes time to release a product or feature, so the goal should be to introduce it to a new layer of users as you go until it's eventually exposed to your entire user base.
Brian encourages to “Expose your product or feature to more users progressively over time as more value is added to the product... For example, tightly control the WOM loop and validation until the point where you hit a tipping point and can launch to everyone without worrying about killing WOM loop and slowing down validation process with too much friction.”
Keep repeating this five-step loop until you get the new product or feature out to all users.