The 3 elements of a successful product or feature launch

For product-led companies, a product or feature launch isn’t just a celebratory occasion for the product team who conceptualized and built the new functionality. It’s an opportunity for teams across the organization—from marketing, to sales, to customer success—to come together around the launch and ensure users know about (and are able to get the most out of) what’s new in the product.

A marketing team, for example, is likely focused on education—users need to understand what problem this new product or feature solves, the value it will bring them, and how it works. And customer success managers (CSMs) need to be able to effectively communicate the latest product capabilities during customer check-ins or through targeted in-app communication.

Before we dive into more tactics and best practices around launches, it’s important to understand how advancements in technology have shaped the modern product or feature launch.

How today’s launches look different

Today, research and development (R&D) teams have much more flexibility in how they release new products and features. Rather than going straight from the build phase to the release phase, teams drip out new capabilities over multiple stages and expose new features to additional users over time. This often follows the progression of an internal release, limited beta, open beta, and finally general availability.

Throughout these phases, product teams (and their go-to-market partners) are hard at work tracking product usage and collecting feedback so they can validate ideas, catch bugs, and make changes before the new functionality is exposed to the full user base. There still may be a big public-facing “launch,” but usually not without previous smaller releases to certain groups of users.

With this iterative approach to releasing products and features comes the need for tools and strategies that help fuel continuous, coordinated launches. Here are three critical components of a successful product or feature launch:

1. In-app guides: Meet users where they are

When it comes to announcing new products or features, companies often utilize a variety of methods—things like email announcements, monthly newsletters, social media, or blog posts. While it’s generally considered best practice to talk about new product capabilities in as many channels as possible, there’s one channel that’s best suited for launch communications: your product itself.

By leveraging in-app guides, teams can ensure their launch announcements are timely and tailored to the audience who will find the new product or feature most valuable. Communicating in-app also raises the likelihood that users will actually engage with the new functionality, since they’re already immersed in your product.

It’s best to align the scale of your in-app launch campaigns with the scale of the product or feature being released. Work with your marketing (or more specifically, product marketing) team to map out what announcements for different “levels” of releases look like. A large-scale release, for example, might require a pop-up announcement, an interactive in-app walkthrough, and additional guides that remind users about the new feature over time. Smaller releases, on the other hand, might only need a contextual tooltip targeted to a subset of users who will find the functionality particularly valuable.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

    • Make it as easy as possible for users to access the new feature, for example by including a deep link to it in your announcement guide
    • Be sure to clearly explain the value of new functionality in your announcement guides, especially as it relates to users’ current workflows
    • Link out to additional resources where users can learn more about the new product or feature (e.g. a help center article, video tutorial, or a way to schedule a meeting with their CSM)

2. Product analytics: Leverage data pre- and post-launch

Once you know who the target user is for a new product or feature, you can use product analytics data to identify current users who will benefit from your new offering. This helps inform the segmentation of your in-app announcements. For example, if a new feature is meant to complement an existing feature, you should start by targeting users who currently use the existing feature to let them know about this new functionality that will improve their workflows. 

Product data is also valuable once you’ve launched a new product or feature, and it’s particularly important to leverage in two main ways: measuring in-app guide engagement and tracking adoption. 

First, monitor in-app guide metrics (e.g. guide views, clicks, guide step completion, and time in guide) to understand how launch campaigns are performing. Here are two areas to focus on:

    • For guides with low engagement: Consider moving them to a different location in the product, updating segmentation, or iterating on the guides copy and imagery.
    • For guides with high engagement: Identify common themes or characteristics and use these insights to inform future in-app launch campaigns.

With any in-app launch campaign, it’s important to understand how your efforts are impacting adoption of your new product or feature. Turn to product analytics to see what percentage of users initially adopted the new feature, and how many continued to use it after your campaign tapered off. We recommend looking 30 days after a launch to understand drop-off patterns.

3. User feedback: Iterate based on users’ needs

The final piece of the puzzle is user feedback. In addition to quantitative data like product usage, qualitative feedback is instrumental in informing how you iterate and improve a new capability in your product. Throughout each phase of your release, be sure to collect feedback from users to understand what they like, what’s not working, or how the product or feature could be improved.

It’s best to collect this feedback directly inside the product using in-app surveys, polls, or guides with space for open text feedback. This way, users’ experience with and opinions of your new product or feature are top of mind, making them more likely to provide honest feedback.

Just getting started with your product-led strategy? Learn more about launching products and features the product-led way here.