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Experts Weigh In: What Is a Product Launch Checklist, and Why Do You Need One?

Derek
June 21, 2022
10 minutes

A product launch checklist keeps your GTM strategy on track, and helps with stakeholder alignment.

You can’t plan a launch without a checklist. Without a product launch checklist, you’re making a cake without instructions — no ingredient list, baking times, or temperature.

A product launch checklist is a task list that outlines the many steps of a product launch and who owns those steps, which acts as a single source of truth for your launch. A product launch checklist prevents team members from wasting time looking for information, finding product requirements, and debating who is responsible for what tasks during the launch.

We’ve created a checklist to help you align with the essential parts of a product launch, so you can get your product into the market more effectively.

“Launch checklists for products help teams plan for and anticipate everything from the launch itself to any potential hiccups that may arise. Adhering to a well-thought-out product rollout strategy is crucial for client retention, product sales, and company expansion.”
             – David Farkas, Founder & CEO The Upper Ranks

A product launch checklist is not your GTM strategy

Many product teams get the product launch checklist and the GTM strategy confused. A product launch checklist is an overview of what has to happen during a launch, from beginning to end. A GTM strategy is about planning your product’s release to the market and defines everything from the market you’re targeting, to rollout cadence and promotional plans.

A product launch checklist is a project plan for how you’re going to execute your GTM strategy. It contains tasks like prepping assets, making sure the website is optimized (load times reduced, copy proofread, navigation fine-tuned), ensuring customer support is ready for questions (Can I buy this now? What add-ons come with this? What are the system requirements for this product?), and checking in on promotional assets. A GTM strategy, on the other hand, is a higher-level view of the positioning, pricing, and method you’re going to use to enter your new market. .

“Thorough research is one of the most important aspects of a successful product launch. Gather all necessary information, and pare it down to the most important details — removing the unnecessary data will make the next steps, such as marketing and prospecting, much easier.”
                                                               – Sinoun Chea, CEO
ShiftWeb

A product launch checklist reduces last-minute emergencies

A product launch checklist can help you and your team identify problems, like crucial tasks that are missing, helping you foresee possible delays.

For example, if your product launch checklist contains “contact media outlets,” you know you need to contact media outlets as part of the launch or have a plan for how to do it. If contacting media outlets becomes a problem, you can deal with it as you go down the list. But if your checklist never assigns contacting media outlets as a task, you‘ll have to scramble to deal with it in a reactionary way instead of planning ahead.

Product launch checklists are also helpful for dividing larger responsibilities into more manageable tasks. This makes it easier to distribute responsibilities within a group. “Who was supposed to contact the New York Times?” That’s on Jerry. It was on the checklist.

“Too many product launches fail. And in my opinion, it’s because of the old adage ‘fail to plan, plan to fail.’”
                                                         – Derek Osgood, CEO of
Ignition

A product launch checklist keeps teams focused

You need a product launch checklist to keep teams focused because if you don’t have a guideline for teams and their responsibilities, everyone may try to work independently, and it could cause chaos and misalignment later. Communication of common goals is essential to success.

Collaboration is key for a product launch. Three out of four employees say collaboration and teamwork are very important, yet 39% believe that there is a lack of communication among teams in an organization. A checklist fosters communication. It helps to show clear tasks that need to be completed and gives all team members a sense of shared responsibility towards a common goal — making the best product possible that the market needs and customers will love.

Without a checklist, there is no accountability when a mistake is made in the launch. That’s why it’s important to assign every task on the checklist to an owner. You can’t get mad at Jerry if he didn’t know he had to contact the Times.

“One of the most essential elements of a product launch is defining and setting your SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) product launch goals.”

                                     – Vartika Kashyap, Chief Marketing Officer ProofHub

A checklist is a safety net — use it

In 2022, 61.9% of product marketers in a State of Go-to-Market Report said they always create strategies when bringing products to market, but only 33.3% report using a systematic approach that’s implemented consistently. The checklist is that systematic approach. It’s your safety net.

As a companion to your checklist, you should also take a look at Ignition. Ignition is a GTM and launch enablement platform that takes you through many of the basic steps of a product launch. It breaks down information silos by unifying the entire process (research, roadmapping, project management, measurment, and communication) into a single platform, and makes it dead simple to communicate plans to your launch team. Embedded automations and tools for competitor and customer research, communication, and launch calendaring to help you keep your launch efforts organized and accessible. Try a demo today!

Download this product launch checklist (Google Sheet)

Here’s a product launch checklist for you that highlights the key points you should concentrate on for a great launch. It is not meant to be comprehensive — a product launch entails a lot of micro-tasks that may be added at different stages (like developing a journalist pool or deciding when to send a product for review). Instead, use it as a guide to hit milestones that are necessary for most launches, from small feature updates to full-blown product rollouts.

Establish objectives and KPIs

It will be impossible to track whether or not your product launch is successful unless you set goals at the beginning of the launch. With clear goals and KPIs and constant updates from your teams, you can tell if the launch is deviating from your plan almost immediately.

Conduct market research (competitive + customer)

Without customer and competitor research, you’re flying blind. You’ll have no idea what you’re developing or why you’re developing it.

Segment and define a target audience

Although technically a part of research, the process of defining the target

audience (a shared responsibility of the PM and PMM) is critical for the product launch and needs to be considered a separate task. It requires extensive research and alignment within the teams, but without it, you have no starting line for your launch.

Define positioning strategy and messaging architecture

Who is this product for? What problem does it solve? Where does it fit in the market? This isn’t just a vague conceptual argument — it’s the base of your launch, and it has to be on the checklist because without it, what’s the point of your product?

Define pricing and packaging strategy

Make sure this checklist item is formalized for launch because this process takes a lot of time and resources and can’t be rushed. If you place low priority on these items during launch, you could find yourself with no time left to fix any issues (such as pivots in the market).

Develop a tactical plan (promotional channels, assets needed, user journey)

Although these are all separate checklist items, they should be included on the checklist as one strategy. Because each launch could be vastly different, you may only want to include the parts of your tactical plan that apply to your unique product.

Execute — prep assets, channels, measurement

These are also a group of tasks that may be configured to your unique launch plans. But you need to slot in assets, channels, and metrics because without them, you will have nothing to launch, no place to launch, and no measurement of whether your launch was successful or not.

Communicate plans to stakeholders and train internal teams

Why a checklist item for this? Imagine you completely ignored this because it wasn’t on your list. When the stakeholders argue that they were unaware of your product launch plans, they may delay it or stop it completely. Don't bite the many hands that feed you.

Do a launch readiness check (QA, help center, legal policies)

The small details are the hardest to track sometimes because they are de-prioritized over more important issues. But don’t forget things like making sure your support teams have all the information they need or that your product’s compliance issues have been met.

Launch your product

Don’t forget to put launching your product on the checklist. You think that’s obvious, but imagine you forget to put it on the schedule, and an unforeseen circumstance removes you from the launch. Now your team doesn’t know if they should launch or not because it's not on the checklist, which you’ve stressed must be followed meticulously. You can also use the launch as an opportunity to sit with the support team and offer your support to customers personally. It will help you gain insight into how the product has been received in real-time.

Post-mortem analysis

Although common in Agile workflows, post-mortems are often forgotten after launch as everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it's all over. Put it on the checklist to ensure you’ve carved out time for the teams to discuss what went wrong, what went right, and most importantly, what can be improved for the next launch.

Article by
Derek

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