Launching a product comes with its own set of headaches and is fraught with a lot of issues (expected and unforeseen). And with many product launches comes the issue of the right content that projects the product in the right light, the things to say, what not to say. You keep asking, What will produce results? Why will it produce results?
Start with a tiered approach
After talking to a few product marketing teams, a common approach we adopted was to group features by tiers. The exercise helps solidify what content needs to be created for major releases, minor releases, and those in-between. The number of tiers you use will depend on your product line.
Don’t rank releases based on the time you spent completing them, however tempting it may be.
For starters you have to consider:
- The impact of a release on your product’s capabilities (is this polish or a whole new workflow?)
- The potential impact on acquisition (is this mostly for current customers or will prospects and holdouts care, too?)
- How many people are waiting for the feature (tags can’t tell you everything, but they let us know requests for our iPhone app were frequent.)
- You need to either add on or create a separate checklist for the “must-do without exception” items of every product launch, if you have them. For example, we rarely launch without updating or editing our help documentation in some form.
Be deliberate with deliverables
Your deliverables should be defined by how they support the launch, your bandwidth, and your team’s talents.
On a smaller team, the more to-do’s you add the more you’re spread thin; you’ll end up putting a half-hearted effort into many things instead of competing with your strengths. Two content-related examples from the launch of our iPhone app:
Since we have a content team of four people, it was a no-brainer to work with Greg on a separate blog post for the iPhone app. But if I couldn’t borrow someone’s time, I would have skipped the post in favor of higher-priority content, such as our in-app Mixpanel notifications or customer-focused emails.
I often create a short video for releases that add new functionality to Help Scout. For the launch of Reporting Views, this was necessary. But using an iPhone app is second nature for many people, especially current customers who are familiar with our product. We knew our landing page and how-to docs would be fine for now.
Storytelling content vs. straight shots
Content can provide context between the customer and the feature. Sometimes plenty of context is needed to help customers understand the feature’s value; to teach about best practices, pitfalls to avoid, why it’s worth using, and what results customers can get.
In other cases content creates a chasm between customer and feature by adding unnecessary padding. Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners has written about one such example: when releasing a new tool to his client’s existing customers, his team used direct, interruptive communication (email, ads) and content (two eBooks). The emails and ads produced tremendous results while the eBooks didn’t move the needle at all, despite being well received.
At times, creativity can have you answering questions no one is asking.
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