5 approaches you need to know to effectively phase your product launch
In the previous article, I gave some insights and key reasons to go for a phased launched. You now think this is the way to go but you are wondering what is the best approach to phase your launch? Below some ways to phase your launch and further explanations on when to use each of these approaches.
· Why: Usually, in a pilot phase, you want to test the technical viability of your product as well as user experience.
· What: Limited number of users selected based on their profiles (power and trusted users ideally). You’ll provide them a special treatment with dedicated support and frequent interactions with key product people in the team. Pilot will be (contractually) aware they are the first users and provide you with feedback to improve your product.
· When: Often used in B2B software
· External communications & recruitment: Usually, a pilot is not officially communicated to the wide audience. It is sometimes disovered and leaked. Most of the time, recruitment of pilot will be done through your sales team members in 1-by-1 discussions with prospects and customers.
· Why: In a ghost pilot mode, you aim at observing audience behavior with the product or feature you’ve just designed.
· What: This is similar to an official pilot phase but in that case users are not impacted by the piloting of a product and feature. This is usually possible with features of existing products. These products already have users and these users will discover this feature randomly and try it out of curiosity. You’ll analyze the output of these first users and decide on next steps based on that.
· When: More appropriate for B2C (but can also be used for back-end B2B software applications)
· External communications & recruitment: Usually, a pilot is not officially communicated to the wide audience. It is sometimes disovered and leaked. You can make the feature available only to a limited portion of the user. The criteria depend widely on what your product/feature delivers.
· Why: You know you product is viable. You now want to ensure good scalability and fine-tune the product to make it shine when going mass-market. For some reason (i.e. product complexity) you need to control the ramp up of your product and operations.
· What: A beta is a more official version of pilot. Usually, product and experience is more mature and aim is to scale progressively operations or fine-tune product/market fit. Making the beta exclusive (only possible upon subscription) allows to limit the number of users and ensure qualitative support and follow up.
· When: Can be both for B2C and B2B. It is used when product maturity is at higher stage. Team wants to test product/market fit with sufficient focus to iterate quickly and efficiently.
· External communications & recruitment: An exclusive beta is often used to attract early adopters via word-of-mouth or influencers network and community. Communication and marketing starts but in a very targetted manner. Recruitment is done via subscription (i.e. subscribe to our beta by sharing your email and we’ll come back to you)
An open beta is like an exclusive beta without limitation on the number of users. You can apply for an open beta at anytime. This is relevant when product scalability is not a challenge and launch team simply want to fine-tune the product and/or get progressive word-of-mouth type of traction. That can be a marketing tactic as well.
Global businesses will often pilot their new product into a limited geographical scope. This to ensure several things:
· Go global, with local focus: In some (/many) cases, customers of various locations have different goals and expectations. For a more efficient launch, you might want to address each market separately and with dedicated messages and interactions.
· You have distributed operations models: Conceptually, customer journeys are clear and smooth. In practice, local teams need to experience these and know how to interact to deliver best quality experience. This also requires dedicated attention for you. If might also be easier to start in your native market as you are closer from all teams to test and improve your model.
· Big bet, baby steps: Your company has spent a lot on this product and they don’t want to miss the window. To ensure the product/market fit is ideal and the launch team is fully prepared for big markets, you might want to launch gradually, starting with smaller country as a test.
Obviously, there are other reasons to roll-out progressively and geographically. Have you experienced any? Please share this with us in comment.