How to Launch a Product on a Shoe String Budget


A PM’s Product Launch Checklist

Not so long ago, I was a Product Manager building and launching products for a living. Every single day, I worried if we were on track to get our product out in time. Every single day, I had new ideas about what we could do to improve our chances of success. This short piece collates some thoughts about product launch strategy at Startups.

The Launch Checklist

  • Get people on your Beta list
  • Perfect that Onboarding flow
  • Set up your Feedback process
  • Develop your initial Marketing plan
  • Finalise your Play Store/App Store video
  • Complete your Media outreach

The Beta User List

A Beta list of ~500 users who are eager to try your product and provide early feedback is absolutely essential for a successful launch. People who sign up for a Beta invite are valuable in two specific ways. They are enthusiastic and try out multiple flows and usually provide feedback. These are also people who are well connected and help spread the word on social media. So keep the share button at a prominent place during the beta launch.

How to get a 500–1000 strong beta list

Getting the word out before you launch is the only strategy I know that works.

Blog — Start work on the blog at T-45 days. The product manager should research and decide 8 to 10 topics for blog posts and distribute among team members. Skilled content writers could be used to get Blogs @ Rs 1–2 per word. The Product team would need to budget 20–30 hours to create and review content.

Social Media Marketing — Once you have a couple of blogs, start posting on Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest if applicable. Also spend about INR 500–750 on targeted Facebook marketing to start getting some traffic on your blog.

Reaching out to your network — This is often ignored by many PM’s but is a great way to get eyes on your product.

OnBoarding Flow

Onboarding flow is not part of goto market strategy per se but a lot of product teams do not test it as much as rest of the functionality. If the Onboarding flow is broken you might get a very high exit rate and might not get real data. Fine tune your Onboarding flow by showing it to people or following any popular UX research philosophy. The Google Ventures research sprint method works well too . The GV blog about the research sprint can be found here — http://goo.gl/09zgIS

The User Feedback Process

It is absolutely essential to have an owner for the feedback process. The owner of the process needs to have his ears to the ground and should pounce on every opportunity to get feedback. For example a user tweet should be responded within 1 minute. A user email should be responded to within 5 minutes and a feedback in a popup should elicit a response in 3o minutes.

Feedback widgets — Feedback process is often enabled by feedback affordances. Easily visible feedback buttons (resulting in a feedback popup) placed at culmination of flows are effective ways of getting feedback. It is also absolutely essential to educate the user about how to give specific feedback and if she should include screenshots etc. Providing your twitter handle at easily visible places usually leads to feedback conversations which are invaluable.

Marketing Plan

There are diverging views about if a marketing plan should be worked on before a beta launch or should you start spending energy on this when your product is stable. I believe, it could be a long wait before the product is stable. Marketing plans need to be tweaked a lot before a large sum can be committed to marketing and its important to start early.

Here are some economical marketing tricks that I have used with some degree of success.

Marketing with Posters on Autorikshaws — These are amazing for local advertising. So if your service has anything to do with hyperlocal anything (read — grocery delivery, medicine delivery, getting yoga istructors, getting house hold tasks done) this is very valuable. If you market like this you know where your users are coming from and you could even visit them if required. Its not very expensive either and it costs INR 1600 per auto for 3 months. Spend INR 50,000 on it spread over 12 weeks. Do spend some time to understand what routes your chosen auto drivers ply.

WhatsApp Marketing — This is cheap but more like a nuclear weapon and its ethics can be debated and Its included here for the sake of completeness. Each WhatsApp “spam message” costs INR 0.30–0.45 per message and some vendors claim to even target by location. Spend about INR50,000 spread over a couple of weeks on this channel and start a week post beta launch. WhatsApp can become an amazing channel when messages go viral. There is an art to create WhatsApp virality in India, I can share my thoughts about that .. but maybe in another post.

Facebook and SEM Spend — After one week of the beta launch start with INR 500–1000 Facebook and INR 250 of twitter spend per day to start getting some meaningful visits on your .This is to avoid spending money when you might have certain major production bugs. At T — 20 days, the design team should start creating Facebook banners to help this plan into action.

Marketing/App Store Video

If you have an app product then there is no way you can ignore the app store video. A great app store video positions your product well. It is also a place where you could reinforce that you are Beta and would love feedback. This is also the opportunity to differentiate yourself. Believe me great videos get shared a lot and leave a great impression on the viewer.

How to get your video created: The video creation process is broadly divided into 3 parts i.e. Concept development, story boarding and filming or animating. The way to ensure good video creation is to involve the video creation agency in one of your UX research studies. So as you develop the UX they can ask positioning and branding questions. Video creation can be a long process with a lot of back and forth and the discussions with the agency should start 45–60 days prior to launch.

Media Outreach

A favourable media review at the right time can boost the adoption rate of your product many fold. Keep the media brief consumer centric not investor centric i.e. don’t talk about what your “play” is, unless you are specifically trying to attract investors. Some highly acclaimed and widely followed tech media companies in India are Inc42, nextbigwhat and yourstory.

The least you could do is to prepare a clear media brief to make it easier for the journos to hit the right spot. The brief should clearly contain the following things:

  • Profiles of Founders: All articles about tech companies or tech products contain details about founders.
  • What the product does: Clearly mention the use case you are targeting. For example it is “eases the way X is done..” or “the new way to ..”
  • What is your target Audience: This information helps the journalists position your article well.
  • Media Kit: After the journos cover you, a request for a media kit usually follows. A media kit should have Logos, Color Swathces, Founder Photographs and other creatives that are relevant to a news article.

Media Kit — Here is the link to Housing.com’s media kit, it is more detailed than you might need

Photo by Joshua Earle

Where do you go from here?

Get excited, product launches don’t happen very often. It is the best part of a product manager’s job. Get your team into a huddle and brainstorm about who gets what role in the launch process. Keep your fingers crossed and .. LAUNCH

Not surprisingly, following this launch process is difficult, we didn’t manage all of this while launching FinBox, primarily because we went from idea to beta launch in under a month. Even so, this list enabled us to choose the things we wanted to do right away and things that we could postpone.

Stay tuned for next in the series where I dig deeper into some of the aspects of the launch process, such as getting your video right.

Give FinBox a spin and share much needed feedback!

Originally posted on Inc42 : http://inc42.com/buzz/how-to-launch-a-product-on-a-shoe-string-budget/

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