How We Prepared for the Launch of Visual Automations

As a creator, I’m sure you know that a lot goes into a product launch. And even more goes into a successful product launch.

It’s not just a one-time creation and then the release on launch week.

There’s brainstorming, timelines, build out, beta testing, fixing and refiguring, promotion, implementation, follow up– the list could on.

When we started the process of creating Visual Automations, we knew we had an ambitious timeline. We knew there would be long weekends and late nights of work to make it happen. But we believed in our product.

We knew it could change the way you do business.

Playing off that conviction, we wanted to get Visual Automations in the hands of creators as soon as humanly possible– which happened mostly in-part to our superhuman engineering team. But we couldn’t rely solely on our engineers to make it all happen.

Sure they were the ones actually building the new feature, but we all had ways to support them, to create an environment that was primed and ready for the feature, and to make sure our customers and potential customers understood how Visual Automations would make their marketing efforts easier and more powerful.

How we worked together to make it happen

This needed to be a team effort. Everyone had to pull their weight (and then some), be creative, watch the deadlines, and be flexible as some of the deadlines changed.

Each team put a plan together of how they would support the launch. Here’s a breakdown of how each team planned and implemented their roles in the launch of Visual Automations (from the perspective of a member of each team):

Engineering

Grant Ammons is our director of engineering and wrote this section about how the engineering team prepped for launch of our Visual Automations.

The main task for engineering was to ensure that Visual Automations was ready to be hammered on by 15,000+ creators who already use ConvertKit today. This involved a large amount of QA (short for quality assurance) from multiple sources — a small handful of alpha testers, the ConvertKit team (many of whom personally use ConvertKit!), and the engineers themselves. The main goal was to weed out the biggest bugs (we call them blocker bugs)— the things that would make Visual Automations unusable for customers.

During this time, we also fleshed out all of the minute details that make up how Visual Automations work under the hood. Although we had very detailed mockups and plenty of discussion on how it was expected to work, we also knew that customers would implement automations that we’d never dream of making. This is why we chose to roll out Visual Automations very carefully.

The other primary concern was performance, which as an engineer means making sure the tool consistently runs smoothly and quickly just like you would expect from great software. While we were learning about how customers were using Visual Automations, we were also gauging performance of the feature to ensure it always felt snappy and wouldn’t bring our servers down to their knees!

We began the rollout by giving Visual Automations to a carefully selected group of 20 alpha testers. We set their expectations that they’d be utilizing alpha code and things would absolutely be broken. And we learned a lot by doing that. (Thanks for all of your contributions, alpha testers!)

We then began a beta rollout that exponentially increased the number of creators using the new tool over a period of two months. We had a large list of existing customers who were interested in Visual Automations, so they got access first. Because they were interested, we knew they’d actually use the feature and stress test it well. We also set the context that “Visual Automations is in beta and that they should expect to find a bug here or there.”

After each rollout, we’d wait for feedback or critical bugs to be found. If we found bugs, we’d fix and QA them, and gain confidence that the fix was indeed correct. Once we had that confidence, we’d roll the tool out to the next batch of beta testers. We repeated this process over the course of two months. These batch sizes ranged from 20 customers at the beginning to nearly 5000 customers by the end of the rollout process.

Customer success

Matt Ragland leads customer onboarding on the customer success team and wrote this section about how the customer success team prepared for the launch of Visual Automations.

On the success team, we are the voice of the customer. What do they need? What questions might be asked? How can we proactively share best practices and help shape the product in a way that makes the experience delightful?

First we defined the critical areas that needed to be updated in time for beta release and eventual full release. Customer Success covers a lot of bases and we needed to make sure each was ready. The more specific we make each step, the easier it is to accomplish. After all, proper preparation prevents poor performance!

You’ll see in the image below our projects and responsibilities divided up by the project leaders. Inside each section is a detailed plan for goals, action steps, cross-team work, and timeline.

Each Thursday we discussed the plan and if anyone had a dependency on their responsibilities. It kept us accountable to each other and gave a very clear goal of what we wanted to achieve for each area and how that contributed to the overall goal shared by the company. From onboarding again, here’s a look at the goals for that section and how they contributed.

With this clear and consistent communication we were able to move forward on our goals and keep a realistic timeline for achievement. When Visual Automations was ready to ship, we were ready to support and provide a successful implementation for our customers!

Marketing

Tyler Knudtson is the growth marketer on the marketing team, writing our emails and promoting our content to make sure the right people find it. He wrote this section about how the marketing team prepared for the launch of Visual Automations.

Our energy on the marketing team centered around two main goals: Get the word out to a targeted audience that Visual Automations was live, and to use the new super-feature as a talking point to get new customer trials.

As an overarching theme, we wanted to focus most of our promotion in a shorter period to increase its impact and make it seem more special, so we chose October as the month we’d celebrate the Visual Automations release across whatever tactics we used.

Once we had a rough timeframe set, we began brainstorming tactics that could work toward one or both of these goals, then narrowed them down by both how effective we thought they’d be, and–maybe more importantly–by what we thought we had the resources to pull off.

When the dust settled, we were left with eight different tactics that formed our final game plan:

  1. Promotional emails to our own email list
  2. Webinars to our own email list and partners’ lists
  3. Outreach to key partners with popular articles about ConvertKit to update them with details about automations
  4. Focus our monthly issue of Tradecraft around different ways Visual Automations can help creators automate their business
  5. Release several Work In Public posts (like this one!) around various behind-the-scenes elements of Visual Automations
  6. Focus an entire section of our Launch an Online Business masterclass on automation, and how Visual Automations can power it
  7. Post the new super-feature as its own product on Product Hunt
  8. Add a link to the Automations feature page to the main navigation of convertkit.com

Once we had our tactics nailed down, we needed to hash out the finer details. We broke down the who, when, and how often of each tactic, and communicated the plan our to our team through Slack, and had dozens of individual discussions about the minutiae needed to execute our plan.

Results wise, we’re still in the midst of this campaign as we write this, so it’s difficult to estimate the total final impact until it’s in our rear view mirror. However, we’ve seen lots of anecdotal results in the form of increased website traffic, positive feedback on Visual Automations, and a steady flow of new ConvertKit trials.

Sales

Semonna McNeil is the sales development representative on the sales team and wrote this section about how the sales team prepared for the launch of Visual Automations.

As the sales team, you’d expect our primary goal to be sales, right?

Not at ConvertKit. While we care about conversions, they’re just a piece of the puzzle.

When we put our heads together to create an action plan for the launch of Visual Automations, we started off by deciding what was most important to us. First, we took a look at our channels and determined which would allow us to reach the most people quickly.

We believed webinars were the most effective way to create goodwill, collaborate with new partners, and create custom learning opportunities. With this in mind, we created timelines and campaigns to promote our latest automation webinar to various audiences.

We started off by focusing on creating goodwill. The first step in this part of the plan was to make it easier for our affiliates to host and promote ConvertKit webinars. To do this, our affiliate manager, Alexis, sent one email and posted a call for webinar partners in our Facebook group to test the waters. And the responses exceeded our expectations. We were able to book over 60 webinars over a 90 day period.

The next two phases were initiated after our Visual Automations had shipped. We started off by reaching out to find new partners. We made the extra effort to collaborate with other Saas companies with similar audiences. Our goal was to work smarter vs harder in order to get in front of potential customers without the extra complication of ad spend. We also began adding a behind scenes sneak peek during our live demos so future customers would know what was coming.

During the final phase in our Visual Automations launch plan, we began to host webinars for prospective customers,and engage our beta list and newsletter list.

We’d discuss our progress during our team meetings each Friday to make sure we were on track with our growth goals. During these meetings, we decided to extend our launch plan from a 30-day plan to a 120-day plan. That means we’re still in the thick of it and loving all the responses as the come in!

Operations

Ashley Alexander is the director of operations at ConvertKit and wrote this section about how the operations team prepared for the launch of Visual Automations.

The operations team helped ensure all our teams were supported when needed, whether that meant jumping into the queue to help the success team as they were handling Visual Automations tickets, reminding teams when planning and setting launch dates of possible conflicts (such as the 15th falling in the middle of our team retreat — which ended up changing), or encouraging communication across teams whether from the need to delay or provide more clarity on how automations rolled out (stating specific batch numbers and how those are determined going forward).

Being able to track automations use and progress is one thing the operations team contributed as an idea and that is currently being developed and seen through by both the engineering and success teams.

We get the opportunity to work with incredible people across all teams and support and encourage them along the way. Nothing better than getting to see something that took a whole team to create come together in such an incredible way!

Want to see Visual Automations in action?

Curious to see what we worked so hard to release? Click the link below and sign up for demo of ConvertKit. Our team is excited to talk about what we’ve been up to and show you how Visual Automations is the level-up you’ve been looking for.

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