Preparing for Launch: 5 Things Product Managers Should Do Before a Product Launch David Hallinan Published: July 22, 2019 Photo by SpaceX on UnsplashPreparing to launch an application? Check out our brand new Official Guide to API Integrations now for helpful insight into everything from planning your product roadmap to deployment!A product launch is simultaneously the most exciting and terrifying part of a Product Manager’s job. Months to years of hard work, preparation, and strategic planning come down to this moment. Will the product reach its target audience, or will it flounder in obscurity and low adoption numbers?While some of this can come down to factors out of a PM’s control, there are concrete steps that every Product Manager can and should take before a product launch to ensure that their work was not done in vain. I recently had the pleasure of attending an event by Shreya Kothari, Product Marketing Manager for Finturi, about her advice for PMs prior to launching their product. As Kothari puts it, Product Managers exist in the space between Product, Sales, and Marketing. As a result, a PM should not only have a firm understanding of the roles that these 3 distinct departments play but should also ensure that these departments all think about the product the same way. A product has one story. Each department might tell that story in their own unique way, but they should all be on the same page when it comes to the overall messaging and unique value proposition. So, let’s talk about the steps that a PM should take to ensure that the story remains clear throughout the product launch.#1: Define and Understand Your ProductThe initial step that should be taken far before launch is entirely based around understanding your product as thoroughly as possible. This is the time to ask the what, why, who, and how questions about your product that you may not have had the time to dive deep into during your initial product roadmap planning. Ask yourself whether your product is revolutionary in its functionality, or whether there is someone else out there attempting to solve the same problems that you are. If the latter is true, how is your product different? Have you met your target audience in person? Do they know they have a need for your product or are you looking to enlighten them to that fact?Figuring out the answers to these questions will help you to understand your product in a deeper way. You should spend most of your time in this step just thinking about the problems that your product may encounter. Don’t worry about coming up with solutions immediately, as the more time you spend on understanding your products upcoming adversity, the easier it will be to solve them when they arise. The following quote from Albert Einstein is about as eloquent a way to sum this idea up as possible.“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein#2: Understand Your AudienceThis is your chance to take the real deep dive into the persona that your product is targeting. Simply envisioning your perfect customer isn’t enough. This step should consist of 1-on-1 interviews, focus groups, and a whole lot of testing out your hypotheses. In order to properly create and shape your persona, you will need to understand them on a figuratively molecular level. What drives them to use your product? What challenges are they facing that your product will alleviate? Where would they learn about your product in the first place?Understanding the ins-and-outs of your target persona’s lives will not only help shape your messaging correctly, but it will also shape your product. It is far better to change your product’s direction at a late point than to release a product that fails to hit the mark of what your future users will need. #3: Establish RelevanceThis step is where you begin to shape the actual context and connection with your messaging. Learning how to explain your product concisely and clearly is key to reaching as many adopters as possible. Simply building a useful product is only half the battle. You will fail to reach your target persona without proper messaging that resonates with them in the first place. In order to achieve a perfect product messaging template, you can take on a handful of approaches to truly craft a perfect message for your target persona. Thoroughly testing with your customers is key to this step. Employ A/B testing to make sure that you have an idea which iteration of your messaging is resonating with your users best. Conduct even more 1-on-1 interviews and focus groups to test these messaging frameworks out and gauge their reception. If you love your messaging but it falls on deaf ears, it’s time to reevaluate. Take the time you need at this step to craft a truly resonant message for your product, as it will pay off in spades later for your launch.#4: Communicate Your StoryWhen you have put together a product story that you like and you feel truly meets the criteria that your persona will be searching for, it’s time to communicate that story. Essentially, this step is telling your story at the right time and in the right medium. This harkens back to when you created your target persona in the first place. Where does your target get their information from? Do they hear it from their peers? Or do they read a certain collection of technical forums and blogs to hear about the latest in upcoming tech?The research you did earlier into understanding your perfect user should have given you a better perspective on what metaphorical mountaintop you should be shouting your product’s praises from. As long as you did your homework, this step should just be checking off the boxes.#5: Prepare a Go-to-Market StrategyNow that you’ve made it this far, you should know your product’s value prop and target audience like the back of your hand. All of the research and deep dives should have led you to a place where you now have a clear understanding of your persona and how to reach them. It’s time to choose a marketing channel and craft your marketing strategy correctly. These decisions hinge on the outcomes you came to when doing your product research and should be relatively easy to arrive at based on your finely-crafted target persona. Investigate what paid channels would return the most value to you, and make sure you target the social channels that will reach the largest group of your target audience as possible. One thing to consider is using a PR account to help you with this process, as they are generally experts in relaying the right message to the right people. As long as you’ve taken your time and put in your due diligence in regards to planning your product launch, you’ll be fine. Building the perfect application to solve a modern problem is tough. Making sure it reaches the right people at the right time is even tougher. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can put your product and your team in the position to succeed because you thoroughly put in the work to make sure of it. To get even more help for your product, from crafting your product roadmap to deployment, go read our new official guide to API integration now!