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Beyond the Launch: Tackling Communication Hurdles in Product Marketing

Today, I’ll be discussing communication hurdles between product marketing and other teams involved in a launch — especially the chaos that it brings forth with itself and what contingencies I have in place.
Beyond the Launch: Tackling Communication Hurdles in Product Marketing

If I had a dime for every time I hear from a teammate, “Can we exclude “XYZ” customer from the release plan?” I’d be rich by a few thousand dollars.

The fun life of being a product marketer isn’t so fun after all. The story behind the scene could be summarized in one word: Chaos!

Yup — Chaos!

According to the Product Marketing Alliance

A product launch is a process in which a new product or service is brought to market by a company. The primary purpose of a launch is to provoke a sense of anticipation and generate awareness of your product amongst your target audience.

But today, I’ll be discussing communication hurdles between product marketing and other teams involved in a launch — especially the chaos that it brings forth with itself and what contingencies I have in place.

Communication Chaos

I have at least covered over approximately 15+ product launches in my career, and each has seen at least some communication gaps across the launch.

And here’s the most common ones:

1. Fear of Change

There’s often resistance from different teams when launching a new product or feature due to concerns about potential issues or because other priorities take precedence.

Leading examples in the world where some brands have taken really bold steps to overcome the fear of change:

  • Apple ditches the headphone jack:  Apple ditched the headphone jack with the iPhone 7. Lots of people got pissed, and trust me, it wasn’t a good decision at all. Yet, Apple saw all-time sales records broken, and it kickstarted an arms race to build amazing wireless earphones and headphones.
  • Nintendo's Switch Console: When Nintendo first announced the Switch, a hybrid console that could be both a home console and portable device, many were skeptical. I mean, they thought this could go against PS and XBOX? Plus, the company's previous console, the Wii U, hadn't performed well, and some saw the Switch as risky. However, the Switch has since become one of Nintendo's most successful consoles.

See, it’s not that bad, right? But we’ll dive deeper into how you battle this fear and come out strong later in another section.

2. Misalignment on Priorities

Which brings me to the next point.

Different teams might have different priorities. For instance, while the product team is eager to launch, the customer support team might be dealing with existing issues and see a new launch as an added burden.

For example, your customer support team might ask you to delay the launch as many customers are annoyed with your brand because another part of your product isn’t giving them the expected results.

Now, the customer support team feels that a new release will portray that you don’t care about these issues and rather focus on releasing a new feature instead of fixing their problems.

Which is not the case.

But the fear that these angry customers could escalate their complaints shouldn’t be a blocker because:

  1. A new feature doesn’t mean you’re not addressing other issues on your product.
  2. You can’t delay releases just because a small fraction of customers are dissatisfied.

Especially if you want to improve product adoption, you must combat your fear and go through with your launch.

Lack of Responsiveness

In the majority of small to mid-scale businesses, this is a common problem. Lack of communication and responsiveness. Especially when you are a product marketer, this issue could lead to delays and potential mishaps during your GTM.

I’ve been there myself multiple times. 

As product marketers, we must constantly speak to product managers, sales, and other customer-facing teams that will be our first line of interaction with prospects and customers.

So, let’s see how we can combat all three chaos agents with a few tricks that have worked for me over the last four years.

Chaos to Coordination: Effective communication tricks

1. Dedicated Tools

This is the first and the most basic trick in the book. 

Adopt tools that will improve team communication and help you plan things together. 

Here’s what I follow:

  1. Quick discussions and queries: Slack and Teams. That’s it, simple. Create a project channel and invite everyone involved in this channel. Use the channel to convey milestones and crucial information with your stakeholders, like the GTM plan, training plan, milestones, etc.
  2. Project HQ: Notion, Basecamp, Asana, ClickUp, or plain old Excel. One of these should serve as your project HQ. Here, you’ll lay the rule of the land. I create a project board on Asana or Notion, share the link, and tag the relevant stakeholders from different teams. 

Apart from that, I also ensure all the documents are either created or added to this project board.

2. Calendar and Regular Check-ins

I said this article would cover simple tricks, and I'd like to keep it that way.

So —

  1. Create a launch Calendar: I think this is obvious. You would definitely have one. Make sure it’s visible to all the stakeholders. Also, break down the calendar for different milestones up to the launch day and even after that.
  2. Regular Check-ins: This is how I personally leverage my calendar. I divide the calendar into:
  3. Stand-ups: Short check-in once every two days.
  4. Weekly Round-up: Cover all the things that we’ve covered over the weeks leading to the launch
  5. Personal check-ins and team check-ins: One check-in is only visible to me, and the team check-ins are visible to everyone, so they know what’s coming up and prepare accordingly.

3.  Gather feedback early on:

Create mechanisms to gather feedback from your teams and customers early on. This will help you address concerns early on, fix them, and launch smoothly.

Remember that both aspects are equally important. Internal feedback would guarantee everyone is on the same page. This opens an important channel to address differences in priorities by different teams and helps you prepare for the fear of change.

You can collaborate and address these issues now by collaborating on coming to a common consensus.

On the other hand, consider a closed beta with a handful of customers you feel would benefit from using this feature.

This would allow you to identify and address potential issues before the general release.

4.  Internal alignment and education:

  1. Internal Workshops: Organize workshops by collaborating with your product development team to educate your teammates about the new product or feature. Address their concerns and highlight benefits. Also, use this session to collect feedback that could improve your product.
  2. Collaborate with other teams: When you craft your product’s messaging or narrative, work with other customer-facing teams that would help alleviate potential customer concerns and highlight the value prop during launch.

5. Prioritize and Pivot:

I’ve also worked at companies with a conservative approach to product launches. That is, they would rather do a phased launch of a feature than an all-out launch.

When I asked why this approach, there were two very valid points that I have also adopted in my GTMs when deemed necessary:

  1. Phased Launches: If there are concerns about overwhelming the customer support and sales team or your customers, considering a phased launch would be beneficial. Starting with a small audience and expanding gradually might help you iron out initial kinks in your feature or product.
  2. Address concerns head-on: If any team has reservations, don’t be afraid to sit with them, discuss and address them head-on. This will put them at ease or make tweaks before the release to ensure a smooth launch.

Last Steps

Once your product is out, the job is 90% done. The remaining 10% is crucial, so your next launch could be better than this one.

  1. Acknowledge efforts: Recognize the work put in by all the teams involved. This boosts morale and fosters a more collaborative spirit across your org.
  2. Post-launch review: After the launch, review what went well and what could be improved next time. This continuous learning approach helps a lot in refining future launches.

Remember, Communication is a learning process.

Even after 10+ launches, I still approach each launch differently, yet in the same energetic manner. It’s because each launch in itself is unique and could really set your career up.

At the same time, each launch will help you understand how to seamlessly communicate internally and externally to ensure your launch is better than the last one. 

As long as you acknowledge your efforts and shortcomings, you’ll make headway toward seamless communication with your team and customers and see significantly better GTMs in the future.