Megan Lueders is a marketing executive with a commitment to creating an exceptional customer experience. She has led global marketing teams for brands like Logitech, Zenoss and Silicon Labs, and in her current role as the CMO at Sonatype. Throughout Lueders’ career, she has proven her successes in developing marketing strategies and executing creative, content-rich, customer-centric programs that drive the bottom line and influence the complete buyer’s journey.
As I sat down for an interview with Megan, she reflected on her career and shared insights gained from her involvement with product launches. During our conversation, she dove deep into what she loved, liked and would leave behind to guide other marketers to set the stage for a profitable product launch.
Love It: Centralize the Launch for Most Impactful Products Around a Customer Event
When I asked Lueders to share her most memorable product launch, she recalled many product launches, but all of them had the same thing in common; there was a customer event and/or engagement where the product was launched. That said, she also highlighted that products are not created equal and how a “customer event” is executed can range from grand activations to a simple customer webinar.
She made one thing crystal clear; it is essential for marketing to have alignment with the product management and development teams to understand what products are coming out in the next one-plus years. From these discussions, classifying products as a “Tier 1, 2 or 3” level allows a marketing organization to distinguish which products you are trying to generate a “wow” factor for. Lueders shared that the products you want the “wow” factor for, need to have a customer event or large customer engagement. This could range from a company-hosted customer event to organizing an activation in parallel with a tradeshow, conference, or cool social gathering.
After setting the stage for determining what products needed an event, Lueders shared her key components of a successful customer launch event. Regardless of the type of customer launch event, she emphasized how this activity provides a defined audience excited to listen to you and learn more about what you have to share because they are already using your other products or solutions and getting value from them in their business.
Her tactics for pulling off successful customer product launch events came down to three things:
- Energetic keynote session: Led by the CEO, the keynote address discusses company updates and unveils the reason everyone is at the event, the new product.
- Informative product introduction: Led by the head of product or chief product officer, it is a chance to showcase the new product, its features, benefits and anything else important for customers to know.
- Excited customers: Led by one, or ideally a few customers, this often interactive session is a showcase of the product in action in their environment. Nothing resonates more strongly than hearing from peers about their early use of the product, the impact it has had on their organization and the value delivered or anticipated to be delivered in the near future. If prospects are in the audience as well, the event and this session help to accelerate any sales conversations.
Having customers discuss their experience with the product also sets the stage for messaging. Lueders emphasized, “I’m a very big fan of having the voice of the customer lead your messaging rather than it being controlled by the company. Let the customer talk about the product’s value and benefits, how they implemented it to gain adoption throughout their organization. It is the best product market validation.”
Like it: Put Together a Campaign Framework for Pre-and Post-Launch Momentum
Lueders’ “Like It” component of product launches focuses on the pre-and post-launch events. She noted that while the product launch event is important, the pre-launch activities are important for building momentum and the post-launch activities sustain the momentum. One of my favorite parts of the conversation with Lueders was her emphasis on marketing being involved in all activities from the very beginning. Think as early as the product is coming up on the roadmap – so even before development has started. Her point is that marketing needs to know why they are building the products, what is so great about them and what the market needs. Why is this important? Well, they build the foundation for Lueders’ “Like It” component; having a campaign framework. “The success and excitement you have leading into the launch the results you have coming out of it, and determining how you can sustain the excitement is the baseline of the framework,” said Lueders.
At the highest level, her framework includes:
- Start with the launch date, as that is the point in time activity.
- Request the product team develop a briefing document that outlines everything about the product, including competitive differentiators, keywords to focus on, unique value proposition and headline of the press release. She noted that all this information strengthens messaging, sales enablement and other launch activities.
- Once the tier of the launch is determined, produce a high-level outline of the marketing plan to
- Build momentum – pre-launch
- Rally around the product unveiling – launch
- Sustain moment with content and activations- post-launch
- Often there are existing campaigns that the newly launched product nicely fits into.
With this campaign framework, Lueders shares, it provides valuable insight on what is needed to create momentum building up to the launch and sustain the momentum post-launch.
Leave It: Have a Contingency Plan
One thing that Lueders highlighted, and a lot of us can relate to, is that not everything goes as planned. For her, every great launch plan also comes with a contingency plan! It is not something you hear someone say that often and I thought Lueders’ insights were very valuable.
A successful launch relies on the product being ready to make everything go smoothly. But what happens when the product is late or features/functionality have changed? “That is everyone’s first nightmare, but in reality, it happens all the time,” Lueders mentioned. Having a contingency plan helps map out what should happen when things don’t pan out how they should. It also avoids panic and disarray when things go awry. She also shared other examples that marketers know all too well outside of a product not being ready that might derail a launch event, such as a video not working, weather impeding your customer or keynote from showing, or the audio component of the event being inoperable. These might seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but they make an impact, cause a lot of stress and can upend a launch event.
Lessons Learned: Insights to Takeaway
Lueders’ lessons share a recurring theme of alignment. But, it is so critical and plays into everything she shares across her love it, like it and leave it elements of product launches. Putting on a successful customer event would not be possible without the alignment of top-tier products and cross-functional teamwork. Having a campaign framework for pre- and post-launch momentum would not be the same without alignment. And finally, forming a contingency plan would not be the same without alignment from all parts of the organization. With these ideas, the product launch and its supporting activities can be put together and implemented without a hitch.
At Launch Marketing, we are well-versed in supporting alignment with all parts of the organization, especially sales and marketing alignment. Whether it is outlining pre-launch activities or formulating a marketing plan to sustain launch momentum, we’re here to guide you at every stage. If you’re in search of an experienced partner to guide your launch, don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation with our team of experts. Let’s work together to create your most memorable product or company launch!