Startup Launch Marketing

I think there is a lot of confusion over what the word “launch” means and what marketing things a startup should be doing when they launch.

I don’t believe that demoing at an event like TechCrunch Disrupt is equivalent to a launch. Nor do I believe that a launch ends the moment your product/service is generally available to the public. I’ve done a bunch of launches (5 at startups and 2 new businesses inside a larger company) and I’ve seen a lot of things that worked and didn’t work. In my opinion a launch is a multi-phase event that has distinct phases and there are different things you do at each phase.

I was chatting with a startup founder about this last week and sketched this out. Here’s the picture I came up with:

Note that every stage is inclusive of the previous stage – you continue to do what you were doing pre-release, after you have released, you just add a set of new tactics. The same happens when you move from release to post-release.

Some notes on this:

The idea here was to capture the purely marketing tactics that are executed at different phases of a launch. That doesn’t mean that these are the only things marketing is working on. For example, I would expect marketing to be involved in product development and definition (particularly pre-launch), pricing, channel strategy, etc. That said, I’m sure I’m missing tons of thing that should be on this graphic so please add them in the comments.

I have some big catch-all categories in the graphic such as “outbound lead generation”, and “retention programs” that include multiple tactics (for Outbound that would be things like advertising and tele-prospecting, for retention programs that would include things like User events and rewards programs). Tactics in those categories vary so much from business to business that I thought it made sense to lump them in categories. That doesn’t mean those categories have the same weight as other individual tactics – often they require a huge effort.

There are a bunch of terms on here that might not make sense to people but rather than defining each of them I thought I would just wait and see which ones people don’t understand (sorry, I’m lazy like that). If it’s confusing, ask.

This was inspired in part by Eloqua’s excellent Content Grid which maps content types to a buyer progression. I thought to myself “Hey I should map that for launch marketing activities over the different stages of a launch and make it look way uglier!” and here we are.

I also enjoyed Josh Duncan’s post – A Product Launch is like? that talks about different types of product launches and clearly illustrates the multi-phase nature of a launch.

165 thoughts on “Startup Launch Marketing”

  1. This is fantastic, April. Although it sounds like it should be a cliche, I insist internally that the launch itself is the “start line” not the “finish line”. Sure it’s not entirely accurate, but it does help recalibrate people’s perspective on a launch. Your outer-ring is immensely valuable. My question is, what does “momentum marketing” consist of? That sounds like a class of tactics, not a tactic itself. -Joe

    1. Thanks Joe,
      Momentum marketing is a term I picked up at a big company I worked for years ago. The idea is that in the pre-release phase you are talking a lot about the problem that your prospects are having and why there is a need for a solution. In the release phase you are talking a lot about why your offering is a great solution to that problem. Once you have released and you have customers you can talk about how the market has validated that the problem exists and your solution is a good fit by talking about the momentum you have achieved in the market. The proof points for that are things like number of downloads/users, awards you have won, positive reviews of your product, specific customer examples or any other milestone or achievement you can point to to back up your story. There are a variety of ways to get that out depending on your business (traditional PR, blog posts, articles, in your speaking engagements, etc.). I put it there as a separate category because I think it’s an important post-launch step that lots of companies don’t do or do too late.
      April

  2. I’m such a fan of this. Would like just a point of clarity – by articles in the pre-release stage you mean PR, and securing coverage, right? (Or inbound marketing, writing blog articles?)

    1. Hi Janet,
      I use “articles” here in the most generic form possible. If you are lucky you are getting some coverage in the pre-release stage so that counts but for many startups the only way to get articles out in the world is to publish them themselves (especially pre-release) as blog posts or to write the articles and try to have other outlets (blogs or traditional media) pick them up. It’s becoming easier and easier to write your own press coverage and have publications accept your article as a guest writer or opt-ed because there are fewer and fewer journalists around to write them.
      As you move beyond pre-release to release and post-release, your ability to successfully secure coverage goes up (for a startup anyway) but you’ll still likely be doing a lot of your own writing and pushing that out too.
      Does that make sense?
      April

  3. Hey RG,

    Great post. Nice to see what we’re not doing, that we should be.;) Can you elaborate on what you think some of the objectives & targets (measures) might be used (generically) to track progress for each of these stages?

    Thanks.

  4. April,

    Great post and thanks for the mention! Love all the deliverables you have captured here and the graphic.

    The only change I would like to capture (not sure how) is the iterative, continuous nature of the process. It might not be technically a launch any more but one of the points I was thinking of with my post is that a lot of launch activities are not a one time event. Now with content marketing, the videos, white papers, demos, etc that you produce at launch may need to be updated and added to during the process along with introducing new material.

    Josh

    1. Hi Josh,
      I totally agree – I was trying to capture that with the concentric circles – at every stage you add new things but you continue to do the things you did in the previous stages (the focus and content will change). I’m graphically challenged so I’m sure there’s a better way to represent it. Any ideas?
      April

      1. I do like the concentric circles – it does a great job expressing the building concept. I am also graphically challenged so should have acknowledged the great job done with a tough concept!

        Thanks again,

        Josh

        1. LOL – thanks! But seriously, some non-engineering type I am sure would do a better job at this than me but for this blog I’m the all the graphics support I’ve got 🙂
          April

  5. Great post. I have been using a slightly different launch stages chart, but I really like the way your chart depicts the ongoing nature of the pre-launch stages into the launch and post-launch.

    Well done!

    I think I will share this with my audience, as well (if that’s okay)
    Rick

  6. I would draw a rocket at the bottom of the graphic, pointing straight up, and as it climbs to the sky, the circles get larger. And put a monkey in the cockpit too. 🙂

  7. Thanks April for another great one. Unless your Apple and you have a highly anticipated product launch, it’s definitely critical to not think about a product launch as an end-all, be-all. It’s a continuous process.

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  10. Great April! I think it would be interesting to come up and coin some terms in these phases and then you will be credited like Eric Ries! Awesome infographic and thought provoking insight on the launch(multi-faceted) process.

    1. LOL! Thanks for the comment.
      Eric Ries wants to write books and give lectures.
      I want to do marketing. When I get sick of doing marketing I will also write books and give lectures but I am not done being a marketer yet!
      April

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