How should we plan a well-executed SaaS product launch to an existing customer base?

We have an existing customer base who actively buys from us, and we'd like them to buy a new service we're soon releasing. How do I go about designing a launch plan that includes pre-launch email announcements, special launch pricing, and other steps that will help me get good traction? I've read that pre-announcing and getting people excited to buy before it's released is important, but I'm not sure how to effectively accomplish that.


I'm a product developer, startup veteran, and advisor to SaaS companies.

Hopefully you've been already developing this new product with input from your existing customers, letting them beta test it and give feedback.

(If not, my advice is to STOP immediately and get enough pilot customers involved to be sure that you're delivering something really valuable to them, that works the way they expect it to work, is easy to understand and get started with, etc.. The last thing you want is to do a big splashy launch of a product that is D.O.A. because you built what you assumed the customers wanted instead of they actually demonstrated that they wanted.)

OK, so let's assume that you've got customers in the loop.

Interview the heck out of them.

Really understand how they use the product, why they use the product, what makes it valuable to them, what they can do with it that they couldn't do before, etc.

If the product's not done enough for them to be best testing it yet and getting results, at least get some insights into how they see themselves getting results from it. How does it/will it change their lives?

As you do this, be on the lookout for things that really resonate. Emotional language, for example. "It's such a relief that I don't have to worry about sending invoices manually anymore." (or whatever pain it is that your software solves)

Also look for (and try to elicit) specific result statements: "This new software saves me [or is going to save me] 15 hours a week. Now I can spend that time where I really want to, with my kids ( ... my cat ... my golf buddies ... )"

You're doing this for three reasons: 1) This stuff makes for phenomenal testimonials; 2) it helps you come up with great ideas for pre-launch content; and 3) it generates *PURE SOLD GOLD* you'll use in writing the copy for your launch offer.

OK, launch mechanics. There are people who teach huge long expensive courses on this stuff. I'll give you the Cliff's notes.

While I haven't personally run a major product launch, I have been trained in the strategy and am very familiar with it.

- Plan your launch period in advance. You might want to do a pre-launch sequence that lasts 1, 2, even 3 months depending on the magnitude of your product and how much effort you're willing to put into creating content for the launch.

- Create some teaser content of interest to your customers who might want to buy this product. Offer to teach them something, or offer to give them a sneak-peak behind-the-scenes of your new product.

- Send an enticing offer for this content out to your list. Get people who are interested in this content to sign up for it. This creates your launch email list.

- Send your launch list weekly updates: development milestones, sneak-peak screenshots, videos, educational material, interviews with/testimonials from beta users, and so on.

- You're not trying to sell here yet (not hard sell at least). Drop some hints that there is going to be a special offer when the product launches, just for special loyal customers like them.

- Create at least three videos on topics that are really, really interesting to your prospective customers... not necessarily about your new product itself, but teach them about what they can achieve with it, or what others have achieved with it already. As you publish these videos, send the link out to your launch list.

- Also send out an offer to see these videos to your main list, to entice more people to sign up for your launch list.

- As you get closer to launch time, keep sending frequent updates to the pre-launch list, and send another email out to your main list to let them know that the product is launching soon, and that if they're interested in the special one-time-only launch pricing, they need to sign up for the "early bird list" (your launch list).

- Send out a 24-hour notice that the launch is going to happen soon, and the launch pricing will only be available for a limited time (potentially, to a limited number of customers ... to increase scarcity and urgency).

- I recommend that even if you plan to open the product up to all your customers that at launch time you limit it to a smaller number. This makes the inevitable post-launch gremlins less painful to deal with because you have fewer customers, and it motivates people to buy because they fear that they'll lose the opportunity to do so. You can open the product up to more people later... the delay will result in pent-up demand and easier sales.

- Start the launch. Tell your early-bird launch list a few hours early, then tell your main list. Direct them to a web page with a video and long-form sales copy of your launch offer.

- Send out 2-day, 1-day, 12-hour, etc. notices that the launch is ending soon and reminding people what they're missing out on if they don't act now. If you're offering a limited number of spots, tell people what percentage has already sold out. Remind people that if they're "on the fence" about this, that this is the time to make a decision.

- Send out an email letting people know that the launch is over and thanking them for their support and their vote of confidence. Tell the people who didn't buy (or didn't get in) that you'll let them know that the product will be opening up for new registrations some time in the future. (You may get people sending you emails begging to be let in at this point, if your product is desirable and your marketing was executed well.)

And, of course, you don't just have to promote your launch content to your existing customer list ... you can post it to social media (and encourage your customers to do so) to attract brand new customers into your world.

If you'd like to go into more detail about launch planning for your specific product and market, I'd be happy to jump on a call and talk about ways to make this work for you.

Answered 11 years ago

What we do for new SaaS offerings is put up a coming soon page. From here we build a buzz on a blog, new social media sites for that product, cross promote from the parent company on social and blogging... Then we invite our lists to sign up for exclusive beta spots on the coming soon page. On that page there is also social promotion to share with a friend. Be sure to find a good marketing automation platform to begin dripping these people emails, tracking all their activity and delivering information based on their interaction with your digital assets.

Beyond this I would need to know more about the platform to "fill in" the custom elements. But if you have a good creation story you can play off of that to gather some media interest ahead of time so that once you flip the switch journalists can star buzzing about you.

Answered 10 years ago

As a marketing agency that specializes in working with B2B SaaS and other tech companies to create and implement successful go-to-market strategies, for a successful SaaS product launch and it begins long before the product actually hits the market. Let us look at the steps one by one:
1. Create a Timeline: An effective product launch is typically scheduled around a specific date: a customer event, an anniversary (business or product), or a time of year coinciding with the buying cycle (e.g., back to school, new fiscal year, etc.) Your organization and product cannot be “ready” if there is no documented timeline, milestones, and launch date. A timeline keeps your entire organization focused and accountable and sets realistic expectations. Convene a cross-functional team with members from product, marketing, sales, customer service, and executive teams. There are more pieces to a product launch than one department can see. Work together to get all of the needed touch points out in the open and understood by all. You will uncover hurdles and dead ends in your current processes that block the launch of your product. Identifying them now will give you time to overcome them before launch. Do not let a procedural problem block you from the best launch possible. Depending on how product development goes, however, you may have to slightly alter your timeline. The most successful launches have healthy tension like that of a guitar string — between the product launch date and the rollout of marketing materials. That tension can turn deadly, though, if you hype features that do not make it into the final product or must reschedule the launch. You do not want to burn customer goodwill nor set yourself up for failure. Every team not just product development — needs their own timeline. Every department needs lead time to develop the best resources specific to their function.
2. Gather Feedback and Innovate: Prior to pouring resources into your product, you will want to make sure it is viable. More than likely, you have been listening to your customers for years and hearing about the problem your product seeks to solve. John Farkas, our CEO, has witnessed many SaaS companies go off the rails during product development because they begin to develop something for the sake of the technology. Just because the technology can perform in a certain way does not mean it will sell. Successful SaaS product launches flow out of feedback. Now is the time to gather more. Feedback can be gathered via surveys and/or one-on-one interviews. In either case, create a list of set questions to ask your current clients. Be sure to share the feedback with your cross-functional team.
1. What have your clients said they wish your product could do?
2. What is lacking from your industry?
3. What will save your target audience time and money?
3. Beta Test with Current Clients: All of your research and hard work doesn’t mean anything until it’s in the hands of real customers who will push it, pull it, stretch it to its limits, ask questions you haven’t dreamed of, and discover new applications for it. They will break it. They will learn how to fix it. These tests are your litmus test of success. Let users inform and influence if you have a product ready for the marketplace. If you decide to beta test with existing customers, use your best ones. They have a relationship with you. They want to work with you, and they want to be involved. It is in their best interest. But it is important to supplement this with new customer testing for real insight. Product and development teams need to closely align with this process — user testing is not relegated to marketing teams behind a mirror. From your testing, listen carefully and gather all the information you can. Your cross-functional team can learn so much from the test results:
1. Engineering will learn the limits of the product — and where there is the most potential
2. Marketing will hear stories and phrases that they can develop into materials
3. Customer Service will discover what obstacles to overcome and how to respond
4. The C-Suite will gain confidence and see the possibilities.
4. Go to Market with a Functioning Product: At launch, your product needs to strike a delicate balance between being a minimally viable product (MVP) that will require well-orchestrated iterations to get it up to full speed, and a fully-functioning, benefit-focused product that meets the needs of your users (at least most of them). A key step to achieving that balance is through your beta testing.
1. But what happens when your product isn’t ready for the market?
2. Do you move forward or recalibrate your timeline?
The fear is real. How you move forward determines the success of the launch and the long-term success of the product. There are two important sides to the functionality coin for a SaaS go-to-market scenario: either your new product is over-engineered and can’t be easily grasped and assimilated (a common scenario, especially in the world of B2B tech), or it’s under-engineered and you haven’t solved the basic problems of your users. In either scenario, you are toast. If the product is not everything you hoped it would be at launch but is still MVP, make sure everyone throughout the process knows the details so that the message remains clear and consistent. Do not allow sales or marketing or an executive to tout a feature that is not in version 1.0. Likewise, if you make the decision to postpone the launch, communicate the reasons why throughout the organization so there is no bitterness or unrest. Keep the healthy tension on the schedule and move forward to your new launch date.
5. Create a New Product Demo and a Sales Deck: Can you feel the excitement building? After developing an MVP and inviting others to kick its tires, it is time to polish up your product and get it ready for the final phases of the launch.
Choose the proper demo type for your product.
1. Would a video or photographic walkthrough be best?
2. Should you create a sandbox version that allows your customers to put in real data and play around with it themselves?
3. Could you create an experience that involves your salesperson and a potential customer?
We recently attended a product demo that allowed us to interact with the proprietary framework of the company from our cell phones. We were texted a link. When we clicked, we were taken on our phones to a one-time portal and asked to input information. After we hit send, we watched on the big screen in the conference room as our inputs ran through the software. We also looked back at our phones to see that the experience was over and could not be replicated. It was effective and fascinating to take part. No matter what demo you create, you will also need a sales deck. Consider creating a deck that aligns your marketing and sales teams. Allow marketing to create a deck that communicates the core messages and addresses the customer problems but allows sales to personalize or modify the deck based on the types of presentations needed. In future articles, we will go into more depth about the many methods of building a product demo and the essential pieces you need.
6. Get Your Organization Hyped: Software Product launches are not solely the responsibility of your product, marketing team or sales team. The responsibility belongs to everyone, and your entire organization needs to be ready and aligned for a product launch. Building a cross functional team at the beginning of the process makes this stage in the launch sequence much easier and much more effective. At this point, your messaging is locked in, your demo and sales deck are working well, all departments are buzzing like launch control before Apollo XI, and the finance department is losing hair, biting fingernails, or both. Host a handful of live internal trainings or webinars to introduce the product and answer important FAQs. You will also want to use this time to distribute collateral and documentation to each team, so your message is consistent. We call this practice “internal communications alignment.”
7. Recalibrate Measurable KPIs: Look back to the goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you created at the beginning of the process? Are they still the right metrics to track success? Are there some to eliminate? Add? Change?
For a product launch, your KPIs might look something like this:
1. Increase website traffic by 75% within three months of product launch
2. Up-sell 30% of clients within three months of product launch
3. Close 25 new deals within six months of product launches
4. Maintain 90% client retention within one year of product launch
Your goals should be based on the success of previous product launch campaigns (if any), the need of the market, time of year, and available resources. The most important attribute of any goal is that it is achievable! The healthiest goals push every department but do not break them. A goal set too aggressively tempts a department or individual to move the goal post instead of inspiring second effort.
Like product messaging, share and update these KPIs throughout the organization. After launch, let everyone see how the company is progressing toward success. Give moments to celebrate. Point to the game clock and scoreboard to inspire more grit.
8. Determine Pricing: A new SaaS product launch is the perfect time to evaluate your pricing. A new product sets the tone for previous products. Should you raise prices across the board? Is the new product a premium and former product now slightly discounted? If you updated or overhauled an existing product with attention to UX/UI, position it as more valuable than its predecessor. Capitalize on this while you can. You can also create sales incentives that allow buyers to purchase the new product at “old” product pricing for a limited amount of time before the price increases. Again, your goal is to create sales velocity, so there are several strategies you can explore to find which best suits your offering.
9. Create a Product Launch Plan: The objective of a product launch plan is simple: build momentum and sales velocity! A new product launch can be rocket fuel for your sales pipeline, both in renewals for existing customers and share-of-wallet for net-new business. When you construct a product launch campaign, you’ll want to consider two key launches: the existing customer launch and the prospective customer launch. For obvious reasons, you’ll want to sell to existing clients first. Arm yourself with a migration plan to eliminate fears and trepidation about this potentially disruptive process (depending on the complexity of your product). The true kickoff of your new product begins when you start marketing to current clients.

Prior to launch, you should have already considered how to keep the migration from old to new as cost effective and hassle-free as possible, as failure to do so may equal loss of existing customer base. Additionally, you should have a KPI in place for how many customers you want to upgrade in a certain amount of time (upgrade X% of client base in next Y months). This should coincide with the sundown plan for your “old” product. With this launch plan, your key objectives are to:
1. Keep your existing customers with you (and potentially upgrade them)
2. Reduce the attractiveness of alternatives from competitors
3. Dislodge or disrupt the competition who are knocking on your customer's door
Your timing for selling to new clients is also important. Too early and you will lose momentum and excitement for when the product is available; the fuse will burn out before the firework launches. Too late and you may not reach the velocity you need leading into launch day; plus, you will miss out on the opportunity for pre-launch incentives that can help achieve sales goals. A product launch campaign geared towards prospective customers gives you a new opportunity to speak to two important audiences:
1. Cold or dead leads that know you, but decided to either not purchase your product, or go with a competitor
2. New prospects that have never heard of you until now
Pay-per-click ads, content, email, collateral pieces all blitzed around a launch date will give you that momentum.
With this launch plan, your key objectives are to:
1. Build greater brand awareness through marketing and PR efforts around launch time
2. Increase the number of product demos and trials (if you have them) conducted by your sales team
3. Increase in product sales to new clients
With this campaign, you will also want to set a measurable KPI, such as several new deals, inbound leads, or demos by a certain date. Your momentum is highest in the months right after launch date so capitalize on it! In either case, you’ll want to rely on a combination of marketing automation and one-on-one human interaction to make the process go smoothly.
10. Launch: Maximize your product launch by choosing a specific, relevant date:
1. company anniversary
2. significant trade show
3. user conference
Though their sales team has already been teasing the new product in the marketplace for several months, launch day makes it official: the product is ready to purchase, migration can start, the new website launches, and PR efforts begin.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

I don't think you should focus your entire energy on the launch. Instead, a smart cross-selling strategy could do great on the long term.

You didn't mention if the same user-base will already be signed-up to the service, or if they would have to make a totally different account. Assuming the latter, you could offer discounts at specific intervals for those that have already signed-up for the second service.

Answered 10 years ago

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