Product Launch Stages: How to Nail It in 13 Steps

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    Home / Product / Product Launch Stages: How to Nail It in 13 Steps


    • You can launch a product in 3 stages: pre-launch (plan & strategize), launch (promote & highlight), and post-launch (analyze & iterate).
    • Pre-launch (2-6 months): Set goals, research your market, position your product, build hype, and prepare logistics.
    • Launch (1-2 weeks): Execute marketing plans, host launch events, and activate sales channels.
    • Post-launch (6 months): Analyze performance, manage customer relationships, improve based on feedback, and sustain marketing efforts.
    • Remember, the launch is just the beginning – keep iterating, improving, and connecting with your customers!

    A successful product launch is a strategic process, divided into distinct stages, that requires planning, generates excitement and ultimately boosts your product for long-term success.

    That's what we're here to find out, so let's talk about:

    • What a product launch is,
    • The product launch stages all products go through, and
    • Product launch phases of a successful product launch

    Starting right off with:

    What is a Product Launch?

    A product launch is the introduction of a product into its target market, in accordance with a detailed product launch plan that oversees all product launch stages and evolves as the product enters different phases.

    The phases can differ depending on the product launch plan and the product launch strategy. But there are 3 product launch stages that a new product naturally goes through:

    • pre-launch phase,
    • launch phase, and
    • post-launch phase.

    Also, similarly to how the product launch phases work, there are different types of product launches.

    3 Main Product Launch Types

    Though it is not completely set in stone, there are 3 main product launch types: soft launch, minimal launch, and hard launch.

    1. Soft Launch

    A soft launch is a strategy in which a new product is released to a restricted audience or geographic area. This method allows you to gather user feedback and address any issues before a broader market release.

    🌟 What is the goal of soft launch?

    The main goal of a soft launch is to fine-tune the product based on real-world use and feedback. This ensures that it meets consumer expectations and market needs before the full release.

    2. Minimal Viable Product (MVP) Launch

    MVP Launch, A.K.A. minimal launch, involves releasing a product with the minimum features necessary to satisfy its early adopters. This type of product launch is used to test hypotheses about product features and market demand with minimal resources.

    🌟 What is the goal of minimal launch?

    The goal here is often to obtain user feedback early in the product development cycle. So you can guide the future development of more sophisticated, fully-featured products.

    3. Hard Launch

    A hard launch, also known as a full-scale launch, is when a product is introduced to the entire target market at once with full-scale marketing and promotional efforts. This type of launch is designed to create significant consumer awareness and drive immediate sales.

    🌟 What is the goal of hard launch?

    The goal of a full-scale product launch is to achieve rapid market penetration and high visibility, quickly securing a strong competitive position.

    4 Other Types of Product Launch

    Now, while these launch types are the most common, there are also:

    1. Surprise Launch: A product release without prior notice, capitalizing on the element of surprise to generate media buzz and consumer interest. Think along the lines of Beyoncé's Lemonade album; that's also a product, after all.
    2. Phased Launch: Gradual introduction of a product into different markets or to different consumer segments to manage logistical and market response more effectively. This is the exact strategy Apple uses when releasing its iPhones to control the supply chain.
    3. Seasonal Launch: Timing the release to align with specific seasons or events to maximize consumer interest and sales during peak periods. Three words: Pumpkin Spice Latte.
    4. Beta Launch: Not to be confused with an MVP launch or soft launch, a beta launch is offering a near-final product to a select group for testing to refine the product based on feedback before the general release.

    Now, these are our types, but what about the product launch stages?

    Here's a quick look at what happens during different product launch stages for a successful launch:

    The 3 Product Launch Stages of a Successful Product Launch

    As we've mentioned above, a successful launch has 3 different stages: pre-launch, launch, and post-launch.

    Be it a new product or a complementary product, careful planning goes into shaping the product launch around these stages.

    Here's a general look ⬇️

    Product Launch Stages

    Here's an actionable product launch plan, with the most crucial steps for each stage 👇

    Pre-Launch Phase - Plan & Strategize

    The pre-launch stage is all about laying out your product launch plan and doing the research to make sure that taking action based on the product launch strategy in mind is viable.

    During the stage, you should

    • set goals,
    • conduct target market and customer research,
    • discuss and take the necessary steps for a go-to-market strategy, and,
    • by the last quarter of the stage, develop an actionable marketing strategy.

    Once you decide on these primary pre-launch activities and set an action plan, it means that the basis for a successful launch is ready.

    How long does the pre-launch phase last?

    The pre-launch stage can typically take 2 to 4 months and, in some cases, up to around 6 months. But, of course, longer or shorter periods than this can also work for specific and more complex products.

    And that, folks, can be done in 5 steps:

    1- Goal Setting and Strategy Development

    First things first, start off with setting your goals and coming up with a go-to-market strategy.

    One thing to remember in these very early steps is to not shoot for the stars just yet. You can easily kill off a good product with bad goals.

    The success of a product launch hinges on clear, achievable goals.

    So, start by defining what success looks like for your product. This can include market penetration, sales targets, or customer engagement levels.

    Then, set goals.

    What matters here is not whether these are the end goals that will make your product profitable immediately but whether they are realistic.

    👉 You will build your strategy on top of them, so they better be.

    Now, if you have a broad idea of what you want to achieve, you need to lay out a rough GTM strategy. And the best way to start with it is to answer the questions:

    • What is the product or service you are offering?
    • Who is your ideal user persona/target audience?
    • Why is this product or service important?
    • Where is your ideal target market?
    • When is the best time to launch?
    • How are you going to go to market?

    With these answers, you should have a good draft to work on before the pre-launch phase proceeds.

    But always keep in mind that along the way, you might need to alter these.

    👉 For example, when Airbnb was founded in 2007, the answers would have looked like this:

    • It offers a more affordable alternative to hotel stays,
    • The ideal persona is people traveling around the States to attend events or spend a few nights in the city,
    • People need more affordable stays for necessary travel,
    • The ideal target market is in big cities where big events happen,
    • It can be launched within a year in the US, in two years worldwide,
    • Promoting at conferences, poaching off of Craigslist, doing better and more realistic listing photos

    But today, especially after the pandemic, and with a solid post-launch evaluation, Airbnb couldn't possibly cling only to its main offering.

    Knowing that they gave us more "experiences," like Barbie's Dreamhouse and the wedding venue from HBO's Succession.

    airbnb marketing strategy product launch stages
    A week here would fix me 😅

    Imagine getting married here after what happened to Shiv and Tom 👀

    So, don't be afraid to mix and match with your strategy as the market naturally changes.

    It will change, why can't you?

    2- Market Research and Target Audience

    Next, you have market research and a target audience, which will cement the base for your go-to-market strategy for the rest of the product launch process.

    This step is important because without knowing everything about customer needs, preferences, and behavior, it is super easy to fail your launch even before the launch day.

    A good practice here would be to go all out with focus groups and market segmentation to craft a detailed user persona or several and get it right the first time.

    👉 For example, when Spotify first launched as a new product —and when they weren't doing absurd amounts of ads— it was the result of an obvious need in the market.

    ‎People either had to pay big sums for music or pirate it.

    So they did a deep dive into the listening habits of people, as well as to what lengths they went to download music for free, which included a good deal of hassle - I would know 🫣

    That research showed that people didn't actually want to pirate; it was indeed a big hassle.

    Plus, it revealed the best marketing channels, the strengths, challenges, and pain points of the alternatives, logistics, onboarding flows, and basically everything they had to know to set a target customer.

    So, knowing its audience better, Spotify launched with a free plan, which meant watching a few ads every once in a while for a vast library of music.

    And that's how knowing their target user persona completely changed the game for Spotify.

    3- Product Positioning and Messaging

    Knowing your goals in the market you are entering and the audience waiting for you, now you have to work on your positioning and messaging strategy.

    Here's the gist:

    Positioning is where you want to be in the market; messaging is how you want to be known to your ideal user persona.

    This is essentially how you present yourself.

    The best way to do that is to create a compelling narrative for your product that highlights its unique value proposition, features, and benefits.

    When deciding on your unique product positioning statement and what exactly it entails, you have 5 items to touch upon:

    • The target audience
    • Your brand
    • Your category in the market
    • What makes you different
    • The benefit you offer & why it is believable

    👉 For example Apple is a great example when it comes to positioning. When they launched the iPhone, it was marketed as a combination of 3 products: a mobile phone, an iPod, and an internet communications device.

    product launch stages prelaunch apple iphone positioning
    The Apple website the day the iPhone was released

    This positioning focused on introducing the iPhone as a "complete redefinition of mobile phone" and a "revolution."

    They weren't overpromising either.

    • They did include their brand, Apple, in the talk.
    • They mentioned the mobile phone category.
    • They mentioned their 3-way differentiator and links to the new benefits to make it believable.

    The target audience wasn't mentioned, but oh well, do you need to when you are Apple?

    Of course, this is an iconic launch, but the blueprint is the same. As long as you include these cues in your positioning statement, it should work.

    4- Building Hype and Awareness

    Once your product preps are done, the most important part of the pre-launch stage follows.

    It is time to build anticipation.

    There are very different and quite unique ways to build excitement for a product, but a successful product launch in our day and age often goes through one giant phenomenon.

    Social media.

    Whether you are B2B or B2C, in the product adoption platform industry, or in the consumer products industry, doing a soft launch or a full launch, social media posts can work wonders.

    Not the biggest internet personality? There is always influencer marketing.

    The good thing about the digital age is that no matter what you do, there will also be a dedicated influencer for the market and the niche.

    👉 For example, for the launch of the Tesla Model 3, Elon Musk tweeted teasers and updates about the product long before the actual reveal, building significant public interest and media hype.

    This strategy naturally resulted in a large number of pre-orders immediately after the product's unveiling and even more on the launch day.

    elon musk tesla model 3 product launch tweet teasers

    If you're sure your social media posts would be futile, there are, of course, other cool ways to generate buzz.

    Especially if you are an established brand and it's not a new product you are pushing, email marketing has to be in your marketing strategy.

    5- Logistics and Preparation

    We are nearing the product release and this is right before the launch, so all must be in order.

    You have our product. You know who to market to, how to sell, and the when and where.

    But are we actually prepared?

    You need to ensure all logistical aspects of the product launch are meticulously planned—from supply chain issues to distribution channels and customer support readiness.

    Conducting some final checks and preparations ensures a seamless transition from launch to market, minimizing potential hiccups that could affect customer satisfaction and product uptake.

    ‎👉 A good SaaS example of this is Microsoft.

    Prior to releasing a major update or new product, Microsoft ensures beta testers are hard at work across multiple hardware configurations.

    This helps in fine-tuning the software to minimize post-launch issues.

    Microsoft also launched the Microsoft Insider program to turn its beta testers into a community and promote its transparency and credibility.

    ‎These are all pre-launch phases you need to pin down before your product's actual launch; otherwise, it takes seconds for everything to turn into utter chaos.


    Let's go into:

    Launch Phase: Promote & Highlight

    After meticulous planning in the pre-launch phase, it's time to shift our focus to the actual launch.

    The launch stage is where the magic happens.

    With all the preparation from the pre-launch stage, you are ready to actually roll out the product at hand.

    During the launch stage, it is important to apply the marketing campaign precisely and, if necessary, actively modify the launch plan according to the changes made.

    Remember, this is your map to success; if you don't update your product launch plan, you just might end up lost in the middle of it.

    Now, as much as it is important to tap back into the pre-launch stage, we have to think of the post-launch as well. And the best investment at the launch stage for the future is collecting quality customer feedback, especially during and right after the launch date.

    Remember also that the intensity of the launch stage would depend on the type of launch you are making.

    If you are doing a minimal launch or a soft launch, your efforts might not be as intensive as a full-scale launch.

    ➡️ In any case, the most important action in this product launch phase is to release your product and answer demand with a full-fledged sales team and customer support team ready to help.

    How long does the launch phase last?

    The launch phase is often the shortest of the launch phases, and it typically takes around a week to 10 days.

    This is the exactly right time to

    • put all the strategy you've worked up in the pre-launch to work and
    • catch the market's attention through strategic actions and engaging experiences.

    6- Execution of Marketing Plans

    Now, the strategy you've crafted needs to go live.

    Implementing your marketing plans with precision is crucial. Monitor the impact closely, using real-time data to tweak and optimize the approach as necessary. This ensures your marketing efforts have the desired effect, making the most of your launch window.

    Plus, you'll need all that data in the post-launch, so every detail matters!

    👉 A good example I like to talk about in product launch marketing is Lego and how they launch new sets.

    They often release teaser videos and collaborate with fan communities for exclusive previews, which pumps up enthusiasm and attention from a dedicated customer base before the wider public launch.

    ‎👉 The same goes for Netflix and how they launch new series.

    Noting just how many personalization methods go into one Netflix marketing campaign, they like to pretend to be an all-knowing entity who knows what you might want to watch next.

    And they are not really off.

    This tweet alone can tell you just how well that works, but they also implement this tactic inside their UI.

    And it works.

    So, during your product launch, you might want to think outside the box—or inside it, if the inside is your app—and apply unique marketing methods.

    7- Launch Events and Promotions

    Your launch event is the grand showcase of your product.

    This should be an immersive experience that introduces the product and embeds it in the minds of your audience.

    Believe me, as much as it sounds tempting, you can't just hold a webinar and call it a day.

    Effective launch events can transform potential customers into eager advocates through memorable interactions and engaging demonstrations.

    And you don't want to miss that opportunity.

    👉 The best examples for launch events are always game companies.

    When Riot Games launched their "Soul Fighter" event, they really went all out.

    The event was a big deal across several of their games, like League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics. They introduced new game modes and characters, making sure everything tied back to the "Soul Fighter" theme.

    And marketing-wise, what made it special was that this wasn't just a small update; it was a major event that caught the attention of both long-time players and newcomers.

    Riot Games also synchronized the rollout across different platforms and games, ensuring players had a unified experience no matter where they played.

    The video got almost 3 million views.

    And that is how you prove a well-planned launch that sticks with your audience wins the cake.

    Using themed events like this can be a great way to make a product launch stand out. They help create buzz and give people a reason to engage with your product right from the start.

    8- Sales Channel Activation

    With the excitement built and the stage set, it's essential that your product is available wherever your customers expect to find it.

    This means activating all sales channels simultaneously—online, in physical stores, and anywhere else your market shops.

    This widespread availability helps capitalize on the launch momentum. And if you've done all prior steps right, there should be plenty of that alright.

    👉 A good example when it comes to setting up the supply chain and seeing all the opportunities for a sale, Samsung is unmatched.

    For instance, when Samsung launches a new smartphone, they ensure it's available worldwide through multiple carriers and retail outlets on the same day.

    They often include special offers, like trade-ins or free accessories, to make purchasing more attractive right out of the gate.

    product launch stages samsung

    They even offer a corporate partnership, which, if you pay attention, is a perfect way of positioning Samsung further as a work tech brand.

    Now, this is the drill for the launch phase, but your work is not yet done.

    Once the whole world knows about your product and it's finally relevant, you need to make sure it stays that way.

    And that happens through:

    Post-Launch Phase: Analyze & Iterate

    After a buzzing launch, it’s crucial to keep the momentum going. This phase is all about refining and sustaining your product’s presence in the market.

    The post-launch stage might sound easier, but in reality, it's like the end of a party.

    If you want your next party—or product launch—to be better, you need to regroup, tidy up the place, and figure out who to not invite the next time.

    Now, what defines this launch phase is mostly going over the launch process for product performance analysis and making sure there is a feedback loop set up for better product experience and customer satisfaction.

    To start doing all that, the data we've gathered during the launch phase and how it differs from the end goals and market research from the pre-launch phase is crucial.

    So, at this stage and previous stages, you need to make sure to gather feedback on user pain points, value proposition, perceived product position in the market, and, most importantly, any user feedback on how you can improve your product.

    This user feedback alone has the potential to:

    • How you can meet your end goals,
    • Whether your marketing strategy is viable or not,
    • How you can increase customer satisfaction and
    • Lay out a better roadmap for your next product launch

    The post-launch phase is essentially a few weeks or months after the launch date. However, the work handled in this phase is what sets the stage for product success and continuous growth.

    How long does the post-launch phase last?

    However, the post-launch phase can be around the same length as the pre-launch phase since it can easily be blended in with the launch phase and the end of the launch.

    This is because the post-launch phase is the first prototype of a well-functioning product success cycle. But if we are aiming for a specific timeframe, it is typical for it to last around 6 months.

    And it takes a little bit of...

    9- Performance Analysis

    Once your product is in the wild, the first step is to analyze the data.

    How well did your product perform against your initial goals?

    Tools like Amplitude and Hotjar, social media insights, and sales data provide a wealth of information. Look at product metrics like sales figures, customer engagement, and market penetration.

    It’s not just about gathering data but also about understanding it to see where you excelled and where you fell short.

    👉 For instance, imagine you launched a new app and noticed from your analytics tools that while downloads are high, user retention drops after the first use.

    This insight directs you to focus on improving user experience or adding more engaging content.

    Without analysis like this, you cannot stay agile.

    10- Customer Support and Relationship Management

    Next, focus on supporting your customers who've just started using your product.

    This stage is crucial for building long-term relationships.

    Effective customer support can transform a one-time buyer into a loyal customer. Use support tickets, social media interactions, and direct emails as tools to solve problems quickly and efficiently.

    👉 Take a cue from, say, Patagonia.

    They are known for their exceptional customer service, offering extensive product support, repair services, and even guidance on how to reuse their products.

    This customer story of a free exchange after 5 years is also a good testament to their core values.

    Now, that kind of commitment significantly enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty.

    Note that down, you just might wanna consider realigning some values with your customer support team 😉

    11- Iterative Improvements Based on Feedback

    Now, use the customer feedback collected from your initial customers to refine your product.

    This could mean rolling out updates to fix bugs or developing new features that address user demands.

    The key here is to be agile and responsive.

    Customers feel valued when they see their input has led to tangible improvements.

    👉 My favorite example of this is always Hubspot Community.

    HubSpot makes it their own personal business to be all grown-up and accountable when it comes to gathering feedback and new feature requests, and they openly share what's going on:

    hubspot community post launch stage

    It is this transparency that makes HubSpot an all-time fan favorite in the tech industry.

    12- Sustained Marketing Efforts

    Lastly, don’t let your product fade from public memory.

    You need to continue your marketing efforts even after the launch phase. And even after the post-launch stage, which is generally 6 months after the full launch of the product.

    Keep engaging with your audience through social media, updates, and ongoing campaigns. This not only keeps your existing customers engaged but also helps attract new ones.

    👉 For example, look at how major game developers like Blizzard continue to engage their user base with regular updates, events, and expansions that keep games like World of Warcraft in the public eye long after the initial release.

    That was 20 years ago, mind you.

    I go to the website for World of Warcraft, and, well, it looks good as new with the game's 10th official expansion announced 👇

    ‎And that's how you stay relevant 😎

    Wrapping Up

    And there you have it, from the spark of your initial idea to the ongoing glow of post-launch success.

    We've walked through the whole journey: strategizing before the launch, making a splash during the big reveal, and keeping the momentum going long after. Whether you’re launching your first product or your fiftieth, these phases are your roadmap to making each release better than the last.

    But remember, the launch is just the beginning.

    It’s what you do afterward—how you respond to feedback, adapt your strategies, and continue to engage with your customers—that really counts.

    Keep refining, keep improving, and keep connecting.

    Your ability to iterate based on real-world data and user feedback will set you apart from the crowd.

    Good luck in advance 🍀

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