What’s the difference between a product release and a product launch? Does it matter?
blogJuly 28, 2021
Learn more about the difference and how to make the splash you're hoping for.
And… relax! The product is released. All that hard work from your team paid off – what a feeling. You’re finished. Or are you? What about launching it?
Whether you’re talking about a product for your e-commerce channels or a software product, both need a launch. So, what’s the difference between product release and product launch? Let’s use a software product as an example.
product release versus product launch: an overview
Some companies mistakenly equate being ready to release a product with being ready to launch. However, there are striking differences between the two:
Product release: Your product is technically complete and ready to hit the market or be used by your partners and customers. For product development teams (such as engineering, user experience, and testing), this is your heart-in-mouth moment. How will the product be received?
Product launch: Your organization is ready to tell the world about the new product release. Think of it as a fanfare – your new product’s moment in the spotlight. A launch isn’t a technical process. Yes, it depends on the product being ready for release, but it’s also when other core business operations get involved, particularly sales, marketing, and legal teams. So, although you can quietly release a product, you’ve got to ask – does anyone want a quiet launch? Really?
product release checklist: roles & tasks
Typically, it’s the Product Manager who is responsible for the entire product release. They’ve mapped out the requirements, agreed on the Epics, and often, identified the BETA test customers. Just as each of the teams involved in the product development has their own checklist, the final checklist for release rightfully belongs to the Product Manager.
Here are some of the activities that fall under a typical product release:
- Feature definition: Define the sizing, prioritization, and documentation for the engineering team.
- UI/UX design: Provide designers with specifications, UX research, and wireframes.
- Engineering: Build the fundamental capabilities.
- QA and operations: Test the new product in a real-world environment. Fix any issues. Rinse and repeat until the product is ready to roll out!
Once you have a live, stable, and relatively bug-free product, it’s time to execute your actual product launch, based on the planning that you started earlier in the process.
product launch: what you need for success
Now it’s time to launch. You worked hard to perfect your product release. Partners and customers are going to love it. Or will they?
“According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, there are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, and 95 percent fail.”
How can you make sure that your product will be one of that 5% that succeeds? It boils down to closing the release-launch gap. To ensure a quick, seamless, and consistent transition from product release to product launch, you need cross-team collaboration. Think product development, marketing, and sales. And don’t forget your customer support organization! Working together, you have a far better chance for a successful product launch, especially when you’ve crafted a launch plan with the end goal and launch date in mind. Teams that do effective planning are more likely to meet their go-live date, accelerate adoption, and deliver an exceptional customer experience.
to create an effective launch plan, make sure it includes:
- A description of the features that will improve customer experience
- Planned deliverables (and due dates) from sales, marketing, and other teams
- Outline of dependencies between phases (product releases and launch) and groups (particularly product development, customer support, sales, and marketing)
- Milestones and associated dates that influence the actual launch. Remember to add your Issue and Risk logs to monitor dependencies or hidden surprises
product launch checklist: roles & tasks
If you want your product launch to make the splash you’re hoping for, make sure you spend time clarifying and reviewing the following key deliverables:
- Product documentation: Complete your documentation for the launch so your partners and customers can get familiar with what’s new and review relevant product information.
- Legal considerations: Make sure your legal team creates an appropriate legal agreement, where needed, that outlines your promises and liabilities to the partners and customers.
- Product release training: Train your sales reps, customer support teams, and partner network on the product’s key features and benefits.
- Assess the launch delivery plan: Review your product delivery methods. How do your customers want to buy products like yours? Is your partner network fully up to speed? Do you have a plan for tracking and reviewing success metrics?
- Plan feedback collection: Decide what methods, type of feedback, and channels you’ll use.
- Set up pricing strategy: Agree – in advance – on the product pricing structure. Make sure to include pricing in your sales and partner enablement training.
- Marketing: Plan your promotion strategies for existing customers and prospects! Decide on your communication channels, create new marketing content, add relevant articles to your knowledge base to get the word out.
After you launch, you also need to follow up on your release. Consider how this product release stacks up against previous releases and how it impacted your bottom line, customers, teams, and organization. This will help you refine your future releases, including tracking new features to get an understanding of how customers are using them.
plan your product release for a successful product launch
There are many stages to a successful product launch, with involvement from teams across your company. While a product release is a critical milestone, it alone won’t make a splash with your customers. Your successful product launch requires meticulous planning, cross-team collaboration and communication, and a coordinated delivery plan.
For an e-commerce look at product release and product launch, find out how a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution and a product information management (PIM) solution are complementary when it comes to launching products for your omnichannel landscape.
Learn three ways to launch products with confidence – grab your copy of our ebook now.
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Director of Sales Engineering
David Sultan is the director of sales engineering at inriver and has been leading the teams to drive excellence for the past four years. With over 15 years of experience in product information management (PIM) and digital asset management (DAM), Sultan has worked at both Aprimo, formerly known as Adamsoftware, and OpenText. He has his MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a BA of Science in Management Information Systems from Virginia Commonwealth University.read more