How to Successfully Launch a Software Product – with Karthik Suresh
Launching a software product can be a very stressful experience even if you have an amazing product. But with the right tools in place and a well-defined launch process, you’ll be able to breeze through this phase with flying colors. Gone are days when the product management team is in utter chaos due to a lack of structured planning.
In today’s episode of SaaS-Story in the Making, Ignition Co-Founder and CPO/CTO Karthik Suresh elaborates on the elements of a successful product launch with B2B SaaS Sales Coach and Host Matt Wolach. He also discusses the two different stages of product development along with advice on how to best execute your launch. Watch and learn how to strategically present your awesome SaaS products without losing sleep before the deadline!
Podcast: SaaS-Story in the Making
Episode: Episode No. 230, “How to Successfully Launch a Software Product – with Karthik Suresh”
Host: Matt Wolach, a B2B SaaS sales coach, Entrepreneur, and Investor
Guest: Karthik Suresh, Co-Founder and CPO/CTO at Ignition
TOP TIPS FROM THIS EPISODE
Listen to the Target Customer
While there is merit in getting feedback from friends and family, they’re more likely to say things just to be supportive. It’s best to get feedback directly from your ICP because they will be honest with what they dislike. They’re not going to be mincing words to spare your feelings, which is exactly what you want to ensure that you have the right product.
Suresh says that you also have to get a “hell yeah” response instead of just the standard “yes”. A simple yes is not enough because the customer expressing enthusiasm indicates a higher possibility of closing. You also have to go the extra mile of thoroughly researching your customer with an emphasis on their pain points. The product should be addressing all of those pain points and it must have features that the clients will actually use.
Prioritize Product Market Fit Before Scaling
According to Suresh, a lot of companies tend to invest in growth before perfecting the Product Market Fit (PMF). The result is usually a loss because the ROI simply can not keep up with the expenses of scaling. This is why it’s crucial to actually nail the PMF first before trying to put extra dollars in the marketing and sales teams.
Suresh says that PMF is best determined by customer retention. If your retention numbers are healthy, that means that your product successfully addressed the needs and pain points of your ICP. It should also show a pattern when it comes to frequency and usage. Ideally, there would be regularity in the frequency and uniformity in terms of which features customers are using regardless of what cohort they’re from.
Hire the Right People
Getting the correct employees is absolutely critical, especially for a start-up company. Unlike big companies that have room for churn, start-ups are better off focusing their resources on building the product to fit the ICP. A leader shouldn’t cut corners when hiring so that wasted time and budget will be mitigated.
Suresh personally would prefer to hire applicants that have experience with start-ups if the company is still in its early stage. He sees no problems in the reverse where a big company onboards an employee with experience on a start-up though. The reason he’s wary of hiring people coming from big companies for a start-up is that they will have an entirely different skill set.
Early & Late Stage Product Development Differ
Product Managers of companies that are in the early stage of product development tend to be jack-of-all-trades. The reason is that these companies tend to be start-ups and the CEOs are the ones that oversee the product development too.
In late-stage product development, the company would have already scaled and hired additional employees to do the various tasks related to the launch. This means that product managers don’t have to juggle all of the tasks and usually only have to worry about making sure everyone is on the same page.
Product Development in a Startup is Tougher
Continuing the previous point, product development in a start-up is harder than that of an established company. In a big company, the worst-case scenario if the product launch fails is that the product manager just gets transferred to another department. This is because the company can afford to experiment with multiple product initiatives.
In a start-up, however, if a product launch fails due to poor development, it usually sets back the company or can end it. This is because capital is limited and start-ups are still trying to break even. Suresh also adds that if a product fails in a start-up, there would be no salary for the employee while in a big company you’re still going to be paid and get all of your benefits.
The Launch Process Determines Product Success
According to Suresh, most people are not well-versed with the strategic planning process involved in launching a product. While launching a SaaS product may sound simple at first, Suresh says that the process can actually take a few weeks or even a few months. This is because it’s more complex than just posting an announcement that you have a product on social media.
A proper product launch process involves the following steps as per Suresh:
- Determining the ICP.
- Conducting in-depth research about the ICP.
- Figuring out the optimal product position.
- Creating a marketing message in the most impactful way possible.
- Deciding on the pricing strategy and the most optimal packaging.
- Finding out the channels in which you can reach your target customers.
- Doing the marketing campaign from the creation of the assets all the way to their release on social media.
- Making sure all of the stakeholders are aligned especially the marketing and sales team.
- Ensuring that the engineering time will be able to ship on time.
- Getting the go signal from the legal department.
As indicated by the list above, there are a lot of critical steps in launching a product. If you miss even a single step, it can mean the delay or even failure of the entire launch. Suresh also explained that this complexity and the absence of proper tools to organize a launch is the usual reason why product launches do not succeed.
[2:12] “And we were launching one of these products at Facebook… And the whole launch was done in, like, a spreadsheet which had, like, 100 tabs. And there was a tab to keep track of other tabs. And– which obviously means nobody knew where the latest assets– where the messaging was. Have– you didn’t even know where the latest logo was. And, you know, we used to be– all used to jump into, like, a war room every day. And there were program managers who would go through a huge checklist, making sure all the things are ready for the launch. And I was like, ‘There has to be a better way to do this.'”
[16:10] “It’s a cliche, but, like, listen to the customer. Right? So– then, and also, “Listen” is such a loaded word. Because if you just ask your friends and family, “Hey, what do you think about this product?” They’ll be saying, “Yeah, it’s an awesome product. Go for it.” You always get “Yes” but that’s not good enough. They’re just trying to be nice to you. So listen really carefully to what your potential customers have to say.”
[17:33] “In early stage companies, or even in– even in established companies for new products, you really need to understand whether you have product market fit (PMF)? And what that really means for me is: Do you have good retention? For me PMF equals retention.”
[18:09] “First, are people coming back? What frequency are they coming back? What features are they using when they come back? And that’s something that is consistent across a whole cohort of audiences. It’s not like the week one cohort is very different from the week two cohort. And only when you see this pattern repeat again and again, only then do you know that– okay, you got a really good product market fit. That’s when you start investing dollars in growth channels and marketing campaigns and even in product launches to be honest”
[8:29] “I totally agree. Somebody from a small company would be more likely to be successful getting into a bigger company where maybe now they have learned about all the different ins and outs and how to accomplish certain things with small teams [and] small budgets. Now they’ve got the team; they’ve got the budget. Let’s make it happen.”
To learn more about Karthik Suresh and Ignition, visit: https://haveignition.com
You can also find Karthik Suresh on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karthiksureshlbs
For more about how host Matt Wolach helps software companies achieve maximum growth, visit https://mattwolach.com/