After product launches: how to complete the feedback loop

Main illustration: Kim Salt

If you work in marketing you know the drill. As your launch day comes to a close, it’s natural to pat each other on the back and wipe your hands clean as you head home. The hard part’s over. You launched.

The reality is you aren’t done. The launch is the start of the marketing journey, not the end goal. You now begin a cycle of listening, learning, iterating and shipping improvements based on real customer feedback instead of assumptions.

What happens after the spike?

The launch is the start of the marketing journey, not the end goal.

Part of my perspective on launches comes from how we break down the role of the marketing team at Intercom. Our team has four core responsibilities that all contribute to different stages of the marketing/sales funnel. The product launch touches on the first three of them.

  • Reach: get our messaging in front of the right audience
  • Attract: get that audience to visit our site and become leads
  • Convert: convince leads to signup and become customers
  • Educate: help customers get increasing value and love our product

Launches produce spikes in traffic that look great from a “reach” and “attract” perspective, but when you dig further down the funnel things often look less rosy. The reality is, product launches aren’t highly targeted. They generate record traffic days, but the bulk of that traffic comes from people who don’t end up buying. Here’s a peek at traffic generated by the launch of Educate, our knowledge base product. It resulted in a record traffic day, but this returned to normal levels fairly quickly.

We saw a spike in traffic when we launched Educate, but that was short-lived.

At Intercom, we aim to measure the success of our product marketing across every stage of the funnel. If an increase in traffic doesn’t translate to an increase in conversions (new signups, upgrades or cross-sells), then our launch hasn’t been successful, and we need to understand why.

Although traffic increased with the launch of Educate, it did not bring in significantly more customers

A product launch gives you a vast data set from which to learn, iterate, test and fix your messaging across the entire customer lifecycle: from announcement email to landing page to onboarding flow and shopping cart. We consistently find that the small changes we do after launch drive more product adoption than the launch itself.

The post-launch feedback loop

After the launch, product marketing’s job is to identify confusion or issues that might prevent people from buying the product.

1. Listen to the unfiltered response

Before the launch, you have a set of assumptions about who you’re selling to and why it matters to them. After launch, that picture becomes clearer. The launch turns on a firehose of qualitative and quantitative feedback and, as hard as it is, your job is to listen to it all without reacting (we’ll get there in step 2). After all, you might find that the biggest issues aren’t with the product itself, but with everything surrounding it.

Here are some ways we collect qualitative feedback:

  • For feedback that comes in through Intercom, our sales and support teams loop us in
  • We sit in on sales calls to hear follow-up questions asked after a demo
  • We monitor social media mentions

Here are some ways we collect quantitative feedback:

  • We look at Google Analytics
  • We collect click-through and scroll data with Inspectlet
  • We also work with our research team to conduct user tests of the page
  • We use tools like Idiomatic to gather user feedback from conversations with our support team

It’s incumbent upon you to collect as many opinions as possible from both inside and outside your company. At this stage of the process, any and all opinions are valid, so shoot for breadth. In the next step we’ll start to categorize data points and prioritize follow-up action items.

2. Make sense of the feedback

Once you’ve gathered post-launch feedback, how do you organize it all? I like to start by grouping feedback into two broad categories – “pricing” or “messaging” – and continue to get more specific as sub-themes emerge:

  • Consistent customer support issues: this includes bugs, setup issues and integration issues.
  • Landing page engagement statistics: this includes the number of people clicking your CTA, understanding what your product does, scrolling all the way to the end and generally engaging with everything you worked to put on your landing page.
  • Pricing confusion: this might come through feedback that your pricing is too high, complicated or unjustifiable. Others might ask for a free trial.
  • Conversion issues: are people signing up but not installing? Canceling after the free trial? All of this should be documented and grouped in a bucket.
  • Customer churn: document the characteristics of canceled accounts. Patterns will likely emerge. For instance, if everyone churning is a three-person startup and your product is aimed at enterprises, maybe you’re targeting the wrong audience.

As you may have noticed by now, often what you learn post-launch is outside the traditional realm of product marketing. We believe product marketing isn’t just messaging; it’s part of a system of how a product is received and consumed at every stage of the sales and marketing funnel.

3. Ship continuously

Like we do in software, in product marketing we ship improvements to our messaging continuously. Iterating towards the right solution prevents you from spending time and resources effectively re-launching your product.

For example, we recently introduced a concept called Solutions. Solutions are made up of one or more products that work together to solve a customer’s Job-to-be-Done. This was a new concept that we wanted to make sure people understood, because otherwise it could create friction during the signup process. When we shipped our new Live Chat solution page, we learned through user testing that it was less important for people to understand what made up the Live Chat solution than explaining how it benefits them.

Take small, thoughtful steps

It’s natural to focus on a launch date, and there’s a huge effort to coordinate efforts between your product, support and marketing teams to have everything in place for the big day. But as a marketer it’s a mistake to take your foot off the pedal when you get the product or feature into the hands of customers.

The product marketing journey begins when you launch. Crafting the perfect message, pricing, user experience and more, continues with small, thoughtful steps throughout the life of the product. It’s tempting to chase after the next shiny product launch, but it’s important to keep iterating on what’s already out in the world. You never get it right the first time.