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March 2012

Reach More Customers with a Virtual Product Launch Event

Planview just finished our 2012 Product Expo introducing Planview Enterprise 10.4 -- and we did it virtually. Here's what we have found to be great about virtual product launch events:

  1. We are able to get more customers and prospects to attend at a global level. They can participate from their office -- all they need is an Internet connection.
  2. We can control the content so attendees receive comprehensive, product-focused information that not only drives product adoption but also reinforces your brand.
  3. Presentations and demos are available to attendees for 90 days so they can share it with their teams and watch on-demand.

2012 Planview Product Expo Command Central
2012 Planview Product Expo Command Central

Selfishly, I will add a fourth benefit. From Command Central, I was easily able see all the booth representatives interacting live with customers from around the world. I love that part! Our customers drive our products so it's very exciting to read live commentary. Booth experts were able to respond instantly to questions about product functionality and enhancements while simultaneously continuing to strengthen a positive level of partnership with customers.

Why Host Virtually?

Two years ago, we found that our typical approach of emails and webcasts were no longer creating the desired impact and awareness we needed to communicate a global product launch with new market positioning. With only 100 customers able to attend the last launch webcast series, we needed a better way to engage more of our client base, strategically position our overall solution, and provide customers an opportunity to demo specific product functionality. Traditional methods were not working and physical events were logistically impossible for most customers.

Building on our experience with hosting a virtual User Conference in Nov 2009, we partnered with Intercall (formerly Unisfair) to help us build an interactive product launch experience for our customers. The virtual platform recreates a physical event down to the smallest detail, with presentations, live Q&As, demos, Meet the Expert sessions, and chat rooms. We set up the virtual environment to deliver three levels of content and customers could choose how deep they want to dive on any specific capability.

The three levels of content include:

  1. Overview of product release with featured presentations and live Q&A
  2. Expo Hall with virtual booths that contained what's new by solution areas and access to the Product Team via chats
  3. Customer area with representatives and release information, interactive release notes, migration planning, customer support, and enablement programs

Product Development Booth at the 2012 Planview Product Expo
Product Development Booth at the 2012 Planview Product Expo

While going virtual helped us increase launch participation by 400%, it isn't for the faint of heart. Planning a virtual event takes every bit of effort as other options, if not more.

It takes a team of dedicated staff to organize deliverables, drive people to meet deadlines, pre-record content, and communicate regularly with attendees. But patience is key. We have seen about half of the registrations come in within 48 hours of the event go-live date.

But the outcome is well worth the effort. Hosting a virtual event is a contemporary approach to communicating your corporate initiatives to key stakeholders worldwide. Customers, prospects, partners, and analysts benefit from the rich, targeted content and one-on-one conversations with subject matter experts. You have the ability to set the stage and create a dialog around product capabilities and corporate messaging while educating the audience on a variety of product offerings for future implementation.

I'd like to hear from you. What are some of your experiences and best practices for product launch communications and what are your experiences hosting virtual events? Post a comment below.

Release Management: Are You Looking at the Bigger Picture?

As many of you probably know, releasing a product to market involves a whole system of moving parts. It's not as simple as coming up with a great idea and then seeing it on the shelf a few months later. If only!

The only way to ensure you're meeting time-to-market targets for your new products, and thus having a significant impact on market share and profitability, is to synchronize all of those moving parts. It's a highly-orchestrated process that requires a comprehensive release management initiative. Instead of getting caught up in individual roles or parts of the product release, every department within your company needs visibility into how their piece, which may consist of multiple projects, are impacting the larger release schedule of the product portfolio. Everyone needs to be actively assessing the big picture via a centralized roadmap, proactively communicating any potential roadblocks, collaborating on release details, and working towards one common goal: a successful product release.

And really, it doesn't matter if you're releasing products to market or applications to the business -- the same rules still apply. In fact, in our technology-driven world, IT often has a starring role in developing the software components or applications embedded within the products you use every day.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do all interested parties in the company have access to the requirements delivered in a release?
  • How will this product be messaged and marketed?
  • Is everyone along the supply chain well informed about the timing and impact of release?
  • Is there a central location where all release and product content is stored?
  • Are you able to deliver a long-term visual roadmap to your customers and stakeholders?

If you're tracking all of this information via emails and static spreadsheets, you have my sincere condolences because you're likely living in spreadsheet hell. Increase the number of products you're releasing, and the complexity increases exponentially. I know organizations are struggling with juggling all of these release details -- it's exactly why we made the enhancements we did to the release management capabilities in the newest version of our software. In the end, with the right tools and processes, you will be able to harness the power of all of that disparate information you've been tracking to get products out on time.

One company that has been quite successful in product release management is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. As the world's second fastest growing company, they've had to learn quickly what it means to look at the bigger picture when it comes to ensuring their products are delivered on time to the market. Check out this fascinating webcast to learn more about how they do it.