Overview: Setting the right metrics for product launches
Product launches are fraught with challenges—from budgeting to timelines to collaboration breakdowns, there are many places and ways a launch can go wrong. But one area where headaches are preventable is metrics: i.e., how you measure the success of your launch and subsequent product performance.
Every launch needs quantifiable metrics to judge its success. These metrics should follow the “SMART” rule typically applied to any type of goal, which is to say that they should be:
Metrics are specific by nature, but the more granular you can get and the more you can break your primary metrics down into sub-metrics (more on that later) the better.
Goes without saying since we’re talking about metrics, but this means to make sure your metrics are around things you actually have the ability to measure clearly and accurately.
Which is another way of saying “meaningful”; your metrics should be very telling of what is going on with your launch.
A goal is of course different from a metric, but a metric helps you determine what your goals should be. As such, they should pertain directly to what you want to achieve, and what is truly achievable, with your product launch.
Your metrics should be considered “pulses” on your launch: Measure too early and you won’t have enough data for a true pulse; measure too late and you are potentially not measuring the launch anymore but something else.
There can certainly be more than one metric, and in fact you should have multiple primary and secondary metrics for any launch (more on that later).
In this overview article, we’ll walk you through the value of setting metrics for product launches, how to define the metrics for your product launch, types of product launch metrics, and how we’ve used metrics for a specific project here at Mixpanel.
Why set metrics for product launches?
There’s an old saying that goes, “A friend to all is a friend to none.” Meaning—if you’re not being selective, the ones you do select won’t feel like their selection was based on anything special, and hence, won’t want to be selected.
The same sentiment applies to product launch metrics: If you don’t define what you’re after and why you’re doing what you’re doing, then anything you achieve with it won’t have much meaning and won’t do much for your greater business goals.
Product launch metrics are there for one primary purpose: definition.
They define what you’re doing, why, and what the final goal post looks like so you know exactly where to aim. Similar to the North Star metric (or metrics) for your entire company, product launch metrics are there to keep you moving forward and in the right direction.
This definition then promotes:
If everyone agrees on what the objective is, then everyone will be on the same page around getting there and your team will be acting as a cohesive unit.
Metrics give your launch team a clear spot on the horizon to head toward, which lets you and your team zero in on what you want to achieve.
Metrics also promote accountability by making it very clear where things succeeded and where they didn’t—just point to the numbers.
What we’re saying is: No product launch metrics, no definition. No definition, no direction. No direction, no quantifiable product launch success, even if you do manage to launch the product.
In the end, you want to be able to take your product launch to the bank—meaning, bring its metrics-based results to leadership and say “See? We did it.”
Defining your product launch metrics
Now that you understand the importance of establishing product launch metrics, you need to know which metrics to use.
Primary metrics vs. secondary metrics
Your first step should be to break down your metrics into primary and secondary. Primary metrics should work as indicators of the overall success of the launch. An example of a typical primary metric would be engagement: How many people engaged with your launch content?
Secondary metrics measure smaller actions you want users to take that fold into the more important actions related to primary metrics. For example, if one of your primary metrics was engagement, then one of your secondary metrics had to do with what users did after they engaged: i.e., did they then click on “contact us” or “learn more”?
Types of product launch metrics
You should classify all of your metrics as either primary or secondary, but that still doesn’t tell you exactly which metrics you should choose.
Of course, a product launch is more than just a launch. It’s goes: launch, then adoption, and then (hopefully), market impact. The actual launch is just the first part, but it of course affects the trajectory of your product’s success.
Without knowing what you’re launching, it’s hard for us to say what your metrics should be—and we’d be remiss in doing so as it could steer you wrong—but most product launch metrics break down into three stages, or categories, per the above—the launch itself, product adoption, and market impact—each with its own type of metrics.
Any product launch goes with a product launch plan—one that involves marketing content, such as a blog, like the one we did around the launch of our new workflow features.
Your marketing metrics should give you a clear picture on how effective your launch campaign is and which strategies are working best.
Launch metrics should span across launch, adoption, and market impact.
Here are the common metrics for these categories:
- Leads: Generating leads is a key first step in getting people interested in your new product. The form the lead generation could take could be a demo request, a call request, a white paper download, or even a trial.
- Website traffic: Page views are very important to measure when launching a product. You should be keeping track of how many people are checking out your launch content, be it blogs, product pages, web pages, social copy, etc…
- Promotional channels: Email, PR, and advertising campaigns will likely be central to your product launch success and lead generation efforts. As such, you should be measuring things like open rates, click-through rates, and press release reads.
Adoption metrics tell you if your product is serving the market’s needs and hence providing the revenue you expected.
Common product adoption metrics include:
- Trials: Trials are a very common bridge to long-term product adoption and a great way to evaluate genuine interest in what you’ve launched.
- Customer usage: Learning how, when, and why your customers are using your product and monitoring goals around customer usage is a great way to judge if your product “stickiness,” as far as serving market needs.
- User retention: User retention is another important metric for product adoption as it measures if your customers repeatedly use your product or service.
Market impact metrics
Finally, you will want to measure how your product is impacting the market and whether it’s making the market inroads you projected.
Some common market impact metrics include:
- Market share: You probably have some, if not many, competitors offering similar products. Market share tells you how your product is performing against the competition. Your market share is the percent of total sales in an industry generated by your company. It’s calculated by taking your sales over a certain period and dividing it by the total sales of the industry over the same period.
- Revenue: Assuming you’re charging separately for this new product, you should track how much money it’s making as that will be a clear and obvious indication of the impact it’s having on the market.
Product launch metrics in action: An example from Mixpanel
When Mixpanel launched Lookup Tables, a feature that lets users enrich data within Mixpanel without writing a single line of code, the product marketing team wanted to measure reach, engagement, product usage, and market impact metrics.
Here is how we broke it down:
How many people can we reach? We planned customer communications via email, social, website, etc., and wanted to understand channel-specific and overall audience reach.
How many people were engaged with our launch content? We measured click-through rate, retweets, and other channel-specific ways to gauge audience response.
Do we have materials to support the go-to-market team? Is the messaging resonating with the market? We didn’t have hard metrics there but had structured conversations with sales reps prior to launch. We built out a core messaging doc, slides, documentation with key use cases for different verticals, and recorded training videos for reps. This part of the launch will probably resonate more with those working in B2B, similar to Mixpanel.
On the product usage and market impact side of measurement, we put together a product dashboard that showed us if our customers were getting true value out of using Lookup Tables, which showed a combination of product adoption and revenue. Here are a couple of visualizations from it:
The above are only two of the 31 data titles on our Lookup Tables launch metrics dashboard, but they give you an idea of some of the central activities we were measuring and continue to measure as our users adopt the product.
The above is, of course, just one example, but the concepts we’ve gone over here can be applied for setting metrics on product launches large and small. Just remember that the goal is to learn—the clearest, quickest, and most direct way possible—if the goals you set out for the launch are on their way to being attained. If they are, you’ll know you’ve done your job as a product manager well. If they aren’t, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means your metrics are telling you something isn’t quite right and you may need to make a few tweaks.
Nothing a little whiteboarding can’t solve.
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