In June, we announced the Data Intelligence Platform from Blazent, our 36th startup launch and the network performance platform from Kentik, our 37th. Based upon all of our scars and bruises and lessons learned, we have a few new rules-of-thumb to share with all of you out there in cubicle-land:
Rule Number One: It’s not a launch unless someone is crying.
If you’re “pushing the envelope” of trying to maximize launch, your team is probably trying to add last-minute features; or maybe tweak the UI, or land that vital partnership; or maybe secure that tricky customer endorsement right up until the last days before launch.
All of those last-minute or stretch goals have implications across your team and for launch deliverables. But stretching is good. That’s normal. That’s why launches are hard. We always counsel our clients that in the stressful run-up to launch, people will cry. Get out the Kleenex. Stock up on Tums. This is normal.
Rule Number Two: There are no second prizes in launches.
As Alec Baldwin said in his famous rant in Glengarry Glen Ross: “first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”
If your team is going to succeed, they need to feel the pressure of hitting their goals for launch. And that’s everyone – from the star coders to sales to the rent-a-CFO. (And don’t exempt the CEO from the pressure.) Launch is a critical milestone in the trajectory of every company. It is not the end-all, be-all. But it is an essential milestone that will enable many more after it, if all goes well. But stubbing your toe (think Color) can be incredibly costly.
Rule Number Three: Plan as if launch day is history already. (Or “Plan as much for Day 2 as for Launch Day)
Picture the mother in labor and delivery with her new child but no diapers, baby clothes, crib. She’s been planning for this wonderful day for nine months, and now that her baby is here, now what.
This is a classic startup misstep. It’s been written about by Steve Blank in The Startup Owner’s Manual. If you want to launch successfully, you plan ahead to leverage all of the visibility and inbound traffic that launch generates with a systematic program and measurement of content, demand generation, sales support and news. Launch day is a once-in-a-lifetime milestone for a startup, but it needs to be the beginning of a sustained marketing plan to reap the full benefits of launch.