Releasing a new product can be a long and arduous process. You must do your market research, set specific objectives for your new product, identify kinks and work them out, and facilitate the design and production.
That’s why it just feels so good to reach that seemingly final step in your plan: Shipping.
Ah – a sigh of relief. Send off your product, kick back, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
You’re finished – or are you?
The Critical Final Step: Follow-Up
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re a product manager, “shipping” is not in fact, the end destination in a product release.
The real work on the product release has just begun. Now, you must begin that critical step of following up with stakeholders.
Following up with your stakeholders – such as executives, investors, engineers, or early customers and clients – may be an “added step” but the payoff far outweighs the burden.
Gathering feedback and actionable insights on your new product ultimately helps you strategize for more successful marketing and positioning of your new product… and helps you to plan effectively for the next product launch.
And, following up on a product release helps you build relationships and bring a greater sense of unity and shared vision to your team – helping stakeholders to know that their insights and opinions will be acted on, shared, and valued.
Asking for Feedback
The first step to successfully following up on your new product release is to ask for feedback from stakeholders.
Of course, you’ll want to give stakeholders sufficient time to actually test out the new product. Depending on the functionality of your product, this could be anywhere from a few days to a month… or longer.
Then, decide on how you can most effectively communicate with them to gather their insights, opinions, and even questions about the new product release.
You’ll most likely want to ask for feedback by utilizing a specific feature of an internal communication or project management software (such as Jira or Slack) or creating a shared document that everyone can access.
If you’ve already been using a notification and reporting system (such as Underway) to communicate about the product release, this step will be made even easier.
In any case, you’ll want to be specific and strategic in the questions that you ask stakeholders.
For example, if you have a specific question about a new feature or design upgrade, ask stakeholders to give insight. You may also want to request ratings for their level of satisfaction with specific features.
Finally, you’ll want to give them an opportunity to share their honest, open-ended feedback – providing you with new perspectives and ideas that you may not have considered before.
Your questionnaire or survey may include any of the following:
- How did X feature address X problem for you?
- Did this product release create any new issues for you? If so, please describe.
- Please rank your satisfaction with X feature on a scale of 1–10 (1 – unsatisfactory, 5 – neutral, 10 – extremely satisfied).
- Do you have any additional feedback on X product? If so, please share.
- Do you have any questions about X product? Please write them here.
Analyze Your Follow-Up
Once you have followed up with your stakeholders and given them sufficient time to provide their insights, you’ll want to analyze their feedback on the product release.
Depending on the size of your company and the number of stakeholders, you may have a large quantity of feedback to assess, or just a few answers. In any case, you’ll want to be strategic in how you organize and analyze follow-up, so that insights become specific and actionable.
When organizing feedback, consider the fact that different stakeholders will be invested in different aspects of the product.
For example, executives in your company will look at your product from a primarily profit-driven perspective: How much will X feature cost to develop on a mass scale, and how will that translate to an improved ROI?
Engineers, on the other hand, will be assessing a product from a mechanical or structure-driven viewpoint: what kind of problems do they foresee in the design of this new product release?
Finally, stakeholders involved in sales or marketing may be the most effective at looking at your product from the perspective of a potential customer or client.
That’s why you’ll want to organize and tag your feedback not only by level of satisfaction or feature, but by who supplied the insight or opinion.
Dealing with “The Bad News”
Part of releasing a new product is identifying the kinks of an existing iteration, troubleshooting, and designing additional features to improve on the existing design.
Ideally, your new release should have successfully addressed any issues. However, expect your stakeholders to be honest with you about failures, mistakes, or setbacks of the product release… or if a new product design moved the problem to a different area.
This aspect of following up with stakeholders may be the most useful step of the process. What went wrong? How can it be improved upon?
In some cases, you may be able to immediately implement changes to successfully address negative feedback. For example, you may be able to tweak the branding of a product to improve positioning.
In other cases, you may need to develop a longer-term plan for improvement that involves a re-design or shifting of priorities.
Negative feedback on your product release will, of course, feel disappointing after months or years of planning, design, and development. But it will help you, as a product manager, help create a better product.
Ideally, most of your stakeholders will have an overall positive reaction to your new product.
Your team needs to know that they are doing a great job!
Sharing the successes in a final report – as you’ll learn about in a moment – will help encourage team members, affirm success, and build team morale after a much-anticipated product release.
What About Past Releases?
Past product releases may not seem to bear much relevance to a new product release, but they can be extremely instructive in helping stakeholders to provide useful feedback.
That’s because stats or detailed information about past product releases can be used as a point of reference or comparison for the new product release.
Past product releases will help stakeholders see where you have solved problems, improved results, and innovated new features or design.
When you ask for feedback, give stakeholders access to information about past product releases to help create a sense of shared progress and give them more insight into the new product release.
Finally: Reporting Feedback to the Team
Ultimately, you’ll want to collect and organize feedback on the new product release into a single report.
In your follow-up report, you may want to include information such as overall satisfaction score with specific features, specific issues that still need to be addressed, and how the product effectively addressed past issues or problems.
When shared with stakeholders, you’ll be able to address follow-up questions before they’re asked, and keep everyone on the same page – unified, excited, and effective.