I think there is a lot of confusion over what the word “launch” means and what marketing things a startup should be doing when they launch.

I don’t believe that demoing at an event like¬†TechCrunch Disrupt is equivalent to a launch. Nor do I believe that a launch ends the moment your product/service is generally available to the public. I’ve done a bunch of launches (5 at startups and 2 new businesses inside a larger company) and I’ve seen a lot of things that worked and didn’t work.¬†In my opinion a launch is a multi-phase event that has distinct phases and there are different things you do at each phase.

I was chatting with a startup founder about this last week and sketched this out. Here’s the picture I came up with:

Note that every stage is inclusive of the previous stage – you continue to do what you were doing pre-release, after you have released, you just add a set of new tactics. The same happens when you move from release to post-release.

Some notes on this:

The idea here was to capture the purely marketing tactics that are executed at different phases of a launch. That doesn’t mean that these are the only things marketing is working on. For example, I would expect marketing to be involved in product development and definition (particularly pre-launch), pricing, channel strategy, etc. That said, I’m sure I’m missing tons of thing that should be on this graphic so please add them in the comments.

I have some big catch-all categories in the graphic such as “outbound lead generation”, and “retention programs” that include multiple tactics (for Outbound that would be things like advertising and tele-prospecting, for retention programs that would include things like User events and rewards programs). Tactics in those categories vary so much from business to business that I thought it made sense to lump them in categories. That doesn’t mean those categories have the same weight as other individual tactics – often they require a huge effort.

There are a bunch of terms on here that might not make sense to people but rather than defining each of them I thought I would just wait and see which ones people don’t understand (sorry, I’m lazy like that). If it’s confusing, ask.

This was inspired in part by Eloqua’s excellent Content Grid which maps content types to a buyer progression. I thought to myself “Hey I should map that for launch marketing activities over the different stages of a launch and make it look way uglier!” and here we are.

I also enjoyed Josh Duncan’s post – A Product Launch is like? that talks about different types of product launches and clearly illustrates the multi-phase nature of a launch.