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From the Trenches

Reflections on the Launch(es): 10 Lessons Learned

Mike Sweeney | April 21, 2010

For those of you who follow Marketing Trenches, you know that we’ve been missing in action for about two weeks. Shame on us. We advise those who blog – business bloggers in particular – to stay the course and keep writing, even in the face of what seems like (and definitely feels like) a state of constant chaos. Organized chaos, but chaos nonetheless.

We broke our own rules, but for good reason. We were fortunate enough to be part of the team involved in three very different types of launches, all happening this week. One was a software product and company launch, one was a new B2B service launch, and the last one a product plan for a board presentation. For a small company that doesn’t like to use a low-quality factory approach to delivery, this means we were (and still are) swamped.

All that being said, after reading Mike Zirngibl’s (or “Z” for those who know him) post A Launch is a Launch is a Launch, it seemed appropriate to recap not the chaos, but rather the lessons learned during this launch period.

1) When you’re feeling pressured and crunched for time, always try to understand the pressure that your client, colleagues or partners are under as well.

Don’t play the “I have so much to do” game. No one cares. Well, if you have good colleagues they should care, as they are the ones that can help you divide and conquer. In these situations, everyone is under pressure of some sort. Stop finding problems, and start finding solutions.

2) Learn to speak your client’s language.

Over the past two weeks, I found myself in more discussions about CTI and plastic extruders (sorry, inside joke) than I care to recount. While you can’t catch up to your client’s industry knowledge and jargon in the span of a week or even a month, what you can do is try. Speak the client’s language, ask questions when you don’t understand something, and you’ll find that conversations will become far more efficient.

3) Embrace the tools your client wants to use, unless they become an obstacle to getting things done.

Sam Aparicio and I likely exchanged over 300 emails, had 10-20 skype calls, and 50-60 IM sessions over the past 2-3 weeks. He also introduced me – and hopefully I him – to some very cool software tools that we can use moving forward.

There is a warning attached to this one though. When it comes down to crunch time, and you’re trying to get something out the door, sometimes you have to go back to the old habits and old tools. You have to go with what will help achieve everyone’s desired outcome.

4) By all means, create a process and agree on deadlines, but prepare to scramble a bit.

If anyone has ever experienced a “perfect” launch, where everything was ready on time, according to spec, and without any glitches along the way, I’d like to share a lottery ticket with you. Or at least hire your team for our next launch. Unless you have more than enough time to prepare for something like a product launch, you need to be prepared for the hiccups.

5) Trust your instincts.

During these periods of chaos, you have to make all kinds of decisions on the fly. Assuming you know what you’re doing, then you’re going to have to make quick and decisive moves, and trust that your decision was based on experience and sound principles. There is no looking back.

6) Don’t be afraid to say no to an idea, but be prepared to defend your nos.

Especially when working with overcaffeinated, big-thinking entrepreneur types, you will get bombarded with ideas. Some good ones, some bad ones. All will be presented under the premise of “this one last thing would make this product or service so much better.”

Always listen. Always evaluate. To use a football term, always know your down and distance and make a call based on that. Be prepared to defend your play call though.

7) Work with people that understand that “on call” means “on call” and not “kind of on call”.

It’s fine to disconnect or shift focus sometimes. We rarely have one priority, or even two priorities. We have many, and that includes life outside work. This is the time to overcommunicate schedules and availability, so that no one is left hanging.

8) Watch out for the “this seems easy” trap.

Intelligent folks with a surface level understanding of a particular topic will often assume that getting something accomplished in that area will be easy. They may even sit down and start mapping it out for you, in order to make it seem easy. Hell, sometimes they’ll even have you convinced it’s easy, when you know deep-down that it’s not.

Resist the easy trap. Especially during last minute chaos, I toss my Staples Easy button out the door, stomp on it, and tell it not to come back until it stops lying about the easy thing.

9) Never solicit a new, outside opinion on something during the homestretch period, unless you are fully prepared to make the recommended changes and potentially have your confidence shaken.

At some point, you have to shut the door on changes for even a short period of time. During that time, I stay away from new opinions from people that were not involved in an earlier part of the process. Sure, you risk missing the confidence-booster of someone saying “This is the greatest thing ever produced in the history of plastic extruders” but if you worked as hard and smart as you should have, you should not require the extra shot of confidence. As Godin would say, ship it.

10) Remember to reflect on the process, the work and the people involved when you have a few seconds to breathe.

That’s what I used this post for, and now it’s over. Time to refocus.

After all, the launch is just the beginning.

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About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.